Let the Swords Encircle Me: Iran—A Journey Behind the Headlines

Scott Peterson, Photographer
Scott Peterson, Simon & Schuster, $32 (752p) ISBN 978-1-4165-9728-5
Reviewed on: 06/28/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
Hardcover - 732 pages - 978-1-4165-9728-5
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Few nations contain such stark, violent, and dangerous contradictions as the Iran depicted in this revelatory panorama. Christian Science Monitor correspondent Peterson (Me Against My Brother) presents a country at war with itself: a puritanical, xenophobic theocracy lording over a hedonistic, Western-oriented youth culture; an impoverished economy awash with an oil-rich elite; a quasi-democracy where free-wheeling election debates coexist with a lawless police state and torture chambers. (His narrative culminates with a gripping account of the bloody government crackdown on demonstrators protesting the 2009 presidential election.) Drawing on years of in-country reporting, Peterson pieces together a mosaic of discordant scenes, taking the reader to an American flag–burning rally that embarrasses many of its attendees, a museum dedicated to the country's history of torturing dissidents, and a ski resort where young couples court arrest by kissing in public. He sketches a colorful gallery of Iranians, including mullahs and politicians, heavy-metal rockers, avant-garde artists, dour war veterans steeped in a cult of martyrdom, and callow lotharios. Incisive, humane, and full of vivid reportage, Peterson's sprawling study is perhaps the best account we have of Iran's complex, embattled reality. (Sept.)