The Shah

Abbas Milani, Palgrave, $30 (480p) ISBN 978-1-4039-7193-7
Over the course of almost 40 years, Mohammad Reza Shah was a colossus in Iran, the one constant in a swirl of changing loyalties, political fortunes, and pressures both domestic and international; by the end of his reign, virtually no state decision could be taken, save by him. But as this biography reveals, this accumulation of authority was more a function of the Shah's lifelong distrust of all around him than it was any indication of skill in governing, or of genuine control. Milani (Eminent Persians) paints a richly detailed picture of a complex man plagued by demons and paranoia (much of it well-founded), at once insecure and megalomaniacal. Yet the thicket of biographical detail can leaves the reader longing for more analysis. Milani regularly mentions the Shah's flights of mysticism, for instance, but doesn't place them in any context: was the Shah delusional, or is talk of divine inspiration common in Iranian political discourse? Or both? Milani's book is a good source on the life of one of the 20th century's more enigmatic figures—good enough to pique the reader's frustration that it isn't great. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/15/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 488 pages - 978-0-230-34038-1
Ebook - 496 pages - 978-0-230-11562-0
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