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Crowning Anguish Paperback – February 15, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The daughter of one of the last Qajar rulers of Iran, Taj al-Saltana penned a memoir in 1914 recounting her life and experiences in the royal harem. Inspired by Western writings and disillusioned by incidents in her own life, Taj attacked many traditions, including the segregation and inferior status of women in Persian society. Now the existing fragments of her writings have been compiled in a book designed to appeal to an audience intrigued by life "behind the veil." While the feminist sentiments of the young woman appear modern, it is the simplicity and directness of Taj's personality that make the work memorable. The abrupt end of the memoirs during an account of her disintegrating marriage is a disappointment. An introduction precedes the text and a useful selection of historical biographies follows. Recommended for Middle Eastern collections.
- Rose Cichy, Osterhout Free Lib., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Abbas Amanat is a professor of history at Yale University and editor of the Journal of Iranian Studies. He also introduces the Mage edition of Edward Browne's The Persian Revolution of 1905-1909. His latest book is Pivot of the Universe: Naser al-din Shah and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831-1896. He is currently working on a documentary history of modern Iran.

Amin Neshati received his masters degree in English from Boston College. He lives in Annandale, Virginia, where he is the assistant editor of the Journal of Iranian Studies, and is following a career in translation and editing with a special interest in literary and historical texts. Anna Vanzan was born in and currently resides in Venice, Italy. She received her Ph.D in Near Eastern Studies from New York University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Mage Publishers; First Edition edition (February 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0934211361
  • ISBN-13: 978-0934211369
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,710,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Xoe Li Lu VINE VOICE on September 28, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was largely disappointed with this book - I expected an autobiographical glimpse into the life of a pioneering feminist Iranian princess and her family. What I got was a "dear diary"-style mess penned by a selfish and astonishingly conceited young woman. Princess Taj al-Saltana's memoir of her life in her father's harem is loaded with self-aggrandizing statements and little else. Granted, the princess' spoiled brat mentality and overblown self image are undoubtedly products of her coddled earlier life as the daughter of the Shah, however, the constant self promotion makes for terribly boring reading. Taj rehashes the same themes and stories time and again, all while constantly paying homage to her own alleged beauty and intellect. I am sorry to say that the princess' method of relating her story was tiresome, and I couldn't wait for it to end. I found myself rolling my eyes each time I came across a ludicrous reference to her great beauty or amazing mental capacity -- her photographs and her actions do not quite measure up to her excessive claims. I was also disappointed by the lack of information regarding harem life. For example, while she writes of the rituals involved with marriage, her disjointed writing style and intense self-focus give the reader only a fleeting idea of what actually happened during her marriage ceremony. The princess' writing is unfocused and often skips back and forth in time, making her story difficult to follow. The reader is provided with very little useful information about royal harem life. The princess' interest in civil rights for Iranian women is overshadowed by her greater interest in her own freedom to do as she pleases.Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 1998
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A truly tragic account of the life of a Persian Princess in the nineteenth century, this book will touch nerves even today. But aside from recounting a life, Taj Al-Saltana's memoir makes three significant contributions to the history of Persia. First and foremost, it is an original and quite possibly the first modern-day feminist book by a Persian woman on the condition of women in Taj's era. Second, her memoir is immensely important to understanding life in the Qajar Dynasty's royal harem. Finally, this book allows the most private look into King Nassir Al-Din's life. Nassir Al-Din ruled Persia for nearly one half of the nineteenth century.
This book comes with a detailed introduction from its editor Professor A. Amanat of Yale University. The intro is in-depth, reader friendly, and helps set the stage for understanding Taj's era and life in Persia. I would highly recommend the Book "Pivot of the Universe" also by Amanat, on the life of Taj Al-Saltana's father, King Nassir Al-Din Qajar.
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Taj Al-Sultana was born in a harem, in Iran, in 1884. Her father was Naser Al-Din Shah Qajar, the ruler, who would be assassinated in 1896. The new ruler, Mozaffar al-din Shah, as was so often the custom, "turfed out" the members of the old harem, which included Taj's mother. The new ruler did provide a reasonable pension. Taj was married at 13, to a child like herself, also 13, who on the wedding night seemed to be far more interested in his childhood games. Taj had some children, and eventually died impoverished, in Tehran, in 1936. Along the way, she made an effort to educate herself, and to assert herself in this very male dominated society. The most unusual part of her life is that she wrote about it; and her memoir, published in 1914, provided some unique insights into her initial upbringing in the harem, and her struggles, as well as those of the country, to shake off a feudal past, and move into the modern era.

I have numerous reservations about Al-Saltana's memoirs. Overall, this book is 300 pages, but that includes an introduction by Abbas Amanat of almost 100 pages. Amanat's style, and even "spin," is dramatically more sophisticated than the memoirs themselves. There seemed to be an overriding effort to "market" the memoirs by projecting a modern feminist agenda onto Al-Saltana's writings that is simply not there. Since there are not a lot of other memoirs from an Iranian harem to compare against, the effort is at least plausible.

Amanat at least addresses the problem in passing, by saying: "Certainly, like Madame Bovary, Taj's love of luxury and her weakness for expensive clothes brought her near to bankruptcy, and likewise into trouble with a silk merchant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joe Jackson on July 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
A good primary source, of which few exist. I wanted to point out to one of the reviewers that the language of Iran (Persia) is Persian and NOT Arabic. The memoirs were written in Taj's native Persian (not Arabic) and then translated into English.
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