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In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran Hardcover – January 4, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (January 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066209803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066209807
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,710,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This portrait of the Islamist revolution's heartland is far from the "axis of evil" caricature so often associated with the regime that held Americans hostage in 1979–1980 and is actively pursuing nuclear arms today. Rather, Ballaigue, who covers Iran for the Economist, presents a textured view of a complex society, struggling with an ancient culture, a radical ideology and a Westernized elite. Drawing inspiration from George Orwell, who chronicled the Catalonian revolution of the 1930s and its betrayal by Stalinists, Ballaiguecharts the Islamist revolution from its origins in the repressive regime of the Shah and the fiery sermons of the Ayatollah Khomeini, through its triumph and the taking of the hostages of the "Great Satan," the war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the Iran-Contra scandal and the waning of the Islamist revolutionary fervor as educated Iranians became disillusioned with the mullahs and thirsted for greater cultural and intellectual freedom. The book is peppered with interviews with and vignettes of the many Iranians the author has met during his years in Iran; the title refers to a cemetery in Tehran where the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war are interred—"rose garden" being an ironic rendition of rows of headstones. (On sale Jan. 4)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

If Pollack's Persian Puzzle [BKL D 1 04] is the policy wonk's view of today's Iran, British journalist de Bellaigue's memoir is closer to the ground. Outsiders might see Iran as an emerging nuclear threat, but de Bellaigue also sees a country terribly spent from decades of autocratic rule, revolution, ultrafundamentalism, a ruinous war with Iraq, the Iran-Contra scandal, and ongoing hostilities with America. The author, who lives in Iran and writes for the New York Review of Books and the economist, discusses these issues at length, but he also guides us through city streets and into the lives of Iranian citizens. There is Mr. Zarif, who agitated for the Ayatollah's return to Iran and now wonders why his Iranian-manufactured Paykan car is so poorly built. And the war veteran Amini, whose forehead carries 60 pieces of shrapnel and who has resigned himself to letting Esfahan teens dance in public. Readers will find here a detailed picture of Iranian life that has too long been out of reach. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

All in all though, I would say it is a worthwhile read.
Gordon Eldridge
It is rare to feel such venom in the works of an author that lives in Iran and is married to an Iranian but that is what comes across most in this book.
Amin Abari
I ordered this book after reading Pico Iver's glowing review in the NYT.
Frank Kingford

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Amin Abari on February 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Someone implying to come from the upper-crust of the European society and having married into an upper-class Iranian family is trying to write about everyday culture and custom of the regular Iranian populace. It is a worthy attempt and it can be done - and has been done - but Mr. de Bellaigue was not very successful at it!

One of the first hints of their upper-crust-ness comes early in the book, a few pages after he talks about Cardinal Maximilian de Furstenberg representing the Vatican during a celebration in Iran and how his grandmother "always referred to him as Uncle Max"; he accuses the Iranians around him to be "terrific name droppers". It takes one to know one. Later he relates a story of how his wife Bita, responds to a beggar woman's blessing with "choice insults" and for him not to see anything wrong with her actions and then sharing it with the rest of us simply reeks of self-perceived nobility and arrogance of the landed gentry. Unfortunately this "aristocratic" mentality colors everything he sees around him negatively and in black.

There are two facets to this book. One the discourse on general Iranian society and culture, and the second the eight year war with Iraq. On the former the book is grossly lacking and what it conveys are only through jaundiced eyes. On the aspect of the war the book is more valuable because it relays some historical facts. There are things to be learned from it as long as the reader takes care to discard any personal and subjective interjections that the author makes. Of course he fills some of the historical voids with a vivid imagination - mostly qualifying them with maybes and perhapses but sometimes letting it pass as facts.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Middle Easterner on April 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mr. de Bellaigue's prose is superb and he had many interesting experiences in Iran; It is obvious he wore out a lot of shoe leather writing this book. We are treated to a host of eclectic characters, from the daughter of murdered secular dissidents, to disillusioned former revolutionaries cum reformists, as well as the plight of everday Iranians who are getting by in a poorly managed, authoritarian theocracy.

The problem I had with the book was Mr. de. Bellaigue's focus on seeing Iran through the lense of Shiite Islam. At one point he makes the absurd statement that "It is every Iranians' dream to go to Karballah (Iraq)". Anyone who spends more than a day in Tehran will see how hollow statements like these ring.

Overall the book was very good, but if you're going to only read one book on contemporary Iran it should be Afshin Molavi's Persian Pilgrimages, which is in a class by itself.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Diane M. Tober on January 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
While this book provides some interesting details about life in Iran, I was expecting that it would provide a deeper, more critical analysis. Instead, it came across as a rather shallow, orientalist account of Iranian culture. I, too, lived in Iran, though not as long as the author. While it is true that for years following the Iran-Iraq war there was a national state of mourning, it is also true that there has been substantial change in national mood. With the presidency of Khatami, for example, suddenly murals and billboards of Khatami showed a smiling president. Likewise, images of Khomeini and Khamenei began to follow suit, providing a softer public image. Furthermore, Iranians themselves, whether in Iran or in the US laugh, joke, and carry on as much--if not more--than any culture. I lived in Iran for 6 months, and travel back and forth frequently. Despite the political situation, the numbers of Iranians who died in the 8 year war with Iraq, and other events, I think the Iranian people give us hope that people can find joy and perservere--even under difficult circumstances.

There is much more to Iranian culture than Ashura and martyrdom.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amin Abari on February 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Someone implying to come from the upper-crust of the European society and having married into an upper-class Iranian family is trying to write about everyday culture and custom of the regular Iranian populace. It is a worthy attempt and it can be done - and has been done - but Mr. de Bellaigue was not very successful at it!

One of the first hints of their upper-crust-ness comes early in the book, a few pages after he talks about Cardinal Maximilian de Furstenberg representing the Vatican during a celebration in Iran and how his grandmother "always referred to him as Uncle Max"; he accuses the Iranians around him to be "terrific name droppers". It takes one to know one. Later he relates a story of how his wife Bita, responds to a beggar woman's blessing with "choice insults" and for him not to see anything wrong with her actions and then sharing it with the rest of us simply reeks of self-perceived nobility and arrogance of the landed gentry. Unfortunately this "aristocratic" mentality colors everything he sees around him negatively and in black.

There are two facets to this book. One the discourse on general Iranian society and culture, and the second the eight year war with Iraq. On the former the book is grossly lacking and what it conveys are only through jaundiced eyes. On the aspect of the war the book is more valuable because it relays some historical facts. There are things to be learned from it as long as the reader takes care to discard any personal and subjective interjections that the author makes. Of course he fills some of the historical voids with a vivid imagination - mostly qualifying them with maybes and perhapses but sometimes letting it pass as facts.
Read more ›
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More About the Author

Born in London in 1971, Christopher de Bellaigue has worked as a journalist in the Middle East and South Asia since 1994. His first book, IN THE ROSE GARDEN OF THE MARTYRS: A MEMOIR OF IRAN, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. His second book, THE STRUGGLE FOR IRAN, was a collection of 14 essays on Iranian culture and politics, all of which originally appeared in The New York Review of Books. His most recent book, REBEL LAND: UNRAVELING THE RIDDLE OF HISTORY IN A TURKISH TOWN, was shortlisted for the prestigious Orwell Book Prize for political writing. Christopher de Bellaigue is the Tehran correspondent for The Economist and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, Granta, Harper's, and The New York Review of Books. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

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