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My Uncle Napoleon: A Novel (Modern Library Paperbacks) Paperback – April 11, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reprint edition (April 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812974433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812974430
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The obsessions of Dear Uncle Napoleon, as Pezeshkzad's eponymous Iranian patriarch is nicknamed, furnish this epic, episodic farce with a multitude of mock heroic elements: the "centuries old" honor of his petty aristocratic family; the propriety of his distant relatives; the care of his prize sweetbrier; his mythologized exploits in a Cossack regiment; his hero-worship of Bonaparte; and, above all, his paranoia about English international intrigue on his doorstop. Dear Uncle's extended family's antics don't so much distract him as exacerbate his eccentricities with each new misunderstanding, private feud, clandestine affair and arranged marriage. Told from the naive perspective of Dear Uncle's least-favorite nephew (who is chastely, adolescently in love with his daughter), Pezeshkzad's tale, first published in Iran in the early 1970s, seems innocently obsolete after the Iranian Revolution, like Wodehouse after the Blitz, with its comedy relying heavily on conventions?verbal tics, frenetic dialogue, farcical action and acrobatic reversals of fortune. Pezeshkzad supplies an instantly recognizable, universal cast: the foolish family retainer (the Sancho Panza to Dear Uncle's Quixote), the worldly and womanizing uncle, the disgruntled brother-in-law, the officious local police officer, the brawny butcher with an attractive younger wife. While such characters made the novel a huge bestseller and a national touchstone for comic types in Iran, they don't make the best international travelers, and stateside readers may have trouble discerning, or caring about, how they satirize specific elements of Iranian society.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Scientific American

A giddily uproarious mixture of farce and slapstick. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

AS... it is also available in other languages.
chrome
I had already read the book in original language (Persian) and had seen the TV series.
Mendoza
This is a brilliant farcical parody with superb moments of emotion.
SuperJR

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By David on August 10, 1997
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Americans have become so accustomed to seeing televised images of dour Ayatollahs and grim-faced Iranian demonstrators shouting "Death to the Great Satan" that we have forgotten that Iran is also the land of Omar Khayyam. Pezeshkzad and his characters have more in common with the 12th century poet than the religious revolutionaries who overthrew the Shah would like, and the readers will give thanks with laughter.

Early in World War II, the unnamed 15-year-old narrator becomes infatuated with his first cousin Layli, the daughter of the narrator's uncle, derisively nicknamed Napoleon for constantly voicing admiration for the French general. At a family gathering, the narrator's father vents annoyance with Uncle Napoleon's unending inflation of his military record (Uncle Napoleon's four-man gendarmerie squad over the years had been transformed into dozens of army battalions thwarting the plans of British imperialism). For his father's offense, the narrator is banned from seeing his beloved Layli, who Uncle Napoleon betrothes to the narrator's horse-faced cousin Puri. The narrator turns to his cousin Asadollah, a bon vivant and womanizer extraordinaire, for advice in stopping the wedding and winning Layli. The action builds to a climax when the British occupy Tehran.

The results . . . well, I won't give it away. But if you like laugh-out-loud farce mixed with sharp-eyed satire, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It belongs on a very short list of comic masterpieces of world literature
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mehrdad Modjtahedi on January 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
My Uncle Napoleon (aka: Daei Jon Napelon) is one of the great Iranian masterpieces. Although the story is sure to inform the non-Iranian reader about WWII era Iran, its true topic is one that anyone can relate to - true love. This book will remind you what it was like to have a crush on someone that was unavailable. Much like Charles Shulz's Charlie Brown and the "Little Red Haired Girl," our novel's protagonist has fallen madly in love with someone that is inaccessible to him. Meanwhile, interfamily politics keep rocking the young man's already unstable boat. What I like most about this book is how heart wrenching emotions and laugh out loud comedy go hand in hand, much like in real life. It is this book's realism that is its greatest asset, everything from the characters to the emotions within this book are a true reflection of real life. Dick Davis has done a magnificent job translating this novel, all of the characters' original dialogue and various ethnic colloquialisms remain intact. As a result this book is a fantastic insight into Iran for the non-Iranian reader. Not to mention that you are sure to win many Brownie points with your Iranian friends/colleagues if they find out that you have read this book. This is because My Uncle Napoleon is a part of Iranian culture that is very personal to most Iranians. It was made into a famous television miniseries in the seventies (alas it is still left untranslated) that to this day is one of the most popular shows in Iranian history. Most Iranians have a worn out set of VHS tapes somewhere in their house that attest to this. So please hesitate no more, and order this wonderful book. I'm sure that you will treasure it.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bukkene Bruse VINE VOICE on February 12, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My Uncle Napoleon is a hilarious examination of a part of Iranian society in the 1940's. The character development is the strongest aspect of the book and the situational comedy is also very good. I recently read A Confederacy of Dunces; these two novels share many qualities.
My Uncle Napoleon gives a portrayal of Iran that is very different from what is provided by the mainstream press. While the aristocratic characters belong to a place and time that is long gone, the mannerisms and character types satirized in the book are still present to some degree in many Iranians.
Read this book if you want a good laugh or a glimpse of Iranian culture you could not otherwise get.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By ali-reza on March 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
I watched the TV series based on this book on Iranian TV when i was 3 or 4 years old. As another reviewer mentioned, this book and the TV show are part of Iranian culture now. Iranians usually take themselves very serious, but this book dares to make fun of the Iranian life. After the revolution, it was banned by the Islamic Republic. I even heard that one of the actors who played in the movie went to jail after the revolution because of a scene when his character makes fun of Islam! Ayatollah Khomeini and his entourage, who unfortunately are still ruling in Iran, had a very limited set of mind and they didn't understand what comedy means! But people still had the show on Video tape and and watched it. It was still great. It's a true Iranian classic!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John Sollami on September 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
What a difference 36 years makes. This world-class masterpiece of comic genius was completed in 1970 by the Iranian writer Iraj Pezeshkzad. Its whole existence owes itself to sweet, innocent, pure love, which is mercilessly stymied by the obsessive concepts of family honor, and an unrelenting paranoia that blames everything on the "enemy." The enemy can be one's socially unequal brother in law, or the squinty-eyed British, or just about anyone who sullies one's narcissism and self-importance. The narrator of this wonderful epic is a 13-year-old boy who knows the exact day and minute he falls in love with his first cousin. But much to his horror, his love is thwarted by the ever-vengeful relationship of his own father to his Uncle Napoleon. Uncle Napoleon is all things vain and inflated in the male ego. He imagines himself an incarnation of Napoleon himself, and despises the low origins of his brother in law. Love was never more difficult. And comic satire was never more lively, except perhaps in a Marx Brothers movie. In fact, I kept thinking about Harpo as some of the brilliantly realized domestic squabbles unraveled before me.

This compassionate and sensual work, of course, was banned in 1979 by the Mullahs, who resemble the hard-nosed paranoid Uncle Napoleon, blaming all the world's evils on one source (in their case, America). What a shame to outlaw this marvelously open and universal work. But what a gift the English translator, Dick Davis, has given the English-speaking world by making this work accessible to us.
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