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The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran Paperback – February 13, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There is probably no person better suited to write this book on Iran's cultural and political transformation than Robin Wright. She has traveled to Iran as a reporter since 1973, when the country was "one of the few comfortable places for foreigners"--including women--to live and work, a place where "short skirts were acceptable" and women "wore bikinis on the beach." But the revolution in 1979 changed all that: "For anyone who'd been to Iran before, the new Islamic Republic of Iran seemed almost like a different country." There was the revival of religious fundamentalism, the hostage crisis, a costly war with Iraq, the sponsorship of terrorism, and Iran-Contra. Iran became one of the most perplexing and vital beats in all of journalism, a touchstone for Middle Eastern politics and an emerging presence on the world stage--and Wright has been there for more of it than any other foreigner.

The Last Great Revolution is a sweeping portrait of a misunderstood country. Much of it is anecdotal rather than analytical, but all is in the service of illuminating what Wright calls "the world's only modern theocracy." She writes of an airline stewardess who gave Wright Band-Aids to cover her nail polish before entering the country and a customs official who ripped up her deck of playing cards one by one. But there are also unexpected opportunities for women (they can become engineers and lawyers), plus a measure of religious freedom (there are communities of Christians and Jews). Old and new ways are in constant conflict: "All the current signs indicate that the Islamic Republic is not likely to survive in its current form." --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Few Western journalists are more familiar with postrevolutionary Iran than Wright (In the Name of God: The Khomeini Decade, etc.). Wright first traveled to Iran as a young reporter in 1973 and has made dozens of excursions to the country since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Going beneath the veil, as it were, of contemporary Iran, Wright reveals several cultural trends that have occurred inside the political revolution itself and argues that these "revolutions within the revolution" will be lasting. She shows not just how Islam has impacted Iran but how the people of Iran have impacted Islam, liberalizing it and setting in motion changes that will be as far-reaching for Islam as the Reformation was for Christianity. Wright paints a fascinating portrait of a complex society in which women--despite headscarves--enjoy considerable empowerment in the workplace and politics, in which the arts thrive and there is greater religious tolerance than many readers will have supposed (Iranian Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians enjoy their own reserved seats in Parliament). Wright argues that the results of all these combined religious, political and cultural trends will eventually mark Iran's as the last great revolution of the modern era, on a par with the French and Russian revolutions. Wright's combination of reportorial immediacy and historical perspective makes her book the most accessible guide yet to a country where the battle between modernity and tradition is heating up. Illus. not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375706305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375706301
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,153,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Robin Wright has reported from more than 140 countries on six continents for The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, TIME magazine, The Atlantic, The Sunday Times of London, the Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, CBS News and many others.
Wright has also been a fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Yale, Duke, Stanford, the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

She is the recipient of the United Nations Correspondents' Association Gold Medal for coverage of international affairs. The American Academy of Diplomacy selected Wright as the journalist of the year for her "distinguished reporting and analysis of international affairs." She also won the National Press Club award for diplomatic reporting, the National Magazine Award for her reportage from Iran in The New Yorker, and the Overseas Press Club Award for "best reporting in any medium requiring exceptional courage and initia¬tive" for coverage of African wars. She was the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant.

She has been a television commentator on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN and MSNBC programs, including "Meet the Press," "Face the Nation," "This Week," "Nightline," the PBS Newshour, "Frontline," "Charlie Rose," "Larry King Live," "Washington Week in Review," "The Colbert Report," and HBO's "Real Time."

Wright is the author of "Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East" (2008), which The New York Times and The Washington Post both selected as one of the most notable books of the year. She was the editor of "The Iran Primer: Power, Politics and U.S. Policy" (2010), which brought together 50 of the world's top Iran experts. Her other books include "The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran" (2000), which was selected as one of the 25 most memorable books of the year by the New York Library Association, "Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam" (2001), "Flashpoints: Promise and Peril in a New World" (1991), and "In the Name of God: The Khomeini Decade" (1989).

Customer Reviews

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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on May 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
From political leaders and dissidents to film makers, philosophers, housewives and teenagers, journalist Robin Wright conveys the outspoken voices of Iran in this timely study.
Readable and well-organized, Wright's book illuminates the impact of the 1979 revolution on ordinary citizens today as well as examining the root causes. She naturally focuses on Iranian/U.S. relations, explaining the long-festering feeling against the 1953 US/British-engineered coup that reinstalled the Shah's repressive regime. She shows how Ayatollah Khomeini seized on the almost whimsical takeover of the US embassy in 1979 to divert attention from domestic troubles and unite his people in heightened revolutionary fervor.
Iranians view the American people and their government separately and always have, Wright claims. At a 1999 demonstration, an Islamic clerical leader takes Wright aside. "'We shout death to policies, not to the scientists and thinkers of America,' he said, as if the difference were obvious and I had to be daft not to understand." One of the more outspoken of the original hostage takers addresses the crowd. " 'Today we invite all the hostages to return to Iran as our guests....Regarding relations with America, we must look to the future and not to the past.' "
The skeptical reader is reminded of terrorist attacks against ordinary civilians and the impossibility of American tourism in Iran, at least during the '80s. But, as Wright points out, the population of Iran has nearly doubled since the revolution, meaning nearly half of Iranians were born during Islamic reign. Things are different for them.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Last Great Revolution by Robin Wright is a must read for anyone interested or curious about the "aftermath" of the Iranian revolution.
For those who have not been back to Iran since the revolution, or for those who would like to understand a culture so complex and rich, this book documents the social climate of the past twenty years in Iran.
I could not put the book down. Living in the states for most of my life, yet visting Iran every so often: as I turned each page, I felt like it was another day I was living in Iran. By reading this, I heard the traffic, I felt the heat through my chador, and I also saw the struggles the Iranians go through daily.
In addition to stating the drawbacks to the Islamic revolution, more importantly, Wright establishes an intriguing twist to the stereotypical image of Iran. She does so by praising the "births" of the many sub-movements, ie. Iranian cinema, education, women's rights. Although, Iran has a long way to go in many aspects, it was encouraging to read about the numerous accomplishments Iranians have made by transforming the theocratic restrictions into positive change.
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43 of 59 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
There are always reporters ready to curry favour with despots in exchange for visas and interviews. And there has been a long line of American reporters who became fascinated by 20th century dictators. John Reed admird Lenin and Edgar Snowe was fascinated by Mao. People have forgotten that William Randolph Hearst initially admird Mussolini and Hitler. To be sure Ms Wright is not in the same league. But her fascination for the mullahs is as disconcerting. Some examples: she tells us that the status of women in Iran is better than in other Muslim countries. But she does not tell us that Iranian women were better off before the mullahs seized power. Iranian women were present in the parliament, the Cabinet, and all insitutions, including the armed forces from the 1960s onwards. Half of all university undergraudtes were women. Khomeini tried to push women out but failed. Another example: Ms Wright pretends that the mullahs created the Iranian film industry which has been successful in many countries. The fact is that Iran's film industry was born in 1903 and Iranian films were present on the international stage, including major festivals, from the 1960s onwards. Ms Wright also cites the presence of religious minorities in Iran as a plus for the mullahs. But religious minorities have existed in Iran since the dawn of history. The first Jews arrived in Iran with Queen Esther some 2200 years ago. The first Christian church in the world is located in Iran with a Christian community that dates back to the first two decades of Christianity. The mullahs tried to destroy these communiteis and failed. Iranian civilisatioon and culture have existed since at least 7000 years ago and what they have to offer the world is in spite of the mullahs not because of them. More ridiculous is Ms.Read more ›
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on May 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Wright's book is valuable for its first hand reporting of the current situation in Iran, both politically and culturally, as the country struggles to overcome the setbacks of the revolution. Iran seems to figure very little in the conciousness of the average American. But as Wright makes clear, America still holds both fascination and revulsion to the average Iranian. Wright's interviews with numerous Iranians and her extensive travels around the country provide a vivid narrative that will surprise the average reader. Overall, a very good read that provides lots of insight into where Iran is and where it might be headed.
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