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
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.)
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