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The king and I

The last Shah of Iran was bundled out of power in 1979 by one of the shaping events of modern history. Yet an engaging new biography by a monarchist insider is blind to its deepest causes and consequences

By Michael Axworthy   February 2009

Towards the end of Gholam Reza Afkhami’s new biography of Iran’s last Shah, he describes the deposed monarch—in exile after the Iranian revolution of 1979—undergoing chemotherapy in the Bahamas. Mohammad Reza Shah, we learn, became increasingly depressed; he took little interest in his surroundings and was often “drowned” in his own thoughts, “trying to reason out why things had gone so unexpectedly wrong.”

Afkhami, who served as Iran’s deputy minister of the interior under the Shah, writes well and makes use of interviews with many significant actors in the history of the Shah’s reign—much of which is quite new. One…

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