Iranian author Iraj Pezeshkzad, who wrote ‘My Uncle Napoleon,’ dies

 Iraj Pezeshkzad. (Supplied)
Iraj Pezeshkzad. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 16 January 2022

Iranian author Iraj Pezeshkzad, who wrote ‘My Uncle Napoleon,’ dies

 Iraj Pezeshkzad. (Supplied)
  • Iranian state media did not report on Pezeshkzad’s death, though the British ambassador to Iran offered his sympathy

TEHRAN: Iraj Pezeshkzad, an Iranian author whose bestselling comic novel, “My Uncle Napoleon,” lampooned Persian culture’s self-aggrandizing and paranoid behavior as the country entered the modern era, has died. He was 94.
The travails of Uncle Napoleon, whose delusions have him seeing Britain’s hand in the troubles plaguing the waning days of his aristocratic family during World War II, became one of the most-beloved television serials ever in Iran when it aired in 1976.
The fervor of the 1979 Islamic Revolution saw the book banned and the series never aired again on Iranian state television. Pezeshkzad himself would ultimately land in Los Angeles, part of an emigre society of Iranians still there that see the California city jokingly referred to as “Tehrangeles” even today.
Pezeshkzad’s words and turns of phrase from the novel still litter Iranian culture today, including raunchy references to “San Francisco” as an innuendo for sexual liaisons. The same goes for passages about the power of love, as described in one scene by Uncle Napoleon’s long-suffering servant, Mash Ghasem.
“When you don’t see her, it’s like your heart is frozen,” says the servant, portrayed in a softly lit basement scene in the series by famed actor Parviz Fannizadeh. “When you see her, it’s like a bakery oven is lit in your heart.”
Iran’s semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Davood Mosaei, who published Pezeshkzad’s books, as confirming his death on Wednesday. No cause of death was immediately offered. Foreign-based Farsi-language television channels also reported his death.
Iranian state media did not report on his death, though the British ambassador to Iran offered his sympathy. “My sincere condolences and sadness at the passing of one of Iran’s great literary figures — Iraj Pezeshkzad — whose subtle yet powerful satire is an enduring window onto Iranian culture,” Simon Shercliff wrote on Twitter.
Born in Tehran in the late 1920s, Pezeshkzad came of age at the start of Iran’s Pahlavi dynasty. In “My Uncle Napoleon,” he focuses on an aristocratic family from the Qajar dynasty, which had ruled Persia for over 100 years. Several live in a compound with a vast garden, where the story takes place.
The late essayist Christopher Hitchens once referred to the novel as “a love story unfolded in a bildungsroman and wrapped in a conspiracy theory” — using a $10 word for a coming-of-age tale. The narrator loves Uncle Napoleon’s daughter, his cousin, but ultimately never marries her.
But the story does more to explain the mindset of Iranians, who in a generation found themselves dragged from a nearly feudal, rural lifestyle into the modern era of cityscapes. As Persia formally became Iran, it became the target of world powers.
First, Britain and the Soviet Union invaded Iran in 1941 and deposed Shah Reza Pahlavi, worried about his overtures to Adolf Hitler in Germany. His young son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, took the throne. In 1953, a CIA- and British-backed coup cemented the shah’s power and overthrew the country’s elected prime minister.
But even before the modern era, weaker Persian dynasties found themselves subsumed by powerful foreign powers. That paranoia bleeds into modern Iran, where its theocracy now finds itself targeted in attacks over its accelerating nuclear program but also has the tendency to blame all its woes on conspirators abroad.
“Although the book is not political, it is politically subversive, targeting a certain mentality and attitude,” wrote author Azar Nafisi in 2006.
“Its protagonist is a small-minded and incompetent personality who blames his failures and his own insignificance on an all-powerful entity, thereby making himself significant and indispensable. “In Iran, for example, as Pezeshkzad has mentioned elsewhere, this attitude is not limited to ‘common’ people but is in fact more prevalent among the so-called political and intellectual elite.”
That’s something Pezeshkzad said came even from birth in his family.
“When I was learning to talk, the words that I heard after bread, water, meat and so on were, ‘Yes. it’s the work of the British,” he once told a 2009 BBC documentary.
The publication of “My Uncle Napoleon” came in the early 1970s, as literacy rates raced upward along with global oil prices, fueling the shah’s modernization efforts in the country. The book sold millions of copies and brought about the televised serial of the same name three years later. Iranians remember streets clearing in Tehran as it aired.
Pezeshkzad himself served as a cultural official in the Foreign Ministry under the shah. But soon, he would flee Tehran forever with the arrival of the Islamic Revolution, joining Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris and his National Resistance Movement of Iran. Even the shah would blame the Soviets and British for having a hand in being ultimately pushed from power.
“By the time I wrote this novel, everyone had pretty much realized that British imperialism with all its power and greatness had withered away,” he told the BBC. “However, I had underestimated this phobia and especially after the revolution, I realized it was — and still is — extremely strong.”
He described having people praise him for seeing the British hand everything — the exact opposite of what he tried to say in his novel.
“I felt as if a bucket of cold water had been poured over me,” he added.
He later moved to Los Angeles, where he occasionally lectured at universities. In March 2020, he gave an interview to the tabloid Chelcheragh marking the Persian New Year, in which he described being unable to read or write any longer due to macular degeneration.
He said those he once knew in Tehran all had died with age, but he longed to return home one last time.
“I wish I could come to Iran. Visit my city, my own Tehran,” he said. “How can a person not miss his city?”


Egyptian, US forces carry out joint training exercise

Egyptian, US forces carry out joint training exercise
Updated 6 sec ago

Egyptian, US forces carry out joint training exercise

Egyptian, US forces carry out joint training exercise
  • The exercise involved a series of lectures on unifying combat concepts

CAIRO: The air forces of the US and Egypt have carried out a joint training exercise at a base in the North African country, strengthening military cooperation between the two countries.
An Egyptian military spokesman announced that the exercise involved a series of lectures on unifying combat concepts and exchanging training experiences, and saw a number of multitask combat aircraft deployed by the US Air Force and Egyptian Air Force for training flights on operational missions and mid-air refueling in the air both during the day and at night.
The training flights demonstrated the extent to which the Egyptian Air Force has reached a high level of professionalism that qualifies its fighter pilots to carry out all tasks entrusted to them.
The exercise comes in light of the growing partnership and military cooperation between Cairo and Washington.
 


Yemen government slams new ‘one-sided’ UN proposal on Taiz

Yemen government slams new ‘one-sided’ UN proposal on Taiz
Updated 1 min 43 sec ago

Yemen government slams new ‘one-sided’ UN proposal on Taiz

Yemen government slams new ‘one-sided’ UN proposal on Taiz
  • The Yemeni government said it was not consulted beforehand on the proposal
  • Grundberg has intensely engaged with both parties to push for the full implementation of the truce’s elements

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Hans Grundberg, the UN special envoy for Yemen, has presented a new proposal on opening roads in the besieged city of Taiz in an attempt to break the deadlock after the Iran-backed Houthis rejected his first proposal, the Yemeni government said.
The Yemeni government said it was not consulted beforehand on the proposal, which it considers “biased” toward the Houthis.
In his first proposal, Grundberg suggested opening a main road and several small secondary roads leading into and out of Taiz in a bid to end the impasse during discussions between the Yemeni government and the Houthis in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
The Yemeni government agreed to the proposal while the Houthis rejected it and insisted on opening old, unpaved and narrow roads.
Abdul Kareem Shaiban, head of the government’s delegation at the talks in Amman, said the envoy’s new proposal has taken into consideration Houthi demands by suggesting opening only small roads that do not alleviate the suffering of tens of thousands of people who live under the Houthi siege.
“He should have sat with us before announcing the proposal that has removed the demand for opening the main road known as Softeel, which connects Taiz with Aden and Sanaa,” he told Arab News by telephone. “We are back where we started.”
Shaiban said the Yemeni government delegation was not invited to Amman to discuss the new proposal, slamming the UN envoy for abandoning his first proposal and approving the Houthi demands.
Responding to the government’s criticism, the office of the UN Yemen envoy told Arab News that Grundberg has intensely engaged with both parties to push for the full implementation of the truce’s elements, including opening roads in Taiz, stating that new proposals or ideas on related issues are discussed with both sides.
“Draft proposals and options to open roads in Taiz and other governorates have been presented and discussed with both parties. The UN underlines the need to demonstrate the political will to reach an agreement soonest to make tangible progress,” the office said.
Under the UN-brokered deal that came into effect on April 2, the Yemeni government allowed the resumption of commercial flights from the Houthi-held airport in Sanaa, facilitated the arrival of fuel ships to the Hodeidah seaport, stopped hostilities on all fronts and allowed travelers with Houthi-issued passports to fly on Yemenia Airways.
While the Houthis have stopped fighting, mainly their deadly offensive on the central city of Marib, they have refused to lift their siege on Taiz, a key element of the truce.
In a letter sent to the UN Yemen envoy on Tuesday, Shaiban suggested opening five roads that link the city with other provinces, including two roads that were included in the envoy’s first proposal.
“We assure that these roads are safe, achieve the humanitarian aspect and are convenient to the people,” he said.
The UN Yemen envoy said that military delegates from the Yemeni government and the Houthis that met in Amman this week pledged again to respect the truce by stopping hostilities and military activities during Eid celebrations. Both sides also agreed to jointly work on upholding the truce, building trust and easing the suffering of the people in Yemen.
“The parties agreed to continue discussions focused on preventing or reducing as much as possible movements of military personnel and equipment and means of exercising effective operational control to ensure that all forces understand and comply with their responsibilities in the truce,” Grundberg said in a statement.


UK-Egypt Association Council inaugurated in London

UK-Egypt Association Council inaugurated in London
The two sides issued a joint statement following the launch. (Shutterstock)
Updated 06 July 2022

UK-Egypt Association Council inaugurated in London

UK-Egypt Association Council inaugurated in London
  • Foreign ministers discuss areas of cooperation, including investment and addressing climate change

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, and the UK’s minister of foreign and commonwealth affairs and development, Liz Truss, inaugurated the UK-Egypt Association Council in London.

The two sides issued a joint statement following the launch, stressing it created a new platform to promote the ambitions expressed in the agreement between the UK and Egypt, signed in December 2020.

The statement revealed that the two ministers held talks on developing the strategic partnership between their countries, and welcomed a number of commercial successes between them, including the project to manufacture monorail linear trains in the English city of Derby with the support of the British Export Finance Corp.

This comes in addition to the sale of two marine supply units that belonged to the Royal Navy to Egypt, including contracts for renewal and development.

The statement added that the cooperation included the opening of a new solar energy field with a capacity of 66 megawatts by Globeleq, with an investment of $80 million; the launch of commercial operations by Lekela Wind Energy, with an investment of $325 million; and the approval of an investment of $100 million by British International Investment to acquire Alpha Medical Group.

The two ministers also discussed prospects for enhancing economic cooperation between the UK and Egypt, and agreed to work intensively to develop bilateral trade and investment, including addressing any obstacles to trade, and working to improve market access in the agricultural, healthcare, energy and financial sectors through the establishment of a trade subcommittee. 

The Egyptian and UK governments also affirmed their commitment to enhancing bilateral cooperation and investments in healthcare and education, and welcomed the deepening of their technical cooperation, which will support joint work to overcome barriers to market access in priority sectors.

Future cooperation includes the signing of a declaration of intent between the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency and the British Gas and Electricity Markets Authority, to help reform Egyptian legislation on renewable energy.

The two ministers welcomed the strengthening of cooperation in Africa and the discovery of tripartite cooperation opportunities with African countries in various fields, especially infrastructure.

The UK welcomed Egypt’s preparations to host COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in November, stressing its desire to build on the Glasgow Climate Charter and previous UN climate change goals. 

Egypt and the UK both stressed the importance of supporting developing peoples in achieving a fair transition towards sustainable development patterns that are environmentally friendly and compatible with efforts to combat climate change, including the transition towards sustainable energy and green hydrogen, in addition to adapting to the effects of climate change, through the sustainable and integrated management of natural resources, enhancing resilience and building technical and technological capacities.

The two ministers also discussed a large number of bilateral, regional and global issues of common interest, including human rights, mentioning their desire to hold meetings of the Association Council regularly to continue strengthening cooperation between London and Cairo.

The UK commended Egypt for its leadership and efforts in the field of renewable energy generation and for providing opportunities for British investors and companies in the energy sector.


Egyptian, Cypriot presidents hold talks

Egyptian, Cypriot presidents hold talks
Updated 06 July 2022

Egyptian, Cypriot presidents hold talks

Egyptian, Cypriot presidents hold talks

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi received a phone call from his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades to discuss regional issues of common interest and ways to enhance bilateral relations.

El-Sisi affirmed Egypt’s “pride” in the “distinguished cooperation” with Cyprus, “and the positive development it is witnessing.”

He stressed Egypt’s aspiration to promote various aspects of that cooperation — especially in the security, military, energy and economic levels — in a way that contributes to achieving the interests of the two friendly peoples.

They also discussed ways of coordinating efforts with Egypt as a leading partner of the EU in terms of combating terrorism, extremist ideology and illegal immigration.


El-Sisi seeks enhanced Cairo cooperation with UAE

El-Sisi seeks enhanced Cairo cooperation with UAE
Updated 06 July 2022

El-Sisi seeks enhanced Cairo cooperation with UAE

El-Sisi seeks enhanced Cairo cooperation with UAE

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi expressed Cairo’s aspirations to enhance cooperation with the UAE, citing plans for increased investments in information technology, energy and communications.

El-Sisi’s statement came after he received the UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Sultan Al-Jaber in the presence of a number of officials from the two countries.

A spokesman for the Egyptian presidency said the meeting covered several areas for raising investments between Egypt and the UAE.

The Egyptian presidential spokesman said that El-Sisi conveyed his greetings to the President of the UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, welcoming the increase in Emirati investments in Egypt to consolidate the strong brotherly relations between the two countries.

Al-Jaber conveyed to El-Sisi the greetings of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, praising the attractive investment and commercial climate in Egypt in light of the comprehensive development process the country is witnessing under the leadership of El-Sisi, which he said provides various opportunities for Emirati and foreign investments in the region.

The Emirati minister added that the UAE is keen to strengthen strategic cooperation frameworks between the two countries.