Dear Uncle Napoleon (or as it is titled in the U.S. for some stupid reason, My Uncle Napoleon) is a satirical novel by Iraj Pezeshkzad which has been BANNED in Iran since 1976. Well, all you have to do is tell me that I am forbidden from reading something before lo and behold, I want to read it!
In short, the Ayatollah banned the book because it portrays the secular Persian culture that was dominant in Iran before the takeover by religious fundamentalists took all the fun out of the country.
Forget your images of ignorant, banner-waving savages slavering for American and British blood, slashing the faces of women wearing lipstick and terrorizing innocent citizens who just want to play their tape deck, for God’s sake. Now get ready for something completely different, to quote Monty Python. John Cleese must love this book.
Dear Uncle Napoleon, written in the 1970s but portraying the society of the 1940s, is a hoot and a half along the lines of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 or more recently, The Sellout by Paul Beatty. It portrays both upper and lower classes in Iran in the 1940s, and how a persistent paranoia, fueled by lies, took over until almost everyone believed the Western powers were *out to get them personally* in every action of every day.
HMMM, sounds mighty familiar (Cough, Drump, Donald Trump.)
If an issue of People magazine were based around his novel, it would be the segment where they proclaim: Iranians! They’re Just Like US!
They drink alcohol! They like sex! They swear! They crack jokes!
My, my my. I get the feeling that Trump is very invested in having us, the common people, see him, a millionaire, as some kind of peer. WRONG. I’ll tell you who my peers are. They are the common people of Iran–Asadollah Mirza, Dear Uncle Napoleon, Shir Ali the Butcher, Layli and more.
As the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azir Nafisi, has said, *But then, perhaps, this is a good time to be reminded of the urgent need to form a conspiracy of sorts among the lovers of books in England and America, Iran, and the world over. Let the narrow mindsets tremble and fear at the possibility of such movement.*
You, book lovers, are my peers. Not politicians, not millionaires. You.