Amordad News

The death of Iraj Pezeshkzad was an excuse to revive the memories of “My Uncle Napoleon”

Translated by Shabboo Goli

Perhaps in Iranian fictional literature few novels can be found whose fame can be matched to the book “My Uncle Napoleon” and find as much readers among the people. This book is a mirror of the life of the Iranians, written in a humorous and pleasant language with interesting and impressive prose. It is still one of the most widely read Persian novels, more than 50 years after publication. Now, the news of the death of Iraj Pezeshkzad, the author of “My Uncle Napoleon,” has become the first cultural news of today’s Iranian news agencies. Pezeshkzad passed away in US, at the age of 94.

In 1349, the novel “My Uncle Napoleon” was published. The author was a lawyer named Iraj Pezeshkzad, an administrative employee at the then Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before that, some writings and a satirical book called “Mashallah Khan in the Court of Harun al-Rashid” by Pezeshkzad had been published and were more or less known among the Iranian reading community. However, the Iranian intellectuals did not take him seriously because in the days writings that had some political side to it had more readers.

But the release of “My Uncle Napoleon” was not an event that could be ignored. Suddenly the book became popular, and everyone was talking about it. The book’s rich humor and author’s view of Iranian society had created a masterpiece almost unique. Since then, My Uncle Napoleon has become the nickname of anyone who felt that something was wrong at any event and linked it to secret foreign plots. The familiar words of My Uncle Napoleon, the main character of the novel, were: “This is a British plot!!… The same cunning wolves… This is their plan!”

Uncle Napoleon was suffering from obsessive imagination and was caught in his far-away illusion.  He imagined that England had a hand in whatever happened around him. Hence, those who knew him secretly mocked Uncle Napoleon and made a joke of his behavior.

The second most popular character in Pezeshkzad’s novel is Mash Qasem, who pointed to his four fingers whenever he was asked something, and would say “Why lie! it’s just 4 steps from the grave.” He was an example of simple-minded people. Plus, he considered Uncle Napoleon as his hero and accompanied him in his fantasies.

The fame of Uncle Napoleon reached the point where the famous director of Iranian cinema, Nasser Taghvaei, made a TV series from it in 1355. This series was the most-watched TV show of those years and still has many fans. So much so that few can be found who have not seen this collection.

However, the serious intellectuals and writers of contemporary Iranian literature did not pay much attention to the novel “My Uncle Napoleon.” They did not value it because of the language and the humor in it that never goes deep, and everything just touches the surface of the story. They believed that this book was “a ridiculous satire.” How accurate is their judgement of Pezeshkzad’s novel? This is something to be looked into more carefully.

The news of Pezeshkzad’s death has revived the memories of the novel “My Uncle Napoleon”, and his other books. With this sad news, ISNA News has published an article taken from the website of Farhang-e Moaser publishers (publication of some of Pezeshkzad’s), which is interesting and self-explanatory. Contemporary culture wrote in a short note:

Dear Dr. Pezeshkzad

When the bitterest events were made sweet with your words and took the bitterness away, why should we mourn today?  Mourning wasn’t your way, and we have learned to praise life, make fun of pain and go to war with darkness, with the weapon of joy. We will bear the nostalgia of your absence and will always remember your tall presence in the literature of our land, Iran, so that it turns into a forest full of love for life and for the culture of our country.

Good luck to you on your journey; convey our greetings to the 7,000 years old passengers of this path. Contemporary Culture Publications is the official publisher of Iraj Pezeshkzad’s biographical works.

Iraj Pezeshkzad has published several interesting books. He was one of Saadi’s admirers and wrote a book named “Saadi’s high satire”, which is about this famous poet. Iraj Pezeshkzad’s memory will always stay with us.


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