Blood & Oil: A Prince's Memoir of Iran, from the Shah to the Ayatollah by Manucher FarmanfarmaianBlood & Oil: A Prince's Memoir of Iran, from the Shah to the Ayatollah by Manucher Farmanfarmaian

Blood & Oil: A Prince's Memoir of Iran, from the Shah to the Ayatollah

byManucher Farmanfarmaian, Roxane Farmanfarmaian

Paperback | December 13, 2005

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PEN/West Award Finalist

"        Told with energy, perception and great charm. . . . For anyone who wants     to . . . gain insight into the great cultural and political richness of Iran, past, present and future, this book is a marvelous introduction."        
--Fred Halliday, Los Angeles Times

Iran was the first country in the Middle East to develop an oil industry, and oil has been central to its tumultuous twentieth-century history. A finalist for the PEN/West Award, Blood and Oil tells the epic inside story of the battle for Iranian oil. A prominent member of one of Iran's most powerful aristocratic families--so feared by Khomeini that the entire clan was blacklisted--Prince Manucher Farmanfarmaian was raised in a harem at the heart of Iran's imperial court. With wit and provocative detail, he describes the days when he served as the Shah's oil adviser and pioneered the partnership that resulted in OPEC. Beautifully written and epic in its scope, this scintillating memoir provides a fascinating history of modern Iran.

"        Distinguished by its political acumen, historical sense, and vividness of description and anecdote. It is also notable for a wry sense of humour. . . . Amid the euphoria about the development of the oilfields of Central Asia and the Transcaucasus, [its] lesson should be kept in mind."  
                                         --Anatol Lieven, Financial Times

"A book of stunning beauty . . . One of the best accounts of the cultural and political life of modern Iran, it is exquisite and intimate, rendered with art-istry and detail."                                                                     --Fouad Ajami
Prince Manucher Farmanfarmaian was born in Tehran in 1917, the thirteenth child in the vast harem of a Qajar patriarch. He studied petroleum engineering at Birmingham University in England before returning to Iran to become director general of petroleum, concessions, and mines after World War II. In 1958 he became director of sales for...
Title:Blood & Oil: A Prince's Memoir of Iran, from the Shah to the AyatollahFormat:PaperbackDimensions:576 pages, 8.7 × 5.2 × 1.22 inPublished:December 13, 2005Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0812975081

ISBN - 13:9780812975086

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Read from the Book

INTRODUCTION   ROXANE FARMANFARMAIAN       Cambridge 2005   The “I” in this book is my father’s. He lived just long enough to witness the events of 9 /11 and to hear President George W. Bush pronounce Iran a member of the Axis of Evil in February 2002. He took a long view of these developments in what would turn out to be the last year of his life. He’d witnessed too many wars and coups and other cataclysms of human artifice to be easily impressed. We walked around his garden terrace in Caracas as he snipped the dead blooms off the bougainvillea in the fall of that year. He was eighty-five. Having spent his life as a political actor and commentator, he admitted he must at last be getting old, for nothing surprised him anymore. The long, lurid drama between the United States and Iran, a tango between two old lovers who now only knew how to face each other with knives in their teeth, had been going on for almost twenty-five years. As in any good play—he particularly liked those by Shakespeare—there were kings and fools, whether they wore crowns or turbans or gave presidential speeches; moments of comic relief (as when England played in the World Cup football finals in Tehran in 2001) and moments of chivalry (such as the citywide silence in Tehran for the victims of 9 /11); and too few women on the set for his taste (he died before Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Prize), but lots of intrigue to make up for it. He considered this drama a tragedy, undoubtedly as much a personal one as one taking place on the international stage. He never looked back on Iran once he left. He simply turned and strode the other way.   My father never expected the Ayatollahs’ grip to loosen quickly. The revolution brought a great gift to Iranians: the awareness that as people they had power, which for the first time gave them a sense of citizenship. The Shah never did that. This fact should not be taken lightly; it acts as the tipping point of public support for the Ayatollaen regime, even in the face of the arbitrary exercise of internal power. It rallies Iranians around their country, right or wrong; it feeds the spirit of patriotism. This is something Americans feel instinctively, too. It’s what connected Democrats to Republicans in the U.S. Congress when they decided to attack Afghanistan after 9/11. It’s what unites Reformists with Conservatives in the Iranian parliament (Majles) when it comes to developing a nuclear bomb. The different Iranian parties disagree on the specifics, of course—how to reveal the bomb, and when, and to whom? Yet the fact that there is discussion within the system is appreciated by the public. Little of substance was ever debated in the Shah’s Majles.   Iranians have always considered theirs a special country. It’s not just a matter of having an old culture; it’s more about an innate approach to the world. They feel themselves unique, but also enviable; they feel that they have power over those around them, but that they are also benevolent. Once again, this is something that Americans feel in a similar way. Today, surrounded by American troops, with tumult in Iraq to the west and tribal standoff in Afghanistan to the east, it is Iran that has taken in the refugees from both sides—one million since 1985. Iran does not attack its neighbors. It hasn’t sent an army out as an invasionary force since 1847. The fighting it gets involved with for the most part takes place on its own land; this is something Iranians have seen many times, and for millennia. At the center of the Silk Road, they were overrun by Alexander the Great’s army, attacked by the Roman Legions, occupied by the Mongol Hordes, invaded by Islamic warriors from Mecca and Medina—and each time, Iranians were like a hollow log in the middle of the stream, always holding their shape while the waters flowed through. Iran was at the pivot of “The Great Game” between Queen Victoria’s Britain, czarist Russia, and the crumbling Ottoman Empire—and it played the game with such consummate skill that the Qajar Dynasty was described by all three as corrupt and deceiving, a reputation that has lasted to this day. Now, once again, Iran is considered a source of evil, this time by the West, a menace within the War on Terror. For Iranians this is déjà vu. They know what to do; they’ve done it before. They will rally around their own leaders when they’re threatened from the outside—whether they like them or not.   Besides, it’s an issue of pride. Iranians are proud to be a people that chooses its own government. They’ve never accepted change from the outside, as neither would Americans, of course. Hell of one’s own making is infinitely preferable to the promise of heaven dangled from outside. And, as these pages unfold, the record in Iran shamefully reveals that the heavens imposed by those in offices thousands of miles away never congeal into local halcyons. The 1956 coup that overthrew Mohammad Mossadeq, my father’s cousin and a complicated, controversial man but nonetheless the first democratically elected prime minister, is still part of Iranians’ long collective memory. To have a democracy snatched away and replaced by an absolute monarchy becomes the stuff of legend—a variation on David and Goliath that is told and retold to children as they go to bed at night. This is why Iranians remember. It is not just a question of saving face; it is a question of holding their ground.   It’s a pity that political participation is not more trusted by the clerical leadership. Their fear eclipses what successes have taken place in Iran: the rise in women’s literacy from 24 percent at the time of the revolution to 85 percent today; the average age for girls to marry rising to eighteen, despite the law that allows marriage at nine; the building of the metro; the paving over of the potholes that so disfigured the towns; the development of homegrown industries in the vacuum left by U.S. economic sanctions; the flourishing of an economy that has diversified away from oil. In part, these positive changes occurred because of Iran’s long drawn-out war with Iraq—the First Gulf War, in essence—and, more to the point, the first war to usher in the post–Cold War era. Saddam Hussein was Iran’s enemy long before he became a Hitler to Americans. It is a shame that the Persian press is not allowed to flourish, for Iranians love to talk, play with words, tell tales, gossip through poetry, and dress up political views in jokes. It is also a shame that Americans do not read the Iranian press, for even in its reduced form they would come to understand a lot about a place they distrust so much. It is censorship from within and without, and it makes for murky politics. Yet would greater clarity reveal a way through the torturous byways when it is the similarities between Iranians and Americans that cause as much conflict as those aspects that are different? In the evening of his life, my father would have seen Baudelaire’s “mon semblable, mon frère” (from Les Fleurs du Mal) as grounds for optimism, rather than interpreting it as the irony of resemblance. I, on the other hand, am not so sure. I am more prone to take on board the first two words of that famous line, “hypocrite lecteur,” as I always wonder whether what we want to read or see doesn’t often trump reality.   THE TALE OF A FATHER AND DAUGHTER   I am much less cheerful than my father was about how the tangled skeins of politics and religion, of oil and water, of power, and of land, will unknot themselves in the region of Iran. My father was a perennial optimist about the way of the world in general, and the United States in particular. For him, the United States, for all its missteps, embodied Hope, continually reinventing itself as an engineering miracle, a thrumming motor that naturally drove the world. It was one of the issues that divided us as we wrote this book together, as each evening in the tropical dusk we discussed the day’s pages coming off my computer. We both found it strange that I, the younger generation and half American, would represent a view so generally pessimistic, while he—and he always claimed he typified his friends who were his age—would always imagine a reprieve, and further flowering. Our search was for common ground, and that ground was Iran. In the process we discovered ourselves to be engagingly alike—and disconcertingly unalike. For a long time we fought about many things brought up by the book, and his life, and mine. Iran became a testing ground for who we were and who we had become.   When we began this project we were not friends. I was an ambitious Western journalist living the independent New York high life; he was the Eastern patriarch holding court of sorts in Caracas, with (what I considered) contradictory views toward women and a heavy-handed approach to parenting daughters. When I first came down to Caracas to begin writing the memoirs, we circled around each other like cats, wary and suspicious. We spoke in stilted tones; there were long silences at dinner; he didn’t understand why I pursued such details as the color of people’s hair, the meaning of royal titles, the exact dates that events really took place. His view was that this was to be purely a personal recounting, a diary of a life. And at first it was. I considered this book his, and my attitudes and goals to have nothing to do with it. I was just the scribe, and would write my own book on Iran later. Only slowly did I come to realize that here was a chance to capture a many-tiered world that no longer existed, a complex world that only he had access to through memory. This world was my past as well as his, and the past of my brothers and cousins, and of my son and my son’s sons and daughters to come, a past that was not on the public record, that was not part of institutional memory. And so my father and I passed on to the next stage—from standoff to battle.