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Iran’s Iraj Pezeshkzad, who wrote ‘My Uncle Napoleon,’ dies

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 enfolded 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.

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