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4 July 1985
Shah of Shahs 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by William Brand.
Quartet, 152 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 7043 2473 3
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The Pride and the Fall: Iran 1974-1979 
by Anthony Parsons.
Cape, 160 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 224 02196 6
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Iran under the Ayatollahs 
by Dilip Hiro.
Routledge, 416 pp., £20, January 1985, 9780710099242
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Obbligato: Notes on a Foreign Service Career 
by William Sullivan.
Norton, 279 pp., £13.95, October 1984, 0 393 01809 1
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Envoy to the Middle World: Adventures in Diplomacy 
by George McGhee.
Harper and Row, 458 pp., £15.95, January 1984, 0 06 039025 5
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The Persians amongst the English 
by Denis Wright.
Tauris, 273 pp., £17.95, February 1985, 1 85043 002 0
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... reconcile socialism with Islam, and thereby introduced the basic tenets of Marxist thought into a vernacular that would be acceptable to the urban poor.’ This is about as accurate as referring to George Orwell as a Marxist. It is true, however, that Shariati sought out the common ground between Marxist activism and Islamic radicalism, and this certainly helped forge the links between leftists and ...

What He Could Bear

Hilary Mantel: A Brutal Childhood

9 March 2006
A Lie about My Father 
by John Burnside.
Cape, 324 pp., £12.99, March 2006, 0 224 07487 3
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... death, the poet and novelist John Burnside stumbled almost incidentally on the facts of his early life. Talking to his mother’s sister, he learned that the elder Burnside – ‘Tommy Dick, or GeorgeMcGhee, or whatever his name was’ – had been an abandoned child, found, by whom is not known, on a doorstep in West Fife in the year of the General Strike. Not even to know the name of your ...

Wrath of the Centurions

Max Hastings: My Lai

25 January 2018
My Lai: Vietnam, 1968 and the Descent into Darkness 
by Howard Jones.
Oxford, 504 pp., £22.99, June 2017, 978 0 19 539360 6
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... Before you leave here, sir, you’re going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average 19-year-old American boy.’ He was thinking of men like Lance Corporal Marion McGhee, a fireteam leader in the 3/3rd Marines, who on 12 August 1965 walked out of the unit perimeter announcing that he was ‘going after a VC’. Two men sent in pursuit heard a shot and a scream, then ...

A History of Disappointment

Jackson Lears: Obama’s Parents

5 January 2012
The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father 
by Sally Jacobs.
Public Affairs, 336 pp., £20, July 2011, 978 1 58648 793 5
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A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother 
by Janny Scott.
Riverhead, 384 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 1 59448 797 2
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... Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates et al) it was clear that Obama meant to play by the same Washington rules that created the policy disasters he inherited from George W. Bush. Obama had retreated into politics as usual. He never looked back. One did not have to be a sentimental utopian to be disappointed. In domestic affairs, Obama’s obeisance to the Washington ...

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