Christopher de Bellaigue

Christopher de Bellaigue’s Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Very British Coup will be out at the beginning of next year.

Diary: ‘Mummy est morte’

Christopher de Bellaigue, 19 March 2020

De Bellaigue?’ The voice belonged to one of the senior boys in the house, someone who had never spoken to me before. I looked up from my desk, where I was surveying my untouched homework. It was the afternoon of Sunday, 10 February 1985. ‘Jaques wants to see you.’ He turned and walked away.

I had first seen Jaques’s private quarters on the day I entered Eton a few...

Money as Weapon

Christopher de Bellaigue, 14 April 2011

The suicide bomber who blew himself up in the Finest supermarket in Kabul on 28 January had to get through a city-wide security cordon to reach his target. The Finest was chosen because it was frequented by foreigners who wouldn’t be in Kabul were it not for the occupation, and because, exceptionally for such a place, it was not protected by security guards or reinforced doors. It was...

Diary: In Afghanistan

Christopher de Bellaigue, 7 October 2010

Akram Osman’s immense novel Kuche-ye ma, which might be translated as ‘Our Street’, spans four decades of Kabul’s recent history, but stops before the worst bits.* I started it when I was in Afghanistan in July, and soon found that reading a few pages became vital to my after-work equilibrium, enabling me to feel optimistic again.

Each morning, out of my hotel room,...

A Bride for a Jackass: Vita in Persia

Christopher de Bellaigue, 25 March 2010

Nineteen twenty-seven was a fine year to be Vita Sackville-West. She was 35, attaining what her son would call her ‘tumultuous maturity’, besieged by lovers. Her elegy to Kentish life, The Land, had won the Hawthornden Prize, and she was hesitantly revising her earlier, somewhat churlish opinions of her own talent. She was a muse to perhaps the greatest novelist of the age,...

Hossein Kharrazi’s bicycle was leaning against the wall of his parents’ house in Isfahan. Mrs Kharrazi told me to come in, rearranging her chador so it wouldn’t slide off her head. I took off my shoes and she showed me into a living-room that looked onto a courtyard with a persimmon tree in the middle. There was a big mural on one of the walls, a copy of a photograph...

Diary: getting married in Iran

Christopher de Bellaigue, 5 July 2001

I’m wearing tails and waistcoat for my wedding, but this isn’t the Home Counties. I’m getting married in Tehran to Bita Ghezelayagh, an Iranian architect who studied in Paris, and I’m determined to express my ‘cultural identity’. What has my identity got to do with Four Weddings and a Funeral? Not much, but the Iranians will get the point. Better to be...

Misrepresentations: The Islamic Enlightenment

Dmitri Levitin, 22 November 2018

‘Oriental history​,’ the German philologist Johann Jakob Reiske wrote in 1747, ‘is very worthy of the study of an honest mind, and does not deserve any less than European...

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Why weren’t they grateful? Mossadegh

Pankaj Mishra, 21 June 2012

Mossadegh, whose family belonged to the nobility, was an unlikely leader of Iran’s transition from dynastic monarchy to mass politics.

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