Blood and Oil:

Memoirs of a Persian Prince

by Manucher Farmanfarmaian and Roxane Farmanfarmaian

Iran's first ambassador to Venezuela and a signatory to the agreement tht established OPEC, Manucher Farmanfarmaian makes it perfectly clear that he is from a far more aristocratic Persian family than the one that produced the last two shahs. His memoirs, written with his daughter, West Coast correspondent for Publisher's Weekly, are as colorful and sometimes as intricate as the design of a Persian carpet. The book not only describes Manucher Farmanfarmaian's public career but also provides a history of modern Iran. His father, a prime minister, had eight wives and 36 children, and Manucher, who was born in 1917, spent his young years in a harem. At age nine he was sent to Europe for schooling and returned 14 years later with a degree in petroleum engineering, which put him in the right business at the right time.

The multitudinous details of office and palace politics are probably not as important to readers as the new perspective given on British oil imperialism and its brutal effect on 20th-century history. The Farmanfarmaians' intimate portrait of the last shah is that of a man totally out of touch with his people, who brought on the Islamic revolution by ineptly bending to American pressure for social reform. Coming from such a large and well-connected family, the authors had relatives involved in just about every political faction within Iran except Khomeini's, which gives them numerous anecdotal insights on the revolution. The book opens and closes with Manucher Farmanfarmaian's escape from Tehran's Islamic rebels; today he is a potato-chip manufacturer in Caracas. His memoirs are a revolutionary tale told with grand bon vivant style.

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