Shah of Shahs

Ryszard Kapuściński

Introduced by Maziar Bahari

Translated by Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand and William R. Brand

Illustrated with archive photography, Ryszard Kapuściński’s masterpiece of reportage, Shah of Shahs, is a welcome addition to the Folio collection.

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‘Dazzling ... He brings the world to us as nobody else’

  1. Observer

In 1979, the Shah of Iran’s tyrannical reign was brought to a bloody end when revolution transferred power to Ayatollah Khomeini and the country became an Islamic Republic. Throughout the final weeks of violent transition, Polish journalist and author Ryszard Kapuściński covered the story. A veteran of revolutionary reporting, and with first-hand experience of life under a despotic regime, he was uniquely placed to unravel the complexities of Iranian politics for a Western readership. As the city emptied of tourists and correspondents, Kapuściński was the last guest in his Tehran hotel, and he began to gather the information he needed to write Shahs of Shahs. This new edition of his renowned work is illustrated with 22 carefully researched photographs from the period, and includes a striking binding design by David Foldvari, an illustrator known for his politically charged artwork.

Production Details

Three-quarter bound in blocked cloth with a paper front board printed and blocked with a design by David Foldvari 

Set in Arno Pro

152 pages

Frontispiece and 12 pages of black & white photographs

Plain slipcase

9˝ x 6¼˝

A haunting history full of shattered dreams

As usual at this hour I can hear gunfire from the depths of the invisible city. The shooting starts regularly at nine as if custom or tradition had fixed the hour

Following his father’s forced abdication by the Allies in 1941, the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in Iran signified a moment of hope for a new era, free from persecution. However, despite the Shah’s bullish move towards Westernisation and social reform, the self-styled father of the nation enjoyed the riches of the country’s oil wealth and lived like a Western billionaire while the majority of the Iranian people lived in poverty. SAVAK secret police infiltrated everyday life, and those arrested were tortured first and questioned later. No one was above suspicion: friends, neighbours and even family members were all treated as potential informers. With tensions running high, traditionalists increasingly demanded a return to Islamic rule, and this religious fervour combined with anti-Western sentiment to create the perfect revolutionary storm.

A fascinating new introduction

The award-winning journalist and human rights activist Maziar Bahari has provided a new introduction for this edition, in which he describes Shah of Shahs as ‘a book about Iran, tyranny, revolution, memory and photography’. A thoroughly researched and fascinating overview of the turbulent modern history of the country, it is also an eloquent – and at times poetic – book that is based on the author’s personal interpretation of events.

about Ryszard Kapuściński

Ryszard Kapuściński (1932–2007) was a journalist, poet, photographer and author. Born in eastern Poland, he studied Polish history at Warsaw University before becoming a domestic reporter. As a foreign correspondent for the Polish Press Agency he covered civil wars, revolutions and social conditions, and garnered both critical and popular praise. Kapuściński’s style was both controversial and much admired as he purposely blurred the conventions of reportage with literary allegory, a technique he termed ‘literary reportage’. His notable works include Another Day of Life (1976), The Emperor (1978), The Soccer War (1978), Imperium (1993), The Shadow of the Sun (1998) and Travels with Herodotus (2004; Folio edition 2012).

About Maziar Bahari

Maziar Bahari is an award-winning Iranian-Canadian journalist, film-maker and human-rights activist. He studied at Concordia and McGill universities in Montreal, and his films have been shown in festivals and by broadcasters around the world. He was a reporter for Newsweek from 1998 to 2011, and in 2009 was incarcerated by the Iranian government during the Green Movement. His New York Times best-selling memoir, Then They Came for Me, is the basis for Jon Stewart’s 2014 film Rosewater. Bahari is the founder of IranWire news site, the freedom-of-expression campaign Journalism Is Not A Crime and the street-art project Paint the Change.


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