Book Review: Alam Flatteries

Asadollah Alam Memory of Ghostwriting to Approve and Praise Royal Actions

Jafar Golshan Roghani
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian

2021-02-02


In his notes, Asadollah Alam, Minister of the Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Court, mentions the flattering and special action of Abdolazim Valian, one of the cabinet ministers, which is noteworthy. In fact, writing various books in praise and description of royal actions has been prevalent and pervasive in the history of the rule of kings; especially since the kings were very pleased to witness such writings. Ghostwriting also flourished in the Pahlavi period. The travelogues left by Reza Shah prove the case. Shah, who was literate at the level of primary reading and writing, has left behind several travelogues such as Mazandaran Travelogue, Khuzestan Travelogue, etc. Also, such ghostwriting could be seen in the second Pahlavi period. It is said that Shoja al-Din Shafa was one of the personalities who played a role in writing the Shah's books. But in this memoir, Asadollah Alam speaks of the efforts of a high-ranking man who intends to bring to climax the flattery and praise of the royal actions, especially the land reforms which began in the early 1940s; that is, writing a book in support of land reform by a professor of a European and American university, in order the government propaganda justifies and describes the Shah's actions scientifically and academically based on it. The then Minister of Land Reform visited Anne Catherine Lambton - a spy, a high-ranking British Foreign Office officer since 1941, and a researcher in Iranian history, politics, and society - to hire her for writing a book. This act of flattering ghostwriting was so obscene and disgusting that the Shah himself got upset. However, four years later, in 1973, Valian persuaded Dr. Denman, another American professor at the University of Cambridge, who had been an adviser to the Department of Land Reform for a while, to write The King's Vista, a book full of praising the Shah and Land Reform. Interestingly, this time the Shah did not react negatively to the writing of such worthless book. Alam writes on November 1, 1969:

"Ms. Lambton, who has a long history in Iran and had previously written a book on landowning in Iran, has recently written a book on land reform in which she has described the late Arsanjani and Amini briefly. Abdolazim Valian, the Minister of Land Reform, had asked me to tell the Shah to order collecting all the books and then asking Lambton to write another book which does not include the names of Amini and Arsanjani. “He’s made a gross mistake to give such an offer.” The Shah said. I really liked how smart the Shah was to recognize that this is just a cunning and flattery offer, otherwise how can you collect a book published by the University of Oxford?"

It should be noted that Hassan Arsanjani was the then Minister of Agriculture and the main executor of land reforms during 1961-1962, and Ali Amini was the Prime Minister of the Shah in those days; both of them later were out of favor and were hated by the Shah. Abdolazim Valian succeeded Arsanjani and was responsible for implementing the land reform program in Iran for ten years since 1962. Two Lambton’s books have been translated in Iran with the following specifications:

 

Landowner and Farmer in Iran, translated by Manouchehr Amiri, ‘Bongah Tarjomeh va Nashr Ketab’ Publications, 1960.

Land Reform in Iran 1961-1966, translated by Mehdi Ishaqian, Tehran, Amirkabir Publications, 2015.

 


 
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