Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Review: My Uncle Napoleon, by Iraj Pezeshkzad

I finally finished Iraj Pezeshkzad’s My Uncle Napoleon, and my own personal copy should be arriving sometime today! I probably never would have picked it up on my own, which would have been a great tragedy.

I first heard about My Uncle Napoleon while reading Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran. It sounded interesting, so I borrowed an actual physical copy from the library. I don’t usually do back cover blurbs here, but let me quote a little information:

First published in Iran in the 1970s and adapted into a hugely successful television series, this beloved novel is now “Suggested Reading” in Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran. My Uncle Napoleon is a timeless and universal satire of first love and family intrigue.

Sadly, they do not credit this blurb, so I assume it’s from the publisher

The blurbs for the book are from such varied sources as The Atlantic Monthly, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post Book World, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Baltimore Sun, Kirkus Reviews, and Middle East Journal.

This is that rare book that I have slowed down my reading for just so I can fully savor each incident. Don’t ask me the plot – it is both too simple and too complex. Just get in the roller coaster car and hang on for the ride of your life. In tone, It’s a bit like Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman without the weird formatting. it somewhat reminds me of Tristam Shandy, especially if that worthy work had been cut into a movie with additions from The Beatles A Hard Days’ Night or Help.

The narrator is never named, but he starts the story when he is 13 and falls in love with his cousin Layli. Mind, this does not bode well, as Layli’s father not only has other plans for his daughter, but is currently trying to destroy the narrator’s father for various silly, petty reasons. Situations keep abounding, pitting various family members and a servant or two against each other, generally with hilarious consequences.

To say the characters are unforgettable would be doing them a great injustice. Even the minor characters are memorable, with significant bits to play in the general family drama.

There is almost no way I could describe this book without using spoilers. The ending is not what I expected, but that’s okay because it is of a whole with the story.

If you want a crazy, wild ride with all sorts of family dysfunctions (and wasn’t there a meme a few years back about all functional families being similar and each dysfunctional family being dysfunctional in a specific, singular way) this is a book for you.

Anyway, I really hope you enjoy this one as much as I did, and that we can have some fun discussions about it!

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