de Bellaigue, Christopher 1971-
de Bellaigue, Christopher 1971-
Born 1971, in London, England; married; children: two. Education: Studied at Cambridge University.
India Today, journalist; Economist, London, England, correspondent in Turkey and Iran.
In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran, HarperCollins (London, England), 2004, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
The Struggle for Iran, New York Review of Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including Granta, the New York Review of Books, and the New Yorker.
Christopher de Bellaigue is a British journalist whose work has taken him to India, Turkey, and Iran. A contributor to periodicals in both London and New York, de Bellaigue put his journalistic experience to work in his first book-length work, In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran. Married to an Iranian woman, he has made Tehran his home since the late 1990s. As a contributor for Kirkus Reviews noted, in his memoir de Bellaigue "attempts to reconcile the joys of his adopted land with its grim cruelty." De Bellaigue's narrative is not linear history; rather, he assembles a series of intimate glimpses at life in Iran from a multitude of perspectives. He interviews veterans of the Iran-Iraq war, traces the traditions of athletic clubs, chats with victims and relatives of victims of the excesses of the Iranian revolution in the 1980s, and follows old leads in the Iran-Contra affair, among others. Through its variety of viewpoints, de Bellaigue's book serves up a "rare glimpse into a world most Westerners would consider bizarre," according to the Kirkus Reviews contributor.
Stanley Reed, writing in Business Week, also had praise for de Bellaigue's book. Noting that the author is fluent in Farsi, Reed observed that de Bellaigue "has immersed himself in the society and effectively describes his acquaintances' experiences of the revolution and its aftermath." Reed further noted that de Bellaigue "deftly" portrays the mindset of a people caught in the trap of a religious history that glorifies death and martyrdom—a worldview that has been exploited by the leaders of the Iranian revolution. Reed called de Bellaigue's book a "highly original and disturbing portrait of the Islamic Republic." Matthew Hermann, writing in Newsweek International, felt that the author's use of individual stories to look at the bigger Iranian picture achieves a "telling, intimate scale," and Geographical contributor Mick Herron concluded that de Bellaigue brings "a mixture of insight, exasperation and sympathy" to his work.
In The Struggle for Iran, de Bellaigue offers fourteen essays that reflect his views on Iran's political situation in the early twenty-first century, as well as the views of a broad cross-section of Iranian citizens, from students to clerics. He notes the history of the liberal reform movement of the 1990s and its failure under the authoritarian regime. He writes that the movement is not dead, however, and that the younger generations of Iranians have embraced contemporary behaviors, including an appreciation for rock music. De Bellaigue also discusses the nuclear politics of Iran and claims that American president George W. Bush's aggressive stance with regard to Iran is a primary reason why the Iranian leaders bear down on reformists who want to reshape Islam and adopt Western values.
Referring to Bush's term for countries posing a threat to global security, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "Does Iran deserve a role in the Axis of Evil? To judge by this book, probably not, no matter what the current headlines." Booklist reviewer Brendan Driscoll called The Struggle for Iran "an eloquent and sensitive memoir of an increasingly bleak political situation."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
De Bellaigue, Christopher, In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran, HarperCollins (London, England), 2004, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
Booklist, May 15, 2007, Brendan Driscoll, review of The Struggle for Iran, p. 18.
Business Week, January 10, 2005, Stanley Reed, review of In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs, p. 22.
Geographical, November, 2004, Mick Herron, review of In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs, p. 99.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2004, review of In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs, p. 1128; May 1, 2007, review of The Struggle for Iran.
Newsweek International, November 8, 2004, Matthew Hermann, review of In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs, p. 65.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 2007, review of The Struggle for Iran.
AsiaSource (Web site of the Asia Society), http://www.asiasource.org/ (February 29, 2005), Nermeen Shaikh, interview with Christopher de Bellaigue.
Middle Stage,http://middlestage.blogspot.com/ (June 16, 2007), Chandrahas Choudhury, review of The Struggle for Iran.