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Naraghi, a leading Iranian intellectual, has written an important and absorbing account of his experiences between September 1978 and September 1983. In part one, he recounts in great detail his eight conversations with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi during the last, agonizing months of the shah's 37-year reign. Both sides of the conversation held considerable interest--we see the shah's desperate turn of mind and Naraghi's intelligent insights into the monarch's problems (for example, he traces the shah's troubles to 1962, when his abrasive, anti-Islamic remarks forced the religious leaders to respond by becoming revolutionaries).

In part two, Naraghi recounts his three years in prison. Arrested twice because of his conversations with the shah and another time because he had been an academic mentor of Abul-Hassan Bani-Sadr, the ousted ex-president of Iran (as one of Naraghi's friends correctly observed to him, "You're always on the side of the losers."). Naraghi offers a surprisingly benign view of the prison authorities. He portrays his time served as a unique opportunity to meet varied Iranians and even distinguished ones. Indeed, on his third arrest, the author admits that "in all honesty the idea of making new and interesting acquaintances was not altogether displeasing to me."