I am reading a great travel classic written in the 1950s about two Swiss who drove a ratty old Fiat from Yugoslavia to the Khyber Pass on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. Nicolas Bouvier’s The Way of the World describes Persian politics in Tabriz in 1953, when Muhammad Musaddeq’s government was overthrown by a Royalist coup. Wonderful stuff! BTW, is this where we’re headed?
The Musaddeq trial, which had just opened in Tehran, led to fears of skirmishes in Tabriz. They didn’t take place because that very morning the Governor demonstrated to the town that he was in full control: five armoured cars, several mortars and twenty trucks, carrying troops whose numbers had been increased for the occasion.
The Governor was a wily old man, a cruel jester, oddly esteemed even by opponents of the government he represented. He was forgiven much because everyone knew he had no political convictions and had entirely devoted his rule to building up his personal fortune, with a skill that had won him many admirers. Tabriz had always been a recalcitrant town, but it recognized ‘fair play’, and well-aimed shots. That unexpected parade, for example, which had the town by the scruff of the neck when it woke up, was absolutely in the style of the man to whom the town referred familiarly by his first name. A despot, of course, whose disappearance would have been welcomed with relief, and who was intently watched in case he should slip up. Meanwhile, informed, bland, pitiless and efficient, he was impressive. The town, familiar with despotism, granted his talent.
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