'The Viper of Kerman'
24 Jun 2009 15:47
BOOK REVIEW: 'The Viper of Kerman', by Christian Oliver, Halban, ISBN 978-1-905559-12-1
Reviewed by Gareth Smyth
[TEHRAN BUREAU] Anyone having difficulty assessing the veracity of reports from Iran -- or frustrated at reading speculation from "experts" tens of thousands of miles from Tehran -- would find some relief in Christian Oliver's The Viper of Kerman.
Oliver, who reported Iran for Reuters from 2003 until 2007, has penned a very readable novel based around an ayatollah inviting the UK and US to back him in a coup against president Ahmadinejad. It's a heady home-brew of intrigue, student unrest, ethnic-based violence and incompetent journalism -- with a colourful cast of clerics, an assassin, diplomats, spies, nuclear scientists, tanker captains, a corporate arms lawyer, north Tehrani beauties and qanat workers.
The ayatollah in question wants a government committed to the national interest rather than ideology, and claims he is prepared to suspend the nuclear programme as a gesture of good faith to the west and Israel. The Russians are meanwhile concerned that the Americans may be planning to do a deal and muscle in on a valuable market.
While Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei are there in the background, the main characters are entirely fictional. Cynics and insiders will, as ever, speculate that some similarities to real persons living or dead are not entirely coincidental.
The Viper of Kerman is a racy and entertaining read, with many vignettes illustrating Oliver's eye for detail and sense of irony. But the book also highlights many important aspects of Iranian politics: from the geopolitics centred on its natural resources to the way things in Iran so often work out differently to what anyone intends or expects.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau