Iraj Pezeshkzad Evokes the Elixir of Life

My Uncle Napoleon Author Remembers Mossadegh

Ebrahim Norouzi, MD

The Mossadegh Project | July 27, 2012                    

Iraj Pezeshkzad (My Uncle Napoleon) Remembers Mossadegh

Famed Iranian writer and author Iraj Pezeshkzad was a frequent acquaintance of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh while growing up. He recalled his visits with him and their strong impression in a piece entitled Elixir of Life. Written for the National Resistance Movement of Iran (founded by Shapour Bakhtiar) on the occasion of Mossadegh’s birthday anniversary in 1986, it draws on the late Premier’s strong will and patriotism as inspiration in the contemporary struggle against the ruling Islamic regime.

Iraj Pezeshkzad Iraj Pezeshkzad (ایرج پزشکزاد) was born in 1928 in Tehran. After his studies in Iran he departed for France where he received his law degree. Returning to Iran he served as a judge for five years and then joined the foreign ministry. After the 1979 Iranian revolution, Pezeshkzad was stripped of his diplomatic position. He returned to France where he joined the exiled Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar and the Iranian National Resistance Movement, for which he wrote several books.

Iraj Pezeshkzad Beginning his writing career in the 1950’s with short stories and translations, Pezeshkzad went on to author numerous socio-political articles, plays and books, and today is regarded as one of the most important satirists of his time.

He is best known for his 1973 novel My Uncle Napoleon (دایی‌جان ناپلئون) which was translated into several languages including an expert English translation by renowned poet/translator Dick Davis. Published several years before the revolution and the basis for a successful television series in Iran, it has been praised worldwide, and is often cited as a masterpiece of contemporary Persian literature. Pezeshkzad published his autobiography The Pleasure-grounds of Life in 2008. He lives in Paris.

The following is an exclusive translation from farsi of Pezeshkzad’s personal remembrance of a historic statesman and family friend, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh.

[Update, January 12, 2022: Mr. Iraj Pezeshkzad passed away today in Los Angeles. He was 94.]

Elixir of Life

by Iraj Pezeshkzad

The Iranian Uprising
Issue 26, No. 151
May 15, 1986

The last time I had the fortune of being in the presence of Mossadegh was sometime after the event of ‘30 Tir’. [July 21, 1952] Mossadegh blowing on his tea I was not in Iran during the Nationalization of the Oil industry but I had met Mossadegh several times before, starting from the time he was governor of Fars province. My father, a physician, was his friend as well as a devoted supporter. When Mossadegh was in the 14th Majles he frequently came to our house, which I bragged about to my mostly ‘Mossadeghi’ classmates.

What I remember most about him was his unbounded politeness and humility. I used to look for an excuse [to interact], such as serving him tea or a cold drink, and anytime I entered the room he would stand up for me and would not sit down until I did. These sorts of gestures would always embarrass my father and I.

When I returned to Iran in 1952 from my study abroad, I was filled with emotional fervor about the national movement. I had not seen him since prior to oil nationalization and requested my father to arrange a visit. He quickly gave us time and we went to his house on Kakh Street. I found him in his bed in his usual clothing made of barak [camel or goat hair]. He received me with kindness and I told him how happy I was to see him. Naturally, he then began to talk with my father, reminiscing about the past.

What surprised me the most was his strong and cheerful spirit. I had seen him in the newsreels [in France] as a frail and wobbly man, walking with support from another person, taking hesitant steps. Mossadegh I expected to encounter a weak and tired old man but he was not the man I pictured in my mind. He joked with my father and laughed non-stop. His boisterous laugh would even shake the window panes. At one point, my simple and sincere father told him without pretense that he should not reopen the recently closed Senate to which Mossadegh responded with an innocent look, “Okay, my dear doctor” as though he was going to reopen the Senate and because of my father’s advice he just changed his mind, and he then let out a roaring laughter.

Mossadegh then asked me how my study went, once he noticed that he had not paid enough attention to me. He wanted to know what I think of Europe and what the reaction of Westerners were to oil nationalization. He inquired if the Iranian students are doing their duties?

Do you mean their studies? I asked.

He said no, besides that, I mean performing their national duty. Now that all of the major newspapers promote the British side, we have nothing but our voice to let the people of the world know about our nation’s rightful demands. This is the duty of you all, not only when the subject happens to come up but proactively to bring the subject up for discussion with anyone, friends or strangers, from anywhere in the world and how we have suffered because of colonization.

To make them understand that Mossadegh and the Iranian nation want nothing out of the ordinary. All we want is to use our natural wealth to improve our living standard. We want to choose our own representatives, governors and judges and not the oil company choose them for us. We don’t need to have guardian, executor and tutor. If every one of you young people enlightens the mind of ten people a month you will see that after some time we will have a very great force behind us. If the world’s public opinion finds out the degree to which our nation has been subjected to oppression and injustice and wants nothing but its trampled right, the foreigners would then not be able to easily push us around.

As my time with Mossadegh was coming to an end, I asked him: with all of your awesome responsibilities how is it that you are able to smile, much less to be able to laugh so heartfully?

He smiled at my question and said, “My son, I’m astonished too. Considering my frail body and enormous stress, I'm amazed that when I wake up every morning, I feel even more ready and able than the day before. I don’t think that this is because I have an important job to do. What I have is a noble cause and as long as one has that, one never stops, or I dare to say, never dies. It is the force of the Elixir of Life that helps me with the struggle for my core conviction in life.”

Today after thirty some years we are again caught in the claws of a different kind of tyranny and injustice. And it is our duty to remind the youth of the advice of that great man about the source of the Elixir of Life which gives us the resilience to continue with our noble struggles.

Translated by Ebrahim Norouzi, MD. © The Mossadegh Project

IRAN PROTESTS 2022: Woman, Life, Freedom
IRAN PROTESTS 2022: Woman, Life, Freedom


Related links:

Mossadegh Cites Quest of Liberty | Philadelphia - October 22, 1951

“A great popular hero...” — Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas on Mossadegh

The memoirs of Iranian National Front Spokesman Asghar Parsa

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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