Greater Iran: A 20th Century Odyssey

Series: Bibliotheca Iranica: Americans in Iran/Persia Collection 1
Availability: In stock
Published: 2011
Page #: xiv + 368
Size: 6x9
ISBN: 1-56859-289-2, ISBN 13: 978-1568592893
plates, appendix, index


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Quick Overview

These memoirs of a founder of Middle Eastern studies at U.S. institutions reveal more than the events of a life spent in intimate contact with many peoples of Eurasia. Although mainly concerned with “Greater Iran” (Afghanistan, Iran/Persia and Tajikistan), Richard Nelson Frye, Aga Khan professor of Iranian emeritus at Harvard University, describes changes which he witnessed there and elsewhere, making observations that are timely to understanding present-day relationships in the region. One of the first Western scholars to visit Central Asia after the death of Joseph Stalin, his knowledge of many languages enabled Frye to report on conditions in that hitherto little known region. In the course of subsequent trips to the USSR, the friendships he formed gave him unique insights about Soviet intellectuals concerned with the greater Iranian world. Life in Afghanistan and Persia (Iran) before the great changes that have transformed the area since the 1970s form a major part of this book. A much traveled Orientalist of the “old school,” Frye’s interaction with Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, Sadruddin Aga Khan, Bobojon Gafurov, Fikri Seljuki, Roman Ghirshman, Henry Corbin, as well as Nathan Pusey of Harvard, and various shapers of US policy toward Iran and Iranian Studies, are especially noteworthy. Personal matters are not forgotten, since some readers will wish to know how a boy from a small Midwestern town became so enamored with Iran and Central Asia that he devoted his life to investigating and explaining their history and cultures. These memoirs are not only a record of the past, but also of recent visits to old haunts that have evoked comments about the future of the Middle East and Central Asia.


Richard N. Frye

January 10, 1920- March 27, 2014 Aga Khan Professor of Iranian, Emeritus at Harvard University, Professor Frye, since the age of twelve, pursued his fascination with subjects related to the world area he called “Greater Iran:” i.e. the Persianate and Iranian languages region of Asia. Ever since he saw a book about Tamerlane in his hometown of Danville, IL, he collected objects and books from the region that stretches from Turkey to western China. A prolific traveler, he resided for long periods abroad, knew ancient languages, spoke contemporary languages of Turks, Iranians, Afghans, Tajiks, Uzbeks as well as Russian, German, French. He learned his parents’ tongue, Swedish, later in life since they, as immigrants during the early part of the 20th century, followed the pattern of discouraging native language usage in American-born generations. Frye’s last book, “Greater Iran: A 20th Century Odyssey,” a memoir documenting his long academic career to 2005, maps the course of modern Middle Eastern studies evolution at US campuses, his initiatives to create endowed university chairs at Columbia, Harvard, and through the National Armenian Association for Study and Research at many other universities Graduating secondary school at 14, college at 19, and starting his graduate work at Harvard in the pre-WWII period, he joined the war effort, spent two years in Kabul, then Istanbul, with the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA), before returning to Harvard to complete his PhD in 1949. By 1957, he was established in the position he held until his retirement in 1990. Since then he published two books to add to thirteen earlier titles, one of which, served as the basis of Michael Crichton’s “Eaters of the Dead” (film The Thirteenth Warrior). Nearly all his books have appeared in other language translations and many have gained the status of classics in their field, been reprinted many times, and continue to be in print. His personal library of some 25,000 items is housed at Boston University as part of their Special Collections. His archives are at Harvard and Boston University. Of Frye’s many media interviews, a recent one took place in 2008 on CNN when he voiced his wish for burial in Iran at a time when Iran-US relations were particularly rocky. He stated this wish often in a variety of settings. His devotion to Iran’s rich ancient and medieval culture transcended political turmoil and he accepted honors from Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi as well as former Republican era President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His dedication to the enduring values of culture and civilization trumped political vicissitudes that have torn the Middle East and particularly the Iranian world.

1. The Frontier Mail to Peshawar; 2. Major Gordon Enders; 3. The Road to Kabul; 4 .Life in Afghanistan; 5. From Kabul to Cairo; 6. Last Days in Kabul; 7. Istanbul Interlude ; 8. 1945 in Washington; 9. Beginnings; 10.Pre-war Harvard; 11. Post-war Harvard; 12. Iran in the Summer of 1948; 13. A year in Iran; 14. Tang-eAzao; 15. Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh as-Saltaneh; 16. Columbia and Kevorkian; 17. First Trip to the USSR (or Breaking Soviet Ice); 18. A year in Germany; 19. An Armenian Guidepost; 20. Sturm and Drang; 21. A Stay in the USSR; 22. Prerlude to Change; 23. Hamburg Upheavals; 24. Shiraz Successes; 25. Fading Hopes; 26. Life Changes; 27. A Japanese Idyll; 28. Wives and Children ;29. Revolution in Iran; 30 Free Afghanistan; 31 Trips to China; 32. Retirement; 33.A Tajik Interlude; 34. Land of the Zhigitovka; 35. Conferences Galore; 36. My Heart is in Iran; 37. Incident in Iran; 38. Finis.

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