The Rapture, or The Book of Sleep.

Translated from the Persian by James D. Clark.

Mirza Mohammad Hasan Khan E`temad os-Saltaneh

Series: Bibliotheca Iranica: Persian Fiction in Translation 12
Availability: In stock
Published: 2016
Page #: lviii + 290
Size: 5.5 x 8.5
ISBN: 978-1-56859-340-1
plates, appendix, bibliography, glossary, index, notes


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Quick Overview

The Rapture was written by Mirza Mohammad Hasan Khan E’temad os-Saltaneh, an important courtier and writer during much of Naser od-Din Shah’s reign. The book is a fictional account of the trial of the prime ministers of the Qajar dynasty until Mirza Ali Asghar Khan Atabak. It conforms to a style of dissident writing in the 19th century where fictional stories and dreams provided a framework for criticism of the government and figures therein. It gives descriptions of personalities and events during the second half of the 19th century by a person who was at the center of Iranian government. It inserts historical personalities and facts into a fantastic fictional frame. The story takes place during a trip by Naser od-Din Shah in 1892 to central Iran. During a halt near Saveh, the narrator enters the town and falls asleep in a mosque. Heavenly beings then set up a court and six Iranian kings from the past appear sit in judgment on eleven prime ministers of the Qajar dynasty from Haji Ebrahim Khan Shirazi to Atabak. This takes place before an audience comprised of people who are alive and dead. The eleven men each in turn gives account of his life and career, after which they are judged and either sent to heaven or punished. Most of the ministers receive favorable judgments. Mirza Hosayn Khan Sepahsalar is the first to be severely criticized. He is accused of having initiated problems in governance, especially with relation to the selling of concessions to foreigners, giving medals to unworthy men, and acting without a clear understanding of conditions in Iran. About half of the book, however, is devoted to Mirza Ali Asghar Khan Atabak’s account of his life. Atabak is blamed for the problems that E’temad os-Saltaneh believed plagued the Iranian government from the late 1880s and severely disrupted its functioning. Atabak is represented in an unfavorable light throughout this section. Given the fact that Atabak is pointed out as the principal cause of the problems, it perfectly conceivable that the book was written to express E’temad os-Saltaneh’s blame of him and to present a very different picture than that which appears in Sadr ot-tavarikh, another book attributed to E’temad os-Saltaneh that also covers the lives and careers of those same Qajar prime ministers. Atabak is blamed for some of the same things as Mirza Hosayn Khan, such as granting concessions to foreigners. Despite the fact that the section on Atabak takes up half the book, it remains incomplete—it stops abruptly at a point where the text suggests that a great deal more was yet to be composed—and one might surmise that E‘temad os-Saltaneh intended to write more—perhaps much more—in this section when he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1896. The fact that The Rapture was obviously written to express E‘temad os-Saltaneh personal animosity toward Atabak does not detract from the historical value of the text. The text has considerable historical, and some literary, value.


Mirza Mohammad Hasan Khan E`temad os-Saltaneh

Mirza Mohammad Hasan Khan (1843-96) was one of the prominent courtiers during the reign of Naser od-Din Shah and an important personality in the areas of publishing and translation in Iran over the second half of the 19th century. Born into an upper class family, he was one of the first students to attend the polytechnical school Dar ol-fonun in Tehran. After holding several military ranks and offices from an early age, in 1861-2 he left Iran for Paris where he served in the Iranian embassy and completed his formal education, developing his mastery of French. From the time he returned to Iran in 1867-8, Mirza Hasan Khan was at the center of government in Iran, the place where he would remain for the next twenty-nine years until his sudden death a few months prior to the assassination of Naser od–Din Shah in 1896. He held a variety of official positions in the course of his career in government, one of the more notable ones being that of the private reader of foreign books and newspapers for the shah. As an intimate member of the court, he accompanied the shah on many of his journeys inside and outside Iran. He was given responsibility for the government printing office and the Bureau of Translation in 1871, and he headed both of those until his death. He gained recognition from international organizations such as the Geographical Society of Paris and the Asian societies of France, Britain, and Russia. Mohammad Hasan Khan was one of the more prolific authors of the Naseri era. His works consist primarily of histories, chronicles, and translations. Some of his more notable works are Mer‘at ol-boldan, Al-ma’aser va al-asar, and Tarikh-e montazam-e Naseri. Perhaps his most influential writing has been his well-known Ruznameh, or diary, which he secretly kept over many years. That constitutes one of the important and unique primary sources in 19th century Iranian history.



The Rapture, or The Book of Sleep Beginning

The Beginning of Aqa Mohammad Shah Qajar’s Discourse

The Interrogation of Haji Ebrahim Khan Shirazi

The Interrogation of Mirza Shafi‘ Mazandarani

The Interrogation of Haji Mohammad Hosayn Khan Sadr Isfahani

The Interrogation of Mirza Abu al-Qasem Qa’em Maqam Farahani

The Interrogation of Haji Mirza Aqasi

The Interrogation of Mirza Taqi Khan Amir Kabir

The Interrogation of Mirza Aqa Khan Nuri

The Interrogation of Mirza Mohammad Khan Sepahsalar

The Interrogation of Mirza Hosayn Khan Sepahsalar

The Interrogation of Mirza Yusuf Ashtiani (Mostowfi ol-Mamalek)

The Interrogation of Mirza ‘Ali Asghar Khan Atabak (Amin os-Soltan)

Glossary of Terms




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