Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Time to Stop Teasing the Axeman: Uncovering Iran Is a Great Move by Radio 4 Bosses

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Time to Stop Teasing the Axeman: Uncovering Iran Is a Great Move by Radio 4 Bosses

Article excerpt

I can't get enough of Radio 4's Uncovering Iran season, which began last Sunday and continues until 29 September. It's a fantastic and timely idea, and, unlike the station's recent Memory Season, it has been properly commissioned, drawing on real expertise rather than the thoughts of a few sad celebrities. If it were possible, I'd listen to every single programme (with the probable exception of a special edition this Sunday of The Food Programme; Iranian food is delicious, but I fear that we are unlikely to get much sense of this from stern old Sheila Dillon).

Honestly, the whole thing is so well put together, I may have to lay off teasing Mark "Axeman" Damazer--for a while, at least.

Among the shows yet to air, I'm especially looking forward to the look at Iran's film industry (28 September, 4.30pm), presented by Francine Stock, and to Mixed Messages and Secret Diplomacy (25 September, 8pm), in which Gordon Corera will attempt to decode the murky relationship between the US and Iran since the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Of the first week's programmes, I caught two. One was the start (17 September) of the weekly series A Revolutionary State (Sundays, 1.30pm), which examines the making of modern Iran in the 20th century. It was presented by Sir John Tusa. The BBC describes this three-parter as the centrepiece of the season--and, for once, I agree with the hype. It is wonderful: informative, nuanced and bold. The producers obviously felt that it was more important to try to capture the real Iran than to worry about being excessively politically correct; their brush strokes were broad but felt authentic. There were moments when you could almost smell the orange blossom.

A Revolutionary State succeeded because it provided a glimpse of the Iranian psyche. The facts were all there (the carving up of the country by Britain and Russia; the 1953 coup that installed the shah; the 1979 revolution that deposed him), but I was more interested in hearing about the Iranian superiority complex--a product of 2,500 years of Persian history. …

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