THE AYATOLLAH IN THE CATHEDRAL by Moorhead Kennedy
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THE AYATOLLAH IN THE CATHEDRAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sure to stir up controversy, this outspoken memoir by a former Iranian hostage delivers not only an exciting, blow-by-blow account of the embassy takeover but also a broadside attack on American policy in the Middle East. Kennedy joined the Foreign Service in 1960, learning his craft in Yemen, Greece, Lebanon, and Chile. None of this did him much good in Iran, where he found US policymakers blind to the real conditions surrounding the Ayatollah's revolution. Kennedy blasts Americans for failing to grasp the Iranian viewpoint, for encouraging anti-Arab slurs, for refusing to negotiate with terrorists whose demands cloak a desperate desire for international acceptance. He suggests that ""we had better look into the mirror that terrorism holds up to us, for what it tells us not about the terrorists' shortcomings but about our own."" AH this may be hard to swallow, but the fact that it comes from someone who is himself a victim of terrorism gives it considerable persuasive power. For readers put off by Kennedy's policy statements, the core of the book remains a gripping retelling of ""the Pearl Harbor of the Foreign Service."" While Kennedy offers no blockbuster revelations, many of his personal memories--of sneaking peeks out the window, of being awakened in the middle of the night by an eccentric guard who forces his prisoners to watch Fantasy Island reruns on videotape--shed new light on the human side of the fiasco. Kennedy concludes with a report of his life after Iran, including run-ins with Nuclear Freeze activists who strike him as credulous and crude. The book loses steam near the end--how many times can we listen to a report, however true, of our fallen ways?--but an afterword by Kennedy's wife Louisa ends things on a warm, personal note. Not exactly the kind of hostage memoir that Carter, Reagan et al. will enjoy reading--and notable for just that reason.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux