Since being ousted from the presidency of Iran 10 years ago, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr has published many books -- not to mention essays in French, Italian and Farsi -- "and none of them so far has paid me a penny," he said yesterday in his suite at the Jefferson Hotel.

"I hope now they will start doing that, so we can say that there's a life for writers," he added. "This is one of the problems that my wife has with me. She's always complaining: 'You don't go and get what you deserve to get from these publishers!' "

His publisher, his publisher's marketing director, his translator, his aides and his visitors all erupted in hearty laughter -- but none heartier than the laughter of Bani-Sadr himself. It is just possible that his latest effort, "My Turn to Speak: Iran, the Revolution & Secret Deals With the U.S.," will change his luck in the literary trade.

Replete with charges about secret deals between Islamic fundamentalists and Reagan Republicans during the 1980 presidential campaign, the book has received a mother lode of publicity in the past week, especially after the State Department withheld his visa to enter the United States before finally relenting and letting him in. (Two dozen reporters greeted him when he arrived at Newark International Airport on Saturday.)

Now he's giving back-to-back interviews, guesting on television morning shows, appearing at the National Press Club and a book party tomorrow and conferring with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. He's telling his story about how emissaries of Ronald Reagan's campaign, including George Bush, offered weapons shipments to the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in return for a delay in the release of 52 American hostages, held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, until after the November election.

It's an old story, whose ever changing details have been roundly denied by the alleged participants (including President Bush, who said on Friday that it "sickened" him), and dismissed by journalists for want of proof. It seems not to matter, meanwhile, that when "My Turn to Speak" was first published two years ago in France, where Bani-Sadr lives in exile, it sank with barely a ripple.

But now it appears that it's once again news. Speaking in Farsi through his translator, Bani-Sadr said he thinks he knows why.

"Because basically in France and Europe, they read this as a history book," he said as he perched on a sofa in a room littered with the remains of breakfast. At 58, he's 10 years older and slightly softer around the middle than when he was a fixture on American television during the hostage crisis. He has discarded his Islamic revolutionary costume for the oversized-sweater style of a French academic. But he looks very much unchanged -- the same moist brown eyes glistening through heavy-rimmed glasses, the same Chaplinesque mustache, the same lips upturned in a Mona Lisa smile. "They were not party to this," he said of the Europeans. "The United States is a party to what has happened in Iran. So you are much more concerned. You should be much more concerned."

In recent days, Bani-Sadr's American publisher, Brassey's (US) Inc., has upped the press run of "My Turn to Speak" from 11,000 to 37,000 copies, and may print still more. The book is not what normally passes for a bestseller. Cobbled together from a series of interviews conducted by French journalist Jean-Charles Deniau, it is never merely direct when it can be enigmatic, never just simple when it can be labyrinthine.

Likewise, his revelations in an interview, if that's what they are, are subsumed in plots, complots, subplots and counterplots, woven together by a single theme: Everyone was out to get Bani-Sadr. Thus the Reaganauts colluded with the mullahs, and his life became a conspiracy theory. Listening to Bani-Sadr is like listening to a Persian carpet.

"I had seen information," he recounted at one point, describing an American-inspired plot by the clerics to get rid of him, "that the contact {between the Reagan camp and the mullahs} was established and working in late June of 1980. In my absence, Mr. Beheshti" -- that is, Ayatollah Mohammed Husseni Beheshti, Bani-Sadr's archenemy -- "had presented a plan to the Revolutionary Council, saying there was a danger of an American coup in the army and that we had to have a plan for an anti-coup."

The late cleric's plan (late, because he died in a bomb blast, shortly after Bani-Sadr was relieved of the presidency) was to "suspend the constitution and disband the army, and they would run the country," Bani-Sadr said. "Mr. Barzagan" -- that is, Mehdi Barzagan, Bani-Sadr's immediate predecessor as president -- "was a member of the Revolutionary Council and, in my absence, told Mr. Beheshti, 'This plan is a plan to assassinate Bani-Sadr! You must give him a chance to be present and defend himself!' I reacted very harshly to this plan and wrote a letter to Khomeini, saying, 'This plan is an American plan.' Then it was rejected in the Revolutionary Council, at least temporarily."

Later came an even more suspicious development. A certain Gen. Bagheri, "whose daughter is a daughter-in-law of an American senator," Bani-Sadr said, told him of the contents of Beheshti's plan and of the contacts between the mullahs and the Reagan camp. "I asked the general how he knew about it, and he explained what the relationship was to his daughter, and that's how he knew about the contacts."

When told that one of Sen. Robert Byrd's daughters had married an Iranian -- the only American senator with such a connection -- Bani-Sadr said with a laugh, "Then why don't you ask Mr. Byrd?"

But Byrd (D-W.Va.) in 1980 was the majority leader of the Senate, and not likely to be privy to the secret designs of the Reaganauts. "But that's what I was told by the general," Bani-Sadr insisted. "I'm not suggesting that the senator, if that's the one he was talking about, was privy to the Reagan-Bush campaign ... "

And so on.

During the interview, Bani-Sadr apologized to his visitors that documentation of his charges had been lost by the airline between Paris and Newark. But when the doorbell to his hotel suite rang and the errant suitcase arrived, the documentation seemed to consist mainly of 11-year-old copies of the Islamic Revolution newspaper, printed in Farsi, in which then-President Bani-Sadr had written a daily column vaguely alluding to a conspiracy.

Miscalculating Khomeini He grew up in a large, well-to-do family, the son of a prominent Muslim cleric. (All his wealth was confiscated by the government after he fled the country, he said.) His seven siblings still live in Iran, although one sister is forbidden to travel out of the country, he said, and his oldest brother was arrested and tortured after his fall from power. Active in opposing Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi from an early age, and arrested several times by the Savak, the shah's secret police, Bani-Sadr first went into exile in the early 1960s, and spent 15 years studying economics in France. Today, he lives in Versailles with his wife, and has two grown daughters and a high-school age son.

He first met the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1972, when he traveled to Najaf, Iraq, the Shiite holy city where Khomeini had lived in exile since 1964, and where Bani-Sadr had gone to bury his father. Khomeini at the time was one of the few Shiite clerics who had dared oppose the shah, who banished him from Iran.

Did Khomeini impress him? "Not really," Bani-Sadr answered. "In a sense, he was basically outside the daily affairs of what was happening in political and religious circles. He kept himself out of it so as not to be affected by that. In that sense, yes, he impressed me. But insofar

as sensing any real ability to analyze social or political problems, no, he did not impress me."

To Bani-Sadr, this fierce-eyed zealot, who would later become the incubus in the collective American imagination, "looked like a nice guy. The impression was that he was a religious man, and the hope was that he would be the one to end the long historical feud between the political powers and religious powers, the cause of a lot of problems in our history."

But as Bani-Sadr got to know him better, when Khomeini decamped from Iraq to the suburbs of Paris, he was even less impressed. Khomeini was, Bani-Sadr decided, a woefully limited man -- useful to the shah's opponents, because he had a talent for communicating, but in the end flawed by an inability to think analytically.

"If you had met him, and you knew him," Bani-Sadr said, smiling that smile, "you'd know that one of his biggest problems was that he didn't know what a plan was. He couldn't understand that you have to plan things. It was always reactions. As far as I know, he's never done anything creative. He's always been reacting to things. He never initiated an action on anything. ... If you can find even one initiative by Khomeini, I'll give you a prize."

The hotel suite once again erupted in laughter.

But Bani-Sadr and his Western-educated fellow revolutionaries, who saw in the imam a means to unify, under the rubric of Islam, the wildly disparate strains of Iranian society -- representing religion, freedom, democracy and economic growth -- made a fatal miscalculation about Khomeini.

"Nobody would have thought that he would have any interest in power," Bani-Sadr said. "Nobody would ever have thought that he would become so hungry for power. We never thought that Khomeini, as a religious leader, would go so far as to have people executed. Worse than that, to order people to be shot in the streets. That was one of the greatest mistakes that all of us made."

After a stint as foreign minister, during which he consistently condemned the taking of American hostages, Bani-Sadr became Iran's first elected president by a huge majority. (He had predicted as much, years earlier, to his fellow denizen of Paris's Left Bank, Jean-Paul Sartre.) His 17-month presidency was marred by constant battles between his moderate technocrat supporters and the Islamic authoritarians, led by Beheshti and Iran's current president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who ultimately persuaded the imam to remove him as commander in chief of the armed forces, then engaged in a war with Iraq.

On June 5, 1981, after Khomeini made a speech denouncing the idea of democracy, Bani-Sadr went into hiding in Tehran. He stayed in two different homes. Both his hosts have since been executed, he said. In late July, he was able to arrange his exit, along with that of several supporters, from the First Air Base in Tehran, flying on an Iranian Air Force Boeing 707. Because of his support for the officer corps during the Iran-Iraq War, Bani-Sadr had been popular with the Iranian military.

"Everybody put on military uniforms," Bani-Sadr said. "It was at night. We were flying over the northern city of Tabriz, when we saw an air force fighter jet tailing us. On the radio, the pilot told us, 'You've got to get back. Otherwise I'm going to shoot you down.' But it seemed to be an F-4, and we knew that F-4s can't do that at night. Our pilot, a colonel in the air force, told me, 'Mr. President, it could be an F-14 rather than an F-4.' And I responded, 'Well, I don't know of any F-14 pilots who are pro-Khomeini. Don't worry about it.' And we kept on talking with that F-4 pilot until we got over the Turkish border."

He landed in Paris the next day, smiling, his upper lip shaved clean.

'A Sense of Duty' "I have long since stopped being scared," Bani-Sadr said of his life in exile, marked by periodic death threats. "Life is full of danger everywhere you go. My coming here is dangerous. You can't live without danger."

He lives a modest existence, as he portrays it, in which the rent from three apartments he owns in Paris, supplemented by the contributions of Iranian expatriate admirers, keep body and soul together. "I'm still in politics as a sense of duty to my country, and I wait for the day when Iran is free of dictatorship. My real job," he added, "is scientific research."

"Now, let me ask you a question," Bani-Sadr demanded. "I just wanted to tell the American people that the reality is that no country in the Third World likes the United States. ... What they see is the American power. The question is, what is wrong with America implementing policies so that these countries and these people like the United States instead of hating it? ...

"Look at my case. I was elected by my people, very freely. I'm against fanaticism, against terrorism, I'm for freedom, I'm for democracy. But then people from your government go and make deals secretly with the group who's in power now, and deprive my people of democracy. ... The question is, how long are these secret relations going to continue, how long is this type of policy going to continue?"

He answered quickly when asked if he will ever return to Iran. "Certainly," he said. "As far as when, I'm not God. The only one who can surely foretell what can happen in the future is God. I know that I certainly will return."