From the Archives: A Review of Muammar Qaddafi's “Escape to Hell and other stories”
In 1999 I reviewed several novels written by politicians, including Newt Gingrich's “1945” and Ed Koch's “Murder on Broadway” for a slightly humorous piece in Washington Law & Politics magazine. One of the other books was Muammar Qaddafi's “Escape to Hell and other stories.” The review is below. Take note, in bold, of the main character in the title story and his fear of the masses, and his obsession with Mussolini's fate...
The first section of Qaddafi's book, “Novels”, is essentially polemic intermingled with parable; the second section, “Essays”, is mostly polemic. Why the division? And why use the word “novels” when these things are, at best, essays?
I suppose ours is not to question the mind of Qaddafi. Yet here I go.
At one point he sounds like a New Age chick: “Truly, the earth is your mother; she gave birth to you from her insides. She is the one who nursed you and fed you. Do not be disobedient to your mother--and do not shear her hair, cut off her limbs, rip her flesh, or wound her body.” In another chapter, he's G. Gordon Liddy, extolling, he says, “the fact that a person's will can overcome death...”
Near the end of the book, he talks up the virtues of “the people” like a good politician should, but earlier, in the titular story, the masses are dreadful, inspiring an almost Kafka-esque paranoia. “People snap at me whenever they see me,” he writes. He chronicles the rise and fall of other leaders: “...the masses dragged Mussolini's corpse through the streets, and spat in Nixon's face as he departed the White House for good, having applauded his entrance years before.”
Spat in his face? When did this happen? And why wasn't I allowed my turn?
Muammar has his moments. He does up western culture pretty well, for example. “Entertainment,” he writes, “takes on the meaning of wasting time and being absorbed; culture becomes superficial, telling and exchanging jokes takes the place of good literary work and criticism.”
Overall, though, Escape to Hell is boring as hell.
Twitter: @ErikLundegaardTweets by @ErikLundegaard