Books by dictators

From Saddam's novels to Gadaffi's rambling political treatise, authoritarian tyrants can't resist the cachet of authorhood. Among the few to attain a degree of competence were Stalin and Khomeini--poets both. [Foreign Policy]


    1. Yes. Stalin was a published poet before he was even a Bolshevik. In fact he was originally an Orthodox seminary student!

  1. Some friends of mine worked for a time in Turkmenistan and they brought back a copy of the Ruhnama for me (in English translation). It’s just very weird — it’s a rambling, stream-of-consciousness book that varies from autobiography to philosophy, to nationalist rhetoric. It’s the sort of thing that could never get published and read if the author wasn’t the dictator and made people memorize passages from it in order to get their drivers’ license. And even after Niyazov’s death it still plays a role in Turkmenistan’s culture. I’m surprised Berdimuhamedow hasn’t written his own book.

  2. I used to have as a .sig a quote from Stalin–Happiness is the maximum agreement between reality and desire–but I usually attributed it to the obscure Georgian poet Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili.

  3. How soon they are forgotten. No love for the poet Mao Tse Tung?

    On another tip altogether, US Grant’s Memoirs are well worth reading as are Julius Caesar’s war commentaries and Marcus Aurelius has an interesting and well-written philosophy. Never read any Winston Churchill but I’ve heard he’s pretty good.

  4. I recall only one line from Mussolini’s autobiography:

    “I can drive a car with confidence.”

    It’s handy when Barbara and I need to warn each other on the presence of a pompous ass within earshot. “What’s with him?” “He can drive a car with confidence.” “Okay, let’s go, then.”

  5. I’ve always wondered where you’d find English translations of these books and what they’d be like.

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