Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The literature of dictators

Courtesy of The Browser, a light Foreign Policy piece surveying the writings of some of the twentieth century's better-known absolute rulers.

As you might expect of men whose egos drove them to the pinnacle of power in their countries, their writing, by and large, lacks finesse. After all, not only were they convinced of their prowess in all things, but they were unburdened by editors, too.

On the other hand, consider this bit of (translated) verse:
Open the door of the tavern and let us go there day and night,
For I am sick and tired of the mosque and seminary.
I have torn off the garb of asceticism and hypocrisy,
Putting on the cloak of the tavern-hunting shaykh and becoming aware.
The city preacher has so tormented me with his advice
That I have sought aid from the breath of the wine-drenched profligate.
Leave me alone to remember the idol-temple,
I who have been awakened by the hand of the tavern's idol.
Granted, on its face it might not be the greatest poetry you've ever read. But doesn't it become more interesting, and revealing, when you learn it was written by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini?

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