Infernal Library : On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy
by Kalder, Daniel







Introduction: Tradition and the Individual Tyrantxiii
PHASE I THE DICTATOR'S CANON
1(192)
1 Lenin
3(34)
2 Stalin
37(41)
3 Mussolini
78(36)
4 Hitler
114(25)
5 Mao
139(54)
PHASE II TYRANNY AND MUTATION
193(84)
1 Small Demons
195(2)
2 Catholic Action
197(13)
3 Disembraining Machines
210(10)
4 Eastern Approaches
220(21)
5 Dead Letters
241(18)
6 Another Green World
259(18)
PHASE III DISSOLUTION AND MADNESS
277(60)
1 Midnight in the Garden of Ultraboredom
279(5)
2 North Korea: The Metafictions of Kim Jong-il
284(8)
3 Cuba: Castro's Maximum Verbiage
292(7)
4 Iraq: The Historical Romances of Saddam Hussein
299(10)
5 Post-Soviet: Comrade Zoroaster
309(10)
6 Turkmenistan: Post-Everything
319(18)
PHASE IV DEATH IS NOT THE END
337(2)
Conclusion339(14)
Acknowledgments353(2)
Selected Bibliography355(10)
Index365


The books and commissioned works of some of the last century's most notorious dictators and despots, including Lenin, Hitler, Mussolini and Khomeini are examined to determine what each reveals about the author's true selves and how writing contributed to their regimes.





Daniel Kalder is the author of Lost Cosmonaut and Strange Telescopes. He is also a journalist who has contributed to the BBC as well as to Esquire, The Guardian, The Times, The Dallas Morning News, and many other publications. Originally from Fife, Scotland, he lived in Moscow for ten years and currently resides in Central Texas.





*Starred Review* Hailed at its publication as "a spiritual atom bomb," The Little Red Book by Mao Zedong created fallout affecting not only China's hundreds of millions but also activists and intellectuals around the globe. Kalder marvels that a volume so barren of stylistic grace and philosophical insight could eclipse every book but the Bible in popularity, even as it galvanized Chinese Communists in a zealotry that killed tens of millions through famine and violence. Tragically, Kalder counts Mao as only one of the modern dictators writing volumes justifying atrocities against ideological foes: Hitler and Mussolini, Lenin and Stalin also penned megalomaniacal books licensing attacks on (among others) Jews in Germany, kulaks in Russia. The bloody history of these books heightens Kalder's concern about more recent dictators who have published their own dangerous literary blueprints for governance-the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Saparmurat Niyazov in Turkmenistan. Even readers shielded by geography and language from the influence of these dictators' books may, Kalder fears, fall under the sway of nascent dictators using the internet to disseminate screeds inculcating malicious new forms of political self-righteousness. This incisive dissection of dictatorial literature provides a potent antidote against its effects. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.





A singular look at how dictators have gained control through literature.When asked to look back on history, we go first to significant historical events. We examine world wars, local battles, social injustices, and the dictators that have served as resistant and challenging road blocks in the peaceful evolution of society. In his latest book, Texas-based journalist Kalder (Strange Telescopes: Following the Apocalypse from Moscow to Siberia, 2009, etc.), who lived in Moscow for 10 years, explores a handful of dictators that have helped shape our conception of 20th-century history by way of the works of literature they produced. "I was struck by the fact that many dictators begin their careers as writers," writes the author, "which probably goes a long way toward explaining their megalomaniac conviction in the awesome significance of their own thoughts." Indeed, each of Kalder's subjects displayed a true passion for irreverent, revolutionary literature. The author begins with L enin, who "resisted the impulse to deliver a full-throated demand for revolution," though "immediately after the revolution, he moved to establish part control over the written word." Stalin was "deeply provincial, describing revolutions and intellectual battles taking place far away, in more interesting places." Mussolini misidentified "his true vocation as dictator instead of writer." Hitler "desired to seduce his readers, to present himself as a child of destiny, the logical choice for the national savior" during a time of unrest. Mao defended "the primacy of evidence, research and investigation" and expressed "a desire to shut down everybody who hasn't done the work." Following a chapter on each dictator, Kalder delivers a series of focused essays on specific issues such as religion, geopolitics, ecology, technology, and the role literature played in informing the policies written in response (he touches on Castro, Kim Jong Il, Putin, and Hussein). The author renders his highly compelling narrative in a cheeky yet erudite tone that will keep readers smirking despite the monstrousness of the book's protagonists. Dictators have never looked so educated. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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