Dictators' memoirs: not known for their happy endings
Prolific writer and commentator John Walsh contributes columns to the paper as well as writing features, interviews and restaurant reviews. He has been editor of The Independent Magazine, literary editor of the Sunday Times and features editor of the London Evening Standard.
Wednesday 30 May 2012
Is there a market for Saddam Hussein's autobiography? His eldest daughter Raghad thinks so. Now living in exile in Jordan, she's hawking the handwritten manuscript around publishers. Details of their contents or composition are unknown, but Raghad's lawyer, Haitham Nabil al-Harsh, told an Arab news channel: "These are the only real memoirs Saddam Hussein wrote by hand, and they will be released as soon as we find a publishing house."
It's hard to assess the likelihood of them becoming a bestseller in Baghdad. Locals will no longer feel any need to buy a copy, as they might have felt impelled to buy the four novels Hussein published while in power. He finished the last one, feelingly entitled Begone, Demons the day before the US army invaded. It described a Zionist-Christian conspiracy to destroy Muslims which inspired an Arab invasion of an (unnamed) enemy's land in which two massive towers are knocked down. Unsurprisingly, it was never snapped up by the Iraqi Faber. After Saddam's death, the enterprising Raghad tried to have it published in Jordan, but the government nixed it.
Books about political monsters sell in millions – check out the massive Hitler and Stalin mini-industries. Books by the families or close associates of monsters do less well. When Stalin's daughter Svetlana defected to America in 1967 and planned to publish her memoirs, the Soviet government threatened to bring out an unauthorised "spoiler" version full of untruths.
When Mao's doctor, Li Zhisui, published The Private Life of Chairman Mao in 1994, revealing the great dictator to be a philandering hypocrite with pus-oozing gums, the Chinese authorities banned it and confiscated Li's house.
Books written by monsters themselves seldom get anywhere. Witness the row over the publication of Radovan Karadzic's poetry, the chequered history of Mein Kampf and the wholesale disappearance of Pol Pot's writings.
Publishers tend to dislike war criminals' memoirs because they fear the authors will manipulate truth or stitch themselves into national mythology. And of course they won't be available for signings, readings, radio quiz shows...
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers Age of Ultron: 'After credits' scene leaks online days before public release
Groundhog Day musical to premiere at Old Vic from Matilda theatre director
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate