Many dictators write books, although few have any talent—except, perhaps, in their sheer ability to produce words on an industrial scale. But while practically all dictators, left and right, would commit crimes against literature in the 20th century, it was the communists who were especially prolific generators of stultifying text. As self-proclaimed standard-bearers of the vision of history outlined by Karl Marx, they were participants in a tradition whereby demonstrating theoretical expertise via books, pamphlets, and articles was key to establishing their authority as superior thinkers uniquely qualified to lead the proletariat into the future. But if you open many of these books it is difficult to find any expertise or much theory. If anything, they demonstrate the opposite: that the authors are monumental bores with few original thoughts. Yet still the books continued to stream, mercilessly, from the printing presses. So how...
Publish and Perish: Lessons in literature and revolution from a sycophantic Mongolian dictator
DANIEL KALDER is the author of The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy (Henry Holt, 2018). He has contributed to BBC Radio, The Times of London, The Guardian, and many other publications. Originally from Fife, Scotland, he lived in Moscow for 10 years before moving to Texas, where he currently resides.
Daniel Kalder; Publish and Perish: Lessons in literature and revolution from a sycophantic Mongolian dictator. World Policy Journal 1 June 2018; 35 (2): 88–93. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07402775-7085841
Download citation file: