LIBYA by Alison Pargeter


The Rise and Fall of Qaddafi
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A thorough but wooden examination of the making of Muammar Qaddafi.

Unlike Lindsey Hilsum in her on-the-ground journalistic account, Sandstorm (2012), Pargeter (The Muslim Brotherhood, 2010, etc.) maintains an academic distance with her workmanlike prose. The author takes a more historical approach, portraying the coup by the young Bedouin soldier in 1969 as the last in an unhappy series of power grabs over the sparsely populated, disunited, tribe-riddled Libya. Under the imperious Italians, the Libyans were treated merely as “shadows in their own land”; the country achieved independence in December 1951 only by the maneuverings of the victorious powers of World War II. “At the time of independence,” writes the author, “Libya was ranked the poorest nation in the world.” When the group of fervently nationalist officers finally seized power from the ineffectual King Idris in 1969, Qaddafi took the lead, insisting on a purity of purpose—despite the fact that he had no worldly experience or education to speak of, shocking other Arab leaders with his fulsome political naivety. What Pargeter calls the “shambolic atmosphere” around him grew to nightmarish proportions once Libya struck oil. It resulted in a bloated public sector, bureaucratic chaos based on his “hopelessly simplistic” utopian Green Book (which Pargeter has actually read and helpfully dissects), the formation of “curious alliances” (e.g., with terrorist organizations and the worst dictators of Africa once the Arab League shunned him), rampant nepotism, a whimsical Islamist doctrine, and the elimination of opposition parties, among other dictatorial prerogatives. Ultimately, readers will wonder why the populace waited so long to get rid of him.

Pargeter’s cliché-ridden prose detracts from, but does not completely overwhelm, her account of the brutal Qadaffi regime.

Pub Date: July 31st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-300-13932-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2012


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