GADAFFI by George Tremlett


The Desert Mystic
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 A potted revisionist biography of Gaddafi, by Tremlett (Dylan Thomas, 1992). The author's qualifications for this work don't spring out: He speaks neither Arabic nor Italian; has consulted books only in English; and, contrary to the publisher's claim that he ``has been granted extraordinary access to...Gaddafi...and spent months in Libya doing research,'' it would appear from his preface that he spent only a week in Libya and never met its leader. Tremlett's lack of familiarity with Libya is indicated by long quotations from other books, even on subjects like the country's physical appearance. He does offer a short history of Libya; some personal anecdotes; and a repetitious account of the few facts known about Gaddafi. There's also a generally uncritical summation of views on the Libyan leader held by friends and admirers; long extracts from the Green Book, Gaddafi's volume of philosophy; and an inconclusive assessment of Libya's involvement in terrorism, with Tremlett suggesting that most of the major atrocities charged to Libya (the bombing of a Berlin disco; the downing of Pan Am Flight 103) should more properly be laid against Syria or Palestinian terrorists. The general ignorance in the West about Libya and its leader makes some of this detail helpful, and Gaddafi's thought, his actions to redistribute wealth, and his outright condemnation of discrimination against women have previously received too little attention. Tremlett also offers an insightful description of Libya's government--run by 2600 committees in ``a state of constant but thoroughly enjoyable muddle,'' which contributes to a ``diffusion of power [that] means that no one can establish a power base in Libya to challenge [Gaddafi's] authority.'' But the author's conclusions seem questionable--as when he states that Libyans ``are [a]...happy people'' and ``feel free,'' yet notes that ``all Libyans are forbidden to speak to foreigners'' and to criticize Gaddafi's rule. Of some use but, overall, not a book to inspire full confidence as a source. (Photos)

Pub Date: Dec. 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-88184-934-0
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1993


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