Children of Monsters

Children of Monsters

An Inquiry Into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators

Book - 2015 | First American edition
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"Some years ago, the author, Jay Nordlinger, was in Albania. He was there to give a talk under State Department auspices. Albania was about ten years beyond the collapse of Communism. For almost 40 years, the country had been ruled by one of the most brutal dictators in history: Enver Hoxha. Nordlinger wondered whether this dictator had had children. He had indeed: three of them. And they were still in Albania, with their 3 million fellow citizens. Nordlinger wondered, "What are the lives of the Hoxha kids like? What must it be like to be the son or daughter of a monstrous dictator? What must it be like to bear a name synonymous with oppression, terror, and evil?" In this book, Nordlinger surveys 20 dictators in all. They are the worst of the worst: Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and so on. The book is not about them, really, though of course they figure in it. It's about their children. Some of them are absolute loyalists. They admire, revere, or worship their father. Some of them actually succeed their father as dictator-as in North Korea, Syria, and Haiti. Some of them have doubts. A couple of them become full-blown dissenters, even defectors. A few of the daughters have the experience of having their husband killed by their father. Most of these children are rocked by exile, prison, and the like. Obviously, the children have some things in common. But they are also individuals, making of life what they can. The main thing they have in common is this: They have been dealt a very, very unusual hand. What would you do, if you were the offspring of an infamous dictator, who lords it over your country? Chances are, you'll never have to find out! But some people have-and this book investigates those lucky, or unlucky, few. "-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Encounter Books, 2015
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9781594038150
1594038155
Branch Call Number: 321.90922 N758C 2015
Characteristics: xiv, 266 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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dennismmiller
Oct 27, 2018

Children of Monsters is a fascinating study of the lives of the children (and grandchildren) of twenty of history's worst tyrants, from Mussolini to Castro. As might be expected, none of them escaped entirely unscathed from their fathers' legacies. As might also be expected, each lived with their legacy in a unique way. Some became monsters (Uday Hussein, Nicu Ceaucescu), others dissidents (Alina Castro, Hussein Khomeini), some few became tyrants themselves (Bashar Assad, Jean-Claude Duvalier), and at least two became jazz musicians (Romano Mussolini played piano, Taban Amin played guitar - the former performed with Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Dizzy Gillespie, among others, and married Sophia Loren's sister). As is the way of the world, irony abounds - one of Tojo's daughters married an American and settled in Honolulu, Pol Pot's daughter graduated university with a degree in accounting.

Journalist Nordlinger adopts a conversational tone which helps compensate for some of the uncertainties surrounding his subjects - as dictatorships attempt to control all information about the lives of their leaders, facts are sometimes hard to come by, and Nordlinger is continually forced to resort to words like "reportedly", "allegedly", and "apparently". This also, intentionally or not, decreases the personal distance between author, readers, and subjects, bringing the horrors and the tragedies (as well as the more mundane triumphs) closer to home.

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