Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators

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9780802714169: Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators

Inspired by newspaper clippings he had kept about two former African dictators accused of cannibalism, journalist Riccardo Orizio set out to track down tyrants around the world who had fallen from power―to see if they had gained any perspective on their actions, or if their lives and thoughts could shed any light on our own. The seven encounters chronicled in Talk of the Devil reveal Orizio's gift as an observer and his skill at getting people to reveal themselves. They are also, each of them, memorable stories in their own right.

Thanks to his conversion to Islam, the unrepentant Idi Amin lives in exile in Saudi Arabia and laughs off his murderous past while still attempting to meddle in Uganda. Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the bloody former emperor of Central Africa, boasts astonishingly that Pope Paul VI had nominated him as the thirteenth apostle of the Catholic Church. Nexhmije Hoxha defends her husband's brutal Stalinist regime from her Albanian prison cell and proudly explains how it worked. Paris-based Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier―in his first interview since fleeing Haiti in 1986―speaks about voodoo and the women of his life, and laments the loss of his fortune. Colonel Mengistu Haile-Mariam of Ethiopia, Mira Markovic (Slobodan Milosevic's wife), and General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the former Polish head of state, all claim, in one way or another, that history will do them justice.

By turns chilling and comical, rational and absurd, Talk of the Devil brings back into focus forgotten history and people we have viewed as evil incarnate. Stripped of their power and titles, they are oddly human, and in Orizio's hands, their stories, and his own, are compulsively readable.

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About the Author:

Riccardo Orizio has been a foreign correspondent for eighteen years, living in Milan, Brussels, Atlanta, where he worked for CNN, and London, where he reported for La Repubblica. He has covered the wars in the Balkans and filed reports from more than eighty countries. The author of Lost White Tribes, which was short-listed for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, he now lives in Kenya.

From Publishers Weekly:

The "devils" in this series of stakeouts are disgraced, deposed dictators, and one thing's for sure: they're not about to apologize for the atrocities they and their underlings committed. An Italian journalist, Orizio travels around the world to speak with leaders ranging from Uganda's Idi Amin to the Polish Communist Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski. Only those leaders who have not truly been rehabilitated qualify under Orizio's criteria. The results, while generally strong, are a bit uneven. Some of the interviews are stunning-the current wife of former Haitian ruler "Baby Doc" Duvalier defends her husband's regime as bringing equality to darker-skinned Haitians, while the former Ethiopian ruler Haile Mengistu defends his reign of terror as necessary to fight "chaos." These aren't people about to reform their ways. In fact, several of the leaders, or in some cases their wives, appear to be planning for dictatorship redux. In Albania, for instance, the wife of Stalinist Enver Hoxha gets out of jail and begins campaigning for a return to power. "The forces of obscurantism have destroyed the Socialist system in Albania," she says. Other trips are less fruitful. Orizio's search for Idi Amin in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, where he now lives as a fervent Muslim, seems like a wild goose chase until, as Orizio's about to give up and leave, he's granted a few minutes with the notorious Amin. But even there, the author weaves in enough history to make the chapter worthwhile. This tale of a journalist looking for former tyrants now living in relative obscurity is entertaining and raises provocative questions about what these men deserve for their cruel reigns. 7 b&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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