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Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators Paperback – March 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Here's an interesting project for a journalist: track down notorious former dictators, and see how they're doing these days. Orizio's unusual odyssey took him from Paris to Africa and deep--sometimes too deep--inside the minds of several men and women who once held entire countries in the palms of their hands. Here's Idi Amin, living in exile in Saudi Arabia but still, or so it seems, believing he can influence Uganda, the country he once ruled. Here's Mira Markovic, the wife and co-conspirator of Slobodan Milosovic. Here are Jead-Bedel Bokassa, who once ruled Central Africa, and "Baby Doc" Duvalier, in his first interview since leaving Haiti 17 years ago. The author approaches his subjects objectively; if he were tempted to paint them as monsters, or as cartoonish villains, he ignored the temptation completely. If these men and women come off as villains, they are hung by their own words, by their own distorted views of the world and their places in it. An immensely valuable and memorable book. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802776922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802776921
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,232,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Those seeking detailed biographies of the dictators Italian journalist Orizio tracks down, or penetrating histories and analyses of the years of their respective rule should turn elsewhere, as this is not the book for them. Instead, this is an oddly compelling mix of investigatory reportage and "Where Are They Now?" for readers with an interest in international events. Anyone looking for rigor and meticulous detail will not be pleased with the short chapters such as those on Idi Amin or Bokassa, in which Orizio spends more time recounting his efforts to find his quarry than actually talking to them. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, for the sad truth of the book is that these dictators may have come from a range of cultural and economic backgrounds, but they all end up saying the same thing.
In his preface, Orizio writes that "I deliberately chose those who had fallen from power in disgrace, because those who fall on their feet tend not to examine their own conscience." However, the cliché of the banality of evil fulfills itself, as every single interviewee has the same lies, excuses, and delusions as the others (except for Bokassa, who insists the Pope secretly proclaimed him the 13th Apostle). Unrepentence is rife, as the interviewees trot out the same old chestnuts:"history will vindicate me", "the crimes I'm accused of are all lies perpetrated by my enemies", "my country was better off under me, " "I love my people/country." Clearly none of them have any interest in or incentive for honest examination of their rule, indeed, at this point belief in their own mythology is probably an ingrained psychological self-defense mechanism.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"Talk of the Devil" by Riccardo Orizio is a journalist's quest to interview famous past dictators. The focus of the book is both on the subjects and on author's efforts to find them, and this detracts from the result.
The dictators (or their spouses) are an interesting assortment, but certainly not expansive. There are three from Africa (Idi Amin Dada, Mengistu Haile-Mariam and Jean-Bedel Bokassa), three from Europe (Wojciech Jaruzelski, Nexhimije Hoxha and Mira Markovic) and one from the Western Hemisphere (Jean-Claude Duvalier). The author omitted South American dictators from his sample, and no Asian or Arab dictators are sought or found.
My interest in ethics drew me to the book: I had hoped to find some concepts or ideas that drove these people to make such terrible choices. However, while Orizio is a fine journalist, his writing and interview style did not easily aid me in my goal. Generally, most denied they did anything unethical, called their accusors liars, and appeared unable to distinguish between their own fortunes and that of their countries.
The Africans in particular were very uneven: Dada was not sufficiently interviewed and Bokassa came across as clinically insane. Mariam claims to be a dedicated Marxist, but he also oddly admits to have shopped around for superpower allies after taking power. One almost gets the impression that, had the US been willing to assist him, he might have been a Capitalist. But neither the US nor Maoist China provided support, and Russia's Marxism-Leninism won him over by default.
Like the others, Haiti's Jean-Claude Duvalier appeared to seriously believe he was good for his nation, and beloved there still.
Orizio never really interviewed three European dictators.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By sporkdude on May 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is based on a great concept. Throughout recent history, there have been notorious dictators who, though years ago, dominated our headlines while now are merely footnotes in history books. Riccardo Orizio decides to find seven of these dictators ,interview them, find out what they have been up to, and what they feel about there reign.
Each dictator takes a chapter, and the readers learns about their past, their feelings, and their own view of themselves, which proves extremely fascinating. In each chapter, Riccardo details his ordeals on reaching these fallen dictators, a short history of what they did, and what they are currently up to. Riccardo does a great job of simultaneously making fun of and humanizing these individuals. He also provides insight into there current lives, from Idi Amin's sons, one of whom played basketball in Boston College, the other being a military terrorist being help by Idi himself, to Slobadon Milosevic's wife, who plays the role of a tortured, loyal wife.
I think the main problem of this book is that it is too addictive. It's a short book, so while I intended to have this book last me a week, I couldn't put in down. I bought at noon, and I finished before dinner. One complaint might be that the interviews and background information are not thorough. While true, I think that by leaving out the text book information, he was able to immerse the reader with the dictator's lives and provide great fluidity.
All in all, it's a great idea that proves too addictive to put down.
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