February 25, 2024 | Rome, Italy

The Tyrant’s Novel

By |2018-03-21T18:24:11+01:00November 21st, 2005|Recent Reviews|

By Thomas Keneally

Sceptre, 2004. 288 pages.


ow do you approach Saddam Hussein by way of Orwell without giving up your virtue? The answer, for “Schindler’s List” author Keneally, is cinematic conceit: an asylum detainee called Alan Sheriff (not Omar Sharif) faces repatriation to a dreaded Middle East homeland ruled by “Great Uncle” and policed by the, um, “Overguard.” It’s time for Sheriff to own up. Under duress, he explains, he was ordered to write a novel that would make the vain Great Uncle a literary star. All went awry and he fled the country an… oil barrel. Heavy-handed isn’t the word: thick, maybe.

Keneally is doggedly unbelievable. His Uncle Saddam feels more like Giorgio Armani with 17 handguns and a secret police. Dictators are best left to Latin and South American writers. Well-intentioned Australian emissaries just bumble.

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