Book Review: Talk of the Devil

Idi Amin, Jean Bedel Bokassa, Wojciech Jaruzelski, Mrs Hoxha, Baby Doc Duvalier, Colonel Mengistu and Mira Milosevic (wife of Slobodan), all once leaders of countries who had fallen from grace through coups, revolutions or through the downfall of the Soviet Union’s patronage.

‘Talk of the Devil, encounters with seven dictators’ by the Italian journalist Riccardo Orizio shows how the end of the cold war had meant there was an increase of  a few out of job dictators who once reigned through the realms of fear.  Yet, after they were desposed of from power, they were now more focussed on satellites dishes in the case of Amin, or fighting legal issues, as was the case of some former Eastern European dictators.

Orizio shows how the likes of Bokassa, Mengistu and Jaruzelski had felt let down by the Soviet Union and in particular Mikhael Gorbachev. But he also created an understanding how these fallen leaders were so deluded in understanding the dynamics of the new world order and political status quo.

Jean-Claude Duvalier desposed of in Haiti, was perched in a Paris cafe with his European female companion and three chins lighter used his interview to show that his rule was one of compassion and in the interests of his people, but failed to acknowledge the murders and death squads under his rule. Duvalier, like all interviewed in the book showed his aloofness by saying ‘I had to do what I had for the interests of the country.’

Orizio shows through his journalism an insight into the minds of these people, but for Hoxha and Milosevic he adds in conversations and personal experiences of the victims and perpetrators of the regime in order to bring an understanding what life was really like in a post Hoxha Albania or why Bosnian Serbs acted with barbarism during the Bosnian war.

The comparisons from the book were also interesting. Each fallen leader apart from Amin were more interested in current affairs, rather than dream of going back home. Each leader, however blamed their enemies, foreign agents and former loved ones for their demise. Quotes such as  the “brutality of regime were invented by enemies, ” “people loved me,” or “I was brought down by treachery,”  and most common of all was the “country is  worse off now”.

Orizio provided a simple narrative adding with how his journey to meet some of the former despots included bribes, conversations with taxi drivers, a night in a police cell and countless visits to random homes.

Orizio painted a picture of their lives, how they had fallen from grace together with the many questions in their mind “if they only had stayed in power.”

Bokassa remembered when the Pope had proclaimed him as the 13th apostle and how he was the emperor of Central Africa, yet now he had to rely on his children. Mengistu in a funny incident he denied how he was a cannibal and that while living in Zimbabwe he wished he had a bigger home.

These once leaders who either were feared or loved showed how their rule, which was  connected with misery and terror were now living out their own lives in misery and in fear of death.

Overall a good book to read for those who may want to find out what had happened to Idi Amin, Jean Bedel Bokassa, Wojciech Jaruzelski, Mrs Hoxha, Baby Doc Duvalier, Colonel Mengistu and Mira Milosevic.