ESCAPE TO HELL AND OTHER STORIES
Most books by world leaders are snow jobs written to project an image or polish an ego. You would be surprised how many are ghost written by an editorial team.
Escape to Hell is a breath of fresh air. It has an instant sense of authenticity and integrity not often found in a literary work. It speaks of the soul of the Libyan people: their anguish, dreams and visions for the future.
This book reveals a deep and thoughtful side to Muammar Qadhafi [Gadaffi] that certainly does not gel with his media created image. Read it and experience the man for yourself.
Escape to Hell includes a range of short stories and significant essays, as well as an eye opening Foreword by Pierre Salinger. What is most startling about this work is its tone: honest, funny, and at times snarling and cynical, other times visionary and mystical.
Muammar Qadhafi, honest to his Islamic heritage, takes a truly unique approach to communicating his vision to the world.
This is the city: a mill that grinds down its inhabitants… Children are worse off than adults. They move from darkness to darkness; from three darknesses to the fourth, as in the Quran.
Qadhafi reflections on urbanity and life in the city are powerful. The city disengages the individual from the land, his social network and himself, and he is reduced to quantity seeking financial goals alone. The city destroys the organic link between land, peoples, kith & kin & culture, and leaves its inhabitants in a “worm like biological existence.” The city creates an addiction to consumerism that is not easily resisted.
The problem is not with the people – they are the same everywhere city or country – it is when they are disconnected from the land and their natural networks that the city swallows them up. The village evokes the opposite vision, that of the natural state of human society.
Qadhafi’s vision of the village and the interrelation of land, people, culture and spirituality, has a strong environmental emphasis.
His short story ‘The Suicide of the Astronaut’ explores the inanities of irrelevant education and our lack of skills. As our knowledge becomes more specialised we lose simple skills needed to survive. In Qadhafi’s tale, it is likened to a highly trained astronaut who, returning to Earth after the space program fails, has no skills to survive, not even knowledge to till the earth. Totally indoctrinated in his discipline, he only sees things through the lens of scientific analysis and ultimately becomes so useless he commits suicide because there is naught else he can do.
Qadhafi also reflects on the power of the people, and this is examined in the core story of the book, ‘Escape to Hell’.
I will now tell you the story of my experiences when I made that journey, that escape to hell. I will describe the road that leads there, describe hell itself for you, and tell you how I came back by the same way. It was truly an adventure, and one of the strangest true stories ever, and I swear to you that it is not fiction. In fact, I escaped twice to hell, fleeing from you only in order to save myself……
Qadhafi urges the masses to take responsibility for their own political lives through the Libyan People’s Congresses, but they still place endless demands on him.
Within this mass of people, who poisoned Hannibal, burnt Savonarola, and smashed Robespierre, who loved you but failed to reserve a seat for you at the cinema, or even a table in a cafe, who love you without expressing this in any simple way… This is what the masses have done and continue to do to such people. So what can I – a poor bedouin – hope for in a modern city of insanity? People snap at me whenever they see me: build us a better house! Get us a better telephone line! Build us a road upon the sea! Make a public park for us!…
Some of his essays are philosophical such as his piece on death. It is both a spiritual account of death’s influence on Qadhafi’s life and our own. Beautifully written and moving, it takes us into the Libyan experience of a harsh life fighting an old enemy. Qadhafi reflects on many religious tales but also rejects if not ridicules those who become so attached to the form they forget the spirit.
At the same time Qadhafi rejects the Luddites who refuse modern technology and sees a balance between spirit, science and his vision for his people without an addiction to progress as seen in Western consumerism. He stands against both Fundamentalism and liberalism offering a new vision or ‘third way’.
The essays which end the volume are written in a poetic manner. They evoke all manner of images, Quranic and literary, and offer a deep exploration of Qadhafi’s personal feelings on various political subjects.
This is the true secret for their hating you: you are not of this world. You are not wealthy, and for this they hate you. You are not oppressors, and for this this they hate you. You are not pretenders, so they hate you…
– Reviewed by Robert Black in New Dawn 127