The Infernal Library: Book summary and reviews of The Infernal Library by Daniel Kalder

The Infernal Library

On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy

by Daniel Kalder

The Infernal Library by Daniel Kalder X
The Infernal Library by Daniel Kalder

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Book Summary

A harrowing tour of "dictator literature" in the twentieth-century, featuring the soul-killing prose and poetry of Hitler, Mao, and many more, which shows how books have sometimes shaped the world for the worse.

Since the days of the Roman Empire dictators have written books. But in the twentieth-century despots enjoyed unprecedented print runs to (literally) captive audiences. The titans of the genre - Stalin, Mussolini, and Khomeini among them - produced theoretical works, spiritual manifestos, poetry, memoirs, and even the occasional romance novel and established a literary tradition of boundless tedium that continues to this day.

How did the production of literature become central to the running of regimes? What do these books reveal about the dictatorial soul? And how can books and literacy, most often viewed as inherently positive, cause immense and lasting harm? Putting daunting research to revelatory use, Daniel Kalder asks and brilliantly answers these questions.

Marshalled upon the beleaguered shelves of The Infernal Library are the books and commissioned works of the century's most notorious figures. Their words led to the deaths of millions. Their conviction in the significance of their own thoughts brooked no argument. It is perhaps no wonder then, as Kalder argues, that many dictators began their careers as writers.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Kalder's work is quite an accomplishment, and is the one book people interested in the terrible writing of dictators should read." - Publishers Weekly

"The author renders his highly compelling narrative in a cheeky yet erudite tone that will keep readers smirking despite the monstrousness of the book's protagonists. Dictators have never looked so educated." - Kirkus

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Author Information

Daniel Kalder

Daniel Kalder is the author of Lost Cosmonaut and Strange Telescopes. He is also a journalist who has contributed to Esquire, The Guardian, The Times, The Dallas Morning News, and many other publications. Originally from Fife, Scotland, he lived in Moscow for ten years and currently resides in Central Texas.

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