A pink taxi

A pink taxi

June 16, 2011

In The Head of Khadaffi

Taher Ben Jelloun, the Moroccan writer of Sacred Night, has been recognized as a true French intellectual, on par with Sartre Camus and Duras. He won the Prix Goncourt in 1987, the same prestigious literary
prize earned by the Afghan Atiq Rahimi. I still remember how proud I was, at age 17, that an Arab received the Prix Goncourt, encouraging non-French natives to aim for the prize.

This talented writer currently has a bi-weekly gazette in Le Monde. In that space, he blogs, and by that I mean he writes with complete freedom about anything and everything, in a light and digestable manner.

One particular vignette was entitled being "In The Head of Khadafi" and was undoubtedly inspired by "Being John Malkovich" (also recently featured in a posting on this blog!).  Ben Jelloun writes with much humor in this editorial dated May 16th, which I will translate for you below:

"I had a hard time entering the head of Khadaffi. He had locked everything: doors and windows. He has a big head with scorpions and hay. It is to trick the enemy. I benefited from a moment of distraction on his part, to embark into the box where every hair has been implanted and painted in black. I discovered there that his paranoia was to become bald. Even before losing his hair, he spoke to a hair specialist recommended by his neighbor Ben Ali. (...)

The last time he had a migraine was not on March 18th, the day the Security Council of the UN voted for the intervention in Libya. No, that actually amused him. The true last time Khadafi had a migraine was when the Swiss authorities stopped his son Hannibal. He couldn't stand it: "how could the Swiss police dare touch my son and even put him in prison? Ok, so he maltreated his servant. So? How could that be so wrong? (...)

The truth is that everyone is jealous of Libya, its prosperity, calm and beauty.  In our country, we have banned international press and  advertising billboards. I didn't ask for anything, but every time I stroll in my country, I notice huge billboards with my portrait in color. There I am in military regalia, traditional outfits, creative clothing, and even hunting clothes. The people love me and that is why they feel the need to multiply my portraits on billboards.

I don't understand the Christians, and the French in particular. They don't keep their word. I do my best to visit them, we sign pages and pages, and now they try to assassinate me. Let them try. But they are cowards, they dare not descend from their plane. They bomb Tripoli and then run away. I won't let this happen. Luckily North African and African friends have come to give us a hand. The press calls them mercenaries. They are wrong. I compensate them as I would friends, not merchants.

I wonder why the Christians seek to negotiate with me. They are wrong. There is nothing to negotiate. They have killed my son and my grandchildren. I will teach them a lesson: they will see. I won't say how I will seek revenge. They'd better be attentive.

We will resist Western barbarism. They throw their nightly bombs and massacre our people. I only act in self defense. Of course I have to eliminate the traitors that have become allies with the enemy. Libya shall never be divided into two. Libya shall be free, independent, democratic. With me as their leader. But I am nothing, just a Libyan like any other. Power isn't in my hands, but in the hands of the people, I mean the tribes. I am sure Al Qaeda has something to do with this. One day we will find proof.

I have a headacke again. My hair has lost its color. I have to color it again. I am suffocating in this bullet proof vest, which my sons have forced me to permanently wear.

I must call my friend, the young Bachar Al Assad. He fights with courage and efficiency. We have to show solidarity. We are targeted by the same evil hand. I know who is behind it all. I won't tell you because I want to give him the surprise of his life.

I am now in a safe place. They will not get to me. I am neither Saddam nor Bin Laden. They will not have the satisfaction of waking me with a torch and looking for fleas in my hair. They will not throw my body in the ocean. They are crazy, these Americans! I think of Ben Ali and of Moubarak again. They must waste slowly, poor things: they are depressed. It is their fault, why keep power till eternity? I am here for 42 years and the true power escapes me. I am neither president, nor emir, nor king. I am a simple citizen that loves his country and who fights to defend it against its enemies.

I can't count on anyone. The medicines I take make me nervous. The sleeping pills don't last long enough. I therefore spend time at night watching the sky polluted with planes that are looking for me. I write. I compose poems. I love poetry. It helps me in these moments to live.

And why have the Americans been drawn into this fiasco? I had paid the 2.7 billion dollars for them to forget the Pan Am story. They were happy. The French also were duly compensated, much less than the Americans of course, but that is normal, they are worth less on the market. Ok, I must not digress. I must remain vigilant.  I will make sure Spring never passes through Libya. I will content myself with the other three seasons."


  1. To translate 'al mudhik al Mubki' from Arabic is what makes you laugh makes you cry.The Arab world suffered the age of the Dictators dressed in soldier clothes and ruling like royalties since 1948.
    What started as an Arab sring will go for a long time as an Arab nation sheds its snake skin,where a new generation will be born.

  2. Revolutions take time. Mindsets need to change.It will take generations to change the mindset in the Arab world. However, this phenomena is not unique to the Arabs.The French revolution erupted in 1789 and continued until 1968. The Enlightenment happened centuries ago. There needs to be real reform in the education system. The wall of fear needs to fall. People need to step out of their comfort zone and question themselves. The real revolution happens from within.