When Muammar Gaddafi’s stranglehold on Libya cracked, the public was finally able to peer into the dictator’s compound. Images from inside revealed a life of extreme extravagance—and went viral instantly. Gaddafi was gone—nowhere to be found—but he left behind plenty to gawk at: a golden chaise lounge fashioned in the likeness of his daughter Aisha, a built-in cinema, replica 14th century furniture, and a small amusement park, Spinning Teacups and all.
Inspired by the unbelievable opulence of the Libyan compound and the dictator’s disappearance, Salon commissioned eight novelists and short story writers to imagine what Gaddafi’s life in hiding is like. As they put it: “A fall so sudden and dramatic is perhaps best told in fiction.”
In my favorite story, “The Supreme Leader Dreams of Love” by Steve Almond, Gaddafi reminisces about meeting former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Here’s an excerpt:
He had met her, the first and only time, in a room choked with myrrh. He stood in a corner and she walked toward him, smiling professionally. The cameramen shone their cruel light. She was thinner than she appeared on the television. Her eyes were lighter than expected. Her hair had been carefully straightened and smoothed, like a fine wool.
Much had been made of protocol. She reached to touch his hand and he demurred. This was the term used in the news reports. Demurred.
Later, he had taken her to his private kitchen for iftar, spiced goat and rice, a dish from his childhood. The two of them, and Tarek, who translated. They ate from a common bowl. In the fleeting moment before she applied a napkin, her lips shone.
For two hours and more he told her his ideas, made his little speeches, but neither of them listened. Something else was happening. She looked up at him and he felt like a boy again, wandering after the animals, dreaming of his father’s gun.
Image by ssoosay, licensed under Creative Commons.