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Fictionalizing the fall of Kadafi: Too soon?

August 31, 2011 |  9:21 am

One of the great gifts of fiction is that it gives us a way of understanding enormous events through a decipherable lens. To get a handle on those events and craft a story through which they can resonate often takes time -- James Jones' "From Here to Eternity," for example, was published in 1952, 11 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

But the Internet, which has sped up the life cycle of just about everything, including news, has put pressure on fiction writers -- eight of them, anyway -- to respond faster to world events.

This week, Salon.com published short fiction by eight writers who took on the daunting task of imaginging the fall of Moammar Kadafi. It was just last week that rebels took Kadafi's stronghold and gained control of the capital city, Tripoli. The longtime Libyan leader's location remains unknown, although he is thought to be hiding out in his hometown, Surt, 225 miles from Tripoli. He could surrender, come roaring out of Surt on the back of a tank, looking to reclaim the country, or he might surface in some other nation, smiling, waving and hoping to access his old bank accounts. Exactly how far he's fallen is not yet clear.

Salon sets up its fall-of-Kadafi fiction stories this way:

Moammar Gadhafi had absolute power, controlled great oil wealth and influenced international events for more than four decades. Now, in all likelihood, he is holed up with a handful of loyalists or desperately on the run. No longer will he negotiate with the crush-worthy Condoleezza Rice. No longer will his children join the jet set at St. Bart's and spend millions for private concerts by the likes of Beyoncé and Mariah Carey.

A fall so sudden and dramatic is perhaps best told in fiction. So we asked eight top novelists to imagine this moment from Gadhafi's perspective. What is the "King of Kings" thinking as he fights for his life?

The writers recruited for the task are all talented: Steve Almond, Will Boast, Joshua Furst, Randa Jarrar, J. Robert Lennon, Shan Ray, Pauls Toutonghi and Alexander Yates. Many of the stories focus on ego and isolation; some are poetic; one goes for Condoleezza Rice scrapbook-fueled laughs. The results are, in my opinion, mixed.

That's because I think it's too soon. What do you think?


Libya: Underground holding cell discovered, rebels say [video]

Libya: Hundreds of bodies found at abandoned Tripoli hospital

Libya: Amnesty International offers evidence of Libyan detainee killings

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A Libyan rebel fighter points his rifle at a portrait of Moammar Kadafi in Tripoli on Aug 25. Credit: Francois Mori / Associated Press