x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Libya: more a biography of its most infamous leader

Alison Pargeter examines the North African nation, but doesn't manage to get past the personal history of Muammar Qaddafi.

Alison Pargeter
Yale University Press
Libya Alison Pargeter Yale University Press Dh80

Alison Pargeter states in the conclusion to this book that it would be difficult to define Libya as a country without illustrating its history in the context of its most infamous leader.

Pargeter begins with Libya's declaration of independence and the establishment of its doomed monarchy in 1951.

Muammar Qaddafi emerges as a charismatic leader after leading a coup against King Idris in 1969. From here onwards, Pargeter, a political analyst who specialises in the Middle East and North Africa, charts 40 years of the Qaddafi regime, describing the repression and strife endured by ordinary Libyans.

As a whole, Pargeter's book is an informative account of modern Libya's most turbulent era and acknowledges most of the atrocities committed by the regime - dubbed "Jamahiriyah" (state of the masses).

However, Libya sometimes reads more like a biography of Qaddafi the leader than an analytical examination of the country during his rule.

Pargeter also skims over the dictator's personal motivations in favour of outlining his many eccentricities.