- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

This week brought rather odd news. Syrian writer Colette Khoury was named “literary adviser” to President Bashar Assad, a regime official told Agence France-Presse. Miss Khoury has strong ties to the country’s ruling party; her grandfather, Fares Khoury, was prime minister from 1945 to 1954, and she currently writes for state-run Syrian media. The Syrian government’s announcement offered no specifics as to Miss Khoury’s job description, but, at the very least, we imagine it involves book recommendations. Perhaps an Amazon.com-style, cross-referencing kind of tout: “Anti-Semitic dictators also purchased …”

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — A no-brainer, really. This anti-Semitic tract, an early-20th-century Russian hoax that has filtered into Arab consciousness with alarming literalness, is a classic of the genre, explaining with conspiratorial specificity the Jews’ plan for world domination.

Mein Kampf — It’s a crime to sell Adolf Hiter’s memoir-slash-screed in the Netherlands. In Austria, it’s illegal even to possess a copy. In Syria, though, it’s probably on summer-reading lists. And if he doesn’t already have a well-thumbed copy on his nightstand, Mr. Assad might find it a crackling page turner.

Be Gone Demons! — Saddam Hussein reportedly finished this novel in the weeks before the U.S.-led coalition gave his regime the hook. In it, Saddam styles himself the “pure, virtuous” Iraqi Salim, an underground resister of the Jewish villain Ezekiel and his Roman allies. Mr. Assad would certainly love reading of the heroism of a fellow Baathist tyrant.

Escape to Hell and Other Stories —”People in the West don’t know I’m a poet,” Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi once said. (Maybe so, but we do know him as the subject of a “hip-hop opera,” thanks to the English National Opera.) In a gesture of pan-Arab solidarity, Miss Khoury might advise Mr. Assad to brush up on the short fiction of Libya’s literary lion.

For One More Day — Even if they’re capable of murdering immediate family members, dictators must indulge in sentimentality from time to time, right? What better than the latest bar of soap from “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” author Mitch Albom? And, come to think of it, Mr. Albom’s novels might read better in Arabic.

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