There has never been a UN delegate to equal him. When it was time for Abba Eban to speak, delegates rushed to fill the hall at the General Assembly. It was said that housewives put down their vacuum cleaners when his distinctive voice emanated from radio or television. Henry Kissinger said of him: “I have never encountered anyone who matched his command of the English language. Sentences poured forth in mellifluous constructions complicated enough to test the listener’s intelligence and simultaneously leave him transfixed by the speaker’s virtuosity.”
Do psychopathic dictators spawn monsters? Jay Nordlinger’s answer is a qualified yes. And it’s the qualifiers that make Children of Monsters: An Inquiry Into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators such a riveting and informative read. In an easy, elegant style to be expected from a Senior Editor of National Review, Nordlinger coaxes his reader into a universe of evil all the more astonishing for its ubiquity: the twenty men whose offspring he selects for scrutiny span the globe.
My wife and I have a Larousse Gastronomique on the bookshelf in the dining room. A Classical encyclopedia and Hoyle’s Rules of Games in the parlor. Dictionaries for translating Latin, Greek, French, German, and Spanish kicking around somewhere. A set of atlases, the old two-volume microprint of the Oxford English Dictionary, and a battered, spine-cracked copy of Roget’s Thesaurus—together with Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Granger’s Index to Poetry, and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.
In his Inferno, Dante sets Brutus and Cassius—the main conspirators in the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar—alongside Judas Iscariot, traitor to Jesus, in the lowest realm of hell. The price of their betrayals is to be chewed in the mouth of Satan for eternity, constantly being ripped apart without dying.
The consequences for turning on your friends are not quite as dire in modern republics. After all, Winston Churchill changed parties twice throughout his career, later quipping that, “anyone can rat, but it takes a certain ingenuity to re-rat.”