Found this rare and fascinating little paperback on a book adventure Monica and I went on for my birthday last year. Tahsin Abdul Hai’s Power and Revolution: From the Impetus of Experience to National Liberation is a Libyan-published English translation of an Arabic study of the Palestinian national liberation struggle. It is the seventh title in the “Book of the People—A series devoted to the realization of Socialist Culture.” Put out in 1979, the publisher has one of the most long-winded names I’ve ever seen: Al-Moncha’a Al-Cha’abia—The People’s Establishment for Publication, Distribution, and Advertising—The Arab Lybian Popular Socialist Jamahiriya.
I can’t claim to know much about Libya under Muammar Gaddafi (definitely check out Riad Sattouf’s great recent graphic novel The Arab of the Future for some insight), but from 1977 onward his political party was the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, so this book was definitely published by the state. Which likely explains the predominance of Gaddafi’s favorite color. Only in Libya are all of the stripes of the rainbow green! Although it’s in English, the over-all design has way more in common with a lot of Arabic books I’ve seen than Anglo-publishing from the late 1970s. The design is simple and efficient, stripped down and not really representational as much as decorative.
The cover also features two great logos, one for the book series, with a green book superimposed on a crowd scene, and then the logo for the publisher, with an arm holding three items—possibly a rifle, a pen, and a stick (or a tree, a factory, and a stalk of wheat?).
I can’t help but wonder who the intended audience is for this book? The lingua franca in Libya is Arabic, and many people speak Berber dialects, with Italian and English also spoken. But English is far from the language of the people, so was this intended to be sold to tourists in Tripoli? It’s not for export, as the price is listed as 100 dirhams, a fraction of a Libyan dinar.
Anyone else out there seen any other books from Libya? I’d love to see them, send photos!
This is amazing. That list of other titles in the series! I would love to see them all!
Seth says that back in the day the Libyan government was really into propagandizing in the West as well; funded leftist militant groups in Europe, copies of Qaddafi’s “Green Book” in English were circulating around…
Yeah, I remember seeing a couple copies of the Green Book a decade or so ago, but now they are really hard to come by!