22 SEPTEMBER 2007, Page 44

Surprising literary ventures

Gary Dexter ESCAPE TO HELL AND OTHER STORIES (1996) by Muammar Qaddafi The stories of this volume are not so much stories, in the sense of having a plot and characters, but rather homilies, in which the dominant notes are anti-Zionism, anti-Americanism, and a rather nice line in irony (often directed against Muslim fundamentalists). One of the best is 'The Suicide of the Astronaut', in which a spacefarer returning from his wanderings finds that he is no longer suited for any earthly employment, and kills himself. The title story, 'Escape to Hell' (great title for Hollywood), is told in the voice of a Bedouin who finds that hell is more to his taste than modern urban life: I will now tell you the story of my experiences when I made that journey, that escape to hell. I will describe the road that leads there, describe hell itself for you, and tell you how I came back by the same way. It was truly an adventure, and one of the strangest true stories ever, and I swear to you that it is not fiction.