Jaipur Bytes / Dictators and the Cult of Personality: A conversation with Frank Dikötter

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Episode notes

Frank Dikötter, author of "How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century", in conversation with Jaipur Bytes host Lakshya Datta. In this podcast-exclusive chat, Frank talks to Lakshya about his career, The People’s Republic of China, The people of Hong Kong, and dictators. 

Frank has been Chair Professor of Humanities at the University of Hong Kong since 2006. He is the author of the People's Trilogy, a series of books that document the impact of communism on the lives of ordinary people in China on the basis of new archival material. The first volume, entitled Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, won the 2011 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. The second instalment, The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution, 1945-1957, was short-listed for the Orwell Prize in 2014. The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976 concludes the trilogy.

In "How to Be a Dictator", Frank examines the cults and propaganda surrounding twentieth-century dictators, from Hitler and Stalin to Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung - and how their dictatorships, in turn, have influenced leaders in the twenty-first century, including Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Frank spoke at JLF Adelaide this past week, and will be speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival next year, which will be happening in Jaipur from January 23 to 27, 2020.