This premise of How to Rule the World is just so hilarious that it’s hard for the book to live up to the funniness of its title. It’s like Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun – I got it because it looked funny and interesting, and it just sits there on the shelf, assassinating my character to anyone who browses my books. (I have it next to Hitler and Churchill: Secrets of Leadership – a title rescued only by the fact Churchill is there.)
But once you open the cover, How to Rule the World is not only entertaining but almost informative. There’s a touch of seriousness in this manual to world domination – Andre de Guillaume has done wide-ranging research to give this manual the ring of authenticity.
And the source material isn’t just from the world’s baddies – some fairly ‘harmless’ leaders are also quoted, which makes you wonder if the simple act of leading pushes you into dodgy moral territory.
For example, an interesting quote from Margaret Thatcher: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
Nice quote. But that is assimilated amongst references to Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon and Saddam Hussein. It’s an unnerving effect that gets you thinking about the nature of power, manufactured consent, free will … in other words, all sorts of things.
Perhaps that’s the book’s intention – although aspiring despot de Guillaume claims the book should be “your constant companion on the road to supremacy”.
The more seriously a satirical book takes itself, the funnier the effect. How to Rule the World is only given away by the 60s kitsch look, which just shouts “laugh at me”. I guess they had to do that to get the book printed.