The Mother of All Book Tours

Forget Clinton’s book launch party. Books by statesmen (statesmen lit?) are taking on a whole new dimension in Turkmenistan, according to the Post.

In Sicily, a reception was held recently to launch the Italian translation of a controversial book written by Saparmurad Niyazov, dictator and “president for life” of Turkmenistan. In Amsterdam, a Dutch translation of the book was unveiled at a party in a historic 17th-century house.

The various releases this month of the two-volume “Book of Spirit” — “Ruhnama” in Turkmen — are part of an international drive to boost the book’s circulation as well as what the government-controlled Turkmen media call a “victorious march around the world” by the author-president, 65, also known in his country as Turkmenbashi the Great.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Niyazov has reportedly ordered all the libraries in his country closed. The book’s translation in other languages is “funded” by corporations eager to do business in the oil-rich nation. And what do the corporate spokespersons have to say about this? Why, that it’s harmless of course:

“We sponsored it for inter-cultural understanding,” said Arantxa Doerrie, a spokeswoman for Zeppelin Baumaschinen, a German machinery company that translated the second volume of the book and presented it to Niyazov this month. The company plans to distribute the book in Germany, she said.

“In principle, yes, it is a dictatorship,” Doerrie said, “but simultaneously we see that very much is being done to help the people there — for the infrastructure with the building of streets, for example. That is what we understand. We sell building equipment, so yes, there is a market for us there, but we see our contribution as a way to help the people there.”

Way to help.