« Libya was spatchcocked together at the end of the Second World War » said the soft spoken, and very erudite-sounding Daniel Kawczynski, on BBC Radio 4’s « Start The Week » programme – the Monday morning, fast-paced, intellectual discussion programme, hosted by everyone’s favourite intellectual: Mr Melvyn Bragg. If work permits, I enjoy listening to Start the Week, for the precise reason that the guests use words such as « spatchcocked » or « notwithstanding ». I am glad that there is at least one place left in the world where such words have a regular airing.
Throughout the week, I have been trying to use both « spatchcocked » and « notwithstanding » in my lessons. This weeks conversation lessons have had a strong Libyan content. My students are young French army officers and they are interested in this type of thing.
Back to Mr Kawczynski, who is a Conservative MP, and chairman of the Commons all-party Libya group and has just written a book entitled "Seeking Gaddafi".
A quote from the Daily Telegraph book review to give you a flavour of Mr K's work
« The title of this book, Seeking Gaddafi, » suggests new insights into one of the world’s most durable and flamboyant dictators, a sponsor of violence from Ireland to the Philippines who has come in from the cold and is now being courted by the West.
However, Daniel Kawczynski appears to have had no direct access to Muammar Gaddafi or his ministers. His verbatim reporting of what Libyans have to say is confined to a businessman and a dissident living in London. »
Now, here is one story that Mr K probably didn’t get into his book. Muammar Gaddafi is actually French. His real name is not Gaddafi, but Preziosi. The spiritual Guide’s father is a French airman who crashed in the Libyan desert in 1941* – taken in by Bedouins from the Senoussi tribe, Flight Lieutenant Albert Preziosi, apparently got quite friendly with a local girl and Muammar Gaddafi (or Preziosi) would be the fruit of their union.
Gaddafi was born on June 19th 1942. By this time though, Albert Preziosi was back flying with the Free French Air Force, in the Normandy-Niemen squadron. We will of course never know the paternal truth, as Flight Lieutenant Preziosi was shot down over Russia in 1943.
You can judge the Gaddafi paternity yourself. On the left, Albert Preziosi and on the right …
Of course, Preziosi doesn’t sound particularly French – it as distinct Italian overtones. Albert Preziosi was in fact Corsican, born in the village of Vezzani, high in the Corsican mountains in 1915. This therefore means, that Muammar Gaddafi has Corsican blood running through his veins.
Corsicans have the reputation of being excellent warriors. Throughout history, Corsican mercenaries were called on to swell the ranks of many European armies. The two greatest Corsican warriors were Pascal Paoli and of course Napoleon Bonaparte.
In 1750, a Corsican army, under the command of Pascal Paoli fought off both the Genoese and the French. Following their victory, Corsica declared itself a Republic, with its capital in the mountain town of Corte. Under the constitution of the Corsican Republic, women had the right to vote. Paoli was a man ahead of his time. However, the French finally defeated him, and he finished his days in London. We all now what happened to Napoleon – he was sent to St Helena, where, if legend is believed, he grew breasts and was killed by the arsenic content of his wallpaper.
Could it be that Gaddafi is made of the same stuff? He has hung on to power for 42 years, though, he could now be facing his Waterloo. From a political point of view, Gaddafi is not so far removed from Napoleon (a subject for future discussion perhaps)
So, if Gaddafi dose have French blood in his veins, he could, feasibly, claim political asylum in France, if, or when he is overthrown. Like Napoleon though, Gaddafi is capable of bouncing back. As for asylum in France – over the years, the country has « welcomed » some of the world’s more contentious leaders on its soil. Ayatollah Khomeini lived a few years in France, before heading back to Iran in 1979. After he was deposed in the Islamic Revolution, the Shah of Iran had a brief spell on French soil, though the Shah was got rid of quite quickly. During the eighties, France was also home to the Central African dictator, Bokassa – he that is rumoured to have eaten children, if certain press reports of the time are to be believed. Perhaps we could find a small château somewhere in deepest France, for Gaddafi to live out the rest of his days. I think personally that Gaddafi should be given asylum in my corner of small-town France. We have a well-equipped municipal campsite only a few minutes walk from the centre of town. There would be ample room for Muammar to pitch his tent. Besides, Bourges needs a bit of a tourist boost – I can just imagine thousands of tourists flocking to Bourges to read the official sign « Gaddafi camped here. » I daresay that Muammar is possibly looking to spend the rest if his days in Venezuela or North Korea - though he could always ring up the family in Corsica to see if they have a spare room.
Finally, a word on the world’s third most famous Corsican – the singer Tino Rossi, (No relation to Francis Rossi from Satus quo – who, incidentally played in Bourges in 1971 at the local Corn Exchange). Tino Rossi has the distinction of recording the only ever French Christmas song « Petit papa Noel », which since its original release in 1946, has been re-released every Christmas and has sold over 50 million copies. As it happens, most Corsican men are also very good singers. I wonder if we will ever hear the vocal prowess of Colonel Gaddafi? And here, notwithstanding, ends my spatchcocked post
* For all aviation purists, Flight Lieutenant Preziosi was flying a Hurricane, and in French is rank was Captain, which is equivilant to Flight Lieutenant in the RAF, though at the time it might have been the rank of Flying Officer.