Category Archives: toothache

A dental biography of the Caudillo

Dalrymple gets his fangs into a biography of Francisco Franco in which he learns the effect the Generalísimo’s continual dental problems—he suffered greatly from toothache—had upon his temper and hence upon his decisions.

How Mobutu bared his teeth against the rotten imperialists

Prophet of ‘national authenticity’

One man who was keenly aware of the political advantages to be derived from assumption of victimhood was Mobutu Sese Seko, Dalrymple reminds us. In order, Dalrymple explains,

to overcome the effects of a colonial past, and in the name of authenticity, Mobutu decreed that all Zaïrian citizens abandon their European names — to which they had been accustomed since birth — and take on African ones. Likewise, no one was henceforth to wear a collar and tie; instead Mobutu had designed a national costume, which he imposed. In this way, he made himself all-important.


when he had a toothache, he commandeered a jet aëroplane of the national airline and flew to Paris for dental treatment.

Leading by example: Mobutu models his abacost (‘à bas le costume’) menswear designs

Jet aircraft of the type commandeered by Mobutu for visits to the dentist

The literary equivalent of toothache

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 22.19.39Much psychoanalytical writing, writes Dalrymple,

has all the stylistic flair and intellectual excitement of a speech by the late Leonid Brezhnev.

While the founder of psychoanalysis was, Dalrymple says,

a brilliant author and may profitably be read by anyone, the writings of his followers are readable only as an act of religious devotion, even of contrition.

Indeed, psychoanalytical writing can be

painful to read, paragraph after paragraph conveying little or no sense, with no detectable difference in meaning when I convert affirmative sentences into their negatives.

Language is used

imprecisely and with little regard for aesthetic considerations. Style is often so barbarous that meaning can only be glimpsed, as through a glass darkly.