The Unsuccessful Writing Ventures of 10 Prominent Historical Figures

Everybody believes they possess an exceptional novel inside them. However, most individuals never find the time to actually write it, while others braved rejection and put their thoughts on paper, often without achieving commercial success.

We often perceive these people as destined to toil in solitary isolation, forever remaining unknown. Yet, before making their marks in history, some of the most prominent names imaginable sat down and attempted to create great works of literature, usually with disastrous results.

10 Saddam Hussein’s Epic Adventure Novels

When Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein wasn’t busy massacring hundreds of thousands of Kurds, he indulged in his favorite hobby: writing epic adventures set in ancient Babylon from his palace.

Hussein’s books may not be easily found in local libraries, but in Iraq, they surprisingly achieved great success. The dictator wrote four novels, each selling millions of copies. Readers across Iraq loved his books so much that they couldn’t put them down—presumably out of fear.

His most popular book, Zabibah and the King, was even adapted into a 20-part TV series and an “off-Broadway” musical. It serves as a thinly veiled allegory discussing the negative aspects of America, using the story of a Babylonian princess. The villain symbolizes the United States, depicting him as a greedy rapist. In the end, the characters establish a tradition of stoning the figure’s grave every January 17, which coincides with the anniversary of the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.[1]

Hussein’s later books are even less subtle. His final novel, written shortly before his death, had the straightforward title of Begone Demons!. It revolved around a Jewish conspiracy to unite with Christians in order to eliminate Muslims. In the end, the Muslims save the day by toppling two large, almost identical towers.

“He thought he was a god who could do anything, including writing novels,” said Saad Hadi, one of the men who helped co-write Hussein’s novels.

9 Karl Marx’s Short-Lived Career As A Comedian

Prior to becoming the father of communism, Karl Marx was certain he would make it as a comedian.

As a young man, Marx wrote a comedy novel called Scorpion and Felix, which was just as amusing as you would expect from the author of The Communist Manifesto.

The novel did not achieve success, despite being filled with humorous observations such as: “That last sentence… was an abstract concept, and therefore not a woman, for, as Adelung exclaims, an abstract concept and a woman, how different they are!”[2]

That is one of the stronger jokes in the book. It covers a range of topics, breaking the fourth wall, making obscure references to German grammarian Johann Christoph Adelung, and compelling readers to reflect on the distinction between women and abstract concepts. Astonishingly, Marx failed to find a publisher for his work.

Marx was devastated when he realized he would not succeed as a comedian. He described it as a “shattering blow [that felt like] a curtain had fallen” on his dreams. So, instead, he settled for a simple, unglamorous life of advocating for the loosening of chains on the working class, making the ruling classes tremble.

8 Pope Pius II’s Erotic Best Seller

The sexiest, most erotic thriller of the 15th century was authored by none other than the Pope himself.

Prior to becoming the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church, Pius II earned a living by writing smut. He was known for producing poems described as “mildly pornographic.” However, his most famous work was a novel titled The Tale of Two Lovers. If released today, this erotic escapade would be displayed in a plastic bag on a shelf out of children’s reach, alongside this month’s edition of Penthouse Forum.

The Pope’s novel explores the story of two lovers who develop a relationship after meeting at a funeral. Despite being married, the woman engages in an illicit affair with the man, behind her husband’s back.[3]

The Pope admitted that the novel was partially autobiographical. Rumor had it that the cuckolded husband in the story was based on Mariano Sozzini, the man who published the book. Essentially, the future Pope handed his publisher a book about his affair with the man’s wife.

After becoming Pope, Pius II attempted to destroy every copy of his novel, but it was already a best seller. Additionally, now that the author had become the holiest man in the Catholic Church, there was a copy of the book in every home.

7 Eleanor Roosevelt: Crime-Solving Detective

Elliott Roosevelt, the son of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt, made a name for himself as an author, but his writing primarily focused on one oddly specific topic. He enjoyed penning novels featuring his mother as the protagonist, specifically stories about Eleanor Roosevelt solving murder mysteries in the White House.

Elliott wrote an entire series of novels featuring Eleanor Roosevelt as a crime-solving detective. The series contains 20 books, all following a similar storyline.

There are titles such as Murder in the Oval Office, Murder in the Lincoln Bedroom, Murder in the West Wing, Murder in the East Room, and even Murder at the President’s Door. Then, there’s a book called The White House Pantry Murder, which was likely written when Elliot began running out of places in the White House where people could be murdered.[4]

Elliot’s publisher even continued the series after his death. They claimed to have found his notes outlining future novels, which likely were scribbled on a napkin and included ideas like “Murder in the Situation Room? Press Briefing Room? Murder on the President’s John?”

6 Winston Churchill’s Alternate History Story

Winston Churchill wrote an alternate history story exploring what would have happened if the Confederate Army had won the U.S. Civil War. However, the story is strangely racist.

Churchill’s story, “If Lee Had Not Won The Battle of Gettysburg,” is narrated by a historian in a parallel world where the Confederate Army emerged victorious. The historian reflects on how life could have been different:

“Let us only think what would have happened,” Churchill’s narrator muses, “[if the world had started listening to] some idiotic assertion of racial equality.”[5]

There is no trace of irony in that statement. Churchill continues with a diatribe about how foolish it is to “graft white democratic institutions upon the simple . . . African race,” asserting that they belong “to a much earlier chapter in human history.”

The moral of Churchill’s story suggests that the world would have been a better place without Abraham Lincoln. In this alternate reality, the British Empire successfully brings both American nations back into the British Commonwealth, thereby preventing World War I and ensuring happiness for everyone.

Well, except for the black people. But, anyway, the white people are happy.

5 Muammar Gadhafi’s Short Story Collections

Colonel Muammar Gadhafi, the self-proclaimed “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya,” published two collections of short stories. It is generally agreed that Gadhafi actually wrote the words himself, unlike Hussein’s prose.

Gadhafi’s stories have been described as “surreal rants and bizarre streams of consciousness obviously unmolested by the hand of any editor,” which is quite accurate.[6]

In one story, he primarily describes a city by detailing the number of children who have died there. He writes, “Yesterday, a young boy was run over in that street. Last year, a speeding vehicle hit a little girl crossing the street, tearing her body apart. They gathered up her limbs in her mother’s dress. Another child was kidnapped by professional criminals.”

Another story, “Suicide of the Astronaut,” reflects Gadhafi’s belief that space travel is ridiculous. In this tale, an astronaut goes to the Moon. When he realizes there is nothing there, he returns to Earth and commits suicide, considering his journey a waste of his life.

4 Kim Jong Il’s Revolutionary Operas

Kim Jong Il composed an incredible six operas. According to an undoubtedly unbiased review by the North Korean government, each opera is “better than any in the history of music.”

His most popular opera, called Sea of Blood, tells the story of a heroic Korean mining village resisting Japanese oppressors.

The Japanese occupation of Korea serves as the backdrop for almost all of Kim Jong Il’s operas, usually portraying the Japanese as cruel and vicious. In The Flower Girl, a young girl with a deceased father and a blind sister performs on the streets to raise money for her dying mother’s medicine. The Japanese, enraged by her act of kindness, kill her mother and blind sister, and imprison the young girl.[7]

It’s a rather grim theme. However, surprisingly, Kim Jong Il’s operas are not only popular in North Korea—where Japanese occupation was particularly brutal—but also in China. If a group of people hates the Japanese enough, they would seemingly watch anything.

3 Napoleon Bonaparte’s Romance Novel

About 10 years before declaring himself the Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte tried his hand at being a romance novelist. He wrote a novella called Clisson et Eugenie, which is nothing more than a 100-page rant about why Napoleon’s ex-girlfriend made a mistake by breaking up with him.

That ex-girlfriend was Desiree Eugenie Clary, Napoleon’s first great love. She was the sister of his brother’s wife, and they dated for about a year while Napoleon served in the military. He even proposed, but it didn’t work out.

Naturally, his novella is centered around Eugenie Clary. He didn’t even bother changing her name. In the story, Eugenie is introduced as the “less attractive sister” of a more desirable woman. She cruelly leads on Clisson, a noble and decent soldier. Then, Eugenie cheats on Clisson with another man.[8]

The story ends with Clisson valiantly volunteering to fight on the front lines, hoping to die a heroic death in battle. It takes Napoleon 100 pages to tell Eugenie that she would regret breaking his heart if he were to die.

2 Johannes Kepler’s Science Fiction Novel

In 1608, one of the first science fiction novels ever written was authored by Johannes Kepler, the man who discovered the laws of planetary motion.

The novel, Somnium, tells the story of a 14-year-old Icelandic boy who develops an interest in space after meeting astronomer Tycho Brahe. Encouraging her son’s scientific pursuits, the boy’s mother performs a dark ritual to summon a horde of demons to carry her son into the freezing depths of outer space.[9]

In space, the boy encounters a fascinating species of aliens living on the dark side of the Moon who observe Earth through a telescope. And then, true to Kepler’s reputation for crafting compelling stories, the narrative suddenly concludes with the protagonist waking up and realizing it was all a dream.

Kepler wrote this book to defend the concept that Earth is in motion. It’s quite extraordinary—upon realizing that we inhabit one of many planets revolving around the Sun, Kepler’s immediate response was to write stories about aliens.

1 Dick Cheney’s Wife’s Lesbian Love Story

When the Cheney family is mentioned, “gay rights activist” is not typically the first thing that comes to mind. After all, Dick Cheney served as Vice President under a President who attempted to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the U.S.

However, many people are unaware of the writing career of Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney, and her most popular book, Sisters, a story of lesbian love in the Wild West.

Believe it or not, here’s an excerpt from a book written by Dick Cheney’s wife: “The women who embraced in the wagon were Adam and Eve on a dark cathedral stage—no, Eve and Eve, loving one another as they would not be able to once they ate of the fruit and knew themselves as they truly were.”[10]

Surprisingly, Lynne is not the only Cheney who supports gay rights. Dick and Lynne’s daughter, Mary, is openly gay and married to another woman.

Although Dick Cheney worked for President George Bush during a time when the administration supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Cheney publicly disagreed with his boss during their campaigns. He acknowledged that the issue directly affected his family and stated in 2004 that decisions on gay marriage should be left to individual states, adding that “people . . . ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.”

However, Cheney also noted that Bush was responsible for the administration’s policy on gay marriage and that Bush made the decision to endorse a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Aonzin. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion’s StarWipe and His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.


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