Make Believe: A True Story

Make Believe: A True Story

by Diana Athill
     
 

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In Make Believe, Diana Athill, acclaimed author of Instead of a Letter and Stet, remembers her turbulent friendship with Hakim Jamal, a young black convert to the teachings of Malcolm X, whom she met in London in the late 1960s. Despite a desperately troubled youth, he became an eloquent spokesman for the black underclass, was Jean Seberg's lover and published a

Overview

In Make Believe, Diana Athill, acclaimed author of Instead of a Letter and Stet, remembers her turbulent friendship with Hakim Jamal, a young black convert to the teachings of Malcolm X, whom she met in London in the late 1960s. Despite a desperately troubled youth, he became an eloquent spokesman for the black underclass, was Jean Seberg's lover and published a book about Malcolm X, before descending into a mania that had him believing he was God. A witness to his struggles, Diana Athill writes with her characteristic honesty about her entanglement with Jamal, Jamal's relationship with the daughter of a British MP, Gail Benson, and Jamal's, and separately Gail's, eventual murders.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Occasionally compelling, this brief book recounts a lost episode from the ``radical chic'' era, British division. In 1969, Athill ( Instead of a Letter ), a well-bred, 50-ish London editor, met Hakim Jamal, an African American risen from drugs and drink through the teachings of Malcolm X. With cool economy, she recalls how her relationship with Jamal, 14 years her junior, intensified from editing his autobiography to friendship to sex; she tells of his strange relationship with Jean Seberg and of his abusive, guru-like friendship with the daughter of a one-time member of Parliament, who so embraced his teachings about white guilt that ``she wanted to turn herself black.'' But Athill overlooked indications of Jamal's madness--he described himself as God--until they were inescapable. She effectively conveys his humane and mesmerizing qualities and her sadness at his violent demise--he was shot to death in 1973--seems genuine. But the author tells too little of herself to make the memoir memorable. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Athill, a founding editor of the British publisher Andre Deutsch, seems to specialize in writing about her relationships with men. Her 1962 memoir, Instead of a Letter , recounted her disastrous love affair in which her fiance married another woman; After a Funeral (1984) told of Athill's involvement during the late 1960s with an Egyptian Communist writer who later killed himself in her London apartment. Make Believe focuses on Athill's friendship (and brief affair) with Hakim Jamal , a charismatic young black American militant who changed his name and his life after meeting Malcolm X. Athill, who edited Jamal's autobiography, recalls his turbulent affair with actress Jean Seberg and his tortured relationship with Hale, the daughter of a Member of Parliament. She traces his slow descent into madness (he believed he was God). Eventually, Hale was murdered in Trinidad, and Jamal was shot to death in Boston. While Athill writes eloquently and compassionately, in the end her book is skimpy and unsatisfying, with no focus. An optional purchase.-- Wilda Williams, ``Library Journal''
Mary Ellen Sullivan
What happens when a middle-aged English author-publisher's quiet London life collides with that of a charismatic, mad, American black militant? Total unpredictability, of course; that's what makes this story so interesting. Athill first met Hakim Jamal, who was writing his autobiography, professionally, yet the relationship quickly developed into a friendship of epic proportions. Perpetually short on cash, Malcolm X disciple Jamal stayed in Diana's apartment while in London, and in the intimate domestic enclave that developed, the usual subtleties of human relationships, personal motivation, and the power struggle between men and women, white and black, rich and poor, became larger than life. Even though she writes from a distant, analytical perspective, it's clear that Athill's relationship with Jamal was one of those life-altering experiences after which nothing ever seems the same as before. Set against the backdrop of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Athill's memoir is ultimately less about political upheaval than about how personal histories shape personal futures.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781847087065
Publisher:
Granta Books
Publication date:
10/04/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
File size:
223 KB

Meet the Author

DIANA ATHILL was born in 1917. She helped Andr Deutsch establish the publishing company that bore his name and worked as an editor for Deutsch for four decades. Athill's distinguished career as an editor is the subject of her acclaimed memoir Stet, which is also published by Granta Books, as are five volumes of memoirs, Instead of a Letter, After a Funeral, Yesterday Morning, Make Believe, Somewhere Towards the End and a novel, Don't Look at Me Like That. In January 2009, she won the Costa Biography Award for Somewhere Towards the End, and was presented with an OBE. She lives in London.
DIANA ATHILL was born in 1917. She helped Andre Deutsch establish the publishing company that bore his name and worked as an editor for Deutsch for four decades. Athill's distinguished career as an editor is the subject of her acclaimed memoir Stet, which is also published by Granta Books, as are five volumes of memoirs, Instead of a Letter, After a Funeral, Yesterday Morning, Make Believe, Somewhere Towards the End and a novel, Don't Look at Me Like That. In January 2009, she won the Costa Biography Award for Somewhere Towards the End, and was presented with an OBE. She lives in London.

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