Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Literary/Historical Mystery

I recently read two books at the same time. One of them was a 1280 page history about a powerful man who lived during the first half of the twentieth century. The other was a twenty-five-hour-long audio book about a powerful man who lived during the last half of the twentieth century. The two men, I could not help but notice, had some things in common. See if you can recognize them.

As a young man, he has floppy dark hair and an intense, unblinking stare. He is extremely intelligent and creative, but his personal grooming habits are lacking . He does not appear to have control over his temper, although he learns to use his temper tantrums to frighten and bully people into doing things for him. Early on, he wanted to be an artist, but soon became interested in building a large, powerful organization. He is a vegetarian.

Using his considerable powers of persuasion, he convinces several marginal and eccentric young men to join him. He has an instinct for what motivates people, and he knows how to use their fears and weaknesses to drive them to accomplish more than they could dream of on their own. He is fearless and unhesitating in approaching powerful, established business leaders and asking for money or assistance, even when he knows it is not in that business person’s best interest.

Although he soon becomes wealthy and powerful, he is not very interested in physical comforts—he works constantly in pursuit of his larger goals. He has no loyalty—when a friend is no longer useful to him, he drops him. He is regarded by most of his associates as a ruthless bully, but they continue to follow him because they are in awe of his passion, his intelligence, and his vision. He never loses focus of the big picture—he knows what he wants to accomplish. He is impatient, but when his plans go awry, he does not give up.

He died at age fifty-six.

Can you guess which two historical figures I read about?

Here’s a clue: One is the most reviled figure from the twentieth century. The other is one of the most admired. 

Here are links to the two books: Book one. Book two.

Update: I now find I'm not the only person to compare these two figures. Go here. And here.

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