We are increasingly ruled not by people but by characters. Donald Trump’s reality-show presidency or Vladimir Putin’s cartoon authoritarianism recalls Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 film, The Great Dictator. Yet in both Russia and the United States – polar opposites that have become near-mirror images – the Chaplinesque dictators’ divisive, populist messages could be considered anything but comical.
Grappling with these absurd and disturbing characters requires that we consult more than just classic cinema. We need literature, the kind that rem...
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