Item #39754 Make Believe: A True Story. Hakim JAMAL, Diana ATHILL.
Make Believe: A True Story.


Make Believe: A True Story.

South Royalton, VT: Steerforth Press, 1993. First US edition. 8vo. Black cloth. 130pp.

A memoir by the doyenne of British publishing in which she recalls her friendship and brief relationship with Hakim Jamal, as well as his other relationship with Gale Benson.

Hakim, a member of the Nation of Islam, was an associate of Malcolm X and claimed to be a cousin of his, though in fact it was his wife, Dorothy, who was a distant cousin (after Malcolm X’s death, Hakim, who modelled his look on Malcolm’s, established the Malcolm X Foundation in Compton, California).

He was invited to London by Vanessa Redgrave in 1969 (Hakim’s affair with Jean Seberg was his entrée to the film world) and introduced to a literary agent who brought him to André Deutsch, for whom Diana Athill, a founding member of the publishers, worked as chief editor. Hakim stayed in Athill’s flat on a number of occasions while they worked together on his autobiography, and her book chronicles both their affair and his deteriorating mental health, in particular his belief that he was God. It also recounts her memories of Gale Benson, who stayed in the flat with Hakim later on, describing her slavish devotion to him.

Earlier on in the story, Athill remembers Hakim asking to meet Michael X, whom she disliked after their previous encounters at André Deutsch, but doesn’t elaborate on any meeting that may have ensued. Hakim and Benson subsequently lived at Michael X’s commune in Trinidad, and the book’s final chapter recounts the events surrounding Benson’s murder there on January 2 1972, and mentions how just over a year later, and two months before the Gale Benson trial, Hakim himself was murdered in his hometown of Roxbury, Boston. In spite of the fact that Hakim’s henchman, Kidogo, was present at both murders, Athill claims that “the two deaths were unconnected”.

Fine in dw.