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'Bestsellers' That No One Reads

People carry a giant portrait of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov during Turkmenistan's Independence Day celebrations in Ashgabat last October.
Book lovers in China have a rather unusual new addition to their collections.

A new book titled "A Grandson Living Out His Grandfather's Dream" was presented during the 2010 World Expo world exhibition in Shanghai earlier this month.

The book is dedicated to the "accomplishments" of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and his family, including his grandfather -- Berdymukhammed Annaev, a former schoolteacher from the village of Yzgant in Akhal Province.

The book has been translated into Mandarin by professors of Oriental languages at Makhtumkuli state university in Ashgabat.

Along with 22 articles, it features numerous photos of the president and his family. One photo depicts Berdymukhammedov, a former dentist, poised to perform surgery on a cancer patient.

Honoring presidents with books, statues, and a collection of state awards has become a tradition in Turkmenistan and elsewhere in Central Asia.

Books written by or about presidents are dubbed "bestsellers" by the state-run media, although people call them "books that no one reads."

And a well-known saying in Central Asia -- "Writers die but their books live on" -- hardly applies to books authored by political leaders. They usually die along with their writers.

-- Farangis Najibullah