The dictators of the 20th century were firm believers in the power of the written word. Lenin had read the theories of Marx and the Russian radical tradition but it was Nikolai Chernyshevsky's novel What is to be Done? that caused him to abandon chess and other "distractions" to dedicate himself full time to revolution. Stalin was so impressed by Alexander Kazbegi's novel The Patricide that he renamed himself "Koba" after its central character, and used the pseudonym throughout his early career.
Transformed by these encounters, and obsessed by questions of ideological purity, Lenin, Stalin et al. naturally demanded control over the printing presses once in power. And they also anticipated that their own deep thoughts, captured in print, would mould the minds of their subjects.
Massive print runs and critical acclaim for dictator books were de rigeur regardless of ideology or the particulars of each dictator's personality cult. Mein Kampf is the most notorious and Quotations from Chairman Mao was the most widely distributed, but these works--sacred texts for regimes run by man-gods--represent the tip of a very deep literary iceberg. From the obscure Stalinist Albanian despot Enver Hoxha to the theocratic Ayatollah Khomeini, the tyrants of the 20th century offered up their bibliographies as evidence of their genius.
Yet most (if not all) dictators realized that their subjects could not live by their word alone. When it came to affective forms of writing, others would have to write the novels, screenplays and poems that stir the emotions. Stalin put it best: writers were "engineers of the human soul," reworking the inner lives of the masses for the new era. Let the dictator be the super genius of theory, but leave the inspirational tear-jerkers about tractors and concrete-pouring to the professionals.
But while many dictators did restrict themselves to grandiose works of "theory" or collections of speeches, some felt compelled to write novels, poetry and plays themselves. Largely forgotten today, these writings represent a strange literary detritus of the 20th century that, on occasion, provide insight into the inner lives of their (would be) all-powerful authors.