The Best of Companions

  • Poland: A Traveller’s Gazetteer
    by Adam Zamoyski, John Murray in association with Azimuth Editions, 2001, 331pp.

There are countries where it is easy to be a tourist, and countries where enjoying oneself takes a bit of extra effort. Despite my long association with Poland, I must concede that it falls into the latter camp, although not for wholly obvious reasons. It isn’t simply that the communist-era hotels are not up to scratch or that food is indifferent: while sometimes true, that is no longer universally the case. Continue reading “The Best of Companions”

Serendipity Rules OK

  • The Oxford Companion to English Literature
    ed. Margaret Drabble, Oxford University Press, 1995, 1184pp.

It isn’t history, it isn’t fiction, and it isn’t scholarship, although it contains elements of all three: in fact, one might say that The Oxford Companion to English Literature belongs in a genre all of its own. That being the case, one might also say that reviews of Companions to English Literature belong to a genre all of their own as well. Continue reading “Serendipity Rules OK”

Third thoughts on a tricky subject

  • The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon,
    by Anthony Summersl, Gollancz, 640pp.

Do we need another biography of Richard Nixon? Anthony Summers thinks we do, and you can see his point. Long vilified, even before Watergate, as one of the dirtiest players in American politics, Nixon experienced a revival towards the end of his life. Revisionist biographies appeared (not least one by Jonathan Aitken), speeches were made, a Nixon Centre was established and the disgraced president gradually acquired the halo of an elder statesman and foreign policy expert, a man widely consulted by sitting politicians, Bill Clinton among them. Continue reading “Third thoughts on a tricky subject”

Russia’s Dying Democracy

You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Vladimir Ryzhkov is one of the great hopes for democracy in Russia. With the air of a slightly shaggy, overgrown student, Ryzhkov isn’t your classic baby-kissing politician. For Russia he is young (he served as deputy speaker of the Russian parliament at the tender age of 33) and overly intellectual, with a weighty book of political theory behind him. Continue reading “Russia’s Dying Democracy”