Soviet-style terror has the media at bay

President Putin’s tightening grip looks likely to crush his country’s last privately owned TV station.
By any standards NTV, the only remaining privately owned television station in Russia, is in a peculiar position. Its chief shareholder, Vladimir Gusinsky, has fled the country, having been arrested once already. Continue reading “Soviet-style terror has the media at bay”

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”

The battle for the Holocaust legacy

In the travelling over the past fifteen years or so, I reckon I have visited several dozen memorials to Hitler’s destruction of the Jews. I have been to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem; to the Polish museums and memorials commemorating Auschwitz, Treblinka, and the Warsaw ghetto; to uncounted monuments and plaques, wrecked synagogues and wrecked Jewish cemeteries in other parts of Eastern Europe, Germany and the former Soviet Union, all testifying to the terrifying absence of a nation which once was a major part of European culture. Continue reading “The battle for the Holocaust legacy”