Polish plane crash: country has shown resilience since President Kaczynski’s death

By the time I met Ryszard Kaczorowski, he was an elegant, elderly man, with no air of tragedy or trauma about him. Yet at the age of 21, he had been arrested by the Soviet secret police – this was 1940, in Soviet-occupied Bialystok – and sent to Kolyma, one of the worst camps of …

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Yesterday’s Man?

He began his education in the twilight of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, at an experimental kindergarten in Budapest. His mother was briefly a patient of Sigmund Freud’s. In interwar Vienna he wound up as the personal secretary of Vladimir Jabotinsky, one of the early leaders of the Zionist movement. Traveling in Soviet Turkmenistan as a young …

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Portents

As its subtitle makes clear, this is a book about immigration, Islam, and the West. But at the same time this is also a book about a particular moral culture, a set of attitudes, habits, and beliefs that has developed in Western Europe over the past sixty years. There isn’t a good shorthand way to …

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1989 and All That

Everything comes around again, in the end; every debate needs to be held twice. For the past few years, the Russians have been conducting an extraordinary national argument about whether Stalin was bad, a question one would have thought was settled long ago. And now, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of 1989, we have two …

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A Mad, Bad, and Brutal Baron

Like a contemporary reincarnation of Adela Quest, the heroine of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, James Palmer was both attracted and repelled by his first encounter with the grotesque, grimacing, wooden gods of Inner Mongolia: “I entered the shrine of a gruesome god, his sharp teeth grinning and his head festooned with skulls. I …

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Now We Know

If one were trying to define the lowest point in the long and venerable tradition of American anti-communism, surely it came in 2003, with the publication of Ann Coulter’s Treason. Coulter’s “thesis” in this work of cut-and-paste-from-the-Internet history was that a straight line could be drawn between Americans such as Alger Hiss, who spied for …

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Success at Last

A couple of years ago, Adam Zamoyski — who is, yes, a friend — told me that he was revising The Polish Way, a history of Poland he had published back in 1987. At first he had thought merely to shorten a few over-long paragraphs and check facts. But as he re-read his work, he …

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President Barack Obama reaches out to all nations with vow to ‘remake America’

A friend emailed Tuesday morning from New York: “In tears already and it hasn’t begun.” Another wrote me that her husband, horrified by reports of crowds in Washington, was “afraid there will be a stampede or something awful”. Which summed it up, really: the levels of emotion built up in advance of the 2009 presidential …

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Arthur at Camelot

Before sitting down with this hefty doorstopper of a diary, first ask yourself whether you agree — or can imagine yourself agreeing — with the entry Arthur Schlesinger, Jr made on 27 March 1950: ‘I adore sitting around hotel rooms with politicians and newspapermen exchanging gossip over drinks.’

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