Friday, 14 January 2011

Some more books

Spring into Winter East European dissidents reflect, in 1990, on the anti-communist revolutions in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, East Germany etc, and refuse to buy into the Reagan-Thatcher line that it was all brought about because of the 'superiority' of the western capitalist system. Traces of a real 'third way' flicker momentarily in the triumphalist gales blowing in from Britain, America et al.

Orhan Pamuk Snow Modern Turkish politics dramatised in a story of apparently random assassination and a hold-up inside a theatre.

Claudio Magris Danube Immensely learned and slightly rebarbative travelogue about traversing the length of the Danube with shadowy companions and an esoteric interest in the history of the terrain.

Georgina Harding In Another Europe Communist Romania as you'd expect it to appear to a middle-class north Londoner approaching Ceacescu's 'golden age' on a bike.

Alan Furst Spies of the Balkans OK, I admit it, I'm hooked. Casablanca set in WW2 Thessaloniki. The Ipcress File for Balkanophiles.

Norman Lewis The World The World Why Lewis isn't more solidly venerated remains a mystery. Presumably it's because he chooses to report from some of the less easily palatable corners of the world - and lay the blame for their ills in all the right places.


  1. Not sure that the Reagan-Thatcher line had anything to do with capitalism. Liberal democracy maybe, but communism was exhausted and collapsed from within. Even those of us who worked to destroy it knew that. i remember visiting Budapest in the early 90s, and finding Margaret Thatcher's picture pinned up among the market stalls, often festooned with strings of gleaming peppers. You may not like it but she was a hero to many ordinary people, if not to your poets.

    You write good poems Tom. i like that they are about stuff.

  2. Thanks, Wynn. My point really was that Reagan-Thatcher attempted to take the credit for 'destroying communism' when, as you say, it collapsed from within (with the help of a mighty shove by people willing to risk their necks by demonstrating in Gdansk, Timisoara, Leipzig etc). The book in question is actually a collection of essays by some quite high-powered former dissidents so their wariness about 'capitalism', 'liberal democracy' is quite telling. As Vaclev Havel's friend Jan Urban puts it in his essay: 'There is much that we want and need from the West but there is one thing which I do not want: carelessness with people.' It's worth looking out if you're interested in those times - and probably available on Amazon for 50p. Glad you like the poems. Might have some news on that front sooner rather than later. Tom

  3. Lewis's The Missionaries made my blood boil - probably still would especially as, if anything, the situation/ evangelical proselytizing world wide has got worse. His book about Indonesia is worth a look though probably a tad out of date in some areas.
    cheers, sorry to hear about Venue :(
    Andy Wagner