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Showing posts from July 15, 2007

The Mystery of Olga Chekhova

Yet another Antony Beevor book, this one with a slightly different focus. I must confess, I’d never heard of her before, but it is said that Hitler admired her for her "cosmopolitan sophistication." However, Olga Chekhova, niece of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, and great icon of Nazi cinema never quite escaped her roots and worked as a Soviet agent while reaping the rewards of stardom under the Third Reich. Beevor constructs an absorbing and expansive story, not just of an actress/spy, but far more broadly, a tale of revolution and its profound effect on Russian society that occurred between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Juxtaposing Moscow and Berlin, he explores the divergent trajectories of the regimes and the impact on a family of artists. Amid the tale of Olga Knipper-Chekhova and her extended family (particular her brother - former White Guard and subsequent NKVD spy - Lev Knipper), there is a social history lesson of life uprooted by revolution,

Liberals in love

First up, I think that Costello’s assessment of John Howard as an economic manager is pretty much spot on, but I would have thought that he’d be more careful in the manner in which he’d express himself. I applaud any politician brave enough to offer an honest critique, but you really have to wonder about the shrewdness of Costello continuing the criticism yesterday. After a number of standoffs over the leadership, again the Treasurer looks like an angry younger sibling sniping away, only not having the guts or power to challenge his older brother. Also, you can’t help but feel that he is having a bob each way by staying in the job as Treasurer, either not challenging more forthrightly on policy or the leadership, but also “expressing concerns” at Federal Government spending. Again, he really does come across as both disloyal and weak, not two traits that you’d want in a future PM. To do it in an election year compounds it. On this, I think that the smart money should be on him nev


Henry sleep all the way through the night last night, for the first time ever! That has to be worth something.

Dinner Time!

Babies lack somewhat in the area of manners.

Novel concept

After being given the tip by The World History Blog I dropped by WW1: Experiences of an English Soldier . In a concept new to me, the grandson of British soldier Harry Lamin publishes his letters exactly 90 years after they were first written. For mine, this is an excellent way to share personal history online. The blog notes, "To find out Harry's fate, follow the blog!"

A woman in Berlin

As is always a good sign, I managed to steam through this book in 3 days, despite the fact that I’ve been working full time at the moment. Seriously, I found this book difficult to put down, and one of those occasions when you are truly sad to finish it. Compounding this is the fact that we get no subsequent biographical information of the author (although I both respect and understand her right to choose this). I’ve tried not to give too much away as to events of the book. The author – then a 34-year-old journalist – started this eight-week diary in April 1945, as the Russians were encircling Berlin and the city's (mostly female) inhabitants was heading to its cellars to wait out the fighting. The scarcity of food meant that anyone able-bodied took to looting buildings for food of any kind. However, soon the Red Army arrived and soldiers were everywhere. With an astonishing degree of bluntness, she describes the plundering of her neighbourhood when Berlin was conquered and Soviet

More reviews to come

I've been lucky of late to have been able to steal a bit of time to read, which I do enjoy! I'm trying to keep up with myself here, and have to post some thoughts on a couple I've books I've read in the past week.

Paris After the Liberation 1944-1949

In Paris: After the Liberation , Antony Beevor (with the aid of fellow historian – who also happens to be his wife – Artemis Cooper) begins with a brief recount of the invasion of France, the collapse of the French defence and subsequent German occupation. However, his main concern lays with the post-war period in the French capital. This period saw the trials of collaborationist leaders, de Gaulle's reestablishment of the republic and his rapid resignation in 1946, widespread panic at the prospect of a Communist or right-wing coup and the arrival of Marshall Plan aid, which aided the French in the face of economic collapse. As usual, Beevor constructs an engaging account at both the macro and micro level, capturing the desperation and exhilaration of those years through a blend of history, personal accounts, interviews, significant events and gossip. In particular, the authors illuminate the chronicle of the blind Stalinism of France's "progressive" intelligentsia. A