Latest
 

  • ZAR/USD : 14.3358
    DOWN -0.23%
    ZAR/GBP : 18.7688
    DOWN -0.37%
    ZAR/EUR : 15.748
    DOWN -0.22%
    ZAR/JPY : 0.1351
    DOWN -1.17%
    ZAR/AUD : 10.7066
    DOWN -0.64%

  • Gold US$/oz : 1318.5
    DOWN -0.09%
    Platinum US$/oz : 1092
    UNCHANGED0.00%
    Silver US$/oz : 19.54
    DOWN -0.20%
    Palladium US$/oz : 687
    UP 0.15%
    Brent Crude : 44.72
    UP 0.25%

  • All data is delayed by 15 min. Data supplied by Profile Data
    Hover cursor over this ticker to pause.

Wed Jul 27 09:45:03 SAST 2016

Russia's brutal past laid bare

Andrew Donaldson | 27 January, 2016 00:33
Andrew Donaldson. File photo

Hopefully those who believe that the robust defence of free speech should include increasing qualifications will get the message.

An apt polemic

Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech? by Mick Hume (William Collins) R180

Published last year but shortly to be released in paperback, this superb and furious work should come as a welcome affront to those in an increasingly whining world who take great offence at the drop of a hat - and pretty much everything else. Hopefully those who believe that the robust defence of free speech should include increasing qualifications will get the message.

The issue

The revelations about the fatal polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvenenko, whose criticism of Vladimir Putin allegedly sealed his fate, provides a chilling context of sorts for Simon Sebag Montefiore's forthcoming The Romanovs: 1613-1918 (W&N). Russia, it seems, can never escape its brutal and violent past.

Montefiore is the author of acclaimed works on Stalin and Catherine the Great, and his new work has been praised for its revealing portraits of all 20 Romanov tsars, as well as their spouses, mistresses and senior advisers. Writing in the Financial Times, Antony Beevor summed it up thus: "A story of conspiracy, drunken coups, assassination, torture, impaling, breaking on the wheel, lethal floggings with the knout, sexual and alcoholic excess, charlatans and pretenders, flamboyant wealth based on a grinding serfdom, and, not surprisingly, a vicious cycle of repression and revolt."

Another terrific new history is Lara Feigel's The Bitter Taste of Victory: In the Ruins of the Reich (Bloomsbury). It's a perhaps familiar story - the early years of post-war Germany's reconstruction - but told from the perspective of those artists, writers and film makers who visited the country after the war for the reconstruction which, after all, was a cultural as well as a political programme.

They included Rebecca West, Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Marlene Dietrich, George Orwell, Lee Miller, Stephen Spender, Billy Wilder and Humphrey Jennings. Given the egos involved, it was inevitable that some saw in their mission an opportunity for self-promotion, and seemed more interested in themselves than in the suffering around them. None more so than the poet WH Auden who toured a devastated Frankfurt like a conquering emperor, accompanied by Hans, a young German he'd commandeered as his personal chef. Every night, he retired to bed with a bottle of looted wine while thousands around him starved.

Crash course

Caitlyn Jenner is working on a memoir with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger, who told the New York Times that, as a self-described "cross-dresser with a big time fetish for women's leather", he could relate to certain aspects of Jenner's experience.

The bottom line

"[The placebo effect] isn't trickery, wishful thinking or all in the mind. It is a physical mechanism, as concrete as the effects of any drug." - Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant (Crown Publishers)

SHARE YOUR OPINION

If you have an opinion you would like to share on this article, please send us an e-mail to the Times LIVE iLIVE team. In the mean time, click here to view the Times LIVE iLIVE section.