Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Talking history with Larry Watts

Nothing beats talking history. Great early supper with Larry Watts.

We ate in the former Cina, (now another Il Calcio) where the food has improved and Bucharest feels Latin American, a scene from Nostromo. It's boiling hot in the evening on 2nd May.

He spills astonishing secrets in answer to every question I put, like pearls running from a necklace that has come undone. We are surrounded by lovely women. Despite the EU, multinational firms, mortgages and shopping centres, Bucharest is till a lovely city.

I say my instinct tells me not to believe the story of the Jews hanged on meat-hooks in an abattoir (in the old town?) in the three days in January 1941 when the Iron Guard took power. Is it Communist propaganda? 'No, not Communist, Horthyist propaganda', disseminated by an American-Hungarian journalist during the war.

He tells me the story of a Hungarian, a supporter of Bela Kun, who convinced the British he acted under compulsion and became an MI6 agent in Hungary. He was paid by the CIA too and by the NKVD it seems and in 1945 got the Soviets to arrest Raoul Wallenberg. I said there is a spy story here of the Alan Firth type.

America fell in love with Kossuth in 1848 and remained in love with Hungary until the present day (I remember loving Hungary's role in 1848 when I was at university and even when living in Bratislava/Pressburg/Pozsony in 1990 and 1991.)

There is a 100 page biography of CeauČ™escu, retelling the story of the Gorbachev years and the Prague Spring, with Ceausescu as the free agent standing up to Soviet bullying and  for the rights of sovereign states. CeauČ™escu, though Larry hates to admit this, is shown by Larry's discoveries in a new and flattering light.

There is also a good book on the revolution but Larry has got bogged down in 1978 and doubts he will get to 1989. I wished historians could think like businessmen and see where the market is.

It also occurs to me that there is a wonderful novel  to be written about December 1989, a better book than Solzhenitsyn's August, 1914 which the only the Prince of Wales and I, aged 11 year, enjoyed.

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