Monday, 6 February 2023

How will the Ukrainian war and new cold war end?

I am trying to avoid the news and insightful articles about the war in Ukraine. As King Solomon almost said, of making many articles there is no end. But I did happen tonight on what I thought was a very interesting discussion about the war in the Spectator 'This Week in 60 minutes' podcast.

Owen Matthews, who is half Russian, thinks the war will end in a Ukrainian victory or a stalemate. 

I can't see how a Ukrainian victory is possible or what it would mean. 

He thinks that Russia is much stronger than people think (this is certainly true) and that pushing Russia out of the Crimea and the Donbass is fraught with dangers, not least because those territories have large Russian or pro-Russian majorities. 

This is partly because the people who did not want Russian rule mostly fled.

Talking to him is a fascinating ex-KGB man called Dmitri Trenin, who explains the objectives of the invasion. 

He's the sort of pro-Kremlin voice that the mainstream press normally suppresses, but the Spectator is a maverick. 

He says he was told that the plan was for some Ukrainian politicians and part of the Ukrainian army to take over Ukraine.

Friday, 3 February 2023

Africa begins at Naples

I am reading with delight Curzio Malaparte's Kaputt, and am especially delighted to learn that Lord Rosebery said Naples was "the only eastern city in the world that lacks a European quarter". 

In Rosebery's day European meant white. Now, trying to find a source for the quotation I find the Wikipedia entry for 'European Quarter' says,
A European Quarter (also: "European District", "EU Quarter" and other variations or by the French: Quartier européen) usually refers to an area of a city containing a concentration of pan-European institutions (notably, those of the European Union and Council of Europe). At present, there are three such quarters;
The European Quarter of Brussels, Belgium
The European Quarter of Strasbourg, France
The European Quarter of the city of Luxembourg, Luxembourg
I find this dispiriting. 

I know that Italians say that Africa begins at Naples. I am also reminded of a callow passage in a letter from the very young Ernest Hemingway to Edmund Wilson in 1921, in which he wrote, “The negroid streak creeps northward to defile the Nordic race. Already the Italians have the souls of blackamoors.”

Both those two were or became Marxists.

For many years I was only interested in visiting the post-Communist countries. Western countries seemed old hat. Then I asked myself if there was anywhere else that interested me and I remembered that Naples once seemed attractive, impossibly louche and wicked, so I went and loved it. But it was disappointingly Western, modern, spick and span. 

European, in fact.



“That England, that was wont to conquer others / Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.” John of Gaunt in Richard II.

"If you always do the next thing that needs to be done, you will go most safely and sure-footedly along the path prescribed by your unconscious. Then it is naturally no help at all to speculate about how you ought to live. … you cannot know it, but quietly do the next and most necessary thing." Carl Jung.

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” - Oscar Wilde

Ernest Hemingway

"We all get broken. That's how the light gets in." 

"I drink to make other people more interesting." 

"Prose is architecture, not interior decoration." 

Sarah, Duchess of York on writing a novel: 'I tried to channel Ernest Hemingway by using a Montegrappa pen from Italy.'

I wrote this 9 years ago - now I'd like to read Hemingway and Fitzgerald but time is too short

What great books should we leave unread? I would start with all books by Henry James. Perhaps Fitzgerald and Hemingway too? And T.S. Eliot's poetry, but not his prose. Definitely The Scarlet Letter. Three or four people recently have assured me that Don Quixote is worth reading. I have grave doubts but may have a go. I did start and hugely enjoyed the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, then put it aside but shall finish it. I managed to get through and enjoy even Paradise Lost by listening to the BBC audio version. I started the Fairy Queen when I was 11 which was much too young (or perhaps was exactly the right age). Perhaps I shall go back but I know I am kidding myself.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Russia is still what Lenin called it in 1914, the prison of the nations

I did something very unusual for me and bought a newspaper yesterday. It was Adevarul and in it I read a report of an analysis (it didn't say where or when it was published) by one Kamil Galeev, of something unpromisingly named the Wilson Center. He's a Russian apparently. 

Translated by Google Translate:

Russia is the last European colonial empire still intact. Its expansion really began only in the 16th century starting from a relatively small state entity, namely the Princedom of Moscow, and largely coincided with the creation of the first European overseas empires.

Those who doubt the colonial nature of Russia emphasize the differences between it and what is currently interpreted as the epitome of colonialism, the British Empire. In fact, Russian colonialism was very different from Anglo-Saxon colonialism. Instead, it bears strong similarities to Ibero-American colonialism.

Sunday, 22 January 2023

Torture and totalitarianism

'Before being deported as a Jew, [Jean] Améry had been tortured as a Resistance fighter in Belgium. After spending one year beside the gas chambers of Auschwitz, he described torture not as an “accidental quality of the Third Reich” but rather as its “essence.” According to Améry, torture was “the apotheosis of National Socialism”:
“It was precisely in torture that the Third Reich materialized in all the density of its being.”'
I came across these words in an article by an Italian Marxist historian called Enzo Traverso. 

They reminded me of something Eugen Serbanescu wrote in his novel 'An Afternoon with a Nymphomaniac', that Romanian Communism was essentially sado-masochistic.

(By the way, like many far left academics, including ones who taught me such as Eric Foner and Jay Winter, Traverso lives in a fantasy world, as this interview with him shows. Yet people like him teach tomorrow's elite. While socialism had become out of date for working class people across Western Europe thanks to the post-war economic miracle intellectuals were embracing Marxism and different forms of Leninism.)

Saturday, 21 January 2023

Germany's hunger plan to murder millions

Middle aged men stop reading serious novels and start reading military history.

I always intended to avoid this fate, one I associate with boys who enjoyed games at school, but I have succumbed. 

History is the subject that tells us most about the world, after psychology, and military history, in a sense, is the most essential part of history.

Grahame Greene said thrillers are more like real life than real life. Military history is also more like real life than real life. 

Skipping the war sections in War and Peace is a huge mistake.

Reading about the Second World War in the last few weeks, certain things stand out for me. 

One was the German need for food, caused by the Royal Navy's blockade. 

Another, closely linked, was that perhaps 3.5 million Soviet prisoners of war died in German captivity, most from starvation which is a very cruel way to die. 

From Rolf Dobelli's book "Stop Reading the News: How to cope with the information overload and think more clearly"


General Erich Vlad: 'What are our war aims?' (Answer: 'Defeating Hitler'?)

'Oh! let us never, never doubt 
What nobody is sure about!'

Belloc's words are the best comment on comments about the Ukrainian war.

By reading the media people do not learn much but become convinced that they know a huge amount and, worse, that they know what will happen.

Dear readers, beware of people who think they know what will happen.

Including Sir Laurence Freedman and other experts who think Ukraine can win.

What does winning mean?

I think that the people in power (including Vladimir Putin, the German Greens, most Americans) are more interested in the past than in the present or future. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Chris Arnade writes about Bucharest in a blog called 'Chris Arnade Walks The World'

"I quickly saw the city was roughly divided into a wealthier, more modern, more American influenced northern half, and a poorer southern half, so I focused on the south, because wealthy neighborhoods, no matter the country, are pretty much the same.

"They are all variations on the same privileged theme. All have upscale shops and malls filled with the same stuff. All have bespoke restaurants serving the same food. And all are filled with residents who are careerists who happen to be where they are because that is where they have the biggest edge, by birth. They are best at making money in Romania since they grew up there, but if they ever get the chance to go elsewhere to make more money, they would happily do so."
I thank my loyal reader Toma for putting me onto this great writer.

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

French historian Emmanuel Todd thinks the Third World War has already begun

He said so speaking to Le Figaro last week, as quoted by UnHerd.

“It’s obvious that the conflict, which started as a limited territorial war and escalated to a global economic confrontation between the whole of the West on the one hand and Russia and China on the other hand, has become a world war,” 

“The resistance of the Russian economy [to sanctions] is pushing the American imperial system towards the precipice.” 

[If  Russia] “managed to exhaust the European economy, while maintaining Chinese backing, American monetary and financial controls of the world would collapse, and with them the possibility for the United States to fund their huge trade deficit for nothing.”

Quotations from King Charles III

I was a teenager in the 1960s and remember witnessing what I realise now was a kind of cultural revolution which swept out the poor old baby with the bathwater.
Speech at the Prince of Wales Education summer school, October 4 2002

Do you seriously expect me to be the first Prince of Wales in history not to have a mistress?

Putin seems as indifferent to human life as the Kaiser

Yesterday I quoted the late Paul Johnson saying of Putin that 'though not a mass killer on the Stalin scale, he has the same indifference to human life'. He could have compared his indifference to human life to that of the extraordinarily bloodthirsty Emperor William II of Germany, as described by his Anglo-German biographer John Rohl.

As far as I know, which is not very far at all, the Kaiser's horrible wishes were never put into action. He seems not to be to blame personally for the killing in German South-West Africa of tens of thousands of people from the Herero and Namaqya tribes.

Monday, 16 January 2023

Paul Johnson died on Thursday aged 94

I met him once at the inaugural meeting of the GK Chesterton Society in the Reform Club and quoted to him Chesterton saying 'The wildest hope of a healthy person is to get back to his first Christmas party, and be shy enough to be happy.' 

He replied 'And do you remember how Chesterton said you can remember what it is like to be six. By getting down on your knees.' 

I promptly got down on my knees and reported that GKC was right. 

I never much liked his writing, middlebrow and bad tempered. I did not at all share his keenness on Mrs Thatcher or Reagan, but now they both seem much better than their predecessors or successors. 

Geoffrey Wheatcroft must have enjoyed writing his obituary in the Guardian, from which I extract these plums.

Paul Johnson and Margaret Thatcher on Putin

Paul Johnson, April 2014

‘I feel an intense antipathy for Vladimir Putin. No one on the international scene has aroused in me such dislike since Stalin died. Though not a mass killer on the Stalin scale, he has the same indifference to human life. There is a Stalinist streak of gangsterism too: his ‘loyalists’ wear masks as well as carry guns. Putin also resembles Hitler in his use of belligerent minorities to spread his power. Am I becoming paranoid about Putin? I hope not.’

Margaret Thatcher, September 2000

"Now we have the new Mr. Putin. I looked at the pictures of Mr. Putin, trying to look for a trace of humanity. I should, within a few weeks, have known better.

Sunday, 15 January 2023

Today would be Hugh Trevor-Roper’s 109th birthday

This is his description of Ireland.
'Through all our history she clings to us, a poor, half-witted, gypsy relative, defying our improvement, spoiling our appearances, exposing our pretences, an irredeemable, irrepressible slut, dirty when we are most clean, superstitious when we are most rational, protesting when we are most complacent, and when we are most prosaic, inspired'.

Today is the Reverend Martin Luther King’s 94th birthday

Today would be Martin Luther King’s ninety-fourth birthday.

Martin Luther King's famous speech “I have a dream” was actually written by Stanley Levison and Clarence Jones, both of whom were said by the FBI to have been Communists. 

Both are alive and I do not want to be sued. 

Levison is said to have complained about King's marked lack of intelligence.

'Jew-hating Poles helped Jews to murder British soldiers and civilians'

I haven't read Timothy Snyder's book Black Earth (2015) but probably I should. 

I stumbled on Victor Sebestyan's review in the Spectator.

'In the 1930s the anti-Semitic government in Warsaw wanted rid of 3.5 million Polish Jews. Initially they tried to pack them off to Madagascar. But then the Poles hit on the idea of helping Jews create their own state in British-occupied Palestine. The problem was that Britain would not allow large-scale Jewish immigration into Palestine, where the Irgun terrorist group was beginning a bloody campaign for independence in a Jewish homeland. The Irgun’s principal backer was Poland, whose military trained scores of guerrillas, gave them generous supplies of arms and smuggled them into Palestine. So Jew-hating Poles helped Jews to murder British soldiers and civilians, supposedly their allies.'

The body of Pope Benedict XVI was brought to St Peter's by van. Pope Francis preached a brief homily at his funeral which scarcely mentioned Benedict and did not attend his interment


An Italian blogger writes that after his abdication Joseph Ratzinger was styled pope emeritus "but the mortal remains of this pope were taken from his residence to St. Peter's Basilica almost stealthily, aboard a van that would be good, at most, for delivering mail. Following the coffin were his papal family, but no official representatives of the Holy See. And the pope emeritus (which means, I repeat, that we are talking about the pope) was let into St. Peter's Basilica through a side entrance."

226 years ago today the first top hat was worn in public, by a London haberdasher who was charged with breaching the peace and incitement to riot. Several women fainted at the sight.


Things I read this weekend

"People ask me, ‘What did you learn?" [in Sobibor, an efficiently run German death camp where few people lived more than a few hours]? And I think I’m only sure of one thing – nobody knows themselves. The nice person on the street, you ask him, ‘Where is North Street?’ and he goes with you half a block and shows you, and is nice and kind. That same person in a different situation could be the worst sadist. Nobody knows themselves. All of us could be good or bad people in these situations. Sometimes, when somebody is really nice to me, I find myself thinking, ‘How will he be in Sobibor?’" Thomas ("Toivi") Blatt

[Satire] "presupposes homogeneous moral standards – the early Roman Empire and eighteenth-century Europe.” Evelyn Waugh quoted by Frederick Stopp in Evelyn Waugh, Portrait of an Artist, 1958

"Politicians are not people who seek power to implement policies they think necessary. They are people who seek policies in order to attain power."
Evelyn Waugh in his diary

Friday, 13 January 2023

Reading about the German mass murder of the Jews

 March 1942, Jews from Lublin province deported to Belzec death camp.

I recommend three excellent books I just read about the German slaughter of the Jews. The first is D. D. Guttenplan's The Holocaust on Trial, a wonderfully written courtroom drama which is a dialogue on whether there were gas chambers at Auschwitz and on the nature of history. 

William Blake said Milton writing Paradise Lost was of the Devil's party without knowing it. A number of people have said Mr Guttenplan prefers David Irving to the defendant, Deborah Lipstadt or the expert witness Richard Evans. 

None of the three of them is likeable but David Irving steals every scene, except when the judge does. 

Mr Irving is a paradox, an exceptionally brilliant historian who wrote what the military historian Sir John Keegan called one of the two best books about the war, who was praised highly, though with important reservations about his reliability, by Hugh Trevor-Roper and AJP Taylor, but who distorted the record and was deliberately dishonest. This is a tautology, as dishonesty is always deliberate.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023



'In 1995 the New York Times invited its readers to try to name the era in which they were living. The paper argued that, more than five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the term “post-Cold War era” carried an air of “self-doubt”. The entries submitted were no better and included the “Age of Uncertainty” and the “Age That Even Historians from Harvard Can’t Name”.' From the review in the New Statesman by Gavin Jacobson of The Age of Interconnection: A Global History of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century by Jonathan Sperber.

'The state has no business running schools or hospitals.' Stephen Pollard. He is probably right. He also said he blocked someone on Twitter for 'Neanderthal antisemitism' for saying the political wing of Hezbollah was not a threat to the UK and should not be banned. I didn't follow his logic there or when he argued that, as well as Hezbollah, golliwogs should be banned too.

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

I stole these from Laudator Temporis Acti

Some of the evils of which you complain are real and can be to a certain degree remedied, but not by the remedies you propose; others are imaginary, and others, though real, can only be gotten over through that capacity for steady, individual self-help which is the glory of every true American, and can no more be done away with by legislation than you could do away with the bruises you receive when you tumble down, by passing an act to repeal the laws of gravitation. Theodore Roosevelt, letter to Denis Donahue, Jr. (October 22, 1886)

A world where there is no longer an elsewhere

'Along with the decline of popular political participation, the mass availability of television – “a distinctly national medium” as Sperber rightly notes – and the balkanised info bubbles of the internet, the second half of the 20th century was, as one political scientist put it recently, “a wasteland of sociability”.

'This isn’t to say that interconnections didn’t exist, but there are reasons the phenomenon referred to as globalisation – the extension over the whole earth of markets and networks of information and communication – was so profoundly alienating. One of the more radical answers came from the French anthropologist Marc Augé, whose Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity (1992) described “a world where there is no longer an elsewhere”. Modern life was now dominated by homogenous “non-places” where people spent most of their lives: airports, motorways, hotel rooms, leisure parks and supermarkets. These spaces of eternal traffic and deadening consumption, in which “people are always, and never, at home” represented the real End of History.

'“The space of non-place,” Augé wrote, “creates neither singular identity nor relations; only solitude and similitude”....'

From a review by Gavin Jacobson
in the latest edition of the New Statesman of The Age of Interconnection: A Global History of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century by Jonathan Sperber.