1985 was not a good year to live in The German Democratic Republic. While the country was still in the grip of an oppressive communist government, the wealth and freedoms of the west were becoming ever more visible thanks to the population’s exposure to western radio and television. Only the most loyal communists could continue the pretence that the government of Eric Honecker was leading the country to prosperity and economic equivalence with the west. Citizens needed a rare type of party commitment to ask with any degree of sincerity, “why would you want more than three brands of shampoo in the shops?” when packages from the west contained unheard of bounty.
The Leipzig Affair is the story of Magda and Robert, two young people from both sides of the almost unbreachable political divide of West and East.
She and I had been saying goodbye almost from the moment we met ...
How might you have felt then if you’d known what was to come? People talk now about reunification as though it were a victory. They listen to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with tears in their eyes. But the truth is that for people like you, the people who fought for democratic socialism in East Germany, it was a defeat.
Marek was smug, conceited, snide, bitchy and deceitful. He was also charming, good-looking, insightful and far cleverer that I would ever be. . . . but mainly I didn’t like him because he was always there, lurking in the background – and sometimes it seemed, cavorting in the foreground. I that paranoid little state, he had one rare quality that inspired both admiration and envy: he appeared to be free. He didn’t kowtow to anyone; he didn’t care what anybody thought. It was a dangerous way to be, but he somehow got away with it. The Leipzig AffairSimon Tolkien’s new book, Orders from Berlin, takes place in a London suffering from the Blitz, with Hitler’s forces massing on the French coast and preparations being made in London for what seems to be the inevitable German invasion.
The book opens at a briefing session in which Adolf Hitler is quizzing his commanders and generals about when to invade Britain. We see the meeting thought the eyes of Hitler’s right hand man and head of the Gestapo, Richard Heydrich, who finds himself disgusted by the time-serving military men who in his eyes lack the necessary resolve to take action while the formidable British Navy still has command of the waters of the English Channel. Orders from Berlin
"... the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied,” via Zadie Smith ten rules of writing.
A new book by by Russian giant of literature Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) seems like a throwback to the 1960s and 70s when the Soviet Empire was threatening the world with nuclear holocaust and American politicians spent their days worrying about the spread of communism. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, Cancer Ward, the majestic Gulag Archipelago – all these titles were huge publishing events when they first came out, providing as they did a revelatory insight into daily life into the labour camps of the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 leading to his deportation from Russia in 1974. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
I never would have imagined that, in the very midst of a city as big as this, there could be a house enfolded in such silence. For weeks, of course, I’ve been having to put up with the sound of the men working outside, underground, digging, digging, digging. But that has almost finished now, and at night, after they have gone home, the silence descends. And that’s when my imagination takes over (it is only my imagination, I have to cling to that thought), and in the darkness and the silence, I’m starting to think that I can hear things: other noises – – – I’ve not tried to write anything serious since my first year at Oxford, even though Laura, just before she left, told me that I should carry on with my writing, that she liked it, that she thought I had talent. Which meant so much, coming from her. It meant everything. Laura told me, as well, that it was very important to be organized when you write. That you should start at the beginning and tell everything in sequence.
From the centre of each table, a circular section was removed, like a little trap door, by hands at first invisible; and through each resulting aperture a man’s head appeared. Sixty different men’s heads, at sixty different tables. The rest of their bodies remained beneath the tables, hidden from view. A ripple of surprise and admiration went around the room. At table number 11, the head was crowned by a mop of red hair. The head swiveled around slowly through 360 degrees, and each of the twelve guests found themselves being stared at in turn by a pair of piercing green eyes framed by large, owl-like horn-rimmed spectacles. ‘Good evening,’ said the head. ‘My name is Dorian, and I will be you’re talking menu tonight. I will be here all evening, to tell you about the food, and to answer any food-related questions. Charter 11Analysis carried out by the World Bank claims the Trans-Pacific Partnership will boost Australia’s economy by just 0.7 per cent by the year 2030, reportsFairfax.
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