OT: Serious reading

Posted: March 28, 2014 in Book Awards, Czechoslovakia, England, Germany, Historical, notes, Off Topic

51eCX1AIs2L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_510-na8C0iL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_My crime fiction reading has been put on hold for the moment as I am planning to read two outstanding prize winning history books. Bloodlands Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder, and Iron Curtain The Crushing of Eastern Europe by Anne Applebaum.

I am at present about a third of the way through Bloodlands, and in the words of Anthony Beevor [author of Stalingrad] it is “original, wonderful and horrifying”. The actions of political leaders are far more frightening than anything invented in a crime fiction novel.

I was inspired, if that is the appropriate word in the circumstances, to read these books by the apparent eagerness of  our current politicians to get involved in the Ukrainian-Russian dispute over Crimea. For much of my life politicians of the left in Great Britain viewed the Soviet Union as some kind of socialist utopia ignoring the horrendous crimes perpetrated by Stalin and his cohorts. While those on the right conveniently forgot that with a few outstanding exceptions their leaders were prepared to appease and support Hitler as a bulwark against Communism.

Now politicians from both left and right seem oblivious to the fact that financially challenged Great Britain is no longer a world power, or even a European one. Our main problem at present is not the referendum that allowed the secession of Crimea from Ukraine, but the referendum in September 2014 that may allow the secession of Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom.

We would lose oil revenues, our nuclear submarine base, whisky, smoked salmon, Andy Murray, Sean Connery, and Alan Cumming; and as well as those disasters our entire political system will be thrown into chaos until the new elections in 2020.

Everything flows, everything changes.

You can’t board the same prison train twice…..Vasily Grossman  

  1. Great piece Norm. And books that sound well worth reading. Thank you for the reminder of some history.

  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – I love the way you’ve put this all in perspective. Thank you.

  3. kathy d. says:

    Seriously? A political disaster for six years if Scotland votes for independence? The Scots have a right to do this — I say this as someone with Irish ancestry on one side of my family. An independent Ireland, in part, hasn’t hurt England.

    Why couldn’t you get smoked salmon? Don’t you have to purchase it in stores anyway, like we do in the States?

    I’d worry more about losing Denise Mina, Kate Atkinson, Gordon Ferris, A. McCall-Smith, etc., but then again we all have to buy their books anyway — no free lunch as is said, or else use the library.

    Look at it this way: you’d lose haggis. Not such a bad thing.

  4. Norman Price says:

    Thanks Rhian and Margot. I thought I had read all about those terrible years but Timothy Snyder gives a fresh perspective on events.

  5. Norman Price says:

    Kathy we are already in a state of uncertainty over negotiations about the £pound, division of the national debt, EU membership, passports, border controls etc even before a possible yes vote.
    I definitely don’t want Scotland to go but if they do vote yes I don’t want “Rump UK” to bear the financial burden if they run into trouble. The Scottish National Party has some policies I find very annoying, for instance an English student at a Scottish University pays £9,000 fees, but a Polish or Lithuanian student gets free tuition as do Scots.

    The problem is if we get a yes vote Scotland will become independent in 2016, but we have elections in 2015 with 59 Scottish MPs elected to the UK Parliament. Those Scottish MPs vote on all matters concerning England, but English MPs have no say in matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

    Do they leave in 2016? Or stay to the end of the parliament in 2020? Will a Labour Government losing those 59 MPs fall in 2016?
    We don’t know it hasn’t been decided, our leaders just hope there is a no vote.

    Interestingly to vote in the referendum you have to live in Scotland disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Scots born north of the border who now live in England.

    • Yep, just what we need: a platform for more internal fighting. Together we are stronger.

      I am with you on the voting Norm. I lived in London at the time of the Welsh vote for an assembly and didn’t have a vote. Like another I spoke to at the time, we were annoyed. Someone who’d just arrived in Wales could of course vote as all you needed was an address for registration at the right time.

      The ease of fragmentation of the UK is something I blame on that dreadful self-serving tosspot Blair and his cronies.

      Sadly, the absence of violence in NI is already proving shortlived if we are to believe news reports.

      We should remember that on the global stage there are bigger fish to fry. Better to be a flank of a larger organism than a lone sprat. I wish we could all find better ways of working together. All across the world.

  6. kathy d. says:

    I look at the situation from the point of view of people living in Scotland. Why do they want independence? What are their issues? They have rights, too, as did the residents of Ireland.

    My own country fought for its independence, and I don’t think anything bad happened to England as a result.

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