Red Souls

Neal Ascherson

  • Russian Hide and Seek by Kingsley Amis
    Hutchinson, 240 pp, £5.95, May 1980, ISBN 0 09 142050 4

We have come out of a long tunnel, and the view has changed. War is now quite clearly visible, not all that far off. That is not inevitably where we are going, the terminus. But most of us never expected to get so close, so suddenly. The Russians are in Afghanistan, aggrieved and astonished at the world’s reaction. Nato is buying itself a new armoury it does not need, deliberately presenting what is really a crisis of confidence within the Alliance as a response to a Soviet threat. The Americans fiddle with their weapons, dropping some of them. The hot lines have gone cold; the Gulf yawns. And something has happened within ourselves too. People are beginning to think that a nuclear war is probable, and that it won’t be quite so bad as those old CND people used to say. There are things one can do. There are places where most people will survive. There is no point in refusing to think about it, or treating it as one big bang which will bring total extinction. Sure, it would be terrible but it might not be a terminus after all …

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