Noël Annan

I see that Ralph Dahrendorf has given us his reflections on the revolution in Eastern Europe.[*] Burke wrote his on the French Revolution to ‘a very young gentleman in Paris’ in order to damp his enthusiasm and instil some doubts in his mind; Dahrendorf his to a considerably older gentleman in Warsaw to dispel some fashionable muddles about the future in our minds as well as in his. To compare the two books would be like matching a Rolls-Royce against a BMW. The BMW lacks elegance and comfort, all the money has gone into the engine. But it is a powerful engine and the bodywork is not encumbered with an escutcheon depicting a thousand swords leaping from their scabbards and other signs of the age of chivalry.

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[*] Reflections on the Revolution in Europe (Chatto, 144 pp., £5.99, September, 0 7011 3725 8).