Right, Left and Centre

Jeremy Harding

Bound for an airport in the US in the 1950s, Keith Kyle, then the Washington correspondent for the Economist, stopped off at a pharmacy, dashed in, dashed out, hailed a cab and only remembered, an hour or so later at altitude, that he’d left his own car at the store with the engine running. His posthumous memoir, Keith Kyle, Reporting the World, is about the world as he saw it, the many things it threw at him – mostly golden opportunities – and others which, despite his prodigious memory for historical detail, he simply couldn’t recall.[*] ‘In my ointment,’ he wrote, ‘there exists a fly that at times has loomed Kafka-like threatening to absorb all else … a minor physical malfunction in that part of the brain that deals with short-term memory.’ The book speaks touchingly of this affliction, which began at an early age and was compounded, during his brief attempt at postgraduate research, by ME, an unknown illness half a century ago.

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[*] I.B. Tauris, 308 pp., £25, June, 978 1 84885 000 2.