David Rieff, 3 September 1987
Twenty years ago, there was a fairly well-known English monk at the Hinayana Buddhist Centre in London who liked to cap the account he gave visitors of why he had rejected the West by pointing one slim, denunciatory finger at that most improbable of culprits, the Ealing comedies. ‘How can one possibly defend,’ he would ask rhetorically, ‘a civilisation that considers a film like Kind Hearts and Coronets funny? Think about it for a moment: it’s a comedy about eight separate acts of premeditated murder.’ The monk was in no sense either a stupid man or a naive one; he simply could not track the joke. At the time, while I believed I understood something of what he felt, I couldn’t imagine myself reacting so humourlessly to an entertainment. Time bears its little surprises. After reading the hugely successful war novel Red Storm Rising, I think I begin to see what the monk was going on about. This is a book that makes you want to weep.