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Die Tschechowa

Catherine Merridale: A Russian starlet in Hitler’s Berlin

17 February 2005
The Mystery of Olga Chekhova 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 300 pp., £16.99, May 2004, 0 670 91520 3
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... nowhere to live, and she could barely speak the language of her ancestors. She was saved by her looks and her ability to adapt her features – even the shape of her face – so radically that, as AntonyBeevor observes, she looked like a different person in each role that she played. In April 1921 she attended the premiere of her first German movie, Schloss Vogelöd, directed by Murnau: it launched ...

A Formidable Proposition

R.W. Johnson: D-Day

10 September 2009
D-Day: The Battle for Normandy 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 591 pp., £25, May 2009, 978 0 670 88703 3
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... In his account of D-Day AntonyBeevor comes to many surprising conclusions: that the Germans were by far the better soldiers, more experienced, disciplined and confident; that their weapons were generally better, not just the Tiger and ...

Dun-Coloured Dust

Thomas de Waal: Russia’s war

15 July 1999
Russia's War 
by Richard Overy.
Penguin, 416 pp., £8.99, July 1999, 0 14 027169 4
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Stalingrad 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 512 pp., £12.99, May 1999, 0 14 024985 0
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... 1942, aimed at liberating Leningrad and recapturing parts of Ukraine. How to write about such massive suffering in a work of history without howling like Solzhenitsyn? This is the challenge taken up AntonyBeevor in Stalingrad. Beevor maps out the strategic scheme as seen from above, but also gives the view from ground level, with the help of voluminous accounts from the people involved. He has done ...

Hitler’s Teeth

Neal Ascherson: Berlin 1945

28 November 2002
Berlin: The Downfall, 1945 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 490 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 670 88695 5
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... hurried to briefings on the Wilhelmstrasse and the Reich Chancellery still issued orders as the first Soviet shells were falling. But that apocalyptic place seemed as dead and remote as Küstrin. AntonyBeevor cannot bring that Berlin back to life. But he has constructed a staggering diorama of how it was in those months between the Soviet crossing of the Vistula in January 1945 and the silence that ...

Paralysed by the Absence of Danger

Jeremy Harding: Spain, 1937

24 September 2009
Letters from Barcelona: An American Woman in Revolution and Civil War 
edited by Gerd-Rainer Horn.
Palgrave, 209 pp., £50, February 2009, 978 0 230 52739 3
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War Is Beautiful: An American Ambulance Driver in the Spanish Civil War 
by James Neugass.
New Press, 314 pp., £16.99, November 2008, 978 1 59558 427 4
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We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War 
by Paul Preston.
Constable, 525 pp., £9.99, June 2009, 978 1 84529 946 0
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... terrifying air power on one side, heavy casualties on both (60,000 Republicans, 50,000 rebels); and of a civilian population cowering in icy buildings where the water pipes had frozen solid. As AntonyBeevor remarks in The Battle for Spain (2006), ‘conditions in Stalingrad, five years later, would not be much worse.’ Neugass has you feel the cold. He was taken on as a driver – a ‘chófer ...

Rampaging

John Connelly: Stalin’s Infantry

22 June 2006
Ivan’s War: The Red Army 1939-45 
by Catherine Merridale.
Faber, 396 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 571 21808 3
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A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-45 
edited and translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova.
Harvill, 378 pp., £20, September 2005, 9781843430551
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... What are we to make of the Red Army? On the one hand, it was the force that first stopped and then destroyed the armies of German National Socialism, in achieving which Russian soldiers suffered in ways that exceed the limits of Western imagination: the toll of dead – more than eight million – reveals numbers as the abstraction they are. And for much of the war those killed in combat were the lucky ...

Favoured Irregulars

Andy Beckett: The Paras

24 January 2019
Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper 
by Helen Parr.
Allen Lane, 382 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 241 28894 8
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... against a much larger enemy force, which had tanks and far better access to supplies. After a few days of ferocious but doomed resistance, barely a fifth of the Paras survived and avoided capture. AntonyBeevor, in Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, describes the over-elaborate airborne assault as ‘a very bad plan right from the start’.* Beevor’s intricate account covers the involvement of ...

Good Day, Comrade Shtrum

John Lanchester: Vasily Grossman’s Masterpiece

18 October 2007
Life and Fate 
by Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert Chandler.
Vintage, 864 pp., £9.99, October 2006, 0 09 950616 5
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... to write the Big Novel about the war and ended up writing a kind of pastiche, a strange hybrid of modernist ambition and postmodernist decentredness – a fake, perhaps, but an interesting one. As AntonyBeevor and Luba Vinogradova’s’s superb book A Writer at War makes clear,* Grossman saw more of the war than any of them; more than any other writer. He volunteered to fight but, tubby and ...

It’s she, it’s she, it’s she

Joanna Biggs: Americans in Paris

2 August 2012
Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis 
by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 289 pp., £17, May 2012, 978 0 226 42438 5
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As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Diaries 1964-80 
by Susan Sontag.
Hamish Hamilton, 544 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 241 14517 3
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... second husband, Aristotle Onassis, Jackie turned again to France. As an editor at Doubleday, she looked after Secrets of Marie Antoinette in 1985, The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier in 1991 and AntonyBeevor and Artemis Cooper’s Paris after the Liberation, the last book she worked on before she died in 1994, finding a felicitous ending for it on her deathbed. Susan Sontag (centre) with ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2010

16 December 2010
... any pleasure any more than I can enjoy a history of the Third Reich, say, or a programme on Stalin’s Terror. One element in Wolf Hall’s success as it is an element in the success of the work of AntonyBeevor is the regular and unflinching presentation of horror. There may be cornflowers on Cromwell’s desk but this is a novel about torture, tyranny and death. 11 June. Drive round to Camden Town ...

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