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The Writer and the Valet

Frances StonorSaunders, 25 September 2014

... Isaiah Berlin​ was on his honeymoon – he married late – when he first read Dr Zhivago. It was the evening of Saturday, 18 August 1956, and he had just made the short journey back to Moscow from the village of Peredelkino, where he had spent the day with Boris Pasternak. Pasternak’s dacha was part of a complex set up on Stalin’s orders in 1934 to reward the Soviet Union’s most prominent writers ...

Where on Earth are you?

Frances StonorSaunders, 3 March 2016

... The one border​ we all cross, so often and with such well-rehearsed reflexes that we barely notice it, is the threshold of our own home. We open the front door, we close the front door: it’s the most basic geographical habit, and yet one lifetime is not enough to recount all our comings and goings across this boundary. What threshold rites do you perform before you leave home? Do you appease household deities, or leave a lamp burning in your tabernacle? Do you quickly pat down pockets or bag to check you have the necessary equipment for the journey? Or take a final check in the hall mirror, ‘to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet’? You don’t have a slave to guard your door, as the ancients did, so you set the alarm (or you set the dog, cave canem ...

Stuck on the Flypaper

Frances StonorSaunders: The Hobsbawm File, 9 April 2015

... On 25 January​ 1933, the 16-year-old Eric Hobsbawm marched with thousands of comrades through central Berlin to the headquarters of the German Communist Party (KPD). When they arrived at Karl Liebknecht Haus, on the Bülowplatz, the temperature was –18°C. They shuffled and waited in the bone-numbing cold for four hours to hear the podium speeches of the party cadres ...

The Suitcase

Frances StonorSaunders, 30 July 2020

... after church on Sunday, that my father was anything other than a ‘from here’ person. Donald Saunders looked the same and sounded the same as the other guests who sipped Tio Pepe (medium or dry) from Lilliputian glasses and did small talk while Alexander and I handed around the shiny peanuts (bald, like the vicar) after first shovelling out fistfuls for ...

The Suitcase: Part Two

Frances StonorSaunders, 13 August 2020

... news of the Anschluss, I found a letter to the editor, dated 2 April 1938, from the Hon. Edward Stonor. Improbable as it sounds, he was hoping for some game shooting in Austria, and saw no reason for German field artillery to deflect his plan. ‘At Buchs, on the Swiss-Austrian frontier,’ he writes:We were invaded by six or seven very young Nazi ...

The Suitcase: Part Three

Frances StonorSaunders, 10 September 2020

... years​ after this visit, on New Year’s Eve, 1980, Elena-Helen Hotz-Hotti-Slomnicki-Saunders died. A few days earlier, Daddy took us to see her in the care home. She was in bed, very weak, but able to raise her arm to admire her bracelet and mutter something in German. She was dying in a language we could not understand. Maybe she was trying to ...


Maurice Keen: The diabolical Sir John Hawkwood, 5 May 2005

Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman 
by Frances StonorSaunders.
Faber, 366 pp., £17.99, November 2004, 9780571219087
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... The greatest mercenary of an age when soldiers of fortune flourished,’ says the cover flap of Frances StonorSaunders’s biography of Sir John Hawkwood (c.1320-94), one-time leader of the White Company made famous by Conan Doyle’s historical novels. The 14th century was indeed an age of opportunity for military adventurers, and for mercenary soldiers in particular ...

Hey, Mister, you want dirty book?

Edward Said: The CIA, 30 September 1999

Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances StonorSaunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... voice, commenting on the enterprise from within, isn’t ever heard from again. On the other hand, Frances StonorSaunders’s gripping book is stuffed with names of individuals, organisations and publications, whose sleazy history she gives in painstaking detail. Unfortunately, not all of her information is fully ...

Degeneration Gap

Andreas Huyssen: Cold War culture conflicts, 7 October 2004

The Dancer Defects: The Struggle for Cultural Supremacy during the Cold War 
by David Caute.
Oxford, 788 pp., £30, September 2003, 0 19 924908 3
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... the international success of American Modernism was all due to CIA machinations was resurrected by Frances StonorSaunders in Who Paid the Piper? (1999). Saunders does an excellent job in tracing the financial and organisational trail left by the CIA’s involvement in cultural ...

Stainless Splendour

Stefan Collini: How innocent was Stephen Spender?, 22 July 2004

Stephen Spender: The Authorised Biography 
by John Sutherland.
Viking, 627 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 670 88303 4
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... rueful account of their shared deception in his memoir, Not Entitled, in 1996. Since then, Frances StonorSaunders has published her controversial study, Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (1999), based on extensive research in official and unofficial archives on both sides of the ...

The Old, Bad Civilisation

Arnold Rattenbury: Second World War poetry, 4 October 2001

Selected Poems 
by Randall Swingler, edited by Andy Croft.
Trent, 113 pp., £7.99, October 2000, 1 84233 014 4
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British Writing of the Second World War 
by Mark Rawlinson.
Oxford, 256 pp., £35, June 2000, 0 19 818456 5
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... who had not been otherwise disposed of. We know now, particularly from the meticulous research of Frances StonorSaunders in Who Paid the Piper? (1999), that this was a warfare at least co-ordinated, sometimes paid for, by the CIA – a fact both bruited and denied at the time. Of course there were weapons ready to ...

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