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Secrets are like sex

Neal Ascherson, 2 April 2020

The State of Secrecy: Spies and the Media in Britain 
by Richard Norton-Taylor.
I.B. Tauris, 352 pp., £20, March 2019, 978 1 78831 218 9
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... of Peter Wright’s malevolent but fascinating account of his time in British intelligence. The judge even ‘waited for the British journalists to turn up late from their lunches of freshly caught fish washed down by the best Australian Chardonnay before starting the court’s afternoon session’.Sometimes sheer moral outrage drives Norton-Taylor’s ...

A Spy in the Archives

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Was I a spy?, 2 December 2010

... second wife, a Jewish actress, had caused all sorts of trouble and embarrassment. Her brother, Igor Sats, had been the only person present when Lunacharsky died in Menton in 1933, and could well have murdered him (I wondered at the time if I had understood him correctly, but later heard the same unfounded rumour circulating in the Russian diaspora in ...

Back to Runnymede

Ferdinand Mount: Magna Carta, 23 April 2015

Magna Carta 
by David Carpenter.
Penguin, 594 pp., £10.99, January 2015, 978 0 241 95337 2
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Magna Carta Uncovered 
by Anthony Arlidge and Igor Judge.
Hart, 222 pp., £25, October 2014, 978 1 84946 556 4
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Magna Carta 
by J.C. Holt.
Cambridge, 488 pp., £21.99, May 2015, 978 1 107 47157 3
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Magna Carta: The Foundation of Freedom 1215-2015 
by Nicholas Vincent.
Third Millennium, 192 pp., £44.95, January 2015, 978 1 908990 28 0
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Magna Carta: The Making and Legacy of the Great Charter 
by Dan Jones.
Head of Zeus, 192 pp., £14.99, December 2014, 978 1 78185 885 1
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... when pleading a case before his co-author, Mr Justice (later Lord Chief Justice) Judge, though he lost. As I write, lawyers are planning to invoke Magna Carta in a suit against the lord chancellor, Chris Grayling, arguing that his new court fees amount to selling justice, forbidden under Clause 40. It is an epic ...

Videonazis

Philip Purser, 13 June 1991

Hitler’s State Archltecture: The Impact of Classical Antiquity 
by Alex Scoble.
Pennsylvania State, 152 pp., £28.50, October 1990, 0 271 00691 9
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Totalitarian Art 
by Igor Golomstock, translated by Robert Chandler.
Collins Harvill, 416 pp., £30, September 1990, 0 00 272806 0
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... frills at all. It’s just as well that some other, more grandiose schemes were never realised, to judge by the plans Alex Scobie has assembled in Hitler’s State Architecture. He is a Classics don and his well-founded thesis is that Hitler’s Neoclassical passion was confined to Roman as opposed to Greek models. The aim was to impose order, to dominate, to ...

Father Bosco to Africa

Walter Nash, 5 February 1987

The Red Men 
by Patrick McGinley.
Cape, 304 pp., £10.95, January 1987, 0 224 02386 1
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Chat Show 
by Terence de Vere White.
Gollancz, 207 pp., £9.95, January 1987, 0 575 03910 8
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Leaden Wings 
by Zhang Jie, translated by Gladys Yang.
Virgo, 180 pp., £9.95, January 1987, 0 86068 759 7
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Russian Novel 
by Edward Kuznetsov, translated by Jennifer Bradshaw.
Quartet, 285 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 7043 2522 5
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Richard Robertovich 
by Mark Frankland.
Murray, 216 pp., £9.95, January 1987, 0 7195 4330 4
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... presently compounded when Gulban suffers a stroke and becomes their stricken Jehovah, bed-ridden judge of their inadequacies. They suffer from introspection and self-doubt, and their efforts, pathetic or comical, lose the name of action. Father Bosco, a reluctant contender, meditates the possibility of turning the hotel into a haven for elderly priests; Joey ...

Disinformation

Phillip Knightley, 8 July 1993

Deadly Illusions: The First Book from the KGB Archives 
by John Costello and Oleg Tsarev.
Century, 538 pp., £18.99, June 1993, 9780712655002
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... the Russian side of the Kroger producers in London and late in 1990 one of its members, Colonel Igor Prelin, then still with the KGB, came to see me and asked if I would be interested in coming to Moscow to discuss writing a book about ‘the Oxford spy ring’ – as distinct from the Cambridge one (Philby, etc). I said that I was. Other matters intervened ...
Ablaze: The Story of Chernobyl 
by Piers Paul Read.
Secker, 478 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 436 40963 1
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... of the prototype built by the team of scientists, including Andrei Sakharov, which formed around Igor Kurchatov and, shortly after the war, developed an atomic bomb. That reactor was designed to meet Kurchatov’s requirements by the engineer Nikolai Dollezhal and was built at the record speed considered advisable when responding to Stalin’s orders. With ...

Touching the music

Paul Driver, 4 January 1996

Stravinsky: Chronicle of a Friendship 
by Robert Craft.
Vanderbilt, 588 pp., £35.95, October 1994, 0 8265 1258 5
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... the 82-year-old Forster, visited at King’s, Craft writes: ‘One naturally regards the man as a judge. Even the weather is a subject of adjudication: when I wonder aloud whether the rain has stopped, he settles silver-rimmed spectacles on his nose, goes to the window, says, “I will try to decide.” ’ Long ago the question was asked, did ...

Loners Inc

Daniel Soar: Man versus Machine, 3 April 2003

Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer that Defeated the World Chess Champion 
by Feng-hsiung Hsu.
Princeton, 300 pp., £19.95, November 2002, 0 691 09065 3
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... naturally talented. Korchnoi wasn’t the only player to defect: Spassky, Tigran Petrosian, Igor Ivanov all went West. It was a winner’s world, and the winnings and the glory were to be had elsewhere. The defectors were traitors and heroes; they were brilliant and wrong-headed. Individual v. empire: the paradigm was cemented in the Cold War, but its ...

Patriotic Work

M.F. Perutz, 27 September 1990

Memoirs 
by Andrei Sakharov, translated by Richard Lourie.
Hutchinson, 776 pp., £19.99, July 1990, 0 09 174636 1
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... at the Physics Institute of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow as a graduate student working with Igor Tamm, an outstanding theoretician who later won the Nobel Prize. For the next four years he worked in theoretical physics; he gained his doctorate, and became a member of the lab’s staff. In June 1948, Tamm told him the startling news that he was to join a ...

Murder in Mayfair

Peter Pomerantsev, 31 March 2016

A Very Expensive Poison: The Definitive Story of the Murder of Litvinenko and Russia’s War with the West 
by Luke Harding.
Faber, 424 pp., £12.99, March 2016, 978 1 78335 093 3
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... Marina Litvinenko pushed for an inquest into her husband’s murder. Robert Owen, a High Court judge, promised an ‘open and fearless’ investigation. In 2013 the foreign secretary, William Hague, made an application for ‘public interest immunity’ – which meant that the government’s classified files on Litvinenko wouldn’t be available to the ...

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