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Lunch

Jon Halliday, 2 June 1983

In the Service of the Peacock Throne: The Diaries of the Shah’s Last Ambassador to London 
by Parviz Radji.
Hamish Hamilton, 343 pp., £12.50, April 1983, 0 241 10960 4
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... views as ‘nasty’ (an epithet bestowed on a well-argued article in the Times by my brother Fred Halliday, for example). On the other hand, Radji is quite right to feel that there was something demeaning in the way his country’s regime kowtowed to self-interested Londoners. His portrayal of a part of the British ruling stratum is, wittingly and ...

The Strange Death of Mehmet Shehu

Jon Halliday, 9 October 1986

... On 18 December 1981, Tirana Radio announced that Albania’s long-time premier Mehmet Shehu had committed suicide the previous night ‘in a moment of nervous crisis’. Although suicide is generally frowned on in the Communist countries – who, after all, could possibly wish to depart from paradise? – the radio referred to Shehu as ‘comrade’ and gave him his full ritual titles ...

Fear and Loathing in Tirana

Jon Halliday, 2 September 1982

... Albania has distinguished itself for secretiveness even among secretive Communist governments, vouchsafing little information to either its own people or the outside world. Now, suddenly, out of this hermetically-sealed country has exploded a series of volumes unprecedented in the history of world Communism, more remarkable and much more revealing than Khrushchev’s Memoirs ...

How wars begin

Jon Halliday, 23 May 1985

The Korean War: History and Tactics 
edited by David Rees.
Orbis, 128 pp., £7.99, September 1984, 0 85613 649 2
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Der Koreakrieg 1950 bis 1953: Das Scheitern der Amerikanischen Aggression gegen die KDVR 
by Olaf Groehler.
Militarverlag der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 120 pp., DM 6.50
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The Rainy Spell, and Other Korean Stories 
translated by Suh Ji-moon.
Onyx, 255 pp., £12.95, December 1984, 9780906383179
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The Complete Book of MASH 
by Suzy Kalter.
Columbus, 240 pp., £15.95, October 1984, 0 86287 080 1
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The Last Days of MASH 
by Alan Alda and Arlene Alda.
Columbus, 150 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 88101 008 1
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... On 5 July 1953, three weeks before the end of the Korean War, Winston Churchill was about to step out onto the croquet lawn with his doctor, Lord Moran, and with Field Marshal Montgomery, when Monty asked him: ‘What is our policy in Korea? It is no good making war without a policy.’ Churchill replied with a reference to the President of South Korea: If I were in charge, I would withdraw the United Nations troops to the coast and leave Syngman Rhee to the Chinese ...

The Koreans and their Enemies

Jon Halliday, 17 December 1992

Korea Old and New: A History 
by Carter Eckert, Ki-baik Lee, Young Ick Lew, Michael Robinson and Edward Wagner.
Harvard, 454 pp., £11.95, September 1991, 0 9627713 0 9
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The Wilder Shores of Marx: Journeys in a Vanishing World 
by Anthony Daniels.
Hutchinson, 202 pp., £16.99, April 1991, 9780091741532
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... Over the past year evidence has been emerging that the Japanese kidnapped more than 200,000 young women into sex slavery during their occupation of East Asia. Those so enslaved were termed ‘comfort women’, about 80 per cent of whom were Korean. Some were as young as 12, hauled out of their schools, often under a quota system, and carted off to army barracks and outposts all the way from Manchuria to the South Pacific ...

Can Gorbachev succeed?

John Barber, 4 December 1986

Crisis in the Kremlin: Soviet Succession and the Rise of Gorbachev 
by Richard Owen.
Gollancz, 253 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 575 03635 4
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The Waking Giant: The Soviet Union Under Gorbachev 
by Martin Walker.
Joseph, 282 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2719 6
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The Artful Albanian: The Memoirs of Enver Hoxha 
edited by Jon Halliday.
Chatto, 394 pp., £5.95, May 1986, 0 7011 2970 0
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... Where is the Soviet Union going? Despite the many striking changes since the death of Brezhnev in November 1982 and particularly since the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary in March 1985, it is still far from clear what their result will be. For all the turnover in the leadership, more extensive than at any time since Stalin’s purges of the late Thirties; for all the attack on corruption, with ministers, Central Committee members, regional party secretaries arrested and punished; for all the drive for discipline, with hard-hitting measures against alcoholism and a squeeze on unearned income; for all the innovations in industrial management, agriculture and foreign trade, it is too soon to tell whether the Soviet system is undergoing radical reconstruction or merely modest improvement ...

Jade and Plastic

Andrew Nathan: How bad was Mao?, 17 November 2005

Mao: The Unknown Story 
by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday.
Cape, 814 pp., £25, June 2005, 0 224 07126 2
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... Mao Zedong’s long, wicked life has generated some lengthy biographies in English. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s is the longest, having overtaken Philip Short’s Mao (1999) and Li Zhisui’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao (1995). It represents an extraordinary research effort. The authors have been working on the project since at least 1986, to judge by the date of the earliest interview cited, which – and this is typical of the access they gained to many highly-placed and interesting people – was with Milovan Djilas ...

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