An ex-farmer whose brother has died fighting in Iraq is the man at the centre of Graham Swift’s new book, a state-of-the-nation novel on a small canvas.
Cables from Kabul is Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles’s valedictory account of his years as ambassador to Kabul (2007-9) and as this country’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (2009-10).
In the patriotic mythology of British arms 1759 may be the one true annus mirabilis, the ‘year of victories’, the year of Minden, Quebec and Quiberon Bay, but has there ever been a year comparable to 1918? In that year 20,000 British soldiers surrendered on a single day, 31 March, and yet within six months Britain and her allies had recaptured all the territory lost since 1914, destroyed Austrian and Bulgarian resistance in Italy and Macedonia, encircled a Turkish army in Palestine, mastered the submarine menace at sea, and fought the German army to the brink of disintegration and the German empire to the point of revolt.
After the Nazi occupation of Paris was over, Sartre famously said — somewhat hypocritically, given his own slippery behaviour — that the only possibilities had been collaboration or resistance.
By tradition, ‘What did you do in the war?’ is a question children address to Daddy, not to Mummy.
Peter Parker is beguiled by a novel approach to the lives of Europe’s intellectual elite in flight from Nazi Germany
What was life like in Hitler’s Germany? This question has long fascinated authors and readers alike, as books like Alone in Berlin, The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas and The Book Thief bear witness.
Our aim in Afghanistan is no longer to secure victory but to avoid obvious defeat, says Alex Massie
Philip Hensher recounts how a handful of British mercenaries in the 1960s, headed by the Buchanesque Jim Johnson (pictured above), trained a rag-tag force of Yemeni tribesmen to defeat the full might of the Egyptian army in a conflict that Nasser later referred to as ‘my Vietnam’
‘Never such innocence again’ wrote Philip Larkin of an unquestioning British people on the eve of the first world war, and much has been made, not unreasonably, of the trusting frame of mind in which young men of that time accepted the arguments for war in 1914.
As his battered bomber hurtled towards the Pacific in May 1943, Louis Zamperini thought to himself that no one was going to survive the crash.
First, a disclaimer: this review will not touch upon some recent, odd behaviour of this book’s author, Orlando Figes, because I can’t see that it’s relevant.
The craters are all filled in, the ruins replaced, and the last memories retold only in the whispery voices of the old.
The perception of war changes, remarked the poet Robert Graves, when ‘your Aunt Fanny, the firewatcher, is as likely to be killed as a soldier in battle’.
Undeniably the Hawker Hurricane has suffered the fate of the less pretty sister.
The Matterhorn, at 14,679 feet in the Alps, is said to be very difficult to climb.
Nobody who reads Nigel Farndale’s The Blasphemer is likely to complain about being short-changed.
Men of War: Courage under Fire in the 19th-century Navy, by David Crane
Americans in Paris, by Charles Glass