Many hands tore at the Berlin Wall. To a large extent it collapsed from its own weight, but we should acknowledge the shove given by European democrats, Pope John Paul II, the dissidents in the Soviet Union, and Arthur Schlesinger Jr and George Kennan, who defined the policies that contained communism without blowing up the world or in the name of freedom destroying freedom at home. And Gorbachev. I see him around a lot and regret that he never seems to get the acclaim he deserves for being willing to put his country before his party. Americans tend to give most of the credit to Ronald Reagan. In the 1950s I saw first-hand the vengeful witch-hunts against supposed communists and so later recoiled from Reagan’s description of the ‘evil empire’, which it was (and the shadow of repression has hardly vanished). But what haunts me most of all is the naive treacheries that perpetuated the Soviet Union, and with it the danger of a nuclear apocalypse. The best image of how betrayal rots the soul is a shadowy portrait in Jane Bown’s new book, Exposures: Anthony Blunt in 1968, when he was still enjoying protection as the Keeper of the Queen’s Pictures.
‘Let me have men about me that are fat, sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights.’ Of course, Shakespeare’s Caesar was right about the wretched Cassius and his lean and hungry look. Caesar has been much in my mind reading Robert Harris’s new novel, Lustrum, where he casts Cicero as a Roman hero, but let’s for a moment forget Caesar’s ambition and applaud his choice of words.
Fat! He’d not get away with that today. Let me have men about me that are obese. A man weighing 15 or 16 stone is overweight, obese, portly, corpulent, anything but fat.