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Dicing with death

A book on Waterloo as short as this (the text proper is 100 pages, small format) tempts a rush to judgment; it has certainly been widely acclaimed already. Paul Johnson’s dust-jacket puff says that the battle ‘is both one of the most decisive in history and the most difficult to describe’. Decisiveness is important: Waterloo

Memoirs of a genius

Tom Maschler, son of a distinguished Jewish publisher, was born in Berlin in 1932 and came to England with his parents in 1939. After Leighton Park School, having turned down a place at Oxford, he worked on a kibbutz and as a tour guide, hitch-hiked round America and did a brief stint of National Service

A late run on the rails

All of a sudden, there is a buzz about Cynthia Ozick. Although respected for many years as a writer of fiction and criticism, no one ever seemed to expect her to reach a wide audience. Now, together with more famous luminaries, she has been announced as a contender for the first Man Booker International Prize:

End-of-term report on our masters

The only good thing New Labour have done in office they did in their first week: the granting of independence to the Bank of England. In every other respect, things have gone the other way: a 60 per cent increase in taxes and spending; the ruthless subordination of schools, hospitals and police forces to the

Recording secrets under orders

This book is a goldmine of once highly secret intelligence material: the diary kept, night by night, by the head of the counter-espionage branch of the security service, MI5. Diaries were forbidden to British combatants (though, luckily for historians, the chief of the general staff, among others, broke his own rule, and kept a long

The latest and the best

For once the publisher’s blurb has it right. This is a ‘sweepingly ambitious’ project, written by a ‘towering and often provocative figure in musicology’, ‘an accomplished performer as well as scholar’ who, while achieving numberless other things, contributed ‘160 articles on Russian composers’ to the New Grove. I can personally vouch for his toweringness, his

Policemen who didn’t keep the peace

‘This book,’ notes Roméo Dallaire in his account of the 100 days of genocidal killing in Rwanda in 1994, ‘is long overdue, and I sincerely regret that I did not write it earlier.’ With the continuing massacres in Darfur, however, Shake Hands with the Devil could hardly be more timely. Dallaire was a highly respected

Theatre of cruelty

‘The Colosseum is the most famous and instantly recognisable monument to have survived from the classical world.’ In the 19th century the thing to do when in Rome was to visit the Colosseum by moonlight, and quote Byron. This is no longer possible. The ruin is closed at dusk, and anyway the moon will have