Monday, March 05, 2007

politicians and books- do they read?

To my shame I've just finished Suite Francaise (If you've not heard of it, it is the first two parts of an unfinished sequence of novels by Irene Nemirovsky: a Russian Jew who had to move to France and became a successful writer. It is about the occupation of France written during the occupation of France. The manuscript was found in notebook form years after it was written. The fact that the author died in Auschwitz has only added to it's allure)
Due to family history I avoid anything that tends to sell itself via the holocaust (While being perfectly happy that he's written it-I probably won't read the new Norman Mailer, for example) but I came down off this particular high horse as, credit to Chatto, they did not push the tragic author aspect too much, mostly selling the book on its artistic merit.

They were right to do so; it is fantastic, especially the first section dealing with the evacuation of Paris. This is a book about war but about the civilian experience of it. And it should be compulsory reading for anyone in charge of armed forces. It is, in a quiet way, a brutal book . The consequences of invasion are spelt out with absolute clarity, the casual destruction of families, the stupid and unforeseen tragedies that rip the meaning out of countless peoples lives. You see the news and wish this book had been around a few years ago and thrown onto the laps of our lords and masters.

Mind you when you have defence secretaries claiming that they are 'surprised' by the level of resistance in Afghanistan (something I've now heard twice) it beggars belief. Could they not employ some kind of book doctor to recommend certain titles to stop making total arses of themselves- in this case I would prescribe 'The Great Game' by Peter Hopkirk

p.s. I don't care how hard hearted you are- you've got to feel a bit sorry for West Ham and Carlos Tevez


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