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1989 The Berlin Wall: My Part in Its Downfall Paperback – 10 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: ARCADIA BOOKS (10 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906413479
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906413477
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 431,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Millar was born in Northern Ireland and educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he read French and Russian. He worked for Reuters news agency as the sole non-German correspondent in East Berlin in the early 1980s, also covering the Solidarity movement in Poland before moving to Warsaw, where he pressed the button to tell the world of the election of Mikhail Gorbachev, a defining moment in Soviet history.

In 1985 he joined the Sunday Telegraph in the newly created role as Central Europe Correspondent - a title he invented to anticipate the dramatic changes about to overtake the continent - before moving to The Sunday Times, in early 1989, just in time to catch the climactic final stages of The Cold War. Millar was seized by the Volkspolizei on the streets of East Berlin during the demonstrations which accompanied Gorbachev's visit in October, interrogated by the Stasi and expelled from the country. Nonetheless he managed to get back by November 9, the dramatic night the Berlin Wall came down.

These events form the background to his 2009 autobiographical book: 1989, The Berlin Wall (My Part in its Downfall), a title he freely admits much to the late Spike Milligan. He is a firm believer that there is humour (if occasionally dark) behind even the greatest historical events.

In the 1990s Millar worked briefly with Robert Maxwell, as deputy editor of his ill-fated newspaper The European, a role he has since described as "like being aide-de-camp to Stalin."

For the past decade Millar has concentrated on books, with two thrillers to his name and a third - The Black Madona - due out in the autumn of 2010. He is also author of All Gone to Look for America, a travel book reflecting his love of trains, history and good beer, crisscrossing the United States in a 10,000 mile journey on the now little used railways that were instrumental in turning most of a continent into a single nation.

He is married with two grown-up sons, divides his time between the north Oxfordshire brewing village of Hook Norton and South London where he can often be found (often in a state of chronic despair and with fingernails chewed to the bone) following the vicissitudes inflicted by fate on his beloved Charlton Athletic.

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The best read is the irreverent and engaging account by Peter Millar, who writes for the Sunday Times among other papers. Fastidious readers who expect reporters to be a mere lens on events will be shocked at the amount of personal detail, including the sexual antics and drinking habits of his colleagues in what now seems a Juvenalian age of dissolute British journalism. He mentions his long-suffering wife and children rather too often, but the result is full of insights and on occasion delightfully funny. The author has a knack for befriending interesting people and tracking down important ones. He weaves their words with his clear-eyed reporting of events into a compelling narrative about the end of the cruel but bungling East German regime. --The Economist, November 5, 2009

'The most entertaining read is Peter Millar's The Berlin Wall: My Part in its Downfall, a witty, wry, elegiac account of his time as a Reuters and Sunday Times correspondent in Berlin throughout most of the 1980s' --The Spectator, 5 December 2009

'1989 The Berlin Wall is part autobiography, part history primer and part Fleet Street gossip column ... Millar cast aside the old chestnuts and set about reporting on the reality of life under communism. In bare Stalinist apartments, at hollow party events and over cool glasses of Volker the gravedigger-cum-hippie, the Stasi seductress "Helga the Honeypot", Kurtl the accordion player whose father had been killed at Stalingrad, and the petty smuggler Manne who has been separated from his parents by the Wall ... Energetic and passionate ...' --Sunday Times, 13 December 2009

About the Author

Peter Millar is a British journalist, critic and author, primarily known for his reporting of the latter days of the Cold War and fall of the Berlin Wall for The Sunday Times. He has published non-fiction, Tomorrow Belongs to Me, and fiction, Stealing Thunder and Bleak Midwinter. He is the translator of several German language titles into English, including the best-selling The White Masai (Arcadia) by Corinne Hofmann and A Deal With the Devil by Martin Suter (Arcadia), recently shortlisted for the CWA Duncan Lawrie International Dagger. Author's Website: http://www.petermillar.eu

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
Twenty years ago I sat in front of my television watching crowds stream through the Brandenburg Gate as the East German border guards finally gave up the job of trying to prevent people crossing from one side of the Berlin Wall to the other. Anyone with a sense of history could not help but share in the jubilation as a whole nation was set free from the vast prison camp which was East Germany.

Peter Millar, a Sunday Times journalist, was present as these historic events happened around him, and his long years of living in East Germany and Russia have equipped him to write a vibrant and involved account of 1989 and the preceding years leading up to the year of liberation.

I enjoyed reading 1989 The Berlin Wall: My Part in its Downfall as much as anything I have read this year. Millar's eye-witness accounts of his time in Berlin provide a ground-level view of events and serve as a useful counterpoint to the other, more scholarly books on the period which have been recently published such as Victor Sebestyen's Revolution 1989 (review to follow).

Despite being a "serious" journalist (Foreign Correspondent of the Year, 1989 etc), Millar has adopted an almost Bryson-esque approach to his description of his life, first as a young Reuter's correspondent and then as a journalist on national newspapers. While his newspaper articles were serious and weighty pieces, there is obviously a humorist in his psyche too.

Millar began writing professionally in the days of Remington typewriters, and rapidly learned the skills of his trade, particularly building a readable story from the barest of facts.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Julia Gardiner on 21 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is much better than the normal journalist-looks-back book. It's good fun and you learn a lot too. Peter Millar is an excellent writer and also a committed pub man. So some of this book is communism seen from the life of a small East German bar, the Metzer Eck. (And no, Millar is not the typical drunk hack seeing life in beery cliches!). This turns out to be a surprisingly interesting way of seeing it. Insightful, you might say, except that it's such a dreadful word.
Read it for the history but also read it for the way it tells you about real journalism. As newspapers shrink and fail, and news is stuff put out by celebrities PR, this will remind you of a world of proper news that we are losing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. Callway on 3 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
I was a contemporary of Peter Millar in East Berlin. I was posted to our Embassy there in 1981 and left in 1984. I met Peter and his wife occasionally socially but not professionally. Like Peter I drilled down quite deeply into East German society: my personal social contacts were developed through family links and not at a local Kneipe. And like Peter, my activities excited some interest from the ubiquitous Stasi. My Stasi codename was Vogel: like Peter, I have no idea why they settled on that particular codename. Perhaps my Stasi case officer thought I resembled Charlie `Bird' Parker, the jazz saxophonist in some bizarre way. Sadly, I was not in Berlin 1989 to witness the opening of the Wall, but I was able to telephone a friend - and very distant relative - on the fateful night in November and urge him to get out of bed and go down to the sector crossing at Bornhomerstraße and join in the celebrations. His vivid written account of the scene and his expedition into West Berlin is kept with my copy of my Stasi file and is among my most treasured possessions. It brings tears to my eyes whenever I read it.

It was because of my having met Peter in East Berlin and our shared experiences there that I looked forward to reading his book. I was hooked from the very beginning. His skilful scene-setting perfectly captured the curious state of schizophrenia experienced by expatriate `border-crossers' who could freely flit across from the shortages and grey deprivations of the East to the glitter and excessive consumerism of the West. And in the process developing a peculiar relationship with border Guards, such as the glamorous Rita. Younger colleagues at the Embassy would fantasize about the love-bites that would from time to time appear on Rita's neck!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Crisdean on 28 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
I have just finished this book. I was in Berlin a year after the wall came down; though it was down, it was so easy to know when you were in the west side or the east; it was like going into a time vortex back several decades. I'm about to go back soon for so intriqued by his experience. I've also been to Moscow, and was interested in his diversion there. I did thing he would have a right wing attitude due to the newspaper he'd worked for - but also Reuters, but he was not. His experiences were fascinatin, and it is good that he could get so close to east berliners that they opened to him as to their real feelings; but he wss no standbyer, he was part of the environment.

I just finished it last night, and in the last few pages he makes very pertinent comments about our situation in the U.K in relation to the old East German state.

Fascinating book and would recommend it to anyone interested in the topic
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