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P. Scrivener (Bristol, England)

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Storm of Steel (Penguin Modern Classics)
Storm of Steel (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Ernst Junger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War Is Like Christmas and a promise of self-fulfilment, 22 Nov. 2012
The title above is not from this book or by Ernst Junger, it was said by another young German lieutenant just as the war was starting, but I think it gives a flavour of how many on both sides felt at the time. The thing with Junger's book is that it was published a decade before equivalent British works and has an immediacy and lack of distance from the event, not to say a a different perspective that makes it difficult to put them alongside each other. It has also had a number of revisions that have toned down some of the vehemence and rhetoric, which having reached a more international audience he perhaps wanted to temper. His account does not revel in war and blood although it is described in graphic detail:

'Your teeth are grinding on the fuse-pin of the hand-grenade. The encounter will be short and murderous. You tremble with two contradictory impulses: the heightened awareness of the huntsman, and the terror of the quarry. You are a world to yourself, saturated with the appalling aura of the savage landscape.'

There is next to no political reflection in the book, details of home leave are perfunctory, only his relationship with a wounded younger brother and friends he loses have a shortened sense of intimacy. Dedication to his country and friends is infinite. There is little room for doubt about the war, it's nature or it's purpose. It is for modern tastes unsettling. He often has the eyes and tone of the warrior rather than the soldier. But the book has an unflinching honesty about both the pain and suffering he both inflicts and receives:

'The defile and the land behind was strewn with German dead, the field ahead with British. Arms and legs and heads stuck out of the slopes; in front of our holes were severed limbs and bodies, some of which had had coats or tarpaulins thrown over them, to save us the sight of the disfigured faces. In spite of the heat no one thought of covering the bodies with earth.'

The language is stark sometimes devoid of emotion, sometimes intensely personal. This, after an artillery shell has killed a large number of Junger's men waiting to go forward:

'Half an hour ago at the head of a full battle-strength company, I was now wandering around a labyrinth of trenches with a few, completely demoralized men. One baby-faced fellow, who was mocked a few days ago by his comrades, and on exercises had wept under the weight of the big munitions boxes, was now loyally carrying them on our heavy way, having picked them up unasked in the crater. Seeing that did for me. I threw myself to the ground, and sobbed hysterically, while my men stood grimly about.'

In another encounter he describes his abject panic as he is pursued by artillery fire through the trees. There is some very dark humour, being shelled on the latrine or a soldier with a stammer being shot because he could not say the pass word.

Wounded numerous times, his survival in this gripping account is a miracle, I suspect many others viewed their own survival in the same way. He has few regrets. His Blue Max could not have been earned in a much harder way.

A brilliant and deeply thought provoking account of conflict and combat.

On the Spartacus Road: A Spectacular Journey through Ancient Italy
On the Spartacus Road: A Spectacular Journey through Ancient Italy
by Peter Stothard
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Musing on mortality, 30 Oct. 2012
What this book is not. It is not a scholarly history of the Spartacus slave revolt.

Peter Stothard had cancer. He called his cancer Nero. At one time he studied the classics in a passing sort of fashion. This is more a new category of writing, an historical reflecta-musatravelogue. It starts with the death of 29 saxon slaves due to fight in the arena, they took their own lives without the aid of weapons. Weapons were only given to gladiators just before they entered the arena. This reflection on the nature of death and our approach to it is conveyed partially by the limited amount that is known about Spartacus; his followers and rivals; their victories and defeats; their ultimate demise and the impact they left behind. There is no Kirk Douglas, Olivier or Curtis in this true epic. It is an encounter with a number of familiar Roman/Greek writers who wrote on the impact of the revolt, its descriptions, bloodthirsty passage and practical consequences. Plutarch, Pliny the younger, Cicero and those less familiar, Florus, Frontinus, Statius, Symmachus. Poets and writers with their own personal or political agenda who wrote, castigated or sympathised with the revolt.

Stothard travels through Rome down the Appian Way, via Capua and through some of the present day backwaters and former centres of Romano/Italian influence and culture. Places despite their obscurity you feel that you would want to visit. Along the way he meets street artists. priests, historians who add something to his journey, and as the journey weaves in and out of the story of Spartacus; makes us reflect on the way we would might approach our own end. Do we take the approach of Epicurus or Lucretius and abjure fear of death as a pointless waste, or like Cicero accept death as the great unknown and a call to action in the way we live.

I discovered a Spartacus I did not know, but also a violent, culture full of life and risk that would nowadays be associated with tyranny, corruption and crime that we could barely contemplate. Saying this I have always had a striking admiration for Sulla.

The writing has a lyrical at times almost poetic quality. It is despite its claims to historical intent, deeply personal. It is also, in his encounter with a Korean tourist intent on discovering the exact location of every element of Spartacus life, a comment on the often fruitless search for intellectual exactitude.

I loved it, and it will stay with me. Beautifully written.

Engineers Of The Soul: In the Footsteps of Stalin's Writers
Engineers Of The Soul: In the Footsteps of Stalin's Writers
by Frank Westerman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hold Aloft The Banner Of Soviet Hydraulic Engineering Literature, 24 Oct. 2012
I suppose the main difference between socialism (Bolshevism) and National Socialism in respect of literature, was that although both forms of totalinarianism destroyed books, National Socialism fed on a pre writing culture of German paganism found little use for substantiation by a separate literary canon. They were not trying to create a new German man, but a version of their heroic past.

Bolshevism on the other hand was trying to create Soviet Man, a new species. One of the ways of doing so was the creation of a new literature. They rejected the pessimism of Dostoyevsky and avant garde modernism in favour of literature based around 'fact'. This was mostly in relation to major construction projects; the lionisation of the 'worker', and the heroic protection of the advance of socialism against wreckers and counter-revolutionaries.

Frank Westerman, a Dutch journalist and agricultural-engineer follows some of the projects and writers, in particular Konstantin Paustovsky, a pre-revolutionary writer. He among others, part voluntarily, partly because he needed to survive and have work published wrote 'Kara Bogaz', the story of the salt extraction area of the Caspian Sea. Of course no mention is made in these stories of the slave labour, everybody is a volunteer; the show trials and executions when production for valid reasons was reduced; the inept planning and the environmental disasters that followed. Kara Bogaz now exists in the psychotic ruritania that is Turkmenistan.

This whole genre of heroic industrial literature, 'Socialist Realism', was intended to supply fodder to the masses, and drive soviet man forward. The phrase ' engineers of ther soul', was one Stalin created to describe how he saw the writers role in creating and fostering soviet man. No doubt many of the committed lapped it up.

Westerman also explores the activities of GlavLit, the official soviet censor. Apparently the censors remained anonymous by being given a number instead of a name; entering through the rear of the building and being passed work through hatches so that they could not be identified. He also explores the influence of Maxim Gorky, who initially rejected bolshevism to live in Italy. He was tempted back and was given influence with the Soviet Writers Union, protecting and sidelining writers as the mood took him, or as the likes and dislikes of Stalin dictated.

The book covers the survival and decline of other writers such as Andrei Platonov who was reduced to being a caretaker in and institution where Paustovsky was lecturing, much to his dismay.

The usual paranoia and trials are covered, but the meat of the book is the construction projects and the works that supported them. I found the book slightly difficult to get into, Westerman has quite a spare style, but once committed he has a fascinating story to tell and does it very well.

Loses one mark for repeating the canard that Potemkin built fake villages. He did not as Simon Sebag-Montefiore's lengthy and fascinating biography shows.


Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century
Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century
by Martin Gregor-Dellin
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Wagner: the good, the bad and the genius., 11 Oct. 2012
Martin Gregor-Dellin was a German writer who had previously edited the diaries of Cosima Wagner and had been studying Richard Wagner for 15 plus years. He died in 1988.

I have had an interest in Wagner in a vague way since childhood, principally through his music that I started listening to in my early teens. Don't ask me why I don't know myself. I bought this book when it was first published in 1983 and have not read it until now. I am glad I left it, as I would have failed to appreciate his life with so little of my own behind me.

First let me say that this is very well written and translated. The writing flows and involves you with Wagner's life story and the intimacies and interplay of those around him. This is not a hagiography, Gregor-Dellin is critical of those writers and Wagnerites (groupies) who seek to downplay the darker and less pleasent aspects of Wagner's behaviour and character, his mood swings, disregard of others, perpetual failure to honour his debts and often utterly disrespectful treatment of both his wives. Conversely it seems he was often gregarious company with a wicked and witty sense of humour that he was fond of displaying. I loved the joke where he descibes Byron as the missing link between a human being and Shelley.

Although there is some discussion of musical theory throughout the book, for those like myself who are poorly educated musically, it is easy to set aside and concentrate on the story.

The book describes Wagner's peripatetic childhood. His relationship with his mother that the author sees as central in a Freudian context (does Freud carry any weight any more?), to both his subsequent relationships with women and the constant longing for redemption through the female, that is integral to those relationships and the structure of his writing and music.

His marriage to Minna, a tragedy perhaps for both of them seeking for each to go in a different direction. She remained attached through nearly thirty years of marriage, althoug mostly apart for the last ten. Followed him to escape his debtors from St. Petersburg, through storms and near death that inspired 'The Flying Dutchman', and his subsequent failures in Paris. His constant flirtatious, emotional and earnest attachments to a variety of women it seems were rarely sexual. He was constantly searching for 'the one', the guiding light who he so often characterised in his operas, Senta, Brunnhilde, Isolde, the one he could bare his soul to. He rarely treated women as people except perhaps Cosima. His relationships with men were often deep and meaningful, both musically and politically. Cosima's father Franz Liszt was a revered figure and one it seems to me from whom Wagner sought approval.

His involvement on the revolutionary rising of 1848 was brief, but in some aspects heroic, although when he realised the impact, he quickly distanced himself from the implications of his actions. Gregor-Dellin sees the influence of Marx in some of Wagner's music and certainly his politics. They never met but had a mutual friend who was very politically active in revolutionary circles.

Wagner's anti-semitism is discussed throughout. His musical dislike of Mendellsohn and Meyerbeer, and his constant indebtedness sometimes to jewish moneylenders seems an inadequate explanation, but anti-semitism was commonplace in European culture at this period. His decision to write a book 'Judaism In Music' led to him being castigated; his decision to republish it caused pain to both jewish friends and to Cosima, who simply could not understand his thinking. He subsequently gave the first performance of Parsifal at Bayreuth to a jewish conductor Hermann Levi, and defended him against an anonymous detractor. Even the musically inclined visits from the French racial theorist Gobineau produced no further anti-semitic tendencies. They appear to have spent most of the time talking at cross purposes.

Wagner's relationship with King Ludwig of Bavaria is treated at length. And what a strange relationship it was. At it's most base it seems to have been on Ludwig's part an almost childlike and unthinking hero worship, where he tried to see in himself aspects of the heroes of Wagner's operas Siegfried, Parsifal. On Wagner's part I suspect it was little more than a pay cheque for his personal finances and his dreams that came to fruition at Bayreuth, where it seemed at one time because he was politically persona non grata in the German states, he would settle permanently in Switzerland.

Bayreuth became the centre of Wagner's life and ambitions. That the opening of the first festival was the occasion for a visit by four kings, gives some idea of Wagner's musical presence throughout Europe and indeed America. He at one time gave serious consideration to moving there.

Cosima when she comes into Wagner's life at the age of sixteen and even through her unhappy married life to Hans von Bulow was destined it seems to be with Wagner. She comes through as a quite remarkable woman, strong, resourceful, resilient and deeply caring. That he found her is his and our good fortune. At the moment he knew he was dieing in Venice his servant Georg called out to her, and one of their children remembers her running so hard to be with him that she nearly splintered a door she ran into. She spent the next twenty five hours clinging to his body before she was persuaded to move.

Thoroughly recommended a work of great scholarship, thought, honesty and humanity.

A Brief History of the Birth of the Nazis: How the Freikorps Blazed a Trail for Hitler (Brief Histories)
A Brief History of the Birth of the Nazis: How the Freikorps Blazed a Trail for Hitler (Brief Histories)
by Nigel Jones
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The new barbarians?, 9 Oct. 2012
Arising from the 'stab in the back defeat' of 1918, Nigel Jones describes the rise and use of the Freikorp, a collection of sometimes disparate military units formed from the remnants of diehard veterans, nationalist students and agricultural, for want of a better word peasents who had a strong dislike of the industrial working classes.

More loyal to their commanders than to the putative state that eventually developed into the Weimar Republic, and led mostly by experienced officers from captains to generals, they constituted the only military force prior to the creation of the Reichswehr. Used often cynically by the SDP (social democrats), particularly defence minister Gustav Noske to suppress socialist uprisings around the country, particularly in Berlin, Bavaria and the Ruhr; a very bloody confrontation, they were often supported by the middle classes who feared a bolshevist uprising to parallel that in Russia. Some of the units became involved in an almost private war in the Baltic states attempting to protect both German territory and preventing soviet incursions into Poland and Lithuania.

One of these officers Ernst Rohm went on to lead the SA.

Nigel Jones gives a mostly balanced account of the various units, their ambitions and motivations, many merely enjoyed a fight and had become inured to violence in the trenches. His account is marred at the beginning by a rather childish left bias that you would expect from a red-brick student union theorist rather than a historian, which does become tiresome, but is dispelled as the book progresses. The last three chapters are a great read and provide a wealth of information about how major elements of the Freikorp become absorbed into the Reichswehr and formed the initial units of the SA, Hitler's weapon of choice in his street fighting period.

Infamous more famously for the killings of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, failed Berlin revolutionaries, more noted for their murders than for their rather derisory achievements as instigators of social uprising. Their most disastrous killing was that of the highly respected and admired jewish foreign secretary Walter Rathenau. A man whose murder seriously damaged Germany and german stability. The mass revulsion to his killing led to the killers being tracked down, one being killed by the police, the other commtting suicide. Their graves subsequently became Nazi shrines.

Nigel Jones compares the Freikorps to the Landsknecht, free-wheeling mercenaries who operated in Germany in the seventeenth century. I think this is reasonable and would even suggest that their spiritual blood and soil worldview was not much different to the german tribal confederations who defeated the Roman legions in the Teutoberg forest. They would certainly have seem their aims as being the same.

This is a well written and well paced book, and although it is in the brief history series contains a wealth of information, and certainly makes its case that although not perhaps being the birth of national socialism, it was certainly waiting expectantly in the delivery room being both midwife and protector. The creation of the Swastika being case in point. First used by the Ehrhardt Freikorps its mixed use of socialist red to appeal to the working classes and its red, black and white colours of the imperial German flag served as a rallying call to both the past and the hoped for future. The current German flag with its pre 1848 revolutionary colours would have been viewed with disdain. Ironic since it was Lutzow's 'Freikorps' who used the colours freeing Prussia from Napoleon in 1813.

I would like to have seen more information on how the British, French and Americans viewed Germany in this period; whether they offered any assistance or threat to the German state other than the machinations at Versailles and whether their was any military intent to invade Germany should the Freikorps have not been successful in surpressing the Moscow leaning socialism of the working classes, rather than the more nascent and probably little understood right socialism of both some Freikorps elements and early pre 'Hitler as Fuhrer' national socialism. Both had a hatred of capitalism.

There is a useful appendix showing a list of leading nazi's who were either Freikorps members or who had strong links to them.

I note that this book was dedicated to Ernst Junger, which surprised me to start with given his ultra nationalist views at the period. However, Junger who retained his nationalist outlook resisted the blandishments of the nazis and was a complex and intriguing figure as well as a highly accomplished writer.

Recommended with minor reservations.

Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918
Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918
by Harry Kessler
Edition: Hardcover

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A man who gives substance to the word cultured., 27 Sept. 2012
Having never read a diary before but having an interest in the period I had some nervous hopes as to whether both the content and the translation would live up to them.

Kessler it seems was a fairly unique figure. Educated in both England and Germany. He missed Churchill at school by one term. And coming from a german (father) and anglo-irish (mother)he spiritually straddled the artistic and intellectual milieu of high european culture, while remaining german both by inclination and emotional attachment.

The structure is as you would expect with a diary (edited considerably even at nearly 900 pages) episodic. But both the period he describes and his relationships are highly rewarding. His friendships often longlasting with the sculptors Maillol and Rodin; with the impressionists Monet and Degas; his sojourns in London with Shaw, Gill, William Morris and Gordon Craig as well as his trips to Whitechapel to watch lithe young men box in the east end give a flavour of his interests and tastes. His depth of involvement with the arts, both physical, musical and literary are as astonishing as they are wide-ranging. The names listed in the index are a virtual who's who of the period, but there was nothing superficial about his knowledge, opinions or his relations with artists, writers, actors, actresses, dancers, architects.

His brief but poignant relationship with Nietzsche, he with two others made his death mask, and his difficult relationship with Nietzsche's sister over the literary estate and memorial, are further evidence of the depth of his cultural and personal attachments. He was also the last person to interview Verlaine in a rundown garret in Paris for the magazine Pan, a journal he helped establish.

Kessler wanted to serve his country as a diplomat, but it seems his artistic relationships were a constant block to this within german court and politial circles and he did not achieve his ambition until halfway through the war. Even though he was a reserve officer in the military, and well connected politically, his tastes were too much for the introverted and narrow-minded german establishment.

Widely travelled and voluminously well read, the meat of the diaries are the closeness and intimacy to the subjects he writes about both artistic and personal. Someone has written that he could sum up a german princess after a single glance. Well he could, but there is nothing condescending about his writing. It may be judgemental and opinionated but he rarely lowers himself to abuse or disdain.

Kessler served on both the western and eastern fronts before achieving his diplomatic ambitions. His secret, authorised negotiations with representatives of France in Switzerland and his subsequent dealings with Marshall Pilsudski in Poland add further to a man whose experiences, including friendships with both Walter Rathenau and Gustav Streseman, were simply extraordinary.

He was described by a friend as the last gentleman. An opinion summed up perhaps by the bizarre occurence of 'arresting' the Duchess of Sutherland in Belgium where she was nursing during the early weeks of the war, when several weeks earlier he had been sitting around her dinner table in England. She is said to have remarked that 'it was strange to see him again under such circumstances'.

It is impossible not to both be admiring of and awed by Kessler's life and experiences. Rarely does a life have such constant interactions at such a level. The diaries bring to life a collection of people and their interwoven experiences and relationships that were then and are now central to an understanding of the artistic and political feelings and movements of the period.

My only quibble about this book is the rather poor quality of the plates, which are interspersed throughout the text, rather than being quality photographic reproductions. A shame for such a book, but not enough to lose any stars in my opinion.

Oh yes the translation makes the narrative flow and sometimes sparkle. A marvellous achievement.

Silent Movies: The Birth of Film to the Triumph of Movie Culture
Silent Movies: The Birth of Film to the Triumph of Movie Culture
by Peter Kobel
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Introduction, 30 April 2012
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If you know little or nothing about the history of film or silent movie history itself I can think of nothing better than to start with this volume. Rather than an academic study that bogs itself down in interpretation and social juxtapositon, this is written with a lot of love and a great deal of clarity. Both Kevin Brownlow and Peter Kobel have depth in the subject and write with affection, rigour and occasional sly humour when describing both the films themselves and the stars who filled the movie houses with crowds that ran into the millions.

The book covers film origins including the slightly surreal Edward Muybridge, how Edison failed to invent moving pictures; early development in europe particulaly France and to a lesser extent the UK; the business of film making and the growth and explosion of film stardom. The outline of basic film genres (westerns,horror,comedy etc.); together with descriptions of early directors, some world famuous D.W Griffith, Erich Von Stroheim and others to my eyes unknown, Oscar Micheaux,a black director and producer who tried to bridge the gap between black and white audiences and Lois Weber very well regarded at the time for her social realism.

The works of the German expressionists; Murnau, Lang, Pabst and their influence on later directors is well brought out in the text.

There are numerous vignettes of actors and actresses Fairbanks, Gish, Bow, Barthlemess, Valentino, Garbo and many more.

The book also discusses and indeed cherishes silent film as a distinct artform. Highlighting incredible setpieces including Intolerance (Griffith),Ben Hur (Niblo),the cost over run cost several people their jobs, Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein).

But the real glory of this book is the plates and illustrations, stills and early photographs. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful books that I have. From full page illustrations to corner page reproductions, every image is crisp and clean and produced with obvious love and care.

If you have only one coffeee table buy another one just to put this book on. It is in my opinion that good.

If you don't love silent films, you can at least appreciate the incredible human effort and skill that went into the production of the better ones.

A really great volume.

White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves
White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves
by Giles Milton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Ripping Yarns, 28 April 2012
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This is ostensibly about the the barbary corsair raids that affected many parts of Europe and colonial america in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It resulted in over a million men, women and children being kidnapped and enslaved from coastal towns and ships plying their trade from the north atlantic and mediterranean. But really it is the extraordinary story of Thomas Pellow, an eleven year old Cornish boy who had gone to sea with his uncle, and subsequently spent the next twenty three years of his life as a slave come minor courtier of the psychopathic ruler of Morocco, Moulay Islam and his equally blood thirsty successors. A man who thought nothing of murdering his own servants on a whim, mutilating his wives and torturing his slaves for pleasure. It is also the story of the mostly ineffectual attempts by various european monarchs to redeem their subjects for money.

Young Tom's story is quite extraordinary. From defying access to Ismail to his own harem; his brutal torture as a child that eventually led to his forced conversion to Islam; his marriage and fathering of a loved daughter during his captivity; his numerous military and slave hunting expeditions, several attempts at escape and subsequent return to England. He was wounded on several occasions, and was incredibly lucky to survive. His quiet return to the village of Penryn in Cornwall where neither his parents or he recognised each other is wrenching.

This reads like the best of adventure novels. Indeed I read it in a day. Through all the horrors of the Moroccan court this is a completely compelling narrative. The fact that a distant descendant Admiral Pellew was the one to bring the white slave trade to an end by destroying Algiers only adds poignancy to the story.

One of the accounts mentioned in this book Maria Ter Meetelen's ( a Dutch girl) account of her time in Ismail's harem is now available in english. A new book by Khalid Bekkaoui about white female captives to north africa also looks interesting.

Ernest Shackleton has always been my hero. Well young Tom has just joined him.

Only the most most inept film director could fail to make a blockbuster out of this most remarkable story.

Forget the one star review. it's rubbish. A fantastic piece of history and story telling.

The Ufa Story: A History of Germany's Greatest Film Company, 1918-1945 (Weimar & Now: German Cultural Criticism)
The Ufa Story: A History of Germany's Greatest Film Company, 1918-1945 (Weimar & Now: German Cultural Criticism)
by Klaus Kreimeier
Edition: Paperback

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wasted Opportunity, 17 April 2012
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I have read somewhere that there is not a culture of popular written history in Germany, rather it is written as an academic subject. This book is a prime example. I have picked this book up several times to try and advance a few pages, but once I reached page 85 and read this:

'What can be said with certainty is that this "gothic" film style does not offer the possibility of salvation but seems confining, claustrophobic, psychically undigested, anxiety-producing. It expresses a rebellion of provinces and small cities against industrial culture and its superficial rationality'

I'm afraid I laughed and gave up. If you want to cloak your opinions in a florid academic pastiche of knowledge fine, but don't expect me to read it.

Some of the book, turgid as the writing is has moments of lucidity, but it is soon awash again in knee deep lists of actors, film shareholders and the academic opinion of third parties it endlessly breaks up the flow of the text and any sense of linear history that the author might be trying to achieve.

I was tempted first of all to blame the translation, which appears to be literal rather than interprative. But the further I read I realised that anything other than what was done would have required a complete re-write of the text. This book badly needs an english language editor.

I do not normally write negative reviews. A bad book is just let go. However, this was such a disappointment given the subject matter and my interest in German history that I have vented my annoyance. I am currently reading Sebastian Haeffner's 'Defying Hitler'. The prose is beautiful and an object lesson in writing and translation.

I was tempted for two stars simply because of the plates. Any book with picture of the lovely Lilian Harvey should be worth that at least. But I'm afraid not.

A major disappointment.

The Killing - Series 1 [DVD] [2010]
The Killing - Series 1 [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Sofie Gråbøl
Price: £15.96

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Danish Gold, 21 Feb. 2011
I spend some time with the sunday papers hoping that during the week there will be one or two programmes worth watching. I saw this tucked away on Saturday nights and decided to give it a go. I'm a big fan of The Wire, Mad Men, The Sopranos. Edge of Darkness, State of Play, Life on Mars anything with a story that draw you in and where the acting is first rate.

Well so far this has delivered in every way. The acting; the parents of the murdered girl are particularly impressive although there is not a false note in any of the performances. The story telling that is allowed to unfold without the need to push the story, and the atmosphere is compelling. The little vignettes with friends and family that cement the characters. The political double dealing and skull duggery. The wrong turns and easy assumptions in the police investigation. All these are handled beautifully. I don't know any of the actors involved, but I know when this is over I will miss them.

Who has killed Nanna Birk Larsen and why? I know I will be glued until the series ends, not wanting to miss a second.

Why cant we see more European series on UK television. I loved Heimat and Engrenages was great

Absolutely riveting.

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