Top positive review
Forget what you think you know about Peter Hitchens
16 September 2015
Before I start, a word about Peter Hitchens. There is perhaps no journalist alive today that has been more crudely misrepresented than Mr Hitchens. He is not the right wing bogeyman that so many assume him to be. Far from it: Hitchens is a moralist, a man concerned about the future of humankind and earnest in his convictions that not all that is modern is good. I suspect that many would find they have much more in common with him than they might choose to believe.
Now, to the book. Having enjoyed many of Mr Hitchens' recent columns in the Mail On Sunday (not to be confused with the Daily Mail) I thought it was time I tried one of his books. Sadly the 'Abolition of Britain' is not available in ebook format, so I decided to go with 'Short Breaks in Mordor'; and what a book it is. I had up to now been unaware of the extent of Hitchens' travels around the world. Little did I realise that when he has spoken, in the past, about other countries, he has spoken from a position of first hand experience. He lived in Moscow for several years up to the end of the Cold War; he has since been back years after the fall of the USSR. In addition, he has visited North Korea, Iran, India, Iraq, Israel, Zambia, Venezuela, Cuba, South Africa, China, Belarus, Kazakhstan and many other places besides. This book is a collection of his travelogues from his time in these various, diverse places. I have learnt so much about parts of the world, most (with the exception of China) of which I have never visited - and many of which I doubt I ever will. Through Hitchens' eyes I have walked the ghostly streets of Pyongyang, followed mullahs on their way to holy cities, been attacked by angry, poverty-stricken miners, witnessed the bizarro-world of Belarussian society and encountered people from all walks of life from all over the world.
The way Hitchens writes is so very approachable. His prose is serious and urgent, but rarely ever judgmental. Such opinions as he does express are never couched in terms of what a country ought to do; rather, he takes lessons from the experiences of other countries and ponders their significance for his own. His deep sense of compassion is evident on almost every page. He even admitted in the prologue that the one word he had to edit out (due to its over-use) was 'heartbreaking'; and you can tell that that is exactly how he must have felt witnessing so many of the things that he has done over the past decade.
I am grateful to him for sharing these wide, varied - and often dangerous - experiences. Like truly great travel writing, it takes you to a place you have never been and makes you feel like you have. I hope that more of his works will be transferred to ebook form soon.