Malcolm had just caught up with another review of Keith Lowe’s Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II.
Malcolm was aware of Lowe’s impressive previous outing, Inferno, on the carpet-bombing of Hamburg:
a sad, straightforward, well-researched book that gives an account of the bombing of Hamburg in the summer of 1943 from the point of view both of the bombers, English and American, and the Germans who endured it, experiencing the worst fire storm ever produced. More people were killed than at Nagasaki.
Malcolm was on the point of ordering this new book for his shelves. He had already seen:
- Ian Thomson’s effort for the Sunday Telegraph (“a grimly absorbing account of the lingering antagonisms of post-war Europe”)
- Professor Brendan Simms doing the business in the Independent (“this compelling book”).
Reaching for the credit card …
Malcolm hit on the “review” (sorry about the inverted commas, but that’s the way it feels) in The Spectator by … Paul Johnson.
OK, OK, it’s only three weeks back. Yes, Malcolm needs to get out of bed in the morning …
The larger part of what Johnson rehearses is simply a recycling of his old prejudices: two legs good, four legs bad. And who’s to say he cannot invert the numbering once again?
Since this is written for The Spectator crowd, it has to conclude with the spoonful of sugar:
As for Britain, we have the record for decency, despite all the temptations of the war and the postwar chaos. It should never be forgotten that Clement Attlee diverted food ships from Britain to starving Europe in 1946, which meant we had to endure bread rationing, something we had avoided in wartime… We were a big loser from the war, but at least we emerged with our honour intact — Dresden excepted.
That should be applauded by one hand clapping.
But that’s not the sickener. Here it comes, in a single sentence:
Spain benefited enormously by Franco’s victory, which kept it out of the war, and it prospered for half a century afterwards until the European Union dragged it down.