Who cares any more about Lenin? Time was, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870–1924) was revered, at least in some quarters, as the founding father of the Soviet Union, head of the first revolutionary state, pioneer in building socialism to end capitalist exploitation and create a better world. In the Soviet Union, Stalin overshadowed him for a few decades, while claiming ... More
This engaging but disturbing memoir describes Ramona Koval’s obsessive attempts to find herself another father than the one who had brought her up, the ‘Dad’ who was married to ‘Mama’. Dad and Mama, along with most of their circle in 1950s Melbourne, were Jewish immigrants from Poland, among the tens of thousands who came to Australia as displaced persons ... More
This book is about a moral panic resulting in the deployment of huge police and bureaucratic resources to ruin the lives of some unlucky individuals who were, or seemed to be, Communist Party members or sympathisers. None of Deery’s cases seems to have been doing anything that posed an actual threat to the US government or population; that, at least, is how it loo ... More
Sheila Fitzpatrick, a professor at the University of Sydney specialising in the history of modern Russia, is one of the world’s most influential Soviet historians. She is the author of two memoirs, My Father’s Daughter (2010) and A Spy ... More
Harold Adrian Russell (Kim) Philby was the Third Man of the notorious Cambridge spy network set up in the 1930s and partially unmasked in the early 1950s, when Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled to Moscow. He had been in British intelligence (MI6) since the beginning of the war, but had been working for Soviet intelligence for some years before that. A high-flyer, ... More
For anyone who has ever complained about a difficult mother, or written a memoir about one, this is a humbling book. How trivial, by comparison, our complaints seem. The subtitle promises (or threatens) a disturbing memoir, and so it is. I found it difficult to get out of my head days after reading it.
Biff (born Elizabeth in 1942) Ward was the second child ... More
In Iris Murdoch’s novel, The Sandcastle (1957), a young artist called Rain Carter is commissioned to paint a retired schoolmaster, Demoyte, an eccentric with an offbeat sense of h More
Alma Moodie’s story is remarkable, which makes it all the stranger that she has been so thoroughly forgotten. A frail child prodigy from central Queensland, she became Carl Flesch’s favourite pupil and a renowned concert violinist in Germany after World War I, friend and performer of most of the great figures of international contemporary music, from Max R ... More
Why do you write?
I like words, though making music is even better. Writing is almost as good as playing the violin.
Are you a vivid dreamer?
I don’t know about vivid, but ever since I was an exchange student in Moscow in the 1960s I have had a repetitive dream ab ... More