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Nick Hordern

Nick Hordern

Nick Hordern is a former diplomat and journalist. He is the co-author of two histories of crime in Sydney: Sydney Noir: The Golden Years (NewSouth, 2017) and World War Noir: Sydney’s Unpatriotic War (NewSouth, 2019). He edited, and wrote the introduction to, the first English translation of Liu Yichang’s classic 1963 novel of Hong Kong, The Drunkard (Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2020). His latest book, Shanghai Demimondaine (Earnshaw Books), the biography of an Australian sex worker in China in the 1930s, was published in October 2023.

Nick Hordern reviews ‘An Unlikely Prisoner’ by Sean Turnell

January-February 2024, no. 461 18 December 2023
Sean Turnell is an Australian economist who was detained by Myanmar’s military regime from February 2021 until November 2022. An Unlikely Prisoner, his account of the ordeal, has quite a personal tone as he relates his struggle with unjust imprisonment by a regime whose hallmark was ‘a mix of the needlessly brutal, the petty, and the incompetent’. This personal story is also mixed with polit ... (read more)

Nick Hordern reviews 'Saving Lieutenant Kennedy: The heroic story of the Australian who helped rescue JFK' by Brett Mason

December 2023, no. 460 27 November 2023
In August 1943, John F. Kennedy, then aged twenty-six, was rescued from the threat of Japanese captivity – or worse – by a few brave Solomon Islanders, in an operation coordinated by the Australian naval officer Reg Evans. Evans was one of the Royal Australian Navy’s ‘Coastwatchers’, intelligence collectors based perilously behind Japanese lines. Kennedy had command of PT-109, a small w ... (read more)

Nick Hordern reviews two new books on Russia and Ukraine

September 2023, no. 457 25 August 2023
The political scientist Karl Deutsch once said that a nation is a group of people united by a mistaken view about the past. These two new accounts of the history of relations between Russia and Ukraine, and the nationalist distortions of that history, would seem to bear him out. Vladimir Putin’s historical arguments for the war against Ukraine are widely accepted by his fellow countrymen and wom ... (read more)

Nick Hordern reviews 'Zelensky: A biography' by Serhii Rudenko, and 'A Message from Ukraine' by Volodymyr Zelensky

March 2023, no. 451 23 February 2023
It has been a long time since the West had a hero like Volodymyr Zelensky, who is frequently ranked alongside Winston Churchill as a wartime leader and orator, Mikhail Gorbachev as a reformer, and Emmanuel Macron as a political disruptor. However deserved these comparisons may be, they deflect attention from the murky post-Soviet environment which shaped his career. The collapse of the region’s ... (read more)

Nick Hordern reviews 'Return to Moscow' by Tony Kevin

March 2017, no. 389 28 February 2017
The idea that the world faces a second Cold War started out as hyperbole, but by 2016 it was sounding increasingly plausible. For more than a decade, Moscow, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, had been waging a diplomatic, political, and military campaign to restore Russian power – in the Caucasus, in Ukraine, and in Syria. In the West this has usually been portrayed as unprovoked aggressio ... (read more)

Nick Hordern reviews 'Frontline Ukraine' by Richard Sakwa

November 2015, no. 376 28 October 2015
It is all Vladimir Putin's fault. Two years after the crisis in Ukraine erupted, the prevailing view in Europe, the United States, and Australia remains that responsibility for the conflict there – including the shooting down of flight MH17 – lies with Russia's president. This, the argument goes, is all part of Putin's plan to restore Russia's dominance of its region to the borders of the form ... (read more)

Nick Hordern reviews 'The New Emperors: Power and the princelings in China' by Kerry Brown

November 2014, no. 366 01 November 2014
For countries, and none so important to Australia, have a political system as opaque as that of China. This is deliberate; since the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has striven to make turnovers in its leadership as bland as possible. But the elevation of the country’s current ‘Fifth Generation’ Leadership was actually full of drama. The New Emperors, w ... (read more)

Nick Hordern reviews 'Kicking the Kremlin: Russia’s new dissidents and the battle to topple Putin' by Marc Bennetts and 'Putin and the Oligarch: The Khodorkovsky–Yukos Affair' by Richard Sakwa

August 2014, no. 363 01 August 2014
Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March was a dramatic sign of Russia’s sense that it had recovered from its post-Soviet weakness. Viewed in the West as an outrage, in Russia the seizure was portrayed as a triumph, the culmination of a national resurgence under Vladimir Putin. It remains to be seen how long this mood of triumph will last.  President Putin’s popularity has long been buoy ... (read more)

Nick Hordern reviews 'The Reporter and the Warlords: An Australian at Large in China’s Republican Revolution' by Craig Collie

February 2014, no. 358 19 January 2014
Celebrity knows no borders, so the Australian visitor to Xi’an, capital of China’s north-western province of Shaanxi, shouldn’t be too surprised to come across images of compatriots like Hugh ‘Wolverine’ Jackman and Nicole ‘Face of Chanel’ Kidman adorning the city’s retail centre. But if they look around in Xi’an’s museums and historical displays, they may be intrigued to find ... (read more)

Nick Hordern reviews 'Fragile Empire: How Russia fell in and out of love with Vladimir Putin' by Ben Judah

October 2013, no. 355 27 September 2013
On 18 July 2013the Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was sentenced to a five-year jail term on corruption charges. Navalny, in a speech to the court castigating the dispensation which has emerged in Russia since Vladimir Putin first became president in 2000, attacked a ‘system of power in which 83 percent of the country’s wealth is in the hands of half of one percent of the population ... (read more)
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