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Antony Beevor

Armando Iannucci, creator of the darkly comic series Veep and The Thick of It, is surely one of our more perceptive contemporary political observers. While making us laugh or grimace with recognition at the manoeuvrings of his characters, he can also pull us up cold. For example, Iannucci spends most of The Death of Stalin mocking the posturing of the politburo following the tyrant’s death in 1953. Then, suddenly, disturbingly, the merry-go-round judders to a halt and Beria is ambushed, tried, and executed in a courtyard. It echoes the mockery of the shirtless and mounted Vladimir Putin – before he invaded Ukraine 

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Too often histories of World War II either have ‘total’ in their title or make great play with total war as a concept. Essentially this is meaningless, because all that is meant by total war is big war. Antony Beevor mercifully does not call World War II ‘total’ or make any reference to total war.

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