Sheila Fitzpatrick

I am a great fan of archives, and so is John Fahey, a former officer of an Australian intelligence service (the Defence Signals Directorate) turned historian. His previous book, Australia’s First Spies (2018), covered the same time period (1901–50) but focused on the good guys (our spies) rather than the bad ones (their spies). His itemised list of Australian, British, and US archival files consulted runs to several pages. Most of these are the archives of intelligence agencies. And here’s the rub: intelligence files contain many names, but not necessarily the names of actual spies.

... (read more)

Even the cover design of Sheila Fitzpatrick’s memoir gave me something to ponder. The title, which signals the father–daughter story, is linked with an engaging seaside photograph of the two of them. The father’s swimming trunks and the daughter’s bathing cap have an authentic 1940s look. Add to that a bland subtitle, Memories of an Australian Childhood, and the tough confrontations of the text may come as a surprise.

... (read more)

Hunting Nazis is an almost guaranteed reading pleasure – the joy of the chase, plus the moral uplift of being on the side of virtue. I started Philippe Sands’s book with a sense both of anticipation and déjà vu. A respected British international human rights lawyer with the proven ability to tell a story, Sands should be giving us a superior version of a familiar product. Many readers will remember his book East West Street (2016), which wove together the Nuremberg trial, some family history, and the pre-war intellectual life of Lemberg/Lviv. The latter produced not only Raphael Lemkin, theorist of genocide, but also the lesser known Hersch Lauterpacht, theorist of crimes against humanity, as well as Sands’s maternal grandfather, Leon Buchholz.

... (read more)

This is a very disturbing book. It’s not just the Chernobyl story, but also Kate Brown’s broader story about the worldwide but inadequately studied impact on public health of lifetime exposure to ‘chronic doses of man-made radiation from medical procedures, nuclear reactors and their accidents, and atomic bombs and their fall-out’. But let’s take Chernobyl first ...

... (read more)

Ives Westlake Debussy 

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Monday, 09 September 2019

Nigel Westlake’s new quartet, Sacred Sky, commissioned by the Australian String Quartet, had its première before an enthusiastic audience at Sydney’s Recital Hall on 4 September 2019. Westlake wrote it in honour of his sister, the artist Kate Westlake, who died of pancreatic cancer in January 2018 ...

... (read more)

Joseph Stalin wanted this wartime correspondence published, and one can see why: he comes off best. As the authors comment, ‘the transcript of the Big Three meetings demonstrates Stalin’s careful mastery of the issues and his superior skill as a diplomatist, regularly keeping his silence but then speaking out in a terse and timely manner at key moments’. He is ...

Books of the Year 2018

Michelle de Kretser, et al.
Monday, 26 November 2018

To celebrate the best books of 2018, Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser

... (read more)

Who doesn’t like to read about the Cambridge spies? Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and Kim Philby were all students at Cambridge in the early 1930s when they were converted to communism and later recruited as Soviet spies. The Cambridge Four did decades of ...

... (read more)

Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Monday, 23 July 2018

I don’t watch the World Cup or even Wimbledon, so I may have some Australian gene missing. But by the time the string quartet winners were announced at the end of the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition last week, I had become a fan, almost a barracker. I was rooting for the ...

... (read more)

The centenary of the Russian Revolution has just passed, leaving a rather eerie silence, as Vladimir Putin’s Russia decided not to hold any official commemoration. In the current climate of what has been called a ‘new Cold War’ with Russia, people in the West often forget that the Soviet Union and its communist regime ...

... (read more)
Page 1 of 3