Sheila Fitzpatrick

In September 2013, six months after returning to Australia after forty-eight years away, mainly in the United States, I wrote a piece for ABR on being a returning expatriate. Actually, this wasn’t my first piece for the journal (that was a review of a biography of Ryszard Kapuściński seven months earlier), but it was a piece that had particular importance for me. Rereading it recently, I was struck both by the conversational tone, as if I already thought ABR readers were my friends, and by the underlying seriousness of the effort to explain myself. I didn’t write like that for American publications.

... (read more)

When I was a graduate student in the Soviet Union in the late 1960s, Russian friends used to talk a lot about World War II. Their stories were of hardship and suffering stoically borne by the population and finally vindicated by victory in 1945. This was not dissimilar from what was published in the Soviet press on the subject, but without the press’s obligatory references to the wise leadership of the party. Wendy Z. Goldman and Donald Filtzer tell basically the same story as my Soviet friends. Invoking the image of a ‘levée en masse spirit’ in the wartime Soviet Union, they admit that ‘strict discipline and repression certainly played a role’ in the state’s ‘unprecedented feats of mass mobilization’, but they put their interpretative emphasis elsewhere: ‘without the support of the vast majority of people and workers in particular, the great achievements on the home front would not have been possible’.

... (read more)

As readers of her two volumes of memoirs will know, Sheila Fitzpatrick trained at the University of Melbourne until departing for Oxford in 1964 to pursue doctoral research on the history of the Soviet Union. That took her to Moscow, where she gained access to Soviet archives. Fitzpatrick would make her name as an archival historian, in contrast to earlier Western scholars who relied, both of necessity and by inclination, on other sources; she showed remarkable ingenuity in using the officially sanctioned records.

... (read more)

This is a book in the expansive American tradition of long, well-researched historical works on political topics with broad appeal, written in an accessible style for a popular audience. David Nasaw has not previously worked on displaced persons, but he is the author of several big biographies, most recently of political patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy.

... (read more)

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)

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 

Australian String Quartet
by
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 ...

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)
Page 1 of 4