Norman Stone

A Sinister Clown

Khrushchev: The Man and His Era

By

The Free Press 876pp £25 order from our bookshop

THE FACE OF a clown, seen close-to, can be rather frightening, remarked Arthur Koestler. In October 1962, the world nearly came to an end: Khrushchev provoked the Americans, at nuclear level, over Cuba. He, and to an extent they, backed down, but there were a few days of exceehngly high tension, and American planes were put in such a state of readiness that one press of the button would have set off the ‘mutually assured destruction’ (MAD) whose threat dictated thermo-nuclear strategy. William Taubman’s chapter on the Cuban Missile Crisis is, incidentally, the best in a very good book – it is a piece of literary craftsmanship as well as scholarship. Did Khrushchev take a sober view of it all? He hd not offer any regrets, and told the Central Committee: ‘It was not necessary to act like the czarist officer who farted at the ball and then shot himself.’ A clown, but a sinister one – for some reason a recurring figure in Russian history, from Peter the Great’s sodden parodies of Orthodox liturgy straight through to Zhirinovsky.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the best aspects of Kaufmann’s book is its optimism' Here's @BurlM11's review of @epkaufm's Whiteshift. ,
    • Whom did Picasso label a 'bristly pig'? Read Rosalind P Blakesley's review of The Collector by Natalya Semenova to… ,
    • Alexandra Gajda on Anna Beer's new biography, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh ,
    • Mark Lawson reviews @jonathancoe's Middle England - The Rotters' Club for our Brexit age. ,
    • 'Behind every book that is published lies ... a haunted landscape, populated by the ghosts of things written and ex… ,
    • 'We once more live in a great age of dragon invention' Here's Tom Shippey on Martin Arnold's The Dragon ,
    • RT : Man at the q&a part of the book panel: Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't s… ,