One recent literary trend has been a raft of books that supply a history (or, more archly, a ‘biography’) of such things as foodstuffs and items of manufacture. Patrick Wright operates at the politico-military end of this fashionable field. After publishing a successful book in which he examined the strange history of the Dorset village of Tynham, which was emptied of its inhabitants for military use during the Second World War, the author then undertook a study of the tank, quirkily subtitled ‘The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine’. Now we have his exhaustive examination of the history of the phrase ‘Iron Curtain’. Perhaps one should simply accept his work as an impulse-driven scenic tour rather than the kind of planned and ticketed journey from A to B that conventional history demands.
Wright plays with our narrative assumptions right from the start, beginning in 1954 with two refugee tales – one that of a Polish seaman who stowed away to London to escape the evils of Communism, and another of an American scientist and his wife who fled east to Czechoslovakia to