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Die Tschechowa

Catherine Merridale: A Russian starlet in Hitler’s Berlin, 17 February 2005

The Mystery of Olga Chekhova 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 300 pp., £16.99, May 2004, 0 670 91520 3
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... and her ability to adapt her features – even the shape of her face – so radically that, as Antony Beevor observes, she looked like a different person in each role that she played. In April 1921 she attended the premiere of her first German movie, Schloss Vogelöd, directed by Murnau: it launched her career as ‘Die Tschechowa’. She acted in ...

A Formidable Proposition

R.W. Johnson: D-Day, 10 September 2009

D-Day: The Battle for Normandy 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 591 pp., £25, May 2009, 978 0 670 88703 3
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... In his account of D-Day Antony Beevor comes to many surprising conclusions: that the Germans were by far the better soldiers, more experienced, disciplined and confident; that their weapons were generally better, not just the Tiger and Panther tanks and the 88mm anti-tank gun but even their MG42 light machinegun, which was far superior to its British and American equivalents; that the Allies shot many prisoners and committed all manner of atrocities; that French civilians caught in the middle often suffered more from the Allied onslaught ...

Dun-Coloured Dust

Thomas de Waal: Russia’s war, 15 July 1999

Russia's War 
by Richard Overy.
Penguin, 416 pp., £8.99, July 1999, 0 14 027169 4
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by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 512 pp., £12.99, May 1999, 0 14 024985 0
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... suffering in a work of history without howling like Solzhenitsyn? This is the challenge taken up Antony Beevor in Stalingrad. Beevor maps out the strategic scheme as seen from above, but also gives the view from ground level, with the help of voluminous accounts from the people involved. He has done his research on ...

Hitler’s Teeth

Neal Ascherson: Berlin 1945, 28 November 2002

Berlin: The Downfall, 1945 
by Antony Beevor.
Viking, 490 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 670 88695 5
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... Soviet shells were falling. But that apocalyptic place seemed as dead and remote as Küstrin. Antony Beevor cannot bring that Berlin back to life. But he has constructed a staggering diorama of how it was in those months between the Soviet crossing of the Vistula in January 1945 and the silence that fell in ruined Berlin almost five months ...

Paralysed by the Absence of Danger

Jeremy Harding: Spain, 1937, 24 September 2009

Letters from Barcelona: An American Woman in Revolution and Civil War 
edited by Gerd-Rainer Horn.
Palgrave, 209 pp., £50, February 2009, 978 0 230 52739 3
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War Is Beautiful: An American Ambulance Driver in the Spanish Civil War 
by James Neugass.
New Press, 314 pp., £16.99, November 2008, 978 1 59558 427 4
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We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War 
by Paul Preston.
Constable, 525 pp., £9.99, June 2009, 978 1 84529 946 0
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... and of a civilian population cowering in icy buildings where the water pipes had frozen solid. As Antony Beevor remarks in The Battle for Spain (2006), ‘conditions in Stalingrad, five years later, would not be much worse.’ Neugass has you feel the cold. He was taken on as a driver – a ‘chófer’, as he calls himself – by the American Medical ...

Favoured Irregulars

Andy Beckett: The Paras, 24 January 2019

Our Boys: The Story of a Paratrooper 
by Helen Parr.
Allen Lane, 382 pp., £20, September 2018, 978 0 241 28894 8
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... days of ferocious but doomed resistance, barely a fifth of the Paras survived and avoided capture. Antony Beevor, in Arnhem: The Battle for the Bridges, describes the over-elaborate airborne assault as ‘a very bad plan right from the start’.* Beevor’s intricate account covers the involvement of American and Polish ...


John Connelly: Stalin’s Infantry, 22 June 2006

Ivan’s War: The Red Army 1939-45 
by Catherine Merridale.
Faber, 396 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 571 21808 3
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A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-45 
edited and translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova.
Harvill, 378 pp., £20, September 2005, 9781843430551
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... What are we to make of the Red Army? On the one hand, it was the force that first stopped and then destroyed the armies of German National Socialism, in achieving which Russian soldiers suffered in ways that exceed the limits of Western imagination: the toll of dead – more than eight million – reveals numbers as the abstraction they are. And for much of the war those killed in combat were the lucky ones: the Germans let three million prisoners starve to death ...

Good Day, Comrade Shtrum

John Lanchester: Vasily Grossman’s Masterpiece, 18 October 2007

Life and Fate 
by Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert Chandler.
Vintage, 864 pp., £9.99, October 2006, 0 09 950616 5
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... modernist ambition and postmodernist decentredness – a fake, perhaps, but an interesting one. As Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova’s’s superb book A Writer at War makes clear,* Grossman saw more of the war than any of them; more than any other writer. He volunteered to fight but, tubby and shortsighted and unathletic as he was, was sent instead to ...

Strike at the Knee

Malcolm Gaskill: Italy, 1943, 8 February 2024

The Savage Storm: The Battle for Italy 1943 
by James Holland.
Bantam, 565 pp., £25, September 2023, 978 1 78763 668 2
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... John Keegan’s The Face of Battle are the mini-masterpieces I remember from school; this century, Antony Beevor, Max Hastings and Holland have led the British pack. The history of war is now certainly more palatable to academia: King’s College, London has a very reputable Department of War Studies. This type of military history, contextualised, nuanced ...

It’s she, it’s she, it’s she

Joanna Biggs: Americans in Paris, 2 August 2012

Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis 
by Alice Kaplan.
Chicago, 289 pp., £17, May 2012, 978 0 226 42438 5
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As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Diaries 1964-80 
by Susan Sontag.
Hamish Hamilton, 544 pp., £18.99, April 2012, 978 0 241 14517 3
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... after Secrets of Marie Antoinette in 1985, The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier in 1991 and Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper’s Paris after the Liberation, the last book she worked on before she died in 1994, finding a felicitous ending for it on her deathbed. Susan Sontag’s idea of Paris came from Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood. Harriet ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2010, 16 December 2010

... Terror. One element in Wolf Hall’s success as it is an element in the success of the work of Antony Beevor is the regular and unflinching presentation of horror. There may be cornflowers on Cromwell’s desk but this is a novel about torture, tyranny and death. 11 June. Drive round to Camden Town to shop and go to the bank where I draw out £1500 to ...

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