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The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk

Facts Are Subversive: Political Writing From A Decade Without A Name - Timothy Garton Ash What we have here is a very good collection of articles, political essays, book and movie reviews along with public speeches turned into ink on paper by Timothy Garton Ash, one of those people teaching at Oxford University and being rather proud of it.

"Facts Are Subversive" could have easily ended up as a messy pot-pourri of intellectual exhibitionism, but luckily it stands far from it thanks to a very clever editing. The idea of putting a world map at the beginning of the book with the titles of Garton Ash's writings matching up with the places they spoke about is simple and brilliant at the same time, just like the way this book is subdivided into sections and chapters.

That said, I found more convincing Garton Ash as an historian and a political writer than as a cultural reviewer, but I think it's good he shows up some interest in contemporary culture and not only in an often dry world of first-class academics.

Moreover, Mr Garton Ash is clearly more at ease and on his favourite ground when writing about Britain and Europe than the times in which he delivers articles on Burma, Brasil or the US. What I liked the most here are the essays on whether Britons and - more specifically - Englishmen consider themselves Europeans or not. Less interesting, by my point of view, is the article dedicated to a meeting Garton Ash had with Aung San Suu Kyi, mainly because it dates back to 2000 and is way too old considering how many things happen in the meantime for Mrs Suu.

The review of Orwell's opera omnia is entertaining to read although Garton Ash cannot simply say - as he does - that apart from "Animal Farm" and "Shooting an Elephant" nothing else that Eric Arthur Blair wrote is masterful. I found puzzling how after self-declaring himself "a fan of Orwell", Mr Garton Ash never mentions "Down and Out in Paris and London" or "Coming Up for Air" or "The Road to Wigan Pier" among the author's literary production that could be worth to get and read.

And the idea that, say, Evelyn Waugh or Joseph Conrad "were consistently better writers than Orwell" is absolutely a moot point, I think.
Still, Timothy Garton Ash is a pretty good and engaging writer and not as much conservative as I would have thought.