Posts Tagged ‘f.w. deakin’

The classic novel by Jean Rhys, whose definitive biography is now in Finds

It’s my pleasure to unveil another strong, diverse and enticing selection of titles newly reissued in Finds as of this month. The nominees for your reading pleasure are:


A Spirit Rises – Sylvia Townsend Warner
Our second offering of stories from this brilliant and versatile author, much admired by (inter alia) Sarah Waters and Ali Smith. Dovegreyreader also offers a recent appreciation here.

A Test to Destruction – Henry Williamson
The eighth of the fifteen titles in the Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight sequence, the numbers of whose readers in Finds appear to be growing daily…

The Bath Detective – Christopher Lee
The first in a thriller trilogy by the acclaimed novelist, historian and broadcaster whose own website is here.

Mark Only – T. F. Powys
The latest in our restoration to print of extraordinary works by the more austere of the prodigious Powys boys (see previous post here)…


Jean Rhys: Life and Work – Carole Angier
The definitive study of the melancholy author whose glorious final novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, confirmed Al Alvarez in calling her “the best living English novelist.”

The Embattled Mountain – F. W. D. Deakin
Bill Deakin’s scintillating account of his WWII mission into Yugoslavia to locate and assess Tito and his Partisans. Our earlier post on Deakin is here, and Mark Wheeler’s tremendous New Introduction here.

Secret Classrooms: An Untold Story of the Cold War – Geoffrey Elliott & Harold Shukman
A gem of an insight into how certain bright young scholars of the 1950s (among them A. Bennett, M. Frayn and DM Thomas) sidestepped National Service so as to be instructed in Russian for the betterment of the Cold War effort. Fine Spectator review here, and more to come on this blog…

Enid Bagnold – Anne Sebba
Our latest from Anne Sebba, a marvellous study of the brilliant and controversial woman who wrote National Velvet and The Chalk Garden. See Anne’s personal author site here.

Lloyd George: From Peace to War, 1912-1916 – John Grigg
We continue to reissue Grigg’s magisterial sequence, hailed by the Telegraph as overall “one of the most brilliant biographies of recent times”, this third volume the winner of the Wolfson Prize.

East End My Cradle – Willy Goldman
An unforgettable, affectionate evocation of 1930s London life from an author hailed in his time as “a sort of Proust of the Whitechapel Road.” Longer appreciation to follow on this blog v soon…

The Coming of the Barbarians: A Story of Western Settlement in Japan 1853-1870 – Pat Barr
An evocative and apt title for Pat Barr’s indispensable account of the opening to Japan first forged by US Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry – a story that inspired, inter alia, Stephen Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures

Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History – Roy Foster
An inspired collection of thematically-linked essays praised in the LRB by Colm Toibin as ‘important and original’. (Toibin also hailed Foster as ‘the most brilliant and courageous Irish historian of his generation’, and his fascinating essay is fully available here.)

How the English Made the Alps – Jim Ring
An exciting anecdotal study of how 19th-century English poets, Christians and natural scientists sought out the highest peaks of Alpine glory, driven – as E.S. Turner put it in his LRB review – by “lust for adventure, scientific curiosity, vanity, national pride, the need for spiritual uplift, the geological urge to disprove Genesis, the expansion of railways, the tourist mania, the deathly pilgrimages of the tubercular and, finally, the primitive and irresistible joys of the piste…” Phew!


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William Deakin and Josip Broz ('Tito') in Jajce, 1943

One of Finds’ happiest projects in this the first quarter of 2011 is the reissue of three brilliant works by Sir William (‘F.W.D.’ / ‘Bill’) Deakin, historian, WWII veteran and founding warden of St Antony’s College, Oxford.
Deakin was born in 1913, educated at Westminster and Oxford, and gained his apprenticeship in the business of writing history as research assistant to Winston Churchill on his celebrated life of the Duke of Marlborough. With the outbreak of World War II Deakin joined up, was seconded to the War Office’s Special Operations unit, and in May 1943 was parachuted into Montenegro on a perilous mission to make contact with and assessment of the Yugoslav Partisans led by Josip Broz (‘Tito’) – a mission that would come to influence British policy on Yugoslavia decisively.
In the 1950s Deakin settled as principal of the new St Antony’s College and in the 1960s began to publish his histories. Recently made available in Finds is The Case of Richard Sorge (1965, co-written with G.R. Storry), which tells the story of the Tokyo-based German Communist who alerted Stalin to Operation Barbarossa. Next month we will offer The Embattled Mountain (1971), Deakin’s personal account of his mission in Yugoslavia (named for Mount Durmitor, over which he and Tito’s Partisans were pursued by German/Italian forces.)
But our January offering is The Brutal Friendship, Deakin’s account of the Hitler-Mussolini alliance and German-Italian relations during the Second World War. I am delighted to offer here an appreciation of The Brutal Friendship specially composed for Finds by Adrian Lyttelton, Senior Adjunct Professor of European Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University (Bologna Center), and the author of, inter alia, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919–1929.

Almost fifty years after its first publication, The Brutal Friendship remains an indispensable point of reference for all studies of the decline and fall of Fascism. Neither the English title nor the title of the first Italian edition fully indicate the scope of Deakin’s work. Indeed the Italian title—Storia della Repubblica di Salòwas positively misleading, as only the third and final part deals with this theme. If we put the two titles together, however, we can better see where the true originality of Deakin’s work lies.

Few studies of any period of Fascism based on extensive primary research have so skilfully combined the study of foreign policy with that of the internal policy and nature of the Fascist regime. The second chapter, on the structure and characteristics of Mussolini’s “personal government” remains a masterpiece of compressed analysis, and until the appearance of Lutz Klinkhammer’s fine study of the German occupation of Italy (1993) no other work has explored with such subtlety and realism the relationship between the fragile and divided Salò Republic of 1943-5 and the Nazi occupiers.

Deakin had an almost ascetic conception of the role of the contemporary historian. At a time when the vast documentation available to historians of the Fascist regime and its short-lived heir was almost unexplored, he felt that the first duty of the historian was to give as extensive a view as possible of the documents, particularly those of German origin. His judgements are often implicit, or reserved for brief asides. One should not imagine, however, that this makes for difficult reading. The book has a strong narrative structure, and the tragic drama of the last years of Fascism emerges vividly from the documents themselves.

The “brutal friendship” between the dictators, if it is not the whole book, is certainly at its heart. What peculiarly interesting about the relationship between Hitler and Mussolini is that at the outset the admiration was all on Hitler’s side. But his belief in Mussolini’s project of remaking a people whom he regarded as naturally inferior and unreliable was eroded by what he saw as Mussolini’s excessive caution in dealing with the monarchy and other remnants of the old Italy. Italy’s disastrous military performance did the rest, and already before Mussolini’s first fall from power on 25 July 1943 Hitler had remarked that Mussolini seemed like a broken man. Nevertheless he kept enough regard for a man whom he regarded as his only precursor to make his rescue a top priority, although undoubtedly a realistic appreciation of Mussolini’s value as a figurehead was a crucial consideration.

Unlike some authors who have written about Mussolini’s final years, Deakin does not trivialize his subject. He does not ignore the lurid personal intrigues around Mussolini’s mistress Claretta Petacci, his son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano, and other members of the dictator’s “court”, but he does not give them excessive importance. The tragedy of Mussolini’s relationship with Hitler was rooted both in their mutual recognition of the ideological affinity (not identity) of Nazism and Fascism, and in the huge disparity of power between the two nations.

The other Italian participants in the story—King Victor Emanuel III, the generals, the leaders of the Fascist party – do not come well out of the story, to say the least. It might be thought that Deakin’s vision reflects unconsciously the harsh judgements of his Nazi sources. But Allied judgements (and those of anti-fascist Italians) were not very different. Some Italian critics have complained that Deakin does not give enough importance to the anti-fascist Resistance. But I think that this criticism is misplaced. Quite simply, this was not part of the story that Deakin has told with such skill and completeness, that of the fatal embrace between two dictators and their regimes.

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The young Elizabeth David, whose last work is reissued in Finds this month (see left)

Precisely what, you may ask, is Finds making available to readers this month? Answer, as ever: a grand assortment of outstanding fiction and non-fiction titles that deserve renewed attention, and these are they:
Margaret Kennedy, The Midas Touch
Siegfried Lenz, The Heritage
T.F. Powys, God’s Eyes A-Twinkle
William Sansom, Bed of Roses
Sylvia Townsend Warner, Winter in the Air and Other Stories
Henry Williamson, Love and the Loveless
J.D. Bernal, Science in History vol.3: The Natural Sciences in Our Time
Elizabeth David, Harvest of the Cold Months: The Social History of Ice and Ices
F.W. Deakin, The Brutal Friendship: Mussolini, Hitler, and the Fall of Italian Fascism
Amos Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors
John Grigg, Lloyd George: The People’s Champion, 1902-1911
Timothy Mowl, Stylistic Cold Wars: Betjeman Versus Pevsner
John Cowper Powys, In Defence of Sensuality
Notes and perspectives on a few of these will follow.

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