Valedictory to a Visionary; Lukacs' Volume Salutes Churchill.(OPED)(POLITICAL BOOKS)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 3, 2002 | Go to article overview

Valedictory to a Visionary; Lukacs' Volume Salutes Churchill.(OPED)(POLITICAL BOOKS)


Byline: Roger Fontaine, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Even though John Lukacs has been around seemingly forever, it is still a shock that this might be his last book. If it is, it is a fitting summa summarum of work by a man who cannot be easily classified. A cleared-eyed anti-Stalinist, for example, Mr. Lukacs has little regard for American-style anti-communism. He is a nominalist among ideologues, something that is reflected in his writing of history.

No wonder then that he has written much about Winston Churchill. For those who have read his earlier works on that English statesman, there may be little new in this brief account of various aspects of Churchill's career, but as always, it is told exceedingly well. For those, particularly Americans, who hold Churchill in high regard, but don't know the controversies that still surround the man nearly 40 years after his death, it is a good introduction to the huge amount of literature on him. (That body of work also includes the revisionists who are much less generous in their estimate than Mr. Lukacs.)

This also is an old-fashioned work, in the sense that the author has freely used his commonplace books for much of his material. Who today keeps such journals? It is our loss that they don't. Mr. Lukacs has brought to his task a lifetime of reading and thought about the large figures of this century: Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, to name the very Big Four. Churchill, however, remains at the center of this book as indeed, the author would argue, he remains at the center of the last century. Without Churchill, Mr. Lukacs believes, Hitler likely would have won the war and with it the end of liberal civilization as we know it. The book, in essence, is a collection of essays about Churchill.

There is Churchill, the visionary, Churchill in his dealings with Stalin, Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Also, there is Churchill as historian, as well as a chapter on his mistakes and his critics. The critics especially get short shrift from the author, in particular John Charmley, who has long viewed Churchill as primarily responsible for the decline of Great Britain from a world power to a satrapy of the United States. Better to have struck a deal with Hitler in 1940 or 1941 than embrace the Yank - or so Mr. Charmley argues - and from whom Mr. …

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