Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Lest we forget Sir: I am simply amazed and horrified by Taki's article on the `German contribution' (High life, 8 March).

I don't want to be drawn into arguments about the Holocaust nor as a competent amateur military historian do I wish to deny that the German army in the second world war proved itself to be a most formidable fighting machine.

However, as an old-fashioned philhellene who went to the same school as Lord Byron, I take strong issue with Taki's extravagant praise of Teutonic military virtue.

Has Taki forgotten what the German army did in his fatherland? It is all clearly set out in Mark Mazower's much acclaimed work, Inside Hitler's Greece. Has he forgotten what the German army did to their erstwhile allies (the Italians) on the island of Kefallonia? It is all clearly stated in Louis de Bernieres's much admired novel, Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

These are not matters of which one can say perasmena ksehasmena, and I know that most Greeks who lived through the horrors of the occupation will never forgive and forget.

In any case, forgiving and forgetting are not classical Greek virtues and I am surprised that one who is so rightly proud of his great heritage should have forgotten this!

C. Lyon

The Old Rectory, East Dereham, Norfolk

Fiennes points

Sir: Sheridan Morley has made several notable errors of fact in his review of Ivanov (Arts, 1 March). Perhaps though he never saw this play himself but sent an unreliable underling as deputy; after all he demotes the Almeida to 'fringe'.

First, I have it on rock-solid information that the Almeida has seating for 300 which is twice as many as he stated. Second, Ralph Fiennes has never won an Oscar yet. His first nomination was for Obersturmfuhrer Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. His second nomination is for his part as Count Lazlo de Almasy in The English Patient and it is far from certain that he will win the Oscar for this as the competition is particularly strong in this category. Third, in Ivanov, Act II Scene 1; the three character actors that he applauds for their hilarious, vodka-swilling performance do not play cards as well. At least they never did on the two occasions that I have seen this play.

The last point I wish to make is that this production could only go to a longer West End or a Broadway season with another actor taking over from Ralph Fiennes as Ivanov. Naturally enough, he can only put up with a 200 per week salary for a limited period of a few weeks before answering the call and commitment to better paid work. I am sure that nearly all the actors in this really excellent David Hare/Jonathan Kent production could be forgiven for harbouring the same instincts. In this respect the intransigence of the unions would not be 'lunatic' if they were to insist on a better basic rate of pay for actors.

Sheridan Morley has a fine reputation as a theatre critic. It is a pity that he has been so inaccurate in this review.

Mark Fiennes 29 Therapia Road, London SE22

Rule Britannia

Sir: I was astonished to read Bruce Anderson's article (Politics, 1 February), which has just been brought to my attention, in which he attacks me as the leader `of those who responded in such a despicable fashion' to the proposal for a new royal yacht Britannia, suggesting that I have opposed the building of a new yacht. He asks, `Have we really become such a mean-spirited, small-minded, envious little people so negligent of our traditions and our past glories; so unworthy of them?'

My position is exactly the opposite of what he states. I have always supported the building of a new royal yacht to replace the present Britannia in the usual way, namely at public expense. This will not appear to be surprising in view of my own record in ocean racing, in which I captained the British team for three years, and because of the hospitality I have enjoyed so frequently on Britannia during Cowes Week. …

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