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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents -

FRANK Car­ri­gan de­plores a lack of his­tor­i­cal con­text in Toby Harnden’s Dead Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and the Real Story of Bri­tain’s War In

Afghanistan (‘‘Los­ing the great game’’, June 11-12). What was he af­ter? It’s un­speak­able, that con­text. For all the pain por­trayed in the book, Afghanistan has suf­fered far worse and for longer. The Afghan tribes­men fight like tigers be­cause for them it is nei­ther great nor a game — those are ques­tions for Dis­raeli and Blair and oth­ers, and all of us com­plicit in our con­sen­sual democ­racy. That was not the au­thor’s pur­pose, as Car­ri­gan con­cedes. The book is like unto a sol­diers’ di­ary, doc­u­ment­ing how the boys were turned out to the spruik­ers, shaped up and shipped out to glory, how the brass and the rulers grieved with the wi­d­ows af­ter­wards, then did it all for no rea­son again. And still do. Rick Langtree Char­ters Tow­ers, Queens­land THE Bri­tish best re­mem­ber the Welsh Guards for what hap­pened to them at Bluff Cove dur­ing the Falk­lands War, when Bri­tish sol­diers were be­ing slaugh­tered on Bri­tish tele­vi­sion. Frank Car­ri­gan wants some sort of his­tor­i­cal con­text to Toby Harnden’s story of the Welsh Guards in Afghanistan. I don’t think that was the au­thor’s in­ten­tion; fur­ther­more, Bri­tain’s as­so­ci­a­tion with Afghanistan in­volves not only the Welsh Guards. The mu­seum of the Som­er­set Light In­fantry in Taun­ton has an oil paint­ing of a lone rider in a tattered uni­form rid­ing away from the sharp peaks of the Khy­ber Pass. The caption: ‘‘The Last of his Reg­i­ment.’’ Val Wake Port Mac­quarie, NSW ROSS Fitzger­ald’s odd re­view of my pair of books on the his­tory of the Aus­tralian La­bor Party (‘‘A crash (or crash through) course in civil­is­ing cap­i­tal­ism’’, June 11-12) de­mands a re­sponse. I am glad Fitzger­ald en­joyed my ‘‘fas­ci­nat­ing’’ co-authored A Lit­tle His­tory of the Aus­tralian La­bor Party. I

am rather less pleased he chose to com­ment on my other pub­li­ca­tion, Heroes and Vil­lains: The Rise and Fall

of the Aus­tralian La­bor Party, with­out, it seems, hav­ing both­ered to read the book. This be­comes clear when he ex­presses be­muse­ment at the ‘‘strangely ti­tled’’ Heroes and Vil­lains. One of the book’s cen­tral themes is the early La­bor Party’s pop­ulist world view, por­tray­ing Aus­tralia’s po­lit­i­cal and in­dus­trial land­scape in black-and­white terms whereby heroes (union mates, La­bor MPs and work­ing Aus­tralians) were pit­ted against vil­lains (non-union scabs and coloured work­ers, anti-La­bor MPs, con­ser­va­tive opin­ion-mak­ers and ‘‘Fat’’ cap­i­tal­ists). Fur­ther, two chap­ters of Heroes and

Vil­lains are de­voted to the ALP’s World War I ex­pe­ri­ence in which I make the con­tro­ver­sial ar­gu­ment (ex­tracted in

The Aus­tralian in April) that the party’s 1916 split over mil­i­tary con­scrip­tion was far from in­evitable, but Fitzger­ald ig­nores or is un­aware of these facets of the book. He also as­sumes a re­vised PhD the­sis will in­evitably present as un­read­able sludge when he caus­ti­cally de­scribes the book as ‘‘la­bo­ri­ous’’. By no means is Heroes

and Vil­lains a flaw­less ex­er­cise and in­deed I wel­come con­sid­ered crit­i­cism. But I and read­ers of Re­view ex­pect more from an ex­pe­ri­enced re­viewer who boasts of hav­ing penned 34 books — namely, a re­view. Nick Dyren­furth Syd­ney PETER Craven talks of the ways one may get reac­quainted with Tol­stoy’s

War and Peace (‘‘The great­est war story ever told’’, May 28-29). While point­ing out that the Maude trans­la­tion is out of copy­right, he fails to men­tion this means it is also avail­able free, as an e-book. I have wit­nessed the won­der of this revo­lu­tion, not as ‘‘creamy acid-free pa­per’’ but rather as a soft blue night light as my wife reads her Kin­dle at 3 o’clock on a win­ter’s morn­ing. At dawn we talk through Tol­stoy and share a dream of a Rus­sia and a Europe that are no longer. Keith Rus­sell May­field West, NSW To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, let­ters must con­tain an ad­dress and tele­phone num­ber for ver­i­fi­ca­tion. Let­ters may be edited for length and clar­ity.

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