The Editor - June 18th, 2012
The Killing always showed Copenhagen under menacing dark clouds and rain, but the reality at this time of year at least could hardly be more different. And when I went to Aarhus to lecture today, the train went through beautiful landscapes full of hawthorn blossom. So many houses have their own pole flying the Danish national flag, the oldest in the world. This seems to demonstrate a relaxed pride in it, with little of the aggressive patriotism which one associates with the stars and stripes flying outside private houses in the United States. Nothing seems to be rotten in the state of Denmark, or at any rate very little. The Danes are prosperous without ever being meretricious, tall, athletic, and unfairly good-looking. They are a rucksack nation, but also heroic smokers, like their Queen. I was surprised to find when being interviewed that they seemed to be rather uneasy about their war record, because of their ‘farmers feeding the Wehrmacht’. I think they were being over-scrupulous. I told those journalists who brought up the subject that when Artemis and I were researching Paris After the Liberation, Isaiah Berlin had answered the moral dilemma of occupation and collaboration by saying that you might have had to work with the Germans, ‘but you did not need to be cosey with them’. The Danes were never ‘cosey’, and Bo Lidegaard, the editor-in-chief of Politiken, who has written several books on the subject, explained during our interview the astonishing way that the forceful presence of the King and the democratic government, confused the Germans who had hoped to make their occupation of Denmark a model of cooperation. Through sheer determination and moral courage, they achieved an independence unimaginable elsewhere.
In my talk to the Dutch foreign ministry earlier in the week, I spoke of the way that the Greek economy has also been dragged down by the disproportionately high spending on defence. I mentioned this at dinner last night with two newspaper editors. One of them told me that a senior Greek official had said to him that their army was prepared to seize power, and the only reason why their generals did not make a move was because they had no idea how to cope with the situation. Presumably they want the politicians to take all the blame for the catastrophe. But do they realise that if they do take power, Greece would be expelled automatically from the European Union?
I am off to Stockholm tomorrow where, among other larger events, I have to do a couple of talks in major bookshops. It is ridiculous but I can hardly go into a bookshop even today without remembering my earliest publishing humiliation. When my first novel was published, like many a new author, I went round several of the larger bookshops to see whether the book was stocked. In those days Harrods had its own book department. I went in but could not see the book dispalyed anywhere. An assistant asked if he could help. I asked whether they had a copy of a novel by a writer called Antony Beevor which had just been published by John Murray. He turned round and picked a copy from a small pile which I had failed to spot. To my horror, he handed me a copy, and I felt I had to buy it. But when we got to the till, I found that I did not have any cash with me, so I had to give him a credit card. He looked at it, then did a double take, and looked at the name on the cover, and I wanted the floor to swallow me up. I can laugh now, but I still cringe at the memory’.
This is an exceprt from Antony Beevor’s blog. To read more and find out about The Second World War, click here.
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