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Apr 5

Written by: Diana West
Monday, April 05, 2021 5:10 AM 

This a picture of Vladimir Bukovsky and Robert Conquest in the early 1980s. Bukovsky emailed it to me in January 2018. 

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I have been thinking about moments when it appeared the truth would not only out but triumph and thought back to a blistering "told you so" phrase attributed to Robert Conquest and wondered when it was he was moved to say it.

It turns out he he didn't say it -- a relief, I must say since, however justified, it always made me wince. In a 2007 letter to the editor of the New York Review of Books, Conquest informs the public that it was "the ever-inventive" Kingsley Amis, not he, who coined the phrase.

The record, though, plays on.

In response to

"Executioner Songs" from the March 1, 2007 issue

To the Editors:

In a footnote to John Banville’s review of Martin Amis’s House of Meetings [“Executioner Songs,” NYR, March 1] I am quoted as having suggested, for a title for a new edition of The Great Terror, “How about I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?” A few weeks earlier, in a TLS review of Zachary Leader’s The Life of Kingsley Amis (February 2), Clive James called me “unfailingly polite in controversy.”

Hard to reconcile the two views—except that the “I told you so, etc.” comment was actually made, and attributed to me, by the ever-inventive Kingsley.

This also gives me an excuse to join in the welcome to Martin Amis’s moving new book. I am particularly glad to read in his acknowledgments the tribute to Tibor Szamuely, who understood Stalinism better than I did. I remember saying to him that I could see why Stalin had Marshal Tukhachevski shot, but why did he do the same to his old friend Marshal Yegorev? Tibor’s answer was “Why not?”

Robert Conquest

Stanford, California

 

 

   

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