Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Great not good

Very much enjoying the book about a spy in Central Asia, as recommended to me last month – which is all the boy’s own stuff you could hope for. Though I question the “master of disguise” bit, as Bailey keeps being spotted by anyone who looks at him.

“I had learnt that, in the eyes of the type of man in the employ of the Bolsheviks, the House of Commons was an assembly of riff-raff who were almost Bolsheviks themselves; the name itself lends colour to this idea. The House of Lords, on the other hand, was a kind of counter-revolutionary White Guard; the two coming to some sort of compromise over the government of the country! They badly wanted the good opinion of the House of Commons.”

FM Bailey, Mission to Tashkent, p. 75.

The introduction by Peter Hopkirk refers to Bailey being a “Great Game player to his very fingertips”. Really uncomfortable about referring to the period as a great game, (also the name of Hopkirk’s own book).

The body count is alarming – whole towns decimated by the Bolsheviks, prisoners shot while awaiting trial (sometimes by drunk soldiers, sometimes just to forgo the trials). All round Bailey there are people being questioned, arrested and shot. “Great” here just means “bloody awful”.

Like, I guess, in the “Great War”.

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