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Kingsley Amis and ‘The Great Terror’

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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