The Economist calls it, ‘Irreverent and engaging’ and I’d agree. In reading Peter Millar’s 1989 The Berlin Wall, or more fully 1989 The Berlin Wall: My Part in Its Downfall one gets a knowing yet almost naive version of Millar’s time in Berlin, being trailed by the Stasi whilst drinking with the locals in a back street bar or nipping over to West Berlin for new sofa. As with any story which covers life in a communist country, the thing that grabs me is the sheer breathtaking cheek of some of the things that these regimes get up to. I’d like to believe that in the west such things couldn’t happen – but then the whole Spycatcher farrago would tell a different story. I particularly like the part when Millar regales us with some of the details from Stasi observations of him. Writing about shopping trips with his wife, Millar quotes,
On such expeditions, it would appear that Streamer (Millar’s Stasi codename) makes his wife carry the heavy objects.
Interesting for Millar to read, useful ammunition for his wife, but relevant to the ‘security’ of the East German state? Somehow I don’t think so. Through a trip to Moscow, under the auspices of the ‘Soviet fraternal service’ and back to Berlin via London to the night of the ninth of November 1989 Millar continues to entertain whilst making some astute observations about life in Cold War Europe as it spirals towards the end of communism. His view of what has happened since is a wistful regret at a lost opportunity and a not so subtle dig at the “Little Englander” mentality of more than a few people here in Blighty.
The Sunday Times described the book as ‘part autobiography, part historical primer and part Fleet Street gossip column’ which sums it up quite neatly. Peter Millar’s 1989 The Berlin Wall is a most enjoyable piece of work, combining dryness of wit with the sentiment of reminiscences of time spent in the company, amidst all the nonsense, of good friends.
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