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Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy MacLean
And in fact the support the UK gave to Tito and the Partisans was not entirely forgotten, and subsequently still kept then-Yugoslavia with an eye to the West.
In a very profound way, his book makes me question whether or not the human race has simply evolved downwards, post-MacLean. He reached Baku, Bokhara, Samarkand, Tashkent and many other places, and though there are few pictures, you do not need them for it is a riveting story — fighting Soviet bureaucracy; being trailed by the NKVD; negotiating with locals for food and a place to sleep.
OK in spite of those problems, I still had a great time reading this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves tales of adventure and political history. Jumping blind into enemy territory in Yugoslavia ought to have been horrifying, but he treats it almost as a bit of a lark.
The last 40 percent of the book concerns Maclean’s adventures with the Partisans, where he served as the UK’s official liaison officer to Tito, the head of the Partisans and, after the end of the war, the leader of communist Yugoslavia for almost 40 years.
The book is a masterpiece of classic British understatement, and you come away wishing that you had been able to meet this gifted man and share a whiskey with him while he regaled you with war stories. He was commissioned to talk to the tupan provincial governor there about the situation of both the consul-general and the British Indian traders. Following on from his exploits behind enemy lines the Honourable Member for Lancaster finds time to kidnap a troublesome Persian General before being personally selected by Winston Churchill to become the head of the Allied Military Mission to the partisans fighting the Axis forces in Yugoslavia.
Some of it lies in his understated, jolly-good-chaps tone.
Eastern Approaches is an autobiographical account of the early career of Fitzroy Maclean. Quite an experience, this one. Bukharin, friend of Lenin Excellent, amusing, in some places terrifying account of a British diplomat-turned-soldier whose curiosity nearly kills him, repeatedly.
For three years, he sits in on Stalin’s political trials and purges in addition to traveling throughout Russia by train maclen boat. Certainly the grim reality of life for many in the former kingdom of Yugoslavia would have been an awkward eadtern with MacLean’s witty, breezy, detached narration.
Jan 01, Gerald Sinstadt rated it it was amazing. Maclean wrote several books, including Eastern Approaches ‘, in which he recounted three extraordinary series of adventures: It was necessary to discuss the future shape of Yugoslavia at the approacues possible level, and so Maclean appraches instructed to invite Tito and his entourage to Casertathe Allied Force Headquarters near Naples. The book is filled with adventures that are spectacularly entertaining: I was very surprised at how engaged I became within a few pages of first chapter, not to mention the excitement my Grandmother expressed at finding my interest in history after her own heart.
A substantial body of Eastern Approaches is taken up by a gripping account of delicate diplomacy Tito is a convinced communist with Stalin as a natural ally and military bravado.
Once inside the occupied city, their patrol came face to face with Italian soldiers several times; Maclean, with his excellent Italian, managed to bluff his way out of all of these encounters by pretending to be a staff officer. Tito committed himself too, although, as Maclean points out, it would have been understandable had he wished to let the Germans leave as soon as possible. The following day he and a guide set out on horseback, riding through jungle and desert, and detained on the way by dubious characters who may or may not have been brigands.
MacLean’s firsthand experience in a paranoiac Soviet Russia and the camaraderie of guerilla life in Yugoslavia are invaluable historical accounts. Maclean was considered to be one of the inspirations for James Bond and this book contains many of the elements: The noise of its engines grew gradually fainter in the distance. But wry, amusing travelogues aren’t the only high point of the book.
So Maclean runs as a Tory for a by-election in Lancaster–a town he’s never visited. He wants only the Russian text; for the purpose of keeping his mental faculties fully maclesn Politics must be a secondary consideration.
When the Germans tried to repair it, the Balkan Air Force soon dissuaded them. He explained that he held diplomatic immunitybut his captors could not read his Soviet diplomatic pass. It mainly describes two raids on Benghazi a city which a few years ago was a lot less famous!
The understatement is often seductive, but sometimes mildly misleading, and occasionally a bit calculated. Thank you for your feedback.
Maclean commented wryly, “He was not an easy man to keep anything from”. A stop-over in Algiers meant a specially arranged radio phone call with Churchill.