Facts Are Subversive: Political Writing From a Decade Without a Name

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Facts Are Subversive: Political Writing from a Decade Without a Name
By Timothy Garton Ash
Yale University Press, 2010
464 pp. $35.00
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Oxford's Garton Ash is no dusty don producing authoritative tomes grounded in archival sources, statistical charts, or revisionist reinterpretations of the past. His virtues are journalistic -- most notably, a brilliant eye for spotting a memorable detail in an exotic locale -- yet his vision is broader than most reporters or columnists. He knows his history and literature, and he combines reportage with passionate political commitment. To be sure, these 48 short essays published over the last decade indulge some journalistic vices. They were written in the moment, and some have thus been overtaken by events: there are ruminations over the proper response to weapons that Iraq did not have, criticisms of an "Enlightenment fundamentalism" that Garton Ash now admits is illusory, and confident predictions about the spread of Ukraine's Orange Revolution that never came true. Moreover, the essays are selective, focusing on flashy subjects that make for engaging interviews: heroic revolutionaries, sordid politicians, and exotic nationalists. Economic interests and electoral calculation, the bland bread and butter of modern politics, play little role. Still, one would like to think this is how history is lived, and the result is engaging. These vignettes are highly recommended for those who cannot wait for the proverbial owl of Minerva to spread its wings.