Are leftists crazy or are they charlatans? After wading through 769 pages of Mikhail Gorbachev's humourless memoirs, PJ O'Rourke thinks he has the answerby PJ O'Rourke / January 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
Published in January 1997 issue of Prospect Magazine
New Satan takes over in hell, wants to install air-conditioning. That is Memoirs by Mikhail Gorbachev in brief. And brevity is a thing of which you will have a high, fine appreciation after 769 densely printed, generously sized pages containing, in total, more than 350,000 words. Memoirs is an impressive work-if you drop it on your foot.
Marx spoke of the ash heap of history and here it is. The prose style is appalling: “The need for major changes was in the air, as the saying goes.” Perhaps the translator is an idiot. But “Camp David is a beautiful spot in the woods, designed for recreation, with many a shady nook and sports lawns and buildings,” can be blamed on no translator. The third person voice is used to such Bob Dolerous extent that consciousness of authorship begins to fog. “Many people still suspect Gorbachev of trying to save the party nomenklatura,” appears on the page, and you think, “What witless, purblind pinko sap is writing this?” Then you remember. It is the fellow capable of penning the sentence, “My speech started off like Hamlet’s famous soliloquy: ‘How to deepen and make irreversible revolutionary perestroika, which on the initiative and under the leadership of the party has been launched in our country-this is the fundamental question…’ ” To which, if I remember my Shakespeare, Ophelia replies, “Sweet Prince, take your Prozac.”
But the content of Memoirs is far more dreadful than the style. The book is full of lies: “…democracy can be developed under a one party system.”; “To us arms negotiations were a method of consolidating the efforts of different states in order to achieve results that would benefit all parties involved.”; “I absolutely reject the accusation that the Soviet leadership intentionally held back the truth about Chernobyl.”
Gorbachev, however, is more than just a false witness, he is a big wind pudding and bull shoveller: “Even today I cannot reveal certain facts to the reader. Still, I can assure you that we were not bluffing. Our studies had proven that the potential answer to SDI could meet the requirements…”