Frances Stonor Saunders

Frances Stonor Saunders is the author of Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War and The Woman Who Shot Mussolini, among other books.

The Suitcase: Part Three

Frances Stonor Saunders, 10 September 2020

road to left – don’t take.another road to left – don’t take.– between the two left roads there should be a footpath up to the right.Zigzag path.Keep to left – steep drop on right.

Directions for a walk, written by my father

‘Where’s Daddy?’ I asked. ‘He’s gone away for the summer.’ There was a van outside our house and men...

The Suitcase: Part Two

Frances Stonor Saunders, 13 August 2020

It​ is said that the first lie of a map is that it tells the truth. The only true map would be on a scale of 1:1, a map that shows every single detail, including the map of the map of the map. Even supposing that such infinite regress could be shown (it can’t), the map still wouldn’t be truly true because the territory itself can never be fixed – the map would have to be constantly altered, in real time, to include the fallen oak, the river that burst its banks, the ooze of tarmac on the newly surfaced road. A map is a memory: it’s a representation, a re-presenting of something that has been. It may look good on paper – and that’s already a fiddle, a projection of a sphere onto a plane – but it’s always a botched job and mapmakers know it. Cartographic language is loaded with confessions of omission and commission: map silences, map fictions, map errors, distortion formulae (generalisation, adjustment, displacement, collapse), terra incognita.

The Suitcase

Frances Stonor Saunders, 30 July 2020

Who rise from here to the sky of the upper worldAnd re-enter the sluggish drag of the body?What possesses the poor souls? Why this mad desireTo get back to the light? 

Seamus Heaney, Aeneid, Book VI

Thesuitcase arrived long after its owner had left. It was handed over to me nine years ago in the car park of a London church on a miserable, gun-metal grey morning. The suitcase is...

Where on Earth are you?

Frances Stonor Saunders, 3 March 2016

The one border we all cross, so often and with such well-rehearsed reflexes that we barely notice it, is the threshold of our own home. We open the front door, we close the front door: it’s the most basic geographical habit, and yet one lifetime is not enough to recount all our comings and goings across this boundary. What threshold rites do you perform before you leave home? Do you appease household deities, or leave a lamp burning in your tabernacle? Do you quickly pat down pockets or bag to check you have the necessary equipment for the journey?

Stuck on the Flypaper: The Hobsbawm File

Frances Stonor Saunders, 9 April 2015

On 25 January 1933, the 16-year-old Eric Hobsbawm marched with thousands of comrades through central Berlin to the headquarters of the German Communist Party (KPD). When they arrived at Karl Liebknecht Haus, on the Bülowplatz, the temperature was -18°C. They shuffled and waited in the bone-numbing cold for four hours to hear the podium speeches of the party cadres. As Hobsbawm would recall much later, there was singing – ‘The Internationale’, peasant war songs, the ‘Soviet Airmen’s Song’ – with intervals of heavy silence.

The Writer and the Valet

Frances Stonor Saunders, 25 September 2014

Isaiah Berlin was on his honeymoon – he married late – when he first read Dr Zhivago. It was the evening of Saturday, 18 August 1956, and he had just made the short journey back to Moscow from the village of Peredelkino, where he had spent the day with Boris Pasternak. Pasternak’s dacha was part of a complex set up on Stalin’s orders in 1934 to reward the Soviet Union’s most prominent writers. One of them, Korney Chukovsky, described the scheme as ‘entrapping writers within a cocoon of comforts, surrounding them with a network of spies’.

‘The greatest mercenary of an age when soldiers of fortune flourished,’ says the cover flap of Frances Stonor Saunders’s biography of Sir John Hawkwood (c.1320-94), one-time...

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Hey, Mister, you want dirty book? The CIA

Edward Said, 30 September 1999

E.P. Thompson called it the ‘Natopolitan’ world: that is, not just Nato plus all the Cold War military and political institutions that were integral to it, but also a mentality whose...

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