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Conquest at Ninety


Yesterday evening Mrs. R and I joined a couple of dozen merrymakers at the summer home of Christopher and Carol Hitchens, where we celebrated the ninetieth birthday of the historian, critic, and poet (and my colleague at the Hoover Institution), the incomparable Robert Conquest.

It has been an even seven decades since Bob joined the Communist Party of Great Britain; just over six decades since he worked for British intelligence in wartime Bulgaria, observing enough of actual Communist tactics to cure him of communism forever; almost four decades since he published his signal work, The Great Terror, in which he claimed, correctly, as we now know, that Stalin’s purges had resulted in the deaths not merely of a few hundred intellectuals but of millions of ordinary Russians; and more than three decades since he and his closest friends, Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis, founded the legendary London luncheon club, the United Front Against Bull***t.

What is Bob up to these days? Well. He just returned from Portugal, where he addressed a conference on “The Treaty of Rome at 50”; he contributed an article to the recently published Cambridge Companion to George Orwell; he just completed an introduction for the new edition of The Great Terror that will be published next year; he will attend a conference in Washington in his honor in November; and in, so to speak, his spare time, he is working on articles on the United Nations and on the future of India.

Retirement? Faugh.

Happy birthday, Bob.


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