Posted Thursday, August 2, 2001

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 I have just bought a copy of your book ..., and for the first time I have discovered how my husband died.

Thursday, August 2, 2001 (London)

I AM sorry to see in today's Guardian that Miklos Vasarhelyi has died on July 31. I interviewed him several times during the Janos Kadar era while writing Uprising, and asked him at one time what had caused him, a dedicated communist who had languished for the requisite number of years in prisons for his beliefs, to switch sides and support the anti-Soviet revolution of 1956. He said, "I read a book." It was Animal Farm, circulating sub rosa in Budapest in a French edition.

UprisingMightier than the sword! One author's pen, wielded years before, had persuaded a Hungarian communist whom he would never meet to abandon all thoughts of his own safety and that of his family to the winds of revolution. I have often cited this as one instance of an author's hidden duty to get things right.

Another instance was the letter I received, on Basildon Bond notepaper, written in a elderly female hand, beginning with the words: "I have just bought a copy of your book The Destruction of Convoy PQ17 on my local station's W H Smith bookstand, and for the first time I have discovered how my husband died..."-- He was the radio operator of the s.s. Hartlebury.

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