The Newsletter 55 Winter 2010

An extremely difficult position

Nicholas Tarling

Pieter Drooglever, 2009. Translated by Theresa Stanton, Maria van Yperon and Margolijn de Jager. An Act of Free Choice: Decolonization and the Right to Self-Determination in West Papua. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2009. xviii + 854 pages. ISBN 978 185168715 2. 

When Rachmaninov’s late Romantic third symphony was premiered in London in 1936, the Daily Telegraph critic Richard Capell maintained that, while the composer still gave parties on the grand old scale, no gorgeous guests turned up. Though remote from the subject of Pieter Drooglever’s book, the remark came to mind when I received it. Here was a book on a scale that has become rare, made possible only by adding financial subsidy to authorial devotion. But – as Capell failed to recognize in respect of the symphony, now part of the repertoire – some gorgeous guests do turn up.

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