I am back from five days as a Hoover Media Fellow where – among many interesting and valuable encounters with other fellows – I got to meet one of my personal heroes, Robert Conquest, age 91.
I am pleased to report the author of that seminal work on Stalinism The Great Terror has, as the cliché goes, all his marbles at his advanced age. Ed Driscoll and I visited him and his third wife Liddy at their home in Stanford faculty housing on Friday to make a short video. Sharp as he may be mentally, the historian/poet is quite feeble, his voice weak, but we still found his stories of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, etc., riveting. This is a man who has been at the very center of the intellectual conflicts of the Twentieth Century. After reading Conquest, you can never look at GB Shaw, JP Sartre and numerous other Stalin apologists with the same unbridled admiration.
Conquest answered a few questions for us and even read some of his poetry, including a translation he did from a long battlefield poem by Solzhenitsyn (Prussian Nights). The Russian author asked Conquest to translate it when they met in Zurich in 1975 after Solzhenitsyn had been finally expelled from the Soviet Union. The raw footage of our video has been uploaded to our servers and will appear in edited form on Pajamas TV next week.