Don’t ban Russia’s culture
Sir: It is uncouth, illiterate and actually beneficial to Putin when theatres, opera houses and other cultural institutions in Britain and across the globe block access to these heights of culture (‘Theatre of war’, 14 May). During Stalin’s last decade and throughout the Cold War, Isaiah Berlin was a superb help to this country and to Russia through his connection with Anna Akhmatova, including the award to her of an honorary doctorate at New College, Oxford, in June 1965, the year before her death.
Censorship and blocking of the free flow of culture between Russia and western society is what the Soviet Union enforced. It was only by secret means that Boris Pasternak was able to get his novel Doctor Zhivago published abroad in 1958, in translation, two years before his death. It could not be published in Russia until 1987. It’s just mad for the Royal Opera House and Cardiff Philharmonic to copy the Kremlin.
Sir: Lionel Shriver is right to point out that an over-fixation with politicians’ personal lives can obscure our assessment of them as decision-makers (‘Britain’s national character flaws’, 14 May). But the idea that viewing pornography in the House of Commons is a ‘silly, stupid reason’ for Neil Parish to resign goes too far. We trust our public officials not only to vote wisely on our behalf, but also to uphold the dignity of our democratic institutions as they do so. The damaging effects of pornography on children, families and the dignity of women are well known. Watching it in the Commons while exercising a solemn duty to constituents breaches trust and respect to an extent commensurate with losing one’s seat.
Missing the logic
Sir: In your leader of 14 May (Non, merci) you propose forming lots of ad-hoc international alliances but the one group you rule out joining is a looser small-u union with Europe based around free trade, which would potentially solve the Northern Ireland problem at a stroke. What’s the logic?
Chichester, W. Sussex
Sir: Charles Moore is correct about abortion in the United States (Notes, 7 May) but he only tells half the story. If the US Supreme Court overturns Roe vs Wade, individual states will enact their own abortion rights – or not. Many so-called red states will make abortion very difficult or impossible; some state governors have already said so. Looking at a map of the USA in its political reds and blues, there is a vast sea of red states in the middle. Women may have to travel thousands of miles to get an abortion; not easy for the less well-off. As Charles Moore says: ‘Overturning Roe vs Wade… would not banish abortion from America.’ What it will do is lead to more abortion clinics in red states’ back streets. Surely this is something we should all want to avoid.
Danbury, Connecticut, USA
Pause for thought
Sir: I made the mistake of presenting Michele Kirsch’s article (‘Pause célèbre’, 14 May), somewhat provocatively, to my 54-year-old wife. After a short, increasingly tense interlude, a bruising discussion ensued. I was informed that women are now expected to work until 67, i.e. for many years post-menopause, while receiving the ‘support’ of a medical profession who, in the main, will not have devoted a single day to the study of a biological certainty that will impact fully one-in-two of their patients. Needless to say, I effected a white-flag retreat more than a little chastened.
Sir: I’m surprised that you should mark the death of Sir Harrison Birtwistle not with an appreciation of his life and work but with an ill-informed article by one of his detractors (The heckler, 7 May). Birtwistle’s music may not be enjoyed by everyone (whose is?) but his art, his contribution to musical life and his international status as a composer are undeniable. I, too, was at the world première of Gawain, and remember it rather differently from Keith Burstein.
Editor, The Oxford Companion to Music
Pinkneys Green, Berkshire
Sir: I read Olivia Potts’s article on Eccles cakes with interest (14 May). In the late 1960s, a friend of mine had a part-time job in a local bakery shop. When we met up after her first week, she warned me: ‘Never eat the Eccles cakes!’ She explained that all the leftover bits and bobs from the other cakes and biscuits ended up in their filling. I have heeded her advice to this day.
Sir: The inadequate treatment by Lloyds Bank of Stephen Robinson’s daughter when she lost £440 to scammers is shocking (‘Daylight robbery’, 14 May), but isn’t there an even more concerning aspect? As he rightly states, Action Fraud no longer investigates crimes of this nature but simply tracks their level. This was not always so. In September 2017 I reported a scam to Action Fraud and received an acknowledgement letter, later followed by a report. Fast-forward to September 2019, when I reported another scam to Action Fraud and received no response at all. Who investigates these crimes? As I understand it, at present nobody does. The police have neither the financial resources nor the expertise to do so. It’s a national scandal and a disgrace.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10