Sound familiar? Here’s why.

His ghastly lack of proper education, his imperfect mastery of the German language, especially of written German, and his complete disregard of logic, were patent. No well thought-out document ever came from his pen, merely vague directions. He fought shy of committing himself. By his order, minutes of conversations were as a rule withheld from the other party. Conferences were bound to break down over his monologues. It was exceedingly difficult to obtain decisions … If made, they were mostly unclear, leaving scope for arbitrary interpretations … and there was no appeal. The “Führer” has decided; to resort to him once more would be blasphemy … No adviser could gain permanent influence. Hitler’s reactions could be skilfully manipulated by “news,” but the explosive effect could not be gauged beforehand. A fairly good memory for facts and figures enabled him to bluff even experts … His violent diction and the tone of his voice intimidated … A smatterer in everything, he was an expert in bluffing. “This last half-hour, while I was resting, I invented a new machine-gun and a contrivance for bridge-building, and composed a piece of music in my head,” he once intimated to a late companion from Landsberg prison, who was duly impressed … He had not the patience to read a lengthy document, but claimed to know Clausewitz by heart. And he often got away with it.

(Erich Kordt, a key foreign affairs official in the Third Reich, quoted in full from an edited 1948 review of Lewis Namier, historian, of Kordt’s Wahn und Wirklichkeit, reprinted in the TLS, November 29, 2019: 38.)

–We’d do better, poet Seamus Heaney said, approaching contemporary politics “at an angle,” as Heaney did through some of his own translations.

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