18 NOVEMBER 2000, Page 54

Julian Mitchell

Three diarists. Victor Klemperer's To the Bitter End (1942-45) (Weidenfeld & Nicol- son, £20) includes an astonishing descrip- tion of the night Dresden became a fireball. The bombing has been much criti- cised, but it saved the lives of Klemperer and the few other Jews who survived the relentless Nazi persecution he so heartrendingly describes. Peter Nichols's Diaries 1969-1977 (Nick Hem Books, £25) are essential and hilarious reading for any- one interested in contemporary theatre. The playwright casts an unforgiving eye over his friends, enemies, wife, family, and permanently discontented self. James Lees- Milne died in 1997, but Deep Romantic Chasm (John Murray, £22.50) only brings his diaries up to 1978-81, when, aged 70, to his own happy distraction but the under- standable irritation of his wife, he falls in love with a young man. His love-object has edited with less discretion than Jim prac- tised himself, which makes for even more scandalous entertainment than usual.