19 MAY 1961, Page 24

Red Dan ubia

Bulgarian Background. By Bernard Newman. (Robert Hale, 21s.) IN a world divided and threatened by the challenge of Communism, books like these two, dealing with people and life under Communist rule, are of great value. To an audience whose main interest is focused on ideological trends, who wish to know how Marxist indoctrination fares—especially since the explosion in Hungary—neither book will be of very much help.

The one on Yugoslavia is the more important. We have read a great deal about the Yugoslav people, their heroic fight against the invading armies of Hitler and Mussolini. We have learnt to admire the Yugoslays for their brave and un- relenting stand against Stalin, and more recently against Khrushchev, to safeguard their inde- pendence. Our knowledge, however, of how the Yugoslav people reached their present position and what makes them react so bravely and violently when faced with great dangers is still sketchy. Here at last we have a full and thorough history of the South Slav peoples, whose record in the recent struggles between East and West has raised wide interest in the non-Communist world, and made a lasting impact on the Soviet bloc countries. What sort of people they are, where they come from, how they were brought together to form the federal States of Yugoslavia, all this is traced from the early Middle Ages za the present day in this scholarly study. The joint authors clearly made painstaking efforts ze eliminate their own prejudices. Though both plead guilty of having 'fallen under the spell 01 the country,' they hope that 'their love for the Yugoslav people is not an uncritical passion.'

My own personal quarrel is that they cove) proportionately too little ground in the phase! of Yugoslavia's more recent history. Only one tenth of this massive book is devoted to the establishment of the People's Republic. What ever the verdict of history on the Yugosla' share in destroying the pretence of the Stalinis magic in the Marxist world, we know that Titoism has inflicted a heavy blow on orthodx Communism and all its aspirations.

Bulgarian Background is a puzzliQg book. Mr. Newman, a competent writer with a long record for investigation of foreign lands, has

this time failed in his mission. The quality of writing is not of his usual standard, the presenta- tion of his meetings with a long string a Bulgars, the highlights of the book, does not carry conviction. One is almost persuaded that the book has been written without a careful

plan and, possibly for the publishers' sake, in a great hurry. Fortunately it contains many good things. The travels to the 'wonders of the Black Sea coast' and to the ancient cities, the descrip- tion of those resorts and people is interesting and

makes good reading. A brief account of the history of Bulgaria covering almost a thousand years presents a fair and comprehensive back- ground of these valiant but ill-fated people.

It is in the field of discovering their dail

y existence, how Bulgarians react to the vigorou Marxist indoctrination and Communist dictator ship, that the reader may feel disappointed. MI Newman was able to 'travel alone and freely and without hindrance.' Being blessed by 'conieAl this tinuous good fortune' he was able also to mettle'''. TI and talk 'equally freely' to Bulgars throughout') ek these journeys. But as one reads his recorded

conversations, one is left with a disappointed• th

feeling of boredom. The reader will be reluctant"' (A to accept at face value the spontaneity of these .41 'intriguing' meetings with the butcher, the bake Wi the candlestick-maker. "nt in All this puzzling, apparent self-deception I P1 comes to a full stop when we reach the la! dt chapter. The author makes it abundantly cleat. ,t, Pi his views are not clouded or affected by the :c machinations of the Bulgarian 'apparatus.' He TI calls a spade a spade, and Bulgaria 'a police 01 state, bearing little resemblance to the workers' AI paradise vaunted by Communist propaganda.'

In the end it will not be the reader but the Bu garian Communists who may feel cheated.