Read De Koning by Kader Abdolah Online

de-koning

Aan het einde van de negentiende eeuw bestijgt een nieuwe sjah de Perzische troon. Hij volgt zijn vader op, maar hij mist de daadkracht en de ambitie om zijn stempel op het bestuur te drukken. De koning heeft meer oog voor zijn harem, de kersentuin, de jacht en zijn rijkdommen dan voor de situatie waarin het volk en het land verkeren. Het leiderschap in het economische macAan het einde van de negentiende eeuw bestijgt een nieuwe sjah de Perzische troon. Hij volgt zijn vader op, maar hij mist de daadkracht en de ambitie om zijn stempel op het bestuur te drukken. De koning heeft meer oog voor zijn harem, de kersentuin, de jacht en zijn rijkdommen dan voor de situatie waarin het volk en het land verkeren. Het leiderschap in het economische machtsspel waarin Perzië met Engeland, Frankrijk en Rusland is verwikkeld, laat hij over aan zijn raadgever, de vizier.De handige politicus ziet in de samenwerking met de westerse landen grote mogelijkheden om hervormingen door te voeren die voorspoed zullen brengen. Maar tegen welke prijs?In een prachtig historisch en tegelijkertijd actueel verhaal vol betoverende personages verweeft Kader Abdolah de harde strijd om bodemschatten, land en macht met de magische sfeer van het aloude Perzië....

Title : De Koning
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9789044515428
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 412 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

De Koning Reviews

  • Jade
    2018-11-30 04:33

    First off, let me start by saying that I have a clear weakness for Kader Abdolah’s style of writing and its tone; I consider it to be the style of a true storyteller, and not one I come across very often. There is always such a humbly objective tone to it, and it derives strength from its simplicity. Whereas others might not find it original enough, or wish he gave more flair to his prose – I understand your arguments, because his style is indeed not very complex nor is it fantastically elegant. Yet that is what I love so much about it – it’s completely devoid of frivolities. Something about it just oozes: “This is simply how it happened”, and one takes it as a given.But, I digress.De Koning is Abdolahs newest historical novel, and details the history of Persia, its shah (Naser al-Din Shah Qajar), and its inhabitants at the end of the nineteenth century. Modernisation is at hand while Russia, France, and the United Kingdom all inch closer to get themselves a piece of Persia’s strategically positioned, oil-rich pie. Meanwhile, the current shah tries to turn a blind eye, more interested in his women, riches, and entertainment; torn between his mother’s traditionalist approach and his prime minister’s wish for modernisation. However, he can’t ignore what’s happening around him forever – revolutions in technology and especially communication all around the globe allow even his loyal citizens to learn of other practices in other countries… and to eventually rebel against him.Starting at page one, you can already slowly feel the shah’s kingdom crumbling down around him. There’s always this sense of a threat looming somewhere in the background, even though the shah himself doesn’t quite feel it yet at the start of the story. However, there’s simply no way out for him: every decision he makes is off and offensive in some way, and he finds that he can’t really please anyone – not his traditionalist mother, who concocts plans with the Russians, or his more modern prime minister, who dreams of a democratic Persia filled with modern cities, factories, and railroads. Though the shah is far from a very likeable character, you feel for him, especially in the beginning. I could understand his position and his behaviour, formed by his sheltered upbringing and his sociocultural climate – he’s simply not fit to be king, but there’s no way around it. And naïve as he is, he tries to be a vigorous and ruthless one, like his father was, but somewhere in his heart, he knows he’ll never be. So when consequences of bad decisions start hitting him harder, he starts to choose to ignore them and focus on the finer pleasures of life instead.Of course, he grows worse and worse while the story progresses. Constantly finding himself in situations in which he sees no way out, he starts resorting to ugly methods to get what he wants or to get things out of his way. He ignores every voice around him begging him to listen to reason, and when his prime minister takes it too far, a sad fate awaits him.As expected, this is a very political book, and immensely interesting if one’s interested in the history of Persia and how modernisation came about. It provides the reader with a thorough perspective of how everything went down, and gives honest and believable depth to every relationship in the story, from politically founded ones to more personal ones. To see the shah and his prime minister grow from trusting and frank towards each other to dismissive and disrespectful is heart-breaking in some ways, even though you can see it coming.I was impressed with this book for its scope on Persia’s nineteenth century history, providing its readers with perspectives of the shah, his prime minister, his wives, his mother, his enemies, and his people and the rebel ringleaders among them. Abdolah’s observations are beautifully objective and intelligent. It feels complete, it feels honest, and it feels tragic. It reads fast, thanks to its short chaptered format, and the slight threat in the background makes one keep on reading.Recommended for fans of historical fiction, those interested in Persia’s history/role in nineteenth century modernisation, and people who simply cannot turn away an eastern fairy-tale written by a master storyteller.

  • Elizabeth☮
    2018-12-01 04:05

    The content is an overview of the shah of Iran in the late 1800's. Shah Naser is taking his country into a more modern era. He is trying to broker peace with Russia and Britain and he trusts no one.This is an examination of someone in power that isn't quite sure what do with that power. He makes mistakes at every turn in his efforts to be greater and to get an upper hand in his political aspirations.The reading is easy here. The chapters are short and the timeline often jumps several years between chapters, but not in a way that diminishes the storyline. I feel there is a lot of down time in the plot and not much happens until the last third of the book. I am interested to read Adbolah's earlier works.

  • Justine
    2018-11-13 07:12

    *4,5

  • Mara
    2018-11-12 06:14

    Kader Abdolah è un affabulatore e ogni suo libro riesce a inchiodarmi alle pagine fino alla fine, grazie alle sue storie che sono ambientate in un tempo lontano e hanno un’ aurea di lievità fiabesca ma che ci parlano dei nostri giorni e dei suoi drammi. Il libro ci porta nella Persia del secondo ottocento, un paese che rimpiange la grandezza passata narrata dai cantastorie e diviso fra tradizioni feudali e voglia di cambiamento e modernità. I due personaggi principali sono lo Scià, un monarca debole, attaccato al proprio ruolo visto come emanazione del potere millenario, più affezionato alla sua gatta che al resto del mondo, ed il suo Visir, figura luminosa legata al proprio dovere e che lavora per portare il paese verso la modernità cercando di evitare di diventare colonia dei paesi occidentali e della Russia . I due uomini e la loro contrapposizione sono il simbolo della storia di questi anni dell’ Iran: tradizione abbarbicata su se stessa contro cambiamento che vuole fare piazza pulita dei retaggi del passato.Tutto ciò è narrato con toni da favola, quasi da mille e una notte, pur con complotti, omicidi e crudeltà varie.Non è difficile capire cosa pensi l’ autore: come ha scritto nella prefazione “Ho lasciato morti dietro di me, i miei compagni di lotta sono in carcere o sepolti in qualche cimitero, mentre io vengo ricevuto ovunque come un re”, ed il suo pseudonimo viene dal nome di due dissidenti assassinati dall’ attuale regime ; ma la sua narrazione è lieve, senza condanne preconcette.Il romanzo ha i toni delle fiabe, i colori dell’ Iran , la nostalgia un po’ disincantata dei ricordi e la crudeltà della storia recente . Un gran bel libro.

  • Carol Douglas
    2018-11-28 09:06

    Kader Abdullah, an Iranian who lives in exile, has illuminated an important part of his country's history for those (many) of us who are ignorant of it. Abdullah opposed the shah, then opposed what the revolution against the shah became. The book tells the story of a nineteenth century shah and the vizier who tried to guide him to modernize the country. I was surprised at how similar nineteenth century Persia was to nineteenth century China. The shah had a large harem (230 "wives" even when he was a prince, not yet a shah). Eunuchs guard the harem. The shah's advisers are split between traditionalists and those who believe the country needs to develop modern education and transportation systems.The British are trying to get whatever power and raw materials they can get, and so are the Russians. The imams played a more progressive role against an all-powerful shah than I had expected. The book is well written, indeed fascinating. I strongly recommend it as background for understanding Iran.

  • Wouter
    2018-11-13 10:10

    Another excellent book by Abdolah. It tells the story of a 19th century Persian Shah and the struggle of Persia with modernity. It is very interesting how this sheds light on the current 'freedom protests' that take place in the Middle East. Here also, the autocrat ruler seems to be so distanced from what happens among the common people that he is not able and not willing to understand the seriousness of what's going on. Also the interaction of the struggle for modern privileges and the ambivalent role of religion is portrayed in a realistic way that is relevant for understanding our contemporary times.

  • Lizza11
    2018-12-11 12:27

    Wat een meesterwerk weer van Kader Abdolah! Net zoals in zijn andere boeken staat de Islam in het Midden-Oosten (Afghanistan) centraal. In dit boek ga je naar de 19e eeuw, naar Perzië. De oude sjah komt te overlijden en zijn zoon, de kroonprins, neemt het van hem over. Dit is het moment waarop het verhaal begint, als de sjah zijn intrek neemt in het paleis in Teheran. De geschiedenis van de koningen van Perzië wordt uitgelegd en het systeem hoe de sjah, sjah wordt. Het was erg interessant om meer over de cultuur van de Islam te leren, hoe sommige rituelen het leven beheersen. Zo laat de (bijgelovige) sjah bepaalde belangrijke (!) beslissingen afhangen van een bladzijde uit de Koran/gedichtenbundel, die hij willekeurig openslaat. Je kunt je niet indenken dat een land zo wordt bestuurd, door in onze ogen 'toevalligheden'. De rechterhand van de sjah, de vizier, bestuurd in feite het land, waarbij de sjah de besluiten goed/fout keurt. De vizier in het verhaal probeert van Perzië, wat geteisterd wordt door armoede/analfabetisme etc., een modern land te maken. Het land wordt aan 2 kanten ingesloten door de machtigste landen van de wereld: Rusland en Engeland, die elkaar alleen maar proberen af te troeven in de strijd om de doortocht naar Indië. Hoewel de vizier erg into Engeland is, is de moeder van de sjah helemaal op de hand van Rusland, wat ze allebei bij de sjah proberen te 'verkopen'. Zonder veel te verklappen komt het er uiteindelijk op neer dat het volk zelf ook inziet dat er veranderingen nodig zijn (onder leiding van Djamal Khan) en met hulp van de belangrijkste ayatollahs van het land proeberen ze dat ook duidelijk te maken aan de sjah. Maar eigenwijs als hij is, hij die zichzelf ziet als het allerbelangrijkste op de wereld, wil er niet aan geloven, wat leidt tot een oorlog tussen het volk en het leger, met bloedige slagen en al. Het einde van het verhaal zie je van te voren al aankomen, maar dat mag het prachtige verhaal niet drukken. Wat me ook vooral opviel was die eigenwijsheid van de sjah, hij wil niet naar zijn vizier luisteren, maar uiteindelijk (na allerlei omstandigheden) doet hij toch alles was de vizier eerder gezegd had. Het verhaal leest verder ook lekker weg, hoewel de namen allemaal op elkaar lijken en ik dus af en toe in de war was wie nou wie was, maar dat was zeker niet storend.Zeker een aanrader!

  • David Kenvyn
    2018-11-12 10:09

    A sort of "I, Claudius" meets "A Thousand and One Nights" with a dash of "Richard III" thrown in. Nasir Shah however is not either Claudius or Richard, and Mahdolia is not Livia, but Kader Abdolah is certainly a spiritual descendant of Shahrazad, in that he can tell a story.There are no real surprises, however, in this story of a Shah, of ayatollahs, and young revolutionaries trying to change the history of Persia. Knowledge of the history of present-day Iran is proof that those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it. And this is a very quick way of getting to grips with the history of nineteenth century Persia, or modern Iran.

  • Inge
    2018-11-17 06:07

    Erg mooi geschiedenis boek! :)

  • Bettie☯
    2018-12-02 10:30

    (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  • Johan
    2018-12-11 07:16

    Voor mij is dit het beste boek van Kader Abdolah. Mooi geschreven en een goed opgezet verhaal. Het heeft een zekere actualiteit met de huidige ontwikkelingen in Noord Afrika. Een aanrader.

  • Bart Vanvaerenbergh
    2018-12-06 09:09

    De koning is een sprookjesachtig geschiedkundig verhaal.De Sjah van Perzië is toch wat gekant tegen vernieuwing, maar zal hij het kunnen tegenhouden ?Kader Abdolah heeft een eenvoudige, maar mooie schrijfstijl. Het boek bestaat uit verschillende korte hoofdstukjes.Beide zaken maken het een aangenaam boek om te lezen.Alleen heb je het tegen het eind van het boek wel een beetje gehad met die Sjah.

  • Jolieg G
    2018-11-16 08:26

    Mag zijn boeken graag lezen en dit is ook weer een interessant boek.Het gaat met name over het leven en bevoegdheden van de sjah en zijn vizier.

  • Markde Boer
    2018-12-12 07:07

    Dit is het eerste boek van Kader Abdolah dat ik lees, en ik ben zeer positief verrast. 'De Koning' is een zeer goed geschreven historische roman over sjah Naser uit de 19e eeuw. Ik ben vooral onder de indruk van de manier waarop het kleine en het grote verhaal in elkaar zijn verweven; dwz, het leven van de sjah (die van de oude stempel is, en liever met zijn kat speelt of in de harem is) en de maatschappelijke ontwikkelingen die zich in rap tempo voltrekken om hem heen. De achterflap noemt het boek 'een fascinerende roman over de relatie tussen Europa en het Oosten, maar het gaat meer over de relatie tussen de oude en nieuwe machtsorden binnen Perzië. De sjah noemt zich ergens 'de laatste ouderwetse koning' en houdt dat beeld tot op de laatste zin van het boek in stand, terwijl de wereld - ook in Perzië - inmiddels radicaal is veranderd.Het is schrijnend je te realiseren hoe de situatie in Perzië / Iran zich sindsdien heeft ontwikkeld en hoezeer dezelfde strijd in het Midden-Oosten nog woedt, maar juist dat maakt dit boek zo lezenswaardig.

  • Harm Kruizinga
    2018-12-10 04:14

    Het verhaal begint met het voorstellen van de belangrijkste personages. De personages worden tijdens het verhaal voorgesteld, waardoor het verhaal langzaam op gang komt.Toch blijft het verhaal treken een echte page turner. Mede doordat er in het begin vn het verhaal kleine bij verhalen zijn en wilt weten waar het toe zal leiden.

  • Ti Tia
    2018-11-28 09:22

    De eerste helft las als een politiek sprookje en was daarin heel geslaagd. De tweede helft las als een feitelijk en soms tikkeltje droog verslag van de gebeurtenissen. Het sprookje was over, maar het grote leesplezier ook wel. Tot hoofdstuk 61 (van de 64) "De Elektriciteit", wat prachtig! Out with a bang.

  • Remi van Beekum
    2018-11-18 06:09

    De Koning geeft een kijk op Perzie vanuit het oogpunt van de Sjah. Literair gezien vind ik het niet zo'n goed boek, maar het is wel interessant voor wie zich interesseert voor geschiedenis en het Oosten. Niet spannend, wel intrigerend.

  • Frank Debaere
    2018-12-12 12:09

    Eerder een kroniek dan een roman.Het huis van de moskee kon me veel meer bekoren en was ook beter geschreven.Wel boeiend tijdsbeeld van Perzië rond de eeuwwisseling.

  • Anne-Trine
    2018-11-28 05:19

    A disappointment, compared with The House.... At times entertaining, but many long, utterly boring passages to cope with.

  • Jeroen
    2018-11-29 09:33

    Not his best, or just more of the same, i'm not sure. But i wasn't as drawn into the story as i was with some of his other work. Still worth the read though.

  • Denis
    2018-12-03 10:27

    Closely following true events and characters, while using the gifts a great novelist has at his disposition, Kader Abdolah has written with The King a multi-faceted and brilliant piece of literature that shines a fascinating light on the fate of Iran toward the end of the XIX century. It is a lyrical and often moving novel, and it manages (and that is no small feast) to be at the same time as enchanting as the tales that we in the Western world associate with a more or less legendary Middle-East and its literature, and as deep, knowledgeable, and philosophical as any serious historical study of the country could be. Abdolah cleverly plays with our facile exotic vision of the land to better reveal the truth that lies behind each cliché. The main thread of the book is the destiny of the melancholy Shah Naser, a complex character who’s quite affecting in his sincerity, yet also infuriating because of how out of touch with his times he can be. Through him, it is the beguiling history of the country as a whole, and of its culture, that Abdolah offers. Iran, as he describes it, is a place rooted in an immensely rich past but facing a tumultuous present, with the spectre of European colonialism creating havoc and the unavoidable clash with modern industrialization looming at the horizon. The first thing that struck me as I started reading The King is that Kader Abdolah writes beautifully. Each chapter is like a delightfully constructed miniature. He does wonders at creating fragrant atmospheres while avoiding the usual heavy-handed descriptions that plague so many historical novels: there are, for example, very few descriptions of the palace where the king lives, or of the city of Teheran, and yet both places feel vividly alive and vibrant under his pen. Abdolah also gives wonderful gravitas to a myriad of complicated characters while framing them in an almost fairy tale setting that his prose brings to life with utter delicacy. And he never forgets that his tale is ultimately a tragic one: real emotions and heartbreak are at the core of The King. Abdolah has many talents. He is especially skilled at showing us how the greedy and unscrupulous Europeans brought Iran to the brink, as they lust after its oil reserves and its geographical strategic importance, but he also underlines a more mournful aspect of the problem: Europeans’ brand new technological marvels could have brought Iran to the modern world in a more constructive way - if only things had happened differently. The prescient character of the vizir, who’s the soul of the book, understands that perfectly well. It is his misfortune. Abdolah is also very good at explaining, with subtlety and a great understanding of the situation, how young political rebels, hungry for freedom and mostly influenced by the socialist movements of Europe, ally themselves with the religious leaders of their country because they think it’s the only way to defeat the monarchy: that, of course, lead those leaders to slowly but surely enjoy immense political powers, something that will have devastating consequences later during the XX century. The Shah, all through the narration, is a solitary, often disconsolate, figure that does terrible mistakes despite evident good will: there is something harrowing in his realization that he’s trapped in between the past and the future, between traditions and modernity. Is he to blame for what happens to his country? Yes and no. His backward comprehension of the monarchy and absolute power – fed by his mother – is constantly at odds with his desire to see Iran evolve in the right direction, and mixes uneasily with his understandable reluctance to trust Europe and his intense nationalistic pride. His nostalgia for an all-powerful Iran that doesn’t exist anymore pushes him to take deplorable decisions. The results are catastrophic. Parallels with what happened in Russia and other countries that have faced revolutions is inevitable and almost eerie. The real hero of the novel, if there is one, is definitely the vizir: he understands what is happening and tries as best as he can to save his country, that he loves deeply, despite having enemies everywhere, including at the royal court where self-interest rules. He’s an amazing character, who literally sacrifices his life for his land, and the reader can feel how much Abdolah respects him. The King is a beguiling and scintillating book, a novel of enchantments, but also a deeply informative and wise work of History.

  • Ele Dalmonte
    2018-11-12 05:19

    Che. Noia. Mortale.Il fatto è che questo libro pare scritto da un programma di scrittura automatica nel quale si sia inserito un dizionario (versione tascabile per le scuole elementari), dei fatti nudi e crudi, e poi premuto "invio"; risultato: una pedantissima non-scrittura capace di annichilire ai miei occhi il fascino e l'interesse potenziali di qualsiasi avvenimento, luogo, personaggio narrato. E sì che l'argomento sarebbe stato dei più promettenti: la Persia di fine Ottocento, Scià e Visir e concubine...Ora io capisco «il dovere etico della memoria e della testimonianza», capisco la scelta dell'Autore di scrivere nella lingua del paese - l'Olanda - che l'ha accolto nel 1988 come profugo politico (scelta da cui forse deriva in gran parte questa mediocrità di linguaggio?); capisco tutto, ci mancherebbe. Epperò.Buoni propositi: riprovarci un giorno, ma senza fretta, con La casa della moschea.

  • Aukje Reina van Montfort
    2018-11-24 12:15

    Normaal houd ik helemaal niet van Nederlandse boeken, ze laten me cringen.Maar ik moest voor school 8 Nederlandse boeken lezen en vond dit boek (en Het Gouden Ei van Tim Krabbé) echter wel vermakelijk. Zegt genoeg lijkt me.Ik heb altijd al interesse gehad in andere culturen en dit boek is goed in staat je een beeldvorming te geven over het Perzische rijk. Wat het nog interessanter maakt, is dat het boek zich afspeelt wanneer de industriële revolutie op gang komt. Zo doende zie je een vrij conversieve dictator vechten tegen de progressie. Natuurlijk is dit boek fictie en al, maar er zit een zekere kern van waarheid in. Net zoals dat in de meeste leugens, mythes en legendes vaak een kern van waarheid zit.

  • Rashmi
    2018-11-17 04:21

    Totally loved the style of writing, and the story..havent read many history related tales but this one was fascinating and entertaining. It also gives the glimpses of what was happening in the world - british and russians were supporting mutiny in every region to topple the king regime...it was an interesting period of transition from kingdom to soveign nation...

  • Janneke
    2018-12-11 11:18

    Ofschoon het verhaal over De Koning (sjah van Perzië) op zich wel boeiend is, vind ik de schrijfstijl van Abdolah langzamerhand erg kinderlijk worden. Een boek over de politieke ontwikkelingen in Perzië eind 19e eeuw is in Jip-en-Jannekestijl toch wel heel eenvoudig. Ik heb al betere boeken gelezen van Abdolah.

  • Mirella Ducasteele
    2018-11-20 11:17

    Het lijkt op een epos uit de Middeleeuwen. Correct historisch onderbouwd verhaal over de invoering van de democratie in Iran.

  • AudryT
    2018-11-18 07:19

    A work of art, carefully painted word by word, until a portrait of a man and a kingdom emerge, fully realized.

  • Meera Srikant
    2018-11-19 06:21

    A simply told story of a Persian king, the last before the Parliamentary system was introduced, his insecurities, aspirations, attempts at greatness and the final fall... Kept me hooked

  • Sharon
    2018-12-13 09:32

    Interesting read! I enjoyed learning more about a time and place in history that I have very little familiarity with. Although, I accidentally spoiled myself about half way through when I was trying to figure out if it was historical fiction, alternate history or a fairy tale grounded in historical events. It's historical fiction, even though it reads like a fairy tale. Don't do what I did.

  • Anne
    2018-11-12 11:05

    “In the Kremlin he heard for the first time the bells his father had described. The whole notion of time made him tremble with happiness: time that advances, time that slips away... That boyhood dream had never left him. He had met with the engineer of a French bell foundry to discuss the possibility of hanging a number of bells in big cities like Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz and Tabriz. Time was standing still in his homeland. He wanted to use the bells to get time moving again.”“‘You cannot set the course of history alone, and man is not capable of completing his work in its entirety, yet you must try.’‘I am doing that. I have always done that. But I fear that history will forget what I was trying to do,’ said the vizier.‘Your words sound familiar,’ answered his father with a smile. ‘Don’t worry. History has seen you.’”Now the vizier was home after a long absence. Despite the public euphoria that his deeds evoked he felt sad. There was something he couldn't put his finger on. History was devouring him - he knew that as he stood at the gate of his house.”Poems the vizier writes to his wife:"My love, Always be home when I return, or I am forced to go from room to room, calling your name until you come.""Sometimes I feel like an old treeIn which birds alight, flight after flight.But I want only youTo sit among my leavesAnd sing for me." "'Now it's time for a magnificent ashpazan.' Ashpazan was a word the shah himself had thought up. It meant 'the communal preparation of a thick Persian soup.' The shah loved soup. He always looked for a reason to organise an ashpazan."“The wine of Shiraz was the wine of paradise, and you had to have read the poetry of the great medieval Persian masters to understand what that meant. As Hafez wrote:Make haste, O steward and gladden my cup with wine!O minstrel, sing my fate and make it kind. My lover’s face doth sparkle in my cup. The traveller on the road to this cafeWould be a fool to seek another way.For a king, the shadow of God on earth, drinking wine in public was simply not done. But if the great master had been so warmly inclined towards wine, why should the kings begrudge themselves that pleasure? Life was short and, like the great poet Hafez, they understood that wine and recollections of past lovers were all that remained.”“‘Someone who has come so far can never go back.’”Letters the Shah writes to his daughter and his wives while abroad:“We miss our little Ahmad Mozafar, our crown prince. Take good care of him. Feed him with your own milk. Hold him close to your body and talk to him in full sentences. Don’t tell him any foolish stories and don’t sing him any common lullabies. Read to him from Hafez. Teach him French songs.”“Wives! The shah misses his harem. We were duty bound to make this journey or we wouldn’t have done it at all. The distances are great, the roads are impassable and danger is lurking at every turn. Thank God we didn’t bring you with us or it would have been a miserable expedition.” I like the former for its reminder of current parenting anxieties and the latter because it is hilarious.“At dinner the tsar’s wife sat next to us and the beautiful woman sat across from us. We very much wanted to speak with her, but the tsar’s wife prattled on the whole night and gave us not a moment’s peace. Her breath stank. God is punishing me for something.”“‘I have visited a number of European parliaments, but parliaments like that will never work here. Power must be kept secret and incomprehensible.’”