Hello there, Antony Beevor!

How come you wanted to write a book about Arnhem?  

– The British have always had a fondness for heroic failure, and this exasperated me. The disaster was concealed by myths afterwards. I was also irritated by the way the way many previous writers had tried to suggest that only if this or that had not gone wrong, then it would all have been a great success. And most books on the battle have also concealed or glossed over the terrible suffering caused, both to soldiers and Dutch civilians.

The Arnhem operation was dramatic, can you tell us in short why it became so desperate? 

– In September 1944, thinking that the German army was collapsing, Field Marshal Montgomery decided to drop three and a half airborne divisions along the road leading north from the Belgian frontier via Eindhoven and Nijmegen to Arnhem to capture the bridge over the Rhine. The British paratroopers found that they were surrounded by two SS panzer divisions, and their heroic defence became a great British legend. What the legend concealed, of course, was the disastrous planning behind it all. They should never have been sent to their deaths.

Your military history books are a huge success among readers around the world (with half a million copies sold only in Sweden). Why are we so interested in World War II, do you think? 

– Firstly, we have to know about the Second World War because it is vital that we understand  how the world got to where it is today and why. Also the history of the Second World War is not just a fascinating story in its own right, but also because it shows the greatest moral dilemmas of all,  and moral choice is the essence of all human drama and literature.

If you were to write about a specific person in history, who would you choose? 

– With the exception of my book about Olga Chekhova, which was largely a study of the mutual fascination between Germany and Russia, I have avoided biography. This not because my wife is a biographer! Some people prefer focusing on a single person, while I am fascinated by the way events shape so many people’s lives and change them for ever.

What is your best memory from previous visits in Sweden? 

– I love Stockholm, but I will never forget on my first visit for Stalingrad the dryly humorous introduction by an elderly professor of history before I lectured at the University of Lund. ‘When Mr Beevor arrived at the beginning of the week, nobody had heard of him. Now we cannot do anything but hear of him.’

Any greetings to your Swedish audience? 

– I very much look forward to being back in Sweden and seeing you in August!


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