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Monday, May 21, 2012

A little Eurovision dirty work never hurt anyone

I've just finished Savage Continent by Keith Lowe, which is the most depressing book I've ever read. It's about "Europe in the aftermath of World War II". Some of it - such as the German death camps, the Russian rape of Germany and the fate of millions of displaced people - I knew about. Much of it - such as the Soviet crushing of any dissent on their side of the Iron Curtain and their deliberate aggravation of existing ethnic tensions - I could have guessed at. What's most depressing is the amount I didn't know about and just how much killing was still going on when the world was allegedly at peace.

It would look tasteless to list any specific examples here. If you really want to know what people are capable of doing to their neighbours you should read it. You come away from it mildly nauseated, newly aware of the fact that every nation or national group has plenty of reasons for hating the people next door and that the modern continent of Europe, this green and pleasant, effectively borderless land latticed by motorways, theme parks, shopping malls and holiday resorts, has been built on top of a charnel house.

Now that I've finished the book I've got time to listen to all 42 entries for this year's Eurovision Song Contest in time for tomorrow night's Front Row. I don't know whether anyone has ever claimed that the brotherhood of Eurovision could heal the wounds of war. One thought struck me. If this weekend any of the countries of Europe want to settle an ancient score or two by deliberately bearing false witness or marking down the entry of their ancient enemy, that's absolutely fine with me. I've just been reading about how they used to do it.