tv Robert Harris Munich CSPAN February 17, 2018 8:02am-9:01am EST
national church and my brain center. and since the opening in october 2016 we welcome many students and visitors and shared the primary documents books and exhibits. i hope you will take the time to enjoy today. to learn more about churchill and the work of the society. please visit our website. just today we held the first meeting of the undergraduate research seminar. we had welcomed leaders such as general david petronius. the former british foreign
conference which is portrayed and laced with suspense and intrigue. his many best-selling novels include the trilogy. fatherland enigma and officer in the spy and conclave. several of the books have been filmed including the ghost which is directed by roman to play in ski. his work has been translated into 37 languages and he is a fellow of the royal society of literature. please welcome robert harris. we are experiencing a remarkable moment and the upcoming churchill biography. sparking the renewed interest in him. your focus is on chamberlain. your take is a little bit more sympathetic than we are accustomed to seeing.
it is a very kind introduction. it is typically perverse. i wanted to write the book. thirty years ago. i did a documentary to mark the 50th anniversary of the agreement. and met hitler in his apartment. treatment with daughter it was fascinating and i realized that a lot of what i had grown up with. and even then although i've never written and not all i
heard it would be interesting to write from another point of view with the secretary. his wife having would he make a stand. i toyed with that idea for many years. never really expanded into a novel. in the next couple of years ago. i read a diary kept by the german historian. i wrote the biography of hitler. in 1969 he asked spear about munich and he said hitler was
in a foul mood for two weeks. and he took it out on the private staff which was unusual for him. it was a social event in berlin. and all came pouring out and he said the german people have been duped. and by chamberlain of all people. i realized there was a better way to write that novel. if these two men had been friends with oxford and then they meet in munich when the two chiefs meet than i could write the novel. it has taken me 30 years but i've always wanted to do it. and now finally i have. you can maybe answer this in the context of munich your latest novel. the craft of historical fiction is difficult in the challenging one because if you
take too many liberties than people are misled. of course that suspense and excitement how do you and your own writing perhaps in this book in particular. how do you balance the two competing concerns. >> it was pretty easy in this book. for the most dramatic in history. and to actually go inside it and be in downing street. and into the vowel where it took place. you can't get much more dramatic characters with the future westernization.
a lot of my function was to convey to the reader the drama of those few days and the last moment it was avoided. i took it almost hour by hour. and inserted fictional characters to go inside behind closed doors. one of the junior private secretaries and paul hoffman their friendship and coming together. the other part of that that's of course real. it's a very intermittent one.
and i think obviously based on the great deal of search. did you think that you'd seek in some way to rehabilitate him. i just wanted to tell the truth really. they will know that they will go on to commit. it seems laughable or even wicked that someone should have sought in 1938 to sit down and sign any kind of agreement with it. it is important to remember what lies in the past once lays in the future. they would've seen much worse.
a great many more people. and chamberlain was not the week and gullible figure that has come down to. he was a dynamic prime minister. he dominated his colleagues by sheer intellectual mastery of the detail. he totally ran the government. he decided that if there is can be a war. and the british had no agreement for that. the french did. and they would go to work to protect them. had ended less than 20 years earlier. three quarters of a million is
a relatively small country. what they thought was a spiritual breakdown in britain if the people didn't see those leaders doing everything possible to try to avoid another war. one of the things you realize that there are characters that are dynamic in the novel. they really drive the action. and then there are characters who are reactive. with the driving -- driving dominant force. he is been put on the back foot by chamberlain. he did not want to sign the agreement. that is something that most people don't know but it's almost inescapable from the historical record.
chamberlain decided that they have never seen that before. he decided to go and confront hitler directly. whether war could be avoided. he said that he was to get a huge risk nevertheless he thought it was worth a try to avoid peace and war and even plan to fly to see hitler. until he was in the air. so that he could return back.
it was flattered that they agreed to see him what is your grievance. agreements. why are you going to war. we know that he wanted to wipe czechoslovakia out. but there was the three and half million germans. they should be free to joint germany under the declaration of the rights of people. i will see what i can do effectively. a week later hitler was trying to scramble away from it.
the long and the short of it as he made a great mistake by setting out what it was that he wanted. openly. he never made that mistake again. he did in 1938. in the french eventually met him. on the day he issued all of this to mobilize. they turn their back on him. the germans did not want to go to war. you can have a world were on the question of trivial matters. do you the occupied territories on the first of october they reluctantly
agreed to meet chamberlain a man who have come to the tests and describe if you will forgive that. he was caught he have to meet him. into the end of his life he thought that he have missed the perfect opportunity to go to war in 1938. the front of the novel i have this quotation in 1945. said we should've should go to war. would've been the perfect time. chamberlain said that to persuade a country like britain to go to world war in order to guarantee the germans joining germany. it's not an issue. i wished they will be able to sustain the war.
if they fought hitler and if they won. they would not be expected to stay inside chuck lamacchia. it was a very long answer. it is the big question. i think we will just shift the focus here for a moment because you had spent a great deal of time and your novels have helped illustrate the constancy of human nature. the parallels between that world and our own especially in politics. and i wondered now as you survey the washington scene if there any particular classical parallels that come to mind. the reason i wrote the novel was because i had been always
fascinated by politics. i think there are certain rules of politics. and nothing basically changed. it contains almost all of the same characters we've seen today. and the parallels are very strong. and obviously many of the other the origin for the ancient world. it is fascinating to write about it. to see that nothing really does much change i think that the questions raised by the
ancient world. even though i have gone on for centuries. the structure of the roman republic. cut a deal with the vastness that roman have become. that they could spend the elections. and endless lawsuits. until it stopped to pieces. you can think of parallels more clearly than i can. out of the frying pn and into the fire. when we come to one of my favorite subjects.
brexit. you go from one to another. i know you oppose exit. but my question to you is we can debate and talk about the merits of the arguments but based on discussions i've have with various people in british politics and elsewhere what i'm wondering i'm wondering your thoughts on this do you think it will inevitably happen. are the weakness of the government and the complexity of the process and just the continued opposition of influential people like yourself mean that i might not ever come to pass. spivak the labour party is led by a man who is always been opposed to british legislating.
they were defeated by tony blair and they do not want to be part of europe because they see as interfering with the ability of the british government being part of europe will help with that and makes it much more difficult to do. it's not something that can be settled on the 23rd of june. because back to the 18th century. the question of our relationship and i would not be at all surprised if there is no political party campaigning to rejoin europe and the young people are more prone europe.
the whole picture will look completely different. i think they have gotten themselves tied up in a knot. we introduced into a representative. a process which doesn't suit it. that's not what they're supposed to do. i think it is like having an engine car and having filled the tank with diesel. and yet it was by referendum that they joined the early virgin -- early version of the referendum. that was a short-term tactical rules.
a prime minister. you mentioned the former prime minister tony blair and there is a man who learned to a sorrow that it's never a good idea to fall out with the famous novelist. your portrayal of the very blair like character in the ghost was really devastating. can you reflect on your relationship with tony blair and his legacy and his recent interventions for attempted interventions in the brexit debate. when i die think things i think about politics we often thinks in terms of strength and weaknesses.
they actually have traits of character and in those strong traits of character are the weakness -- the weakness in the strength. that is true the history of chamberlain and every leader. in true of tony blair. his self-confidence and his sense of destiny and his profound sense of being of christianity and being an instrument. they let any end to a kind of unfortunate humerus. it was a really politically brilliant reader of the public mood and balancing what he wanted to do. with how far he could take the country and he came across this issue very blatantly to
after all of the casualties were tiny by historical standards. killed in the first world war. what is a source of that would you say. there was a sense and i think these great powerful democracies should only go to war when they are pretty certain of the case they are fighting for. after munich and your doubt. the blow was struck first.
immense complexity with great ignorance and we did no proper proposal or planning. a more amazed i'm not at all surprised with the anger. the casualties have been appalling. and when one looks in the region now. it's in better shape than the attack on baghdad. we will pay a price for this and you just can't go in and do this to someone without proof that there actually behind the attack on your own country. and not expect trouble down the pike.
generally shared. just one more question about politics. it seems like lately you've had enough that the current labor leadership simply for ira terrorism has driven you away. do you feel politically homeless now. in terms of a party to vote for yes i do. the shift in particular the break and that my side of the argument is not really been advanced by the main parties. i do feel politically homeless and i dislike the extremism on
both sides. the kind of politician i'd like. who will try any tool in the box if you can. and the extremes of either side. that has vanished with tony blair really. and certainly with david -- david cameron. they make all the weather. do you think the s&p will be a voice. with the transfer of the common language. i'm 60. i'm old enough to remember.
what britain was like before we went to europe. and the idea that there is so and then everything will be much better. it's nonsense. the 1970s. it will just be a little bit gray mare. it will feel a little more out of things. one of the reasons that chamberlain would avoid fighting hitler. they were destroyed with the british allies. and it did. even though we wanted. we were not able to fight. we can't can go back to 38. do we go back to 1890. what is the point at which we say things are really great.
i don't think we can find that spot. you will be relieved to know that will take a will take a quick break to politics. this question is for the writers. what is your daily routines with writing. when i started off writing i found it very hard. and i then started to speed up. i became more aware of the techniques of writing. i enjoyed it more.
i normally research a book in six months and write in six months. i normally start writing mid january. i work in the mornings i don't work in the afternoons. i learn to respect what stephen king wrote boys in the basement. or whatever. that's when things happen. and i pace myself and i like to write maybe 20,000 words a month. five or six months will give you a book length novel. it has been a great joy to do it. it's all i really wanted to do. and i've been fortunate that i've been able to do it.
what could be a nicer thing than to sit and daydream all the time. martin amos was ask how could he be a writer and he wanted to turn it back and say to the question how do you deal with an mediated reality. i've got a new novel i set my own kind of in the world around with me. i told him it was right after conclave has come out. i'm reading robert harris as a new book.
they said don't tell me i don't want to know. he could not wait to get into it. it was fascinating to me as a catholic to go behind the scenes so to speak. i want to ask about that novel in particular. did you have conversations with the industry toggles. they told him very much. there was a certain sense their own confidence to speak to someone. and so they have seen it all. he liked the book actually. he said as for the ending i
can't tell it. i am of course i think i have always been fascinated by him. and now the ground has been comprehensively taken over. i was looking up five flights. in may and june. there was one in particular in the darkest time it was the liaison. they came down the bumpy flight he came down and the
steps of the arcadia. he came over to spears and said i could see in good humor. his only greeting to me was to take a stick and poke me in the stomach and green at me. and that one moment you really saw the character. i would have loved to written about it. obviously it was can be a chamberlain life in the center. [applause]. that is sort of an internal joke. i am pleased to have done chamberlain because i think they got on with that. he never criticized them. when he became prime minister
he could never criticize him either. he backed him up and included the idea of peace talks. what the germans might offer. he did in fact. the two minutes that they were necessary. we did do not fight in 1938. we only had 20 spitfires for the start. they were not magic into existence by churchill. in 1939 was spending 50% of government of government was on armature. he needed him you needed him not only for the the time that was bought. but for the moral sense there was no alternative everything possible spiritually that there was no alternative to fighting.
we were mentioning earlier. the wonderful eulogy that he did i think we all a lot to both men. but chamberlain played his part also. on that note i think we will turn to the audience for questions. if a microphone there if you have a question for robert harris and might be handiest to just bring the microphone around actually. and just take a few questions and then stopped so there is time for you to buy books over there. thank you very much mister harris. you may have just answer the question that has been in my mind for the last 40 minutes
and that as what is your ultimate verdict on chamberlain at munich. could he have done something more or better or different and therefore was munich really in that sense of failure as everyone generally thinks he was because it gave britain another year to rearm and because he did go the extra mile to try to head peace in our time whether it succeeded succeeded or not. do you think actually chamberlain succeeded. that is really the trust of the novel. they represented a triumph if you call it. and a defeat for hitler.
i cannot recommend to highly the book on this. and the nazi foreign policy. he makes this point just to take a small example. the famous piece of paper which every time it sewn you kind of quick cringe. the wording of it i've always found it rather strange. actually what he did was take hitler's speech and made earlier that week in which he proclaimed his desire for peace and for our two countries and never go to war again. he got it written out. and he was there to sign his own words. and the people traveling with chamberlain said this is highly risky.
if he doesn't stick to what he says people will see it i will make a big thing of it when i get back to london. holding it at arms length. reading it out. he made a big thing of it precisely to try to nail hitler to the agreement. it went all over the world. it would have destroyed him. have a certain value and the ends and it didn't know hitler as a liar. the reputation to some degree. almost knowingly because he have to make a big thing of it. he couldn't come back and say while he signed but frankly i don't trust it.
because this guy is a maniac. he have to come back and go through the motions of believing that he got a deal. that is a subtle point that is often not appreciated. i hope it is worth the wait. i'm just curious about how you research i read an officer in a spy. how do you do that bit of research. i never employed a researcher in my life. the plowing through the documents in the diaries and the ledgers i try to get back to original sources as much as possible.
the fact that i might spend two hours or three hours and only get one tiny detail that is of any use. it's like life itself. i just told the tiny details and the colorful details often i try to know ten times more than i will ever put in the book. if i was writing down about the character. you have to have the confidence every book was the
notion. it becomes like every other bucket that was ever written. it was actually a very appropriate follow on. i'm historian here. i focus on the 20th century. i have enjoyed your books ever since reading fatherland. here is my question. i'm very much an archive rat. pulling it through the archives and so much color there. i want to ask you the same question do you ever work and archives. yes, quite often. i went through all of the and
read them all in sequence from that book. it is shattering. the research coming across a document that the intelligence advisor. some proposed peace. so vigorously did he disagree. at one point he tore the paper. those sort of documents they really light up and you can feel the force of history through them. i much prefer my favorite reading diaries, letters and journals. that you have a sense of a real person. and obviously not in the archive.
grateful to churchill for his resolute determination not to hear what might have been a generous offer. bearing in mind that almost in time they were trapped in france. not many leaders would not had at least heard in the deepest secrecy. it's an extraordinary moment in history. i'm not surprised we endlessly go back to. thank you so much. i have a question about your writing and general. historical figures. when you are writing a book what is your overall mission or goal because it just seems to be very interesting and to provide a different perspective of these people and a different outlook on the region.
do you in one sentence having to tell someone you get this wonderful colorized footage. if you apply color to them. to convey my sense of the likeness of the past. we should bear in mind that any thing that we face in britain or america. if i can convey that which is what i feel that is the nearest i could come to
live from the university of arizona for the tucson festival of books. with author talks and collins. this year's festival features msnbc. the investigative journalist david k johnson and many other authors. it is that virginia festival of the buck charlottesville. in the national black writers conference in brooklyn new york. we are headed to texas for the san antonio book festival. it will will be live once again at the los angeles time festival of books. some authors recently featured. black lives matter cofounder discussed her lives a birth and growth of the movement.
it is damaging democracy. they reported on that grassroots populist movements in the u.s. in the coming weeks on afterwards former u.s. well look at improving workplaces through gender equality. and they have the thoughts on person ship. i will accept the view. maybe i will move left. politics was supposed to be able to find through some of those extended discussions.
it wasn't supposed to be about one party winning on their own. the times as you know maybe 1933 and 34. sixty-four and 65. but even lbj reached out to republicans. when mitch mcconnell it will probably come back to him a couple times. started doing healthcare in trying to get 50 of his my reaction was that should work in the could it work.
you are supposed to be looking for some people on the other side to get 65 or 70 votes. of course he would say none of them would vote against trump et cetera. this notion that one party has to rule by themselves brings us to some bad places. afterwards airs on book tv every saturday at 10:00 p.m. eastern and sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern and pacific. all previous afterwards are available to watch online and now we are live in savannah georgia. .. ..
is behind the scenes pictures and videos. @booktv is our handle. we kick off the savanna book festival with retired air force major general robert latiff on the future of technology and war. live coverage on booktv on c-span2. >> good morning. my name is nancy leads. i'm delighted to welcome you to the 11th annual savanna book festival presented by georgia power, david and nancy cintn,