THE DUEL: The Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler, 10 May -- 31 July 1940 by John Lukacs
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THE DUEL: The Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler, 10 May -- 31 July 1940

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In this beautifully written narrative history, Hungarian-born historian Lukacs (Confessions of an Original Sinner, 1989, etc.) follows the momentous 80 days when Hitler seemed on the verge of absolute victory in Europe, and Britain on the edge of extinction. Lukacs is concerned less with a personal conflict (Churchill and Hitler never met) than with a battle between two acutely different views of the world. Hitler was a radical who despised what he believed to be the hypocritical liberalism of the modern age; Churchill was a traditionalist determined to preserve the values the West had espoused since the Renaissance. Hitler saw Churchill as a reactionary, arrogant and openly hostile to the new order in Germany; Churchill gave Hitler a certain cosmic dimension by describing him as an incarnation of an ancient evil. Having established the character of his players, Lukacs goes on to capture the anxiety of those 80 days when almost all of Europe had fallen to the Germans, the British and French armies were trapped at Dunkirk, and the future of a free Britain, of a free world, appeared dark and uncertain. It is a powerful story. In spite of his graceful prose and astute analysis, Lukacs has his flaws, and the worst is an irritating habit of snaking sweeping generalities: ""Churchill understood Hitler very well. This was unusual, since Englishmen, no matter how acute their observations, seldom evince a profound interest in foreigners."" Still, this is a fascinating book, written by a master of narrative history on a par with Barbara Tuchman and Garrett Mattingly.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1990
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin