Book review: The Spanish Ambassador's Suitcase, By Matthew Parris & Andrew Bryson

 

Despite the cartoon cover, this collection of ambassadorial missives is not a work of unbridled hilarity. Occasionally the humour is strained but a 1993 account of getting a Turkmen horse given to John Major through Moscow bureaucracy is a gem.

Our diplomats impress by their prescience – as early as 1981, one joked about the Icelandic fondness for borrowed money – and range of interest. "The Lao are perhaps nearer to omnivorousness than any other people," noted our man in Vientiane. Alan Davidson went on to write the incomparable Oxford Companion to Food.

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