Invisible Ink No 237: Malcolm Muggeridge
Sunday 17 August 2014
The British wrote off Malcolm Muggeridge as a duffer who cropped up on 1970s TV with an opinion about everything. To the young, another lecture from an elderly Christian moralist was simply not relevant.
Muggeridge’s story is a tale of contradictions. Born in Croydon in 1903, his father was a Labour MP and a founder-member of the Fabian Society, and Malcolm grew up sharing similar views. While teaching English literature in Egypt he met Arthur Ransome, the author of Swallows and Amazons, who wrote for the Manchester Guardian, and who recommended him for a post there.
In 1932, Muggeridge and his wife went to Moscow where he planned to complete a novel, Picture Palace. The book was derailed by libel problems, and Muggeridge was broke. At this point he grew disillusioned by Russia’s socialist utopia, and investigated reports of the terrible famine manufactured by Stalin in the Ukraine. As he travelled there without permission and sent back reports to the Manchester Guardian in a diplomatic bag, evading censorship, he became increasingly appalled by what he found; starvation, corruption, brutality, lies.
Documenting the genocide of millions of peasants, he also accused western journalists of collusion. Many still regarded Stalinist Russia as the great socialist experiment and would not hear otherwise; there’s no one as censorious as a righteous liberal. In 1932, The New York Times had a Liverpudlian journalist based in Moscow called Walter Duranty, who flatly denied the mass starvation, winning the Pulitzer Prize in that year for his stories about Soviet Russia. Given the political situation in Germany, newspapers were wary of ruffling Russian feathers, and froze Muggeridge out of work.
To the liar had come rewards, and to the truth-teller unemployment. So Muggeridge wrote a biting satire about western journalists in Russia, specifically making fun of Duranty in his novel Winter In Moscow. Subsequently he worked for the Ministry of Information and became a spy.
In his post-war career he grew ever more contrarian. Having penned The Earnest Atheist: A Study of Samuel Butler he later wrote a bestseller, Jesus Rediscovered. He edited Punch magazine, despite an admission of having no sense of humour; he was contemptuous of pop music, complained about birth control, the permissive society, and the Monarchy, and had disillusioned the Monty Python team – who had admired him – for his stance against their film, Life of Brian. An agnostic who became a Catholic, a socialist who became a hard-right conservative, he remains out of print.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Baby rescued 1km out to sea after parents forgot about her
- 5 Greek debt crisis: The photograph that conveys the despair of Greece's elderly
Bad luck, One Direction: Paul McCartney doubts success of The Beatles will ever be matched again
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
The Crystal Maze: Richard O’Brien confirmed to return as more details revealed about show's rebooted format
Guillaume Tell's gang-rape scene caused uproar at the Royal Opera House – but the portrayal of extreme sex and violence on stage is nothing new
Britain's best outdoor cinemas to visit this summer from Somerset House to Luna Cinema
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture