Replacing a mountain of lies with a few truths

Poor Orlando Figes, what a terrible fate. The embarrassment of it.

The future of one of Britain’s leading historians was looking increasingly uncertain tonight after he admitted that he was the author of anonymous reviews that praised his own work as “fascinating” and “uplifting” while rubbishing that of his rivals.

On Amazon. Oh dear.

Orlando Figes, one of the stars of contemporary history, had issued a string of legal threats to academic colleagues, literary journals and newspapers that suggested he might have written the reviews posted on

When challenged about the reviews, Figes’s lawyer initially denied Figes was the author and threatened legal action. In a later statement, Figes blamed them on his wife, the barrister Stephanie Palmer.

Then he said he did it, and he’s fraffly sorry.

[T]he editor of the TLS, Peter Stothard, said the issue of poisonous online reviews needed to be kept in proportion. “There’s nothing new about oversensitive writers, and nothing new about anonymous criticism, both of which have existed since time immemorial. What is new and is regrettable is when historians use the law to stifle debate and to put something in the paper which is untrue.”…As a specialist in Russian history, Figes’s “whole business is replacing a mountain of lies with a few truths”.

It’s a good business, and people who engage in it should try to live up to it.

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