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The Bookshelf

A SOLD IN TOM-TOMS, by Gene Fowler. Viking 1946, 390 pp., $3.00.


WALTER Millis made a tour of the principle countries of Europe this summer, and when he returned he must have spent several late summer evenings musing over the peoples he saw and the conversations he heard. The Millis who writes this human essay of European psychology and European faith is no longer that same Millis who penned the starkly economic interpretation of the World War--"The Road to War". In "Viewed Without Alarm" Mr. Millis seats himself comfortably in his soft, leathern easy-chair, and very soon sets us at ease over the supposedly tense European situation today.

To begin, "Viewed Without Alarm" does not devote every page to interviews with Nazi bigwigs or Communist bureaucrats; nor does it attempt to count the number of guns in the Italian navy or the execution decrees in Stalin's desk drawer. It is a series of highly poignant snapshots of life on the Continent: conversations with young Russians, glimpses of a tavern in southern England, military maneuvers at Bad Nauheim. From these extremely natural sources uncovered through casual travel and occasional chatting Mr. Millis has distilled a convincing analysis of the various national points of view.

Though we are prone to take it for granted that the two great capitals of Europe, the poles around which the major political conflicts revolve, are Moscow and Berlin or Rome, Walter Millis has serious doubts. In his mind, Fascism and Communism do not occupy the world stage, except in a very limited military sense. He finds the real capitals to be London and Moscow--democracy versus dictatorship. England to him is the symbol of steady progress, of rock built upon rock, of the stability which comes with age and conservatism and gradualness. Mr. Millis does not repress his admiration for the Russian's religious devotion to "their cause". This is the great element of strength in the Russian system--the patriotic faith and believing optimism of the whole nation. But his bourgeois heritage and his inborn conservatism clearly rebel against the artificiality of the entire Soviet state. Synthetic Moscow with its half-built hotels and unfinished factories does not digest well in the orderly capitalistic stomach.

We cannot close Walter Millis' relatively short essay without a relieved feeling of satisfaction in our democratic government. "Viewed Without Alarm" is indeed a comfortable interpretation, but by no means is it a lazy one. Its pertinent, graphic ideas contribute a highly essential piece in the jig-saw puzzle of Europe.

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