MY rather jaded view of journalism, a field in which I have spent a large part of my working life, leads me to believe that the powers of journalism manage to eliminate anything that could possibly be good from it. The old maxim that people can put up with almost anything, but that they find the truth impossible to bear, applies particularly well to the distortions of the media, whether in refusing to face up to facts such as the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s, or in arbitrarily hounding or lauding well-known figures.
However, happily for me, several recent experiences in direct and indirect response to press coverage, when I expressed something I really believed — in one case 50 years ago — reminds me that though good is not usually possible through journalism, people in our seemingly hedonistic society have a great longing for spiritual things and for truth.
The Ukrainians have never forgotten that I was the only journalist who reported their troubles, their famine, and they have always been amazingly kind in continuing to praise me for it. A few weeks ago the Ukrainians in England invited me to the consecration of their new church in Wolverhampton. Kitty and I went to the service, of course, and joined in the great gathering of the Ukrainian Christians to celebrate the millennium of Christianity in Russia.
More obliquely, one morning recently the telephone rang, and I found myself talking to an unknown female voice. She told me that there was a Russian writer coming over to England for a five day trip, and that he had expressed but one desire, which was that during his visit he might be able to meet Malcolm Muggeridge. Naturally I found this quite extraordinary, but I couldn't turn down such a passionate request. So the mysterious Russian came down to see me, and as he spoke not one word of English we talked
through an interpreter. This was a curious experience in itself, but what we said to one another wasn't so important, the point of his visit was simply to see me.
The man's name was Leonid Borodin, and he tui....d to be a distinguished writer who has just been let out of prison after serving four years of a ten year sentence for his writing — a release which would never have happened if the Gorbachev era hadn't come. He was a distinctly charming man with a delightful smile, and when he left he shook my hand with the most beautiful expression on his face.
He gave me a copy of his novel Partings which has just been published in English by Collins, and which was apparently smuggled out of Russia in 1982. He thought that I had helped it along, because although he was too young to have been around when I reported on the famine in
Russia in the 1930s (he was born in 1938), my search for truth had obviously impressed him. He has now gone back to Moscow to live and work, and is not anti-Russia at all. Interestingly Andrei Sakharov has been back in Moscow for 18 months, and we now hear that Gorbachev has even invited Solzhenitsyn, still engrossed in writing his history of the Russian Revolution from America, to come and visit, or stay, in Moscow.
On a lighter level "Peterborough" from the Daily Telegraph came to see me the other day, and I happened to mention to him that I was reluctant to have a cataract operation, which he stated in his piece on me. Ever since then I have had five or six letters daily, saying "Dear Mr Muggoridge, I want to tell you that I am 89 and have just had a cataract operation; I think you ought to have one youself. I can now see everything." It is very kind of them to tell me so, but I write back quoting a German writer who said that seeing with the eye you see time and the creatures, but if you see through the eye, through your mind, you see eternity and light and truth or as Blake put it far more succinctly. "They ever must believe a lie/Who see with not through the eye".
Obviously as you get older and older you do get feebler and lose your faculties, but as my wife Kitty claims, this can be seen in a positive way. She feels that losing your eyesight and hearing and so forth prepare you for your departure from this world, because if you have all your faculties you are much more tied to life. If you live to an old age it is really God's mercy that helps you, like the old soldiers in the words of the the saying who "... never die, they simply fade away."