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Nothing to Declare: A Memoir by Taki
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Nothing to Declare: A Memoir

by Taki

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Taki Theodoracopulos, who writes under the name 'Taki', was born in 1937 and is a scion of an extremely wealthy and well-connected Greek family. As a young man he participated in several sports at international level, and for a time was also a war correspondent. However, in both fields he was something of a dilettante, and his life has by and large been that of a playboy, his principal interests appearing to be yachts, good food and wine, and girls considerably younger than himself - almost entirely funded by his father. For many years he published a commentary on his own activities and those of his privileged social circle - not always portrayed in a flattering light - in journals such as The Spectator, where his 'High Life' column provided a counterbalance to Jeffrey Bernard's 'Low Life'. It is no surprise that Taki's political views are distinctly reactionary and right-wing, and that his opinion of the modern world is in brief that it, and its inhabitants, have all gone to pot. In particular, he has been an enthusiastic supporter of the law-and-order school of penal thinking, believing in the absolute rightness of tough treatment for criminals.

This life of wealth and privilege fell apart one day in 1984 when he unwisely attempted to smuggle cocaine through Heathrow. He was arrested and sentenced to four months' imprisonment, which he served in Pentonville, one of Britain's most notorious jails. 'Nothing to Declare' is based on the diary which he kept there; he was obliged to write it between the lines of books and letters that he had recieved, as keeping a diary was against prison rules. He has fleshed out the diary entries with autobiographical incidents, which inasmuch as they record the somewhat mindless doings of himself and his friends are of little interest. However, his experiences as a war correspondent and Lothario, and also his musings on being the son of a rich, tyrannical, unloving but financially generous father, mean that this extra material is by no means all dross.

However, the point of the book is the diary itself, and that is remarkable for what I take (having no personal experience of these things) to be the honesty of the account. More than once he remarks on the misleading picture of prison conveyed by Hollywood, which invariably omits the truly squalid elements; for example, his description of being transferred to a cell that was covered in faeces, courtesy of the previous occupant - which he then had to clean up - is quite stomach-churning, and that is not the only occasion on which faeces play a starring role. He is only too well aware of the irony of his situation, and indeed never felt able to confess his guilt to his father.

Of course this all took place twenty years ago, and prison conditions have improved since then, but the book remains an entertaining and instructive view of prison life. It is, however, something of a curate's egg, as the doings of his rich friends are of little interest now. ( )
  franhigg | Jul 6, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0871134845, Paperback)

World-class athlete, playboy, war correspondent, and heir to a Greek shipping fortune, Taki has over the last three decades moved among the rich, the powerful, the titled and the celebrated in London, New York, Gstaad, the Riviera—wherever fun or stimulation was to be had. But in 1984, while passing through Heathrow Airport, Taki was arrested for possession of cocaine and summarily sent to jail. Nothing to Declare is the hilarious and surprisingly wise account of the three months Taki spent in prison, a story filled with perilous day-to-day events as well as reflections on the glamorous life he has led.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:22 -0400)

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