My wife Santa is a fanatical skier, going to Klosters many times a year. To please her, I have for 12 years tried to ski, abseil, mountain-climb, para-scend, heli-ski, land-lauf, ice-skate, toboggan, luge, bobsleigh, yodel, gulp gluhwein, dunk bread in cheese fondue, or even walk in the mountains. I have failed at every one of these pursuits.

If only all straight weddings could be somehow gay-ified.

I was taught Shakespeare brilliantly by an eccentric genius at Harrow named Jeremy Lemmon who made me want to be a writer.

I read many wonderful novels, though I now find the idea of literary fiction obsolete.

There are few words in Russian for the Western concept of 'law,' but there are legions of words for connections, helping people from one's neck of the woods.

As a teenager, I had a weakness for freedom fighters. When Mugabe came to London to negotiate independence, I vanished from home to stand outside his hotel. I was very disappointed that he looked like a dorky teacher.

Russian writers enjoy almost sacred status.

She grounded me. I have become very disciplined now. I would never have written the books without her. Definitely the cleverest thing I ever did was to marry Santa. Maybe it's the only clever thing I did.

The vanishing of David Tang is like the unthinkable diappearance of a magnificent palace on a mythical mountaintop. He was a dreammaker, pianist, adventurer, writer, entrepreneur, scholar, connoisseur, and a great friend.

The shameless criminality of Lenin, Stalin, and the Cheka cast a long shadow, but I don't see their kind returning anytime soon.

As colonial puppeteer and successful restorer of Russia as imperial superpower, Mr. Putin is Stalin's consummate heir.

I can never resist Ruritanian intrigue: I was once charged with the task of offering the Estonian throne to Prince Edward. Feeling like a Dumas Musketeer on a mission, I did so, but he turned it down.

It was always presumptuous to expect Russia, an ancient nation-state and proud empire of distinct culture with a tradition of autocracy, to become an Anglo-American democracy overnight - just as it is naive to expect it in other parts of the world.

Alexander II really used autocracy well to negotiate the freeing of the serfs in 1861.

Believe it or not, some Western analysts in the 1930s insisted that Stalin was a 'moderate,' controlled by extremists like the secret police chief Nikolai Yezhov.

The West is pathetically naive about Russian reformers. We long to believe they are real liberals, but no liberal will ever rule Russia.

I enjoy tequila, which has a strange effect on people and makes parties more fun than warm white wine.

Saddam Hussein admired, studied, and copied Stalin, the paragon of modern dictators.

Russia's first major intervention began in 1768, when Catherine the Great went to war with the Ottomans, and Count Alexei Orlov, the brother of her lover Grigory, sailed the Baltic fleet through the Strait of Gibraltar to rally rebellions in the Mediterranean.

Regarding themselves as irreplaceable, both Lenin and Stalin tried in different ways to destroy their successors - Lenin through a testament that attacked Stalin and Trotsky, Stalin through purges culminating in the Doctors' Plot of 1953.

I am a passionate nonfinisher. Life is too short, and there are too many great books to read, so if I lose interest or respect, I switch. But when, of course, when you really fall in love with a book, all the others are ignored.

Real stories - whether in pure fiction or historical - have a certain indefinable power; we are endlessly curious about the past and hungry for learning that we hope will illuminate the present.

Stalin, of course, never went on trial, but his legacy did. In 1956, three years after his death, he was denounced by Nikita Khrushchev. And his crimes were even more explicitly exposed by Mikhail Gorbachev during the late '80s. Yet to many, Stalin remains more legitimate as a Russian leader than anyone since.

It's the mix of the trivial and the great events that make up history. It's the low things about high people that make it fascinating, and that's why it would be a shame to exclude the trivial things. That mixing up is not just at the heart of history. It's at the heart of how to live a great life.

A reforming liberal leader in Russia is the Holy Grail of Kremlinology, but the search for one is as misguided and hopeless as that for the relic of the Last Supper.

In the new Georgia, Stalin is no longer Georgian. He's a Russian emperor.

When I'm up, I'm over-exuberant; when I'm down, I just wander round on my own. I have no middle space.

I'm not disciplined at all. I barely function. But I get a lot done. I take days off all the time, but when I work, I work very fast and very efficiently. But I'm always having days when I'm feeling a little anxious, and I take a day off. I work in a funny way.

I'm the last person who would end up doing something that needs meticulous compilation of facts. It's totally against my character. I live by impulse. I'm totally ill-suited to writing history books.

I'm an enormous fan of American literature, and especially the great novels of Larry McMurtry, 'Lonesome Dove,' Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard.

To make a Frankenstein monster of a complex character like Stalin would have been too simplistic. I wanted to show who he was and, if you like, how he happened.

When I was young, I always wanted to go to Russia.

I always find that the more Jewish you are, the more people respect you.

The tsar of War and Peace, especially in the BBC version, is a complete popinjay and a useless character. The real tsar, Alexander I, had an amazing career.

A revolution resembles the death of a fading star, an exhilarating Technicolor explosion that gives way not to an ordered new galaxy but to a nebula, a formless cloud of shifting energy.

When I'm in Jerusalem, I stay at the American Colony Hotel, neutral territory: the secret peace talks of 1992/3 started there.

The political lives of tyrants play out human affairs with a special intensity: the death of a democratic leader long after his retirement is a private matter, but the death of a tyrant is always a political act that reflects the character of his power.

As a youth, I was much more of a Zionist. But Israel was very different then. Israel's changed, and so have I.

The unspoken contract between ruler and subject is that in return for safety, prosperity, and prestige, the Russians entrust power and cede democratic freedoms to their leaders.

The disorder, uncertainty, and strife of a revolution make citizens yearn for stable authority, or they turn to radicalism.

Writing about Jerusalem was very stressful; every word counts.

It is a characteristic of potentates that they don't succumb to peaceful retirement. Instead, they hold power in their hoary fists as judgment and grip weaken, destroying any successors except family members.

Mugabe's resignation fascinates because the fall of tyrants is always a family story, decline of the father, writ large. What a strange creature he is.

The memoirs of the Grand Duchess Olga are an entertaining record for anyone interested in the imperial family's home life during the last years of Russian autocracy.

Most history books are about power.

Mr. Putin presents himself as a czar - and like any czar, he fears revolution above all else.

Every time I give an interview, I seem to offend somebody in my family, usually my mother.

We have far too many Tudors. Henry VIII is far too over-rated. He's become the ultimate brand name, like the Marks & Spencers of a high street of British history. I'm more interested in King Herod.

Moses Montefiore loved Jerusalem, lived for Jerusalem, and even made it our family motto. A Zionist before the word was invented, he believed in the sacred idea of Jewish return as a religious Jew's duty, and in Jewish statehood.