Books

Honor's Gasp

Valkyrie: The Story Of The Plot To Kill Hitler, By Its Last Member By Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager; With Florence and Jerome Fehrenbach Translated by Steven Rendall (Knopf, 211 pp., $24.95)   Try to imagine the following scenario. It is the winter of 1944 and the great German offensive in the Ardennes is threatening to push the Allied forces into the sea.

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Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology Translated and edited by David Hinton (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 475 pp., $45) Du Fu: A Life in Poetry Translated by David Young (Knopf, 226 pp., $16.95) The oldest poems translated in David Hinton’s magnificent anthology Classical Chinese Poetry date to the fifteenth century B.C.E., long before the Bible was written. For the English-speaking world, however, this ancient art is effectively less than a hundred years old.

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Franz Kafka: The Office Writings Edited by Stanley Corngold, Jack Greenberg, and Benno Wagner (Princeton University Press, 394 pp., $45) Franz Kafka was born in Prague in 1883 into an assimilated German-speaking middleclass Jewish family. He died of tuberculosis of the larynx in 1924, just short of his forty-first birthday, in Kierling, a small resort north of Vienna.

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Europe Between the Oceans: 9000 BC to AD 1000. By Barry Cunliffe (Yale University Press, 480 pp., $39.95) Playmobil, the German company that specializes in detailed snap-together plastic toys, makes a Viking ship. Seventeen inches long and five wide, with six sweep oars, a steering oar, and a single movable square sail, the toy precisely models surviving Viking ships in museums in Roskilde, Denmark and Oslo, Norway. It also floats in bathtubs.

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The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost And FoundBy Mary Beard(Harvard University Press, 360 pp., $26.95)From Paris to Pompeii: French Romanticism and the Cultural Politics of ArchaeologyBy Goran Blix(University of Pennsylvania Press, 310 pp., $59.95)Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture Around the Bay of NaplesBy Carol C. Mattusch(Thames and Hudson: National Gallery of Art, 365 pp., $60)In the year 79 C.E., Mount Vesuvius erupted, famously burying the ancient city of Pompeii under volcanic ash, where it lay unknown and undisturbed until the eighteenth century.

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Ghettostadt: Lodz and the Making of a Nazi CityBy Gordon J. Horwitz(Harvard University Press, 395 pp., $29.95)I.Not so long ago, many historians saw Nazism mainly as a revolt against modernity, a call for a return to soil and Volk. Gordon Horwitz's book on wartime Lodz lends support to what has become a new scholarly consensus about the Third Reich: that it looked forward, not back.

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It may already be September. I drank tasteless coffee in the cafe garden of the Museum-Insel and thought about Berlin, its dark waters. Black buildings that have seen so much. But peace reigns in Europe, diplomats doze, a pale sun, the summer dies serenely, spiders weave its shining shroud, the plane trees' dry leaves write memoirs of their youth.So this is the vita contemplativa. The black walls enclosing white sculptures. The bust of a Greek beauty. So this is it. An altar before which no one prays. So this is the vita contemplativa.

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How many times have I driven pastand not noticed the beauty of the abandonedtruck, its black-tinted windows safeguardinga homeless man's makeshift bed, or taken inthat war of names, the faint, illegible,legible scribblings dashed off in weak lightof a nearby lamppost just before city cops,seemingly patrolling only this part of town,rush to manhandle some shy kid who longsmerely for the miraculous,--a recognition unfoundamong his six younger siblings whose sprawlingcaretaking fades him to a name among nameswhen needed & called in their crampedwalk-up apartment?

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Macho Misery

As far back as has been recorded of the history of human societies, men have equated life with movement. If our ancestors of antiquity could feel stirrings inside their bodies, it must mean that large, living structures were at the very least shifting their positions, and perhaps even migrating from place to place within the mysterious recesses of the internal cavities that encompassed them, whether the abdomen or the chest.

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Facts and Love

I. This has been quite a time for those interested in the art of the Italian Renaissance: major exhibitions on the Renaissance portrait (at the Prado, Madrid and the National Gallery, London), the relationship between Florentine and Netherlandish painting (at the Palazzo Pitti, Florence), and love and marriage (The Metropolitan Museum, New York); and displays of the work of the north Italian sculptors Antico (Palazzo Ducale, Mantua) and Riccio (The Frick Collection, New York) as well as the painters Correggio (Galleria Borghese, Rome and Galleria Nazionale, Parma), that eccentric of Bolognese

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