Britain

David Thomson on Films: ‘The Trip’—A New Film from an Underrated Director
June 14, 2011

Here’s another “movie” from Britain that without a touch of pomp or pretension seeks to ask us, “Well, why in hell do you think you know what a movie is, or has to be?” Since nearly anything could serve and function within the gloriously loose structure of The Trip, I found myself hoping that its two guys might find one of their conversations leading into a lugubrious consideration of what Terrence Malick thought The Tree of Life was really about.

Poetry and Reason
June 09, 2011

The Essential Tagore By Rabindranath Tagore Edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty (Harvard University Press, 819 pp., $39.95) In his book Raga Mala, Ravi Shankar, the great musician, argues that had Rabindranath Tagore “been born in the West he would now be [as] revered as Shakespeare and Goethe.” This is a strong claim, and it calls attention to some greatness in this quintessentially Bengali writer—identified by a fellow Bengali—that might not be readily echoed in the wider world today, especially in the West.

English Breakfast
June 09, 2011

English conservatives don’t really take to the streets, at least not with dispatch. In the United States, only eight weeks elapsed between the passage of the 2009 stimulus bill and half the country erupting into Tea Party-themed protests. In Great Britain, the first noteworthy rally in opposition to excessive spending and debt took place this spring, and the offending government, the Labour Party under Gordon Brown, had already been voted out of power a year ago.

David Brooks's Strange History
May 24, 2011

[Guest Post by Isaac Chotiner] In his column about the United Kingdom, David Brooks writes: Britain faced an enormous task [in the first 20 years of the 20th century]: To move from an aristocratic political economy to a democratic, industrial one. This transition was made gradually, without convulsion, with both parties playing a role. Brooks also quotes the French ambassador to Britain, who reportedly stated: “I have witnessed an English revolution more profound and searching than the French Revolution itself.

Left Behind
May 21, 2011

When I was an undergraduate at Oxford University my tutor—a deeply eccentric but profoundly decent man who claimed to both “loathe this century” and be surprised by the fact that he had lived to see it—had a map on his wall. The map showed the world. The continents were outlined in black on a white field. Shaded red were all of Britain’s former overseas possessions, from India to swathes of Africa to North America.

Visionary Materialism
May 19, 2011

Illuminations By Arthur Rimbaud Translated by John Ashbery (W.W. Norton, 167 pp., $24.95) I. Arthur Rimbaud wrote the texts known as Illuminations between around 1873 and 1875. In those years he lived in London, and in Paris, and at home with his mother and sisters in northern France, and in Stuttgart. In London, George Eliot was writing Daniel Deronda; in Paris, Henry James was writing Roderick Hudson. The majestic Nineteenth Century was everywhere.

Break a Clegg
May 19, 2011

For Bismarck, politics was the art of the possible, while Napoleon would always ask of any general, “But is he lucky?” Put the two together and we can see politics as a game somewhere between chess and poker. Any politician has to gamble and take risks. He needs judgment, he needs nerve, but he also needs luck. Over the first weekend of May last year, Nick Clegg showed considerable skill in playing a poor hand. The voters had just delivered a somewhat oracular verdict in the British general election.

The Case Against Our Attack on Libya
March 20, 2011

There are so many things wrong with the Libyan intervention that it is hard to know where to begin. So, a few big things, in no particular order: First, it is radically unclear what the purpose of the intervention is—there is no endgame, as a U.S. official told reporters. Is the goal to rescue a failed rebellion, turn things around, use Western armies to do what the rebels couldn’t do themselves: overthrow Qaddafi? Or is it just to keep the fighting going for as long as possible, in the hope that the rebellion will catch fire, and Libyans will get rid of the Qaddafi regime by themselves?

The Company Of Giants
March 17, 2011

Madison and Jefferson By Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg (Random House, 809 pp., $35)   Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were more than good friends. These two Virginians and Founding Fathers participated in what was probably the greatest political collaboration in American history. Indeed, the history of the early republic is incomprehensible without an understanding of this political partnership.

Tyranny, the West, and the Rest
March 05, 2011

When Casablanca’s corrupt police captain Louis Renault closes down Rick’s Bar Américain to please Major Strasser, he huffs: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” A second later, the croupier hands him a pile of money: “Your winnings, sir.” It took the West and the Rest 42 years to be shocked by what has been happening in Muammar’s Café Libyien. And it wasn’t gambling. Now, it’s no more U.N. Human Rights Council for Qaddafi. Now, the International Criminal Court is investigating. Now, the E.U. is cutting off arms supplies and freezing bank accounts.

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