France

Goodbye to Berlin
August 30, 2010

In early February, the top financial officials of seven major industrialized countries gathered in Canada to mull the state of the world economy. To grease their interactions, the Canadians had created an intimate setting in Iqaluit, an Inuit town near the Arctic Circle. A planning document waxed on about fireside chats at a cozy inn and decreed that the attire would be casual.

Pogroms of Words
August 28, 2010

For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus By Frederick Brown (Knopf, 304 pp., $28.95) The phrase “culture wars” has a peculiarly contemporary and American sound. Its very hyperbole captures something about our over-excited political culture. It summons up images of Sarah Palin denouncing liberal elites to the Tea Party convention, or of hippies facing off against riot police. It triggers associations with a series of “hot button” American issues: gay marriage, abortion, gun control, prayer in schools. Yet “culture wars” are in fact endemic to Western modernity.

Pogroms of Words
August 27, 2010

For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus By Frederick Brown (Knopf, 304 pp., $28.95) The phrase “culture wars” has a peculiarly contemporary and American sound. Its very hyperbole captures something about our over-excited political culture. It summons up images of Sarah Palin denouncing liberal elites to the Tea Party convention, or of hippies facing off against riot police. It triggers associations with a series of “hot button” American issues: gay marriage, abortion, gun control, prayer in schools. Yet “culture wars” are in fact endemic to Western modernity.

How Can We Help Pakistan’s Flood Victims While Their Own Government Is Failing?
August 20, 2010

Compounding things, the international community has moved ponderously, even lethargically, to aid the survivors. According to Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Saudi Arabia has led all countries in providing aid, with about $112 million, followed by the United States with nearly $76 million, and then the United Kingdom's nearly $65 million. Pakistan's neighbor and regional rival, India, has offered very little, while Pakistan's all-weather friend, China, has ponied up a paltry $9 million thus far. The total sum, according to the NDMA, amounts to only $524.93 million.

The Nowhere Bomb
August 18, 2010

Should Jerusalem bring its bomb out of the basement? Israel, for at least the moment, is the sole possessor of atomic weapons in the Middle East, with an arsenal that now includes approximately 200 warheads. But it is also the only nuclear-armed nation to hide its cache behind a façade of official silence–neither confirming nor denying its existence. Iran’s mounting nuclear capability arguably demands a reconsideration of this stance. Explicitly announcing its nuclear status would have its advantages. It would upgrade Israel’s deterrent.

The Counter-Thinker
August 05, 2010

 The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism By Pascal Bruckner Translated by Steven Rendall (Princeton University Press, 239 pp., $26.95) I. Once upon a time, it seemed an incontestable fact that the life of the mind radiated from the Left Bank outward. Within a small quadrant of the Latin Quarter in Paris, an intellectual elite labored to produce magisterial works that lesser minds all over the world received eagerly, gratefully—and by and large uncritically.

Greeks Accept Their Newfound Austerity
July 30, 2010

The long, hot Greek summer just got hotter. A strike by fuel tanker drivers has paralyzed the country, stranding tourists, causing food shortages, and leaving 70 percent of gas stations without any gas to pump. In the simplest terms, this is about new austerity measures, in this case, higher fees for truck licenses. But more broadly, it is about the government’s assault on a lifestyle Greeks, rich and poor, have come to take for granted. As one Greek businessman put it to me, "the party’s over." Greece is broke. The signs are big and small.

Faces and Faiths
July 27, 2010

Is there any more eloquent or definitive evidence of human individuality, of human dignity, than the face? My face shows that I am unlike you, that I am myself; and in this beautiful incommensurability we establish solidarity with each other, because your face also looks only like itself, only like you.The hiddenness of the face—the Divine face, too—is commonly regarded as a curse or a punishment, and its revelation as an epiphany.

Infinite Life
July 21, 2010

Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism And Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (Belknap Press, 239 pp., $25.95) A starry firmament, or sand cascading through one’s open fingers, or weeds springing up time after time: the first conception of infinity, of the uncountable and the unending, is not recorded, but it must have been stimulated by experiences such as these. It may have merged in the mind of an ancient progenitor with thoughts of a God, a possessor of unlimited might, an infinite being itself.

Infinite Life
July 21, 2010

Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism And Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (Belknap Press, 239 pp., $25.95) A starry firmament, or sand cascading through one’s open fingers, or weeds springing up time after time: the first conception of infinity, of the uncountable and the unending, is not recorded, but it must have been stimulated by experiences such as these. It may have merged in the mind of an ancient progenitor with thoughts of a God, a possessor of unlimited might, an infinite being itself.

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