February 09, 2004
The Rules of Engagement By Anita Brookner (Random House, 273 pp., $23.95) ANITA BROOKNER IS THE great chronicler of a particular sort of female loneliness. Her typical heroine spends most of her novel exhausted “with the tiredness of one who has too little rather than too much to do.” Someone has left her money, and so she does not work, or she works at something mostly solitary, such as translating or archiving. Her few friends are scattered, and during her rare moments among them she usually feels uncomfortable and unworthy, “like a humble petitioner, seeking an hour of their time, in wine b
Kant at Ground Zero
February 09, 2004
Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida Edited by Giovanna Borradori (University of Chicago Press, 208 pp., $25) I. Was philosophy prepared for the events of September 11? To judge by all available evidence, the answer must be a resounding “no.” For some time now, contemporary philosophy has viewed “worldliness”—the perfectly natural idea that thought should take a healthy and constructive interest in worldly affairs—as a source of contamination. Analytic philosophy’s triumph in the decades following World War II meant that henceforth philosophy would
He Meant What He Said
February 02, 2004
I. Adolf Hitler's so-called second book was not published in his lifetime. Written, as Gerhard Weinberg convincingly speculates, in late June and early July 1928, the book’s publication was postponed because Mein Kampf, Hitler's first massive text, was selling very badly and could hardly stand competition with another publication by the same author. Later, after Hitler was appointed chancellor and Mein Kampf became one of the greatest (and allegedly most unread) best-sellers of all times, the second book was apparently seen as disclosing his foreign policy plans too explicitly to allow publica
December 15, 2003
The most beautiful libraries exude a bookish rapture, and no libraries have more of this luminous poetry than the glorious confections, all polished wood and shining stone and white-and- gold stucco, that royal families and religious orders built in the eighteenth century, mostly in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
Jerusalem Dispatch: Fantasy
December 15, 2003
Some two million Israeli homes recently received in the mail the 47-page text of the Geneva Accord, which claims to be the comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Accord, a European-funded effort secretly negotiated by Palestinian officials and Israeli public figures for two years--and signed in a symbolic, lavish ceremony in Geneva this week--states that Israel will withdraw to the 1967 borders, a Palestinian state will emerge with its capital in Jerusalem, and the two peoples will recognize each other's right to statehood and resolve the refugee issue.
July 07, 2003
Elie Nadelman: Sculptor of Modern Life, Whitney Museum of American Art In the art of Elie Nadelman, sobriety and enchantment are strangely, wonderfully entangled. Nadelman, who died in 1946 at the age of sixty-four, gave sculpture’s ancient mandate to turn real space into dream space a modern vehemence and an adamantine logic, but also a flash of what-the-hell insouciance.
May 05, 2003
Èdouard Vuillard: Post-Impressionist Master (National Gallery of Art; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) Symbolism, an apotheosis of personal expression that swept through all the arts at the end of the nineteenth century, marked Europe’s final break with the classical humanism of the Renaissance. The struggles for romantic independence that had animated artists, writers, and musicians in France, Germany, and England for more than a hundred years emboldened the Symbolists to follow their sensations wherever they might lead.
April 21, 2003
The Victorians By A.N.Wilson (W.W. Norton, 544 pp., $35) A.N. Wilson is a clever and versatile man. He is the author of a dozen novels, variable in quality, the best of which are amusing and skillfully constructed, but with an undertone of moral seriousness, lightly camp but oddly touching. He is a prolific newspaper columnist in Britain.
That Cruel Guest
April 07, 2003
In the Land of Pain By Alphonse Daudet Edited and translated by Julian Barnes (Alfred A. Knopf, 87 pp, $13) The language requirement in American high schools has always been something of a curricular curiosity, and the abolition nowadays of the hopeful competence that it once proposed is but another sign of the withering away of the state of literary studies.
April 07, 2003
Just when it seemed we had heard the last from the United Nations on the subject of Iraq, the battle of Turtle Bay resumed last week. An army of European statesmen regrouped and declared that, having been defeated in their efforts to constrain U.S. power before the war, they intend to pick up where they left off as soon as it ends. The European Union issued a formal statement insisting that "the U.N. must continue to play a central role" in Iraq, and the EU president, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, exhorted "the U.N.