France

Rumblings
December 20, 2004

Outside the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, Cte d'Ivoire's main city, loyalist youths recently milled around the site where as many as ten protestors were killed days earlier in a confrontation with French peacekeepers. As I began talking to one of the young men--a member of the self-styled Young Patriots movement of pro-government militants--a small crowd quickly gathered, watching me closely. Fortunately, I passed the initial nationality test.

Center Right
September 27, 2004

Jerusalem, Israel--The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, had planned on offering the usual complaints when he visited Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week. There was the stalled road map, Israel's security fence, and the recently announced expansion of West Bank settlements close to the Green Line. But, before he arrived in Jerusalem, something happened that changed Lavrov's agenda: the massacre of Russian children by Chechen Islamist terrorists.

Pop Esoterica!
August 16, 2004

The Da Vinci Code By Dan Brown (Doubleday, 454 pp., $24.95) The Rule of Four By Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason (The Dial Press, 372 pp., $24) Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone's Asking By Darrel L. Bock (Nelson Books, 188 pp., $19.99) Q By Luther Blissett (Harcourt, 750 pp., $26) DESPITE PREVAILING GOSSIP in the groves of academe, people still like their Renaissance, with its prancing nymphs, striplings in hose, and Venus on the half-shell, an endless Primavera with Lorenzo de' Medici presiding benignly over the pagan rites.

America the Exceptional
July 26, 2004

The Creation of the Media: The Political Origins of Modern Communications By Paul Starr (Basic Books, 484 pp., $27.50)   I. For centuries, Americans have been telling themselves that their nation is not like any other. The most influential version of this notion, stretching back to Puritan times, asserts that the United States has a divinely scripted role to play in the sacred drama of world history. This providentialist fantasy has done no end of mischief: serving as a religious sanction for raw power, justifying the export of American ways--by force if necessary--to a recalcitrant world.

Crashing the Party
July 19, 2004

It's not often that a U.S. political campaign is launched on foreign soil. Then again, it's not often that a U.S. political campaign revolves around a major motion picture.

Back in the USSR
June 28, 2004

I was in Britain in the summer of 2002 when Europeans first got wind of the American plan to invade Iraq. As it happened, they learned this news not from President George W. Bush, not from Secretary of State Colin Powell, and not from the American ambassador, but rather from a leak that appeared in The New York Times. The debate began immediately. The archbishop of Canterbury denounced the war, The Daily Telegraph denounced the archbishop of Canterbury, and so on.

Stop Talking
June 07, 2004

Most of the time in war, diplomatic machinations don't create enduring realities--events on the battlefield do. After World War I, the defeated, but not humiliated, German army that surrendered in France and Belgium provided the origins for the "stab in the back" mythology that fueled Hitler's rise to power. After World War II, by contrast, the shattered and shamed Wehrmacht in Berlin was unable to energize a Fourth Reich. George S.

Crap, Actually
April 27, 2004

Anyone seeking evidence of the death of romantic comedy will find it in abundance in Love Actually, which arrives in video stores this week. Written and directed by Richard Curtis (best known for penning Bridget Jones's Diary, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral), Love Actually announces its ambitions early: Too bold to offer us a thin, unconvincing romance, it instead offers us half a dozen.

Resistances
March 22, 2004

The Battle for Rome: The Germans, the Allies, the Partisans, and the Pope, September 1943-June 1944 By Robert Katz (Simon and Schuster, 418 pp., $28) Click here to purchase the book. THERE WAS A BRIEF PERIOD  in European history, roughly from the beginning of the eighteenth century to 1941, when it was easy to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants; when wars were fought by soldiers clothed, equipped, and trained by the state; when men trained to be murderers on behalf of the state were severely punished if they tried to use the same methods when not in military service.

Disengagement
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

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