Cruelty and Collapse
October 12, 2011
The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945 By Ian Kershaw (Penguin, 564 pp., $35) It can be harder to lose a war than to win one. Nazi Germany won quick victories in 1939 and 1940 against its eastern and western neighbors, Poland and France. Many Germans who had doubted the wisdom of war came around with enthusiasm to the sound of German boots on the Champs Elysées. Warsaw and Paris fell more quickly and with fewer complications than anticipated. Their conquest convinced many Germans, including army officers, that further campaigns could be won by strokes of genius.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Kinds of War
September 23, 2011
Where Soldiers Come From International Film Circuit Point Blank Magnolia Pictures Iron Crows Min-Chul Kim No, it won’t. That is the answer as to whether the flood of documentaries about current wars will lessen. Why should it? Don’t we all frequently wish that film had been invented in time for Troy? Where Soldiers Come From is unique. It is about war, about Afghanistan in particular, but it is more about civilization than about combat.
Élisabeth Gille’s Devastating Account of her Mother, Irène Némirovsky
September 21, 2011
I have never before come upon a book at once as loving and as devastating as The Mirador by Élisabeth Gille, the daughter of Irène Némirovsky. Némirovsky, it will be remembered, is the popular French-Jewish society novelist of the interwar era who came to attention in the United States and elsewhere after the discovery of Suite Française, her unfinished epic about the war years in France.
David Thomson on Films: ‘The Hour’ Is the Most Complex and Absorbing Story Currently Playing on Any Screen
September 06, 2011
If you haven’t caught up with it yet, “The Hour” is halfway over. The fourth of six hour-long episodes will play on BBC America on Wednesday, September 7th. But don’t be disheartened. You don’t want to watch it in its original transmission because it is stretched out to 90 minutes with some especially egregious commercials. If you wait a day, you can pick it up on Exfiniti “on demand” without the commercials. Start now and you can catch up on the first three episodes, and get in training for the most complex and absorbing story playing on film (and in English) at the moment.
Why French Elites Think DSK Should Make A Comeback
August 26, 2011
Dominique Strauss-Kahn will return to a very different France from the one he left. The country’s state TV network reported that his personal approval rating, which stood at 52 percent prior to his arrest, had plummeted to 28 percent by the time all the charges against him were dismissed this week. Yet the top echelon of the Socialist Party has greeted the news from New York as though dismissal were equivalent to acquittal.
9/11 and the Case for American Humility
August 24, 2011
In 2001, Americans were convinced that the United States was the center of the world. It was exactly a decade after the official end of the cold war and the triumphant eviction of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine had described us two years earlier as a “hyper-power.” Beyond geopolitics, we were the source and the center of the forces of globalization: technology, finance, entrepreneurship, movies, music, fashion, and the mores of modernity. As our critics never tired of reminding us, we were deeply self-absorbed. September 11 intensified this view.
August 24, 2011
W.B. Yeats & George Yeats: The Letters Edited by Ann Saddlemyer (Oxford University Press, 599 pp., $49.95) Words Alone: Yeats & his Inheritances By R.F. Foster (Oxford University Press, 236 pp., $29.95) IT WAS CERTAINLY an odd marriage. The groom, already a well-known Irish poet, was fifty-two, the bride twenty-four. The groom had proposed to two other women immediately before settling for the bride, a well-bred young Englishwoman whom he had known for several years and with whom he shared occult interests.
Do Ideas Matter?
August 24, 2011
I. MY ROLE ON September 11 was to be a reporter for The New Republic. I was in downtown Brooklyn, and from my rooftop I watched the first tower crumble, and then I ran downstairs to the street with pen and notebook and plunged into the crowds fleeing over the bridges. I spoke with one person after another, asking what they had seen. They told me. I compiled my report.
When the Spanish-American War of 1898 ended with a victory for the United States, John Hay, U.S. ambassador in London, felt moved to celebrate. In a letter to Teddy Roosevelt, he described it as a war “begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by the fortune which loves the brave.” It was, in short, “a splendid little war.” The fall of the Qaddafi regime in Libya has inclined many contemporary commentators to similarly effusive bursts of cheer. But does the war in Libya deserve all the praise being bestowed upon it?
The Age of Comparison
July 28, 2011
The Book that Changed Europe: Picart & Bernard’s “Religious Ceremonies of the World” By Lynn Hunt, Margaret C. Jacob, and Wijnand Mijnhardt (Harvard University Press, 383 pp., $32.95) A New Science: The Discovery of Religion in the Age of Reason By Guy G. Stroumsa (Harvard University Press, 223 pp., $35) The scene is familiar. A family is sitting around a table, in a well-appointed eighteenthcentury dining space. Only if you look closely, and only if you know what to look for, do you realize that this is a Passover seder.