December 30, 2008
There is an ungainly German word, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, that has no equivalent in the English language. It means "coming to terms with past," and it was coined to refer to the efforts of German intellectuals, journalists, and even some politicians who, over the past half century, insisted that facing unpleasant truths about their country's history was both a moral and political necessity.
December 24, 2008
In October, when Tzipi Livni, who had won the race to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as head of Israel's ruling Kadima Party, announced that she was unable to form a governing coalition, you could almost hear the groans coming from across the Atlantic and from European capitals. The reason? Livni's failure to assemble a government means new elections will take place in February.
Time After Time
December 24, 2008
Rhythms of Life: The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing By Russell G. Foster and Leon Kreitzman (Yale University Press, 276 pp., $19) Man has invented many ways to measure physical time, from ancient sundials to water and sand clocks, from the pendulum to the wind-up pocket watch, all the way to the modern atomic clock. An example of this latter-day timekeeper, introduced in 1950, measures a second as 9,192,631,770 cycles in the energy radiation of the Caesium atom.
November 05, 2008
Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems By Durs Gr ünbein Translated by Michael Hofmann (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 298 pp., $16) Although some poems by Durs Gr ünbein had been published in journals here and in England, it was not until the appearance of this volume, crisply and colloquially translated by Michael Hofmann, that an English-speaking reader could approach Gr ünbein's coruscating writing. Gr ünbein was born in Dresden, in East Germany, in 1962, and moved to East Berlin as a young adult.
The End of the End of History
April 23, 2008
I. In the early 1990s, optimism was understandable. The collapse of the communist empire and the apparent embrace of democracy by Russia seemed to augur a new era of global convergence. The great adversaries of the Cold War suddenly shared many common goals, including a desire for economic and political integration. Even after the political crackdown that began in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the disturbing signs of instability that appeared in Russia after 1993, most Americans and Europeans believed that China and Russia were on a path toward liberalism.
Will Cell Phones Kill You?
April 09, 2008
The Secret History of the War on Cancer by Devra Davis (Basic Books, 505 pp., $27.95) I. In 1775, Percivall Pott, a surgeon at St. Bartholemew's Hospital in London who gave his name to several diseases and conditions, published Chirurgical Observations. Although he had treated such distinguished personages as Samuel Johnson and Thomas Gainsborough, his treatise focused on the lowliest of the low. In so doing, he became the first to hypothesize what is now a widespread notion: that cancer can be caused by environmental exposure.
March 26, 2008
Madame Proust: A Biography By Evelyne Bloch-Dano Translated by Alice Kaplan (University of Chicago Press, 310 pp., $27.50) IT HAS NEVER BEEN CLEAR what, if anything, should be made of the fact that Proust's mother was a Jew. This genealogical fact means that in the patently irrelevant terms of Jewish law, he, too, could be called a Jew, while in the equally irrelevant terms of biology he was half-Jewish.
Discipline and Decline
March 12, 2008
Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 By Christopher Clark (Harvard University Press, 776 pp., $35) On his way back from self-imposed exile in Paris, in 1844, Heinrich Heine caught a first glimpse of Prussian soldiers in Aachen, a city in the far west corner of Germany: I wandered about in this dull little nest For about an hour or more Saw Prussian military once again They looked much the same as before. [ ...
A Sacred Aura
March 07, 2008
There is one book that says it all. An old book, nearly a classic. Oddly, it is rarely mentioned in France. This book, published in 1957, is titled The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology. Its author is Ernst H.
Where Are the Anti-Fascists?
December 04, 2007
The memory of the crimes of the Nazi era and the determination to oppose anti-Semitism in all its forms have been constitutive and distinctive features of German democracy since 1949, when it was articulated by the founding generation of political leaders of West Germany's Federal Republic. Judging by the memorials, commemorative days, books, and films about Nazism and the Holocaust, this tradition of remembering the murdered Jews of Europe remains firmly embedded in the political culture of contemporary German public life.