Madrid

“They say we’re a lost generation. But it’s more like we’re a paralyzed generation,” Mario tells me over a beer on a sweltering Monday afternoon in Toledo. He is a twenty-five year-old Spaniard, and already his future prospects look unsalvageable. He holds a degree in visual communications, but irregular work and a negligible income have forced him to move back in with his parents. At the moment, he scrapes by working as a temp at regional post-offices, hoping each day that some employee might call in sick. “I’m basically tied to my cell phone,” he starts to say.

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Savagery

The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain By Paul Preston (W.W. Norton, 700 pp., $35)  The young Jesuit was an idealist. A slim and bespectacled student of philosophy, Father Fernando Huidobro Polanco dreamed of the redemption of Spain from the evils of its secular, redistributive Republic. A supporter of the military coup by nationalist generals in July 1936, he discounted stories of mass murder of Spanish civilians by the rebels. But knowing that war tries the conscience, he nevertheless wanted to offer pastoral care to the rebel soldiers.

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Madrid–Outgoing Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, of Spain, had until recently been the beneficiary of propitious circumstances. Party infighting enabled him to outmaneuver the establishment favorite in the 2000 primaries. Four years later, he eked out an eleventh hour victory in national elections when a terrorist bombing mere days before voting turned the tide against incumbent conservatives.

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Berlin, Germany—Germany is at the center of the European financial crisis that is threatening to sink Europe, and much of the rest of the world, into a double-dip recession, but you would hardly know it in Berlin.

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I wish it would be historically possible—that is, historically honest—for Israel to be omitted from the long list of target countries that have been the victims of terrorism. Alas, it is not. But President Obama has a habit of making such lists, and he always fails to include Israel (or anyplace within its borders) as a target of this distinctive and most vicious form of warfare.  Still, the fact is that, as early as the 1970s, Palestinian liberationists had begun to perfect the careful tactics of random battle against Israelis. If not precisely Israelis, then some other Jews. Why not?

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How shall we remember Jorge Semprún, the writer and political figure who died on June 7, just before after the seventy-fifth anniversary of the event that, more than any other, including his imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp, would define his life? I refer to the approach of July 17, 2011, which will mark the date in 1936 when Francisco Franco and his cohort of military officers rose against the second Spanish Republic.

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The Throwback

In 2001, Amr Moussa, the current Egyptian Secretary-General of the Arab League, briefly achieved pop-icon status. Serving at the time as Hosni Mubarak’s foreign minister, Moussa’s frequent anti-Israel pronouncements caught the attention of Egyptian pop singer Shaaban Abdel Rahim, who released a song with the line, “I hate Israel and I love Amr Moussa.” The song became a tremendous hit. Shortly thereafter, Mubarak, who had come to regard Moussa as a serious political rival, exiled him to the Arab League. Ten years later, however, Moussa is back in the public eye.

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Inner Harbor

Cádiz, Spain—No famed church, museum, or historical totem draws outsiders to this city on the Atlantic. So few come. Cádiz returns the lack of interest. Let the summer hordes swelter in Seville or Madrid. We’ll feed and entertain you, the body language of the place tells a new arrival, but we don’t need your validation. Take us as we are. And to be honest, the first impressions won’t beguile. Arriving by road, you pass through an unseemly industrial area reminiscent of the New Jersey Meadowlands, followed by a banal stretch of modern beachfront Spanish architecture.

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The Fortunate Journey

The Escorial: Art and Power in the Renaissance By Henry Kamen (Yale University Press, 291 pp., $35) The historian Henry Kamen has spent a distinguished career presenting what he calls a “revisionist” history of early modern Spain.

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The Warrior-Humanist

For more on Bernard Knox, please read an extraordinary report of his heroism in World War II and a collection of his best pieces for TNR. The death of Bernard Knox has impoverished not just contemporary classical scholarship but the humanities as a whole. In choosing him as its Jefferson Lecturer in 1992, the National Endowment for the Humanities could not have found a more ardent or eloquent spokesman for its mission.

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