Prague

Rough as Velvet

Thomas Omestad covered the Velvet Revolution in Prague for the December 25, 1989, issue of TNR. Read his piece here. The opening moments of what became known as Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” did not feel so velvety. Nor did the outcome of those events--a largely peaceful triumph of the people over a stifling authoritarian system--seem certain. For those on the streets of Prague on the evening of Friday, November 17, 1989, it was easy to imagine a tragedy-in-the-making and perhaps a reprieve, of sorts, for a dying regime.

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Building Blocs

Monday marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is worth pausing to recall just how momentous, and unanticipated, this event and those that followed were. My students today have no memory of the cold war; to them, Prague and Budapest, just like Paris and Madrid, are simply places to visit or study in Europe.

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Biden was asked about Cheney--and his criticism of the Obama administration's Afghanistan policy review--during an interview with the press pool in Prague: Vpotus pushed back against former VP Cheney’s criticisms this week, saying it was “absolutely wrong” to say the Obama administration is dithering on Afghanistan and that the review left behind by the Bush-Cheney White House was “irrelevant.” At one point, he grew dismissive. Asked about Cheney’s criticism, he said: “Who cares what – ” and then stopped himself to find another way to put it.

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For a while there, it was looking like we were going to spend the next four years arguing whether Barack Obama’s foreign policy was actually different than George W. Bush’s. As I noted the other day, Robert Kagan, the neoconservative foreign policy adviser to the McCain campaign, has been arguing that “the pretense of radical change has required some sleight of hand.” A few former Bush officials have made similar points.

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Hillary's War

In October 2000, Hillary Clinton was entering the home stretch of one of the most unusual Senate campaigns in American history. Although her husband still occupied the Oval Office, she had decamped to a Dutch Colonial in Westchester County to run for the seat of retiring New York Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan. To compensate for the fact that she had never actually lived in the state she intended to represent, she immersed herself in Empire State minutiae. Off the top of her head, she would describe in detail the virtues of the Northeast dairy compact and the rate of upstate job growth.

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by Eric RauchwayI couldn't resist this item from Prague: The Museum of Communism is currently located ... above the McDonalds and next to the Casino.... via The News Quiz.

The Trials

KAFKA: THE DECISIVE YEARS   By Reiner Stach   Translated by Shelley Frisch (Harcourt, 581 pp., $35)           THERE IS A TANTALIZING gap between our increasingly detailed knowledge of Kafka's life and our imperfect understanding of his achievement as a writer. His work seems to cry out for biographical readings and has often been subjected to them, characteristically along psychoanalytic lines. Yet the obvious connections between life and work have not explained much about the work.

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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.

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Bookings

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.

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I. Kafka is the novel’s bad conscience. His work demonstrates a purity of intention, a precision of language, and a level of metaphysical commitment that the novel partially comprehends but is unable to replicate without, in the process, ceasing to be a novel at all. Consequently, Kafka makes novelists nervous. He doesn’t seem to write like the rest of us. Either he is too good for the novel or the novel is not quite good enough for him—whichever it is, his imitators are very few. Now, why is that? Where are Kafka’s descendants? Only a handful—Borges, W.G.

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