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.
We’re supposed to be living in an Age of Democracy, but not every world leader, it seems, has gotten the memo. Vladimir Putin announced last week that he plans to return to the Russian presidency next year, and he could stay there for two more six-year terms, until 2024. Putin has been Russia’s dominant ruler since 2000—the last three years, as Prime Minister, nominally junior to his protégé, Dmitri Medvedev, the current president, but only nominally. Medvedev, as suspected, turned out only to be a seat warmer. So the mask is off, and Putin and Putinism stand triumphant.
September 28, 2011
This past March, Natan Sharansky—the onetime Russian dissident and former Israeli politician—appeared at a hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss the Arab Spring. It was around this time that the U.N. Security Council authorized the use of force to help embattled Libyan rebels, the first signs of unrest appeared in the southern Syrian city of Dara’a, and Egyptians were preparing to vote on changes to their constitution.
Back In The USSR
September 28, 2011
The Bright StreamAmerican Ballet Theatre Anna Karenina; The Little Humpbacked HorseMariinsky Ballet, Metropolitan Opera House Incredibly, the hit of the New York dance season this spring was The Bright Stream, a restaging of a Soviet “tractor-ballet” from 1935, about a Caucasian collective farm complete with hammer, sickle, and happy farmers making merry in a sunlit workers’ paradise. The ballet comes to us directly from Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, where it was first restaged in 2003 with new choreography by the Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.
September 14, 2011
In the autumn, everybody wonders what’s going to happen next in the arts. This is a natural feeling, a good feeling. Optimism is in the air. But if you’ve already spent your fair share of autumns waiting to see what comes next, you probably cannot avoid the echoes of seasons past, a sense, alternately exhilarating and depressing, that we are always returning to places we’ve been before.
The Surprising Reason for the Decline of American Tennis
September 09, 2011
One thing seems certain as the 2011 U.S. Open draws to a close: An American man will not win this year’s championship. Andy Roddick was both the last American to win a men’s grand slam event (the 2003 U.S. Open) and the last to compete for one (losing to Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009). It’s by far the longest stretch of time without an American winner since the Open era began in 1968.
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.
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.
With Libyan rebels storming the city of Tripoli and the Qaddafi regime almost certain to fall, conversation has turned quickly to the question of what sort of government is likely to spring up in its stead. As our experience watching governments in East-Central Europe and the former Soviet Union transition from communism (both to democracy and autocracy) should tell us, the range of possible outcomes for the country is neither uniform nor inevitable. Indeed, the chances that Libya will make a successful democratic transition depend upon a number of discrete variables.