The Freedom to Bumble
July 13, 2011
The Free World By David Bezmozgis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 356 pp., $26) To call a short-story writer Chekhovian is among the worst of the book reviewer’s clichés, a lazy shorthand that no longer means anything other than that the person writes very good short stories. But what is often forgotten amid the contemporary adulation of Chekhov as the master of the form—in fact he was the master only of a certain kind of short tale—is that, after a couple of early attempts, he declined to write novels.
On Thursday, July 7, the Supreme Court refused a last minute stay of the execution of Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia, despite the undisputed fact that Leal was tried and sentenced to death by a Texas court without ever being informed that he had a right to seek the assistance of the Mexican Consulate following his arrest. Within hours of the high court’s denial, Leal was executed by lethal injection. Case closed? Not exactly. Given that there are dozens of other foreigners on death row in the U.S.
Love and Death
June 09, 2011
The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg Edited by Georg Adler, Peter Hudis, and Annelies Laschitza Translated by George Shriver (Verso, 609 pp., $39.95) Once upon a time there lived a Jewish lady, of modest stature and of a certain age, who walked with a limp and liked to sing to the birds. Through the bars on her window she would treat the titmice to a Mozart aria, and then await their call, the transcription of which she wished, as she wrote to a friend, to be the only adornment on her grave.
The Freedom of the Café
June 09, 2011
Literary Passports: The Making of Modernist Hebrew Fiction in Europe By Shachar M. Pinsker (Stanford University Press, 487 pp., $60) Elias Canetti, the German-language writer, born to a Bulgarian Sephardic family, who won the Nobel Prize in 1981, tells in his memoirs of his daily meetings in a Viennese café during the 1920s with a certain Dr. Sonne. A man of broad culture who radiated a quietly powerful sense of authority, Dr. Sonne was known by Canetti, somewhat to his perplexity, to be a Hebrew poet.
Move Over, Muammar
March 22, 2011
How Reagan should deal with Qaddafi.
Conversations With Libyan Expats
March 18, 2011
“We are not talking about a civil war between factions, we are talking about a massacre.
January 27, 2011
Giuseppe Arcimboldo National Gallery Franz Xaver Messerschmidt Neue Galerie When artists of earlier eras become subjects of renewed interest, you can be sure that big changes are in the air. All too often relegated to specialized studies in the history of taste, such shifts in an artist’s fortunes are among our most reliable guides to current attitudes and values, a look into the dark glass of the past that can also function as a mirror in which we see reflected some aspect of ourselves.
The Fortunate Journey
September 13, 2010
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.
Framed in the language of defiant truth-telling, Geoffrey Wheatcroft's views on Turkey and the E.U. add up to a wholly conventional rehearsing of haute pub talk ideas—of the kind you would have heard loudly offered in any century from the fourteenth onward, in robustly ignorant Western circles. “No, no, my dear fellow, the Turks are not like us.” For years, I heard these notions aired confidently by Colonel Blimpish friends at school and college in England. None of them had ever gone near Turkey. They, like, Mr.
Turkey Is Not Going to Join the E.U.
August 05, 2010
Turkey is not going to join the European Union. Bald or candid statements are usually unwise, or “impolitic,” which is why politicians tend to avoid them, knowing that they may be falsified by events. But some can be made with absolute confidence, and here is one of them. This question has returned to the news with the recent Turkish visit by David Cameron, during which he said that Turkey should join the E.U. as soon as possible. Whatever my new prime minister may say, it has been clear to me ever since I took any interest in the question that Turkey was not going to join the E.U.