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.
April 15, 2011
From the moment the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO’s future was in question. While it had been the most successful multinational alliance in history, partnerships of that sort seldom survive once their enemies are gone. As the Berlin Wall came down and Stalin’s empire shattered, NATO’s clock was ticking. Amazingly, though, the Alliance persisted, largely by transforming itself. It staved off a challenge from a proposed European Union Defense Force, which might have supplanted it; provided an institutional framework for continued U.S.
Flowers in the Desert
February 09, 2011
The wave of popular unrest that has spread across the Arab world in recent weeks, toppling the regime in Tunisia, creating the mass protests in Egypt, and leading other governments in the region to scramble to choke off similar eruptions, has evoked images of 1989, when Communist governments fell like dominoes in Eastern Europe. Like today, those earlier events unfolded with surprising speed, catching the West (as well as the oppressive regimes) off guard. But President George H.W.
A Completely Unpredictable Revolution
February 01, 2011
Only fools would predict the unpredictable, and thus with the course of the Egyptian revolution. Imagine yourself as a pundit in Paris at the start of the French Revolution, the mother of them all. In August of 1789, you would have celebrated the “General Declaration of Human Rights,” an ur-document of democracy, as the dawn of “liberty, equality and fraternity.” Yet, four years later, the Terreur erupted, claiming anywhere between 16,000 and 40,000 lives. In 1804, one-man despotism was back.
The READ: How Should We Teach Children About the Holocaust?
November 17, 2010
When you have children, it’s hard to do much of anything without them being aware of it. And so it hasn’t been lost on my children that for much of the past few years—for most of their lives, in fact—I’ve been working on a book. At first, this manifested mostly in negative ways: Mommy’s writing, so the door is closed, the babysitter is here, interruptions will be tolerated grouchily.
The READ: How Do We Understand the Holocaust?
September 22, 2010
In the summer of 1995, when I was an intern at The New York Times’ Warsaw bureau, we received an unusual news tip. A flea-market vendor in Gdansk had been selling what he described as “authentic soap” made out of fat taken from the bodies of Jews murdered at the Stutthof concentration camp. He had been displaying the soap, complete with a sign advertising both its price and provenance, at his stall for several days before anyone seemed to have taken note.
Life In Ohio: Bikini Strippers Protest Church
August 10, 2010
Max Fisher asks how I could have missed this story: WARSAW, OHIO: The owner of an Ohio strip club and a few of his dancers have been protesting the services at a church that has kept heat on the club. Women in bikinis sat in camp chairs Sunday outside the New Beginnings Ministries church in Warsaw, about 60 miles northeast of Columbus. Owner Tommy George of the Foxhole club in nearby Newcastle says he and his employees decided to start coming to the church because they were fed up.
May 22, 2010
Adam Mickiewicz: The Life of a Romantic By Roman Koropeckyj (Cornell University Press, 549 pp., $45) It was Poland’s peculiar luck to receive its literary matrix, its cultural subtext, the source of its national mythology, from the hands of a provincial genius, a Romantic poet and mystic, in the first half of the nineteenth century. Imagine the creative possibilities, and the inevitable perils, of such a provenance.
Vacuity and Farce
May 21, 2010
The Supreme Court is divided into two blocs, as hostile and immutable as NATO and the Warsaw Pact. In the middle of the two blocs sits Anthony Kennedy, a Yugoslavia-like figure who tilts toward one bloc but has demonstrated significant independence. When and how the delicate balance of power will be broken rests upon two questions: First, will one of the four liberals get sick and die during a Republican presidency before one of the four conservatives gets sick and dies during a Democratic presidency?
April 17, 2010
In memory of Tomasz Merta (1965–2010) The event known as Katyn began when the Red Army invaded Poland, along with the Wehrmacht, in September 1939. The Soviets took thousands of Polish officers prisoner and held them in the ruins of Orthodox monasteries. When these men were allowed to leave the camps, 70 years ago in April 1940, they expected that they would be returning home. Instead, they were taken to Kharkiv, or Tver, or Katyn. Over the course of a few days, 21,892 of these prisoners were shot in the base of the skull.