Books of the Year
December 30, 2009

The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, by Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life, by Michael Greenberg Poems 1959-2009, by Frederick Seidel Love and Obstacles, by Aleksandar Hemon The Conservative Turn: Lionel Trilling, Whitaker Chambers and the Lessons of Anti-Communism, by Michael Kimmage

Budapest, The Berlin Wall, and Iran: What Obama Does Not Grasp
November 08, 2009

It is just about 30 years since the wall around Iran went up. And it is a few days away from fully 20 years since the Berlin Wall came down. The Berliner Mauer had been up for more than a quarter century, and its surface facing east, grim gray, was a metaphor for life in the German Democratic Republic. On its western face graffiti evoked the freer spirit of the half-city whose heart had nonetheless been broken by the Soviet goose step that divided it. And the Cold War was won on the very day the authorities of the D.D.R.

October 01, 2009

Jewish history in the 20th century is full of might-have-beens, most of them too sorrowful to bear thinking about. The brief cultural moment that Kenneth B. Moss resurrects in Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Harvard University Press) is one of the least known and most fascinating of those aborted futures: a two-year period when writers, artists, and activists in Russia and Ukraine believed they were midwiving the birth of a new Jewish culture.

Today at TNR (September 16, 2009)
September 16, 2009

Why Is Obama Repeating Bush’s Iraq Mistakes…in Afghanistan? by Michael Crowley The Financial World’s Most Influential Columnist Is a Trash-Talking, Borderline Inscrutable Genius Who Makes You Sleep Badly at Night, by Julia Ioffe What Doctors Really Think About Health Care Reform, by Harold Pollack Galston: Unemployment Numbers May Put Democrats out of Work, by William Galston What Did It Mean to Die in the Warsaw Ghetto?

Atrocious Normalcy
September 16, 2009

  In 1943, the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, who was living in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, wrote “Campo dei Fiori,” his great poem about the coexistence of normality and atrocity. The Campo dei Fiori is the plaza in Rome where, in the year 1600, the heretical philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned alive by the Catholic Church; “before the flames had died,” Milosz writes, “the taverns were full again.” The same willed blindness could be noted in Warsaw, the poem declares.

Stunning News Out of London
September 11, 2009

A pretty shocking story from the London Times: Two months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Margaret Thatcher told President Gorbachev that neither Britain nor Western Europe wanted the reunification of Germany and made clear that she wanted the Soviet leader to do what he could to stop it. In an extraordinary frank meeting with Mr Gorbachev in Moscow in 1989 — never before fully reported — Mrs Thatcher said the destabilisation of Eastern Europe and the breakdown of the Warsaw Pact were also not in the West’s interests.

Enough With The Campus Inquisitions!
April 29, 2009

William I. Robinson teaches sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Describing himself as a "scholar-activist" on his website, Robinson deals with recent economic trends such as globalization. He does so in a manner reminiscent of the leftism once so popular in the 1970s as if, no matter how much the world changes, academic fads should never go out of style.

The Isolato
June 11, 2008

The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad By John Stape (Pantheon, 369 pp., $30) Among the great English novelists, Conrad most resists our understanding. There is sense in this. His largest theme is mystery, and the heart of all his greatest work is dark. He understood this early. "Marlow was not typical," we read of the surrogate who narrates the first and most celebrated of his major works; "to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze." An empty center, then, surrounded by mist.

Books: The Whole Horror
September 10, 2007

  The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 By Saul Friedlander (HarperCollins, 870 pp., $39.95) With the publication of The Years of Extermination, Saul Friedlander adds to his already well-established reputation as one of the world's pre-eminent historians of the Holocaust and of its place in modern European, German, and Jewish history.

Poland And The Jews
January 09, 2007

Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, a name out of the deep past, had been bishop of Lublin where my parents were born. I heard his name as a child when he became first archbishop and then cardinal of Warsaw. My parents, and my mother especially, had bad memories of Wyszynski with regard to the Jews. Yes, the old Polish thing about the Jews. But, when he was arrested and incarcerated by the Communists, they softened on him, maybe even admired him a bit. His case was quite different from that of Josef Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary.