Article archive

February 15, 1996

  • Alice, or The Art of Survival

    John Bayley

    His face presented the peculiarity of having two very different profiles; the shape of the eyes and the corners of the mouth did not tally. He sometimes hesitated in his speech (your true raconteur’s trick this, is it not?) and I fancied he would often deliberately use it to heighten expectancy by delaying the point of his stories. How many he told, and how well he told them!”

    The ...

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  • The Case of Wei Jingsheng

    William Styron, Robert Stone, Norman Mailer, Kenzaburo Oe, and Ronald Harwood, et al.


    To the Editors:

    The following is an open letter from PEN, concerning the trial on December 13, 1995, of Wei Jingsheng, which resulted in his being sentenced to fourteen years in prison. It is addressed to:

    Prime Minister Paul Keating
    Prime Minister Paul Nyrup Rasmussen
    Chancellor Helmut Kohl
    President Kim Young-sam
    Prime Minister John Major
    Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
    President Jacques Chirac
    Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama
    Prime ...

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  • Death’s Gray Land

    Rosemary Dinnage

    Until Pat Barker’s Regeneration, the first book of her World War I trilogy, appeared in 1991, she was modestly respected for her novels of life in the urban wastelands of northern England, harsh and knowledgeable and showing a wonderful ear for the local idiom. But in the trilogy—Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and now The Ghost Road—she found a subject that energized her work, sending it ...

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  • The Beat of War

    Murray Kempton

    Immediately after the explosion, the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, having run wildly out…and having looked in wonderment at the bloody soldiers at the mouth of the dugout they had been digging, attached himself sympathetically to an old lady, who was walking along in a daze, holding her head with her left hand, supporting a small boy of three or four on her back with her right, and crying, “I ...

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  • Notions of Freedom

    Brad Leithauser

    He liked to describe himself as primarily a poet, which is hardly the way the rest of the world has come to see Malcolm Lowry. I’ve more than once, in conversation, mentioned my devotion to Lowry’s poetry and had a misunderstanding arise. It was assumed I was speaking metaphorically—that I was praising the lyrical qualities of his prose. But while the fiction, particularly Under the Volcano, has ...

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  • Bringing a Great Poet Back to Life

    Czeslaw Milosz

    Two distinguished poets have translated into English a sixteenth-century Polish poet whose work reads as if he were our contemporary. The very possibility that we can respond to works written long ago is always fragile. After all, how often do we fail to overcome the gap in time that separates us from a given literary work, except when we read it as students of history, fascinated more by a reconstruction ...

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  • On the Death of Mitterrand

    William Pfaff

    François Mitterrand was a provincial conservative and Catholic whose prewar political initiation was in rightist student circles, demonstrating in the Paris streets to mock democracy and attack the Popular Front. He flirted with fascism when that seemed first a choice, then a necessity, for France. His service to the wartime Pétainist government in Vichy evolved into a commitment to the Resistance, but this seems, in retrospect, less a decision of ...

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  • The Last Hurrah

    Thomas Powers

    The New Hampshire presidential primary has not been kind to Senator Bob Dole. Twice it has inflicted the sort of wound that would have killed the White House dreams of a less driven man. In 1980 when he first ran for president he finished last in New Hampshire in a field of six, with a total of 608 votes. This was less than a half of 1 percent of the ...

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  • On Wei Jingsheng

    Susan Sontag

    The following remarks were made at the PEN press conference in December 1995 at which Robert Stone read the above statement.

    I have been in China only two times, neither of them recent. The first time was in the early 1970s, at the end of the Cultural Revolution, when relatively few foreigners made their way there. And I went again for about a month at the beginning of the 1980s ...

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  • Caught in the Web

    James Fallows

    The most effective aspect of Bill Gates’s new book is its cover. A wonderful photograph, taken by Annie Leibovitz, shows a friendly-looking and casually dressed Gates standing on an isolated highway somewhere in the West. With his crew-neck sweater and penny loafers, with his warm expression and relaxed pose, Gates looks like the brainy young nephew in whom a family reposes its future hopes. Behind him, toward a horizon ...

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  • Icon

    Ernst Gombrich

    Expulsion into Paradise” was Erwin Panofsky’s characteristic remark in the spring of 1933, when he received the letter that deprived him of his chair in art history at Hamburg University because of his “race.” He had been so fortunate as to enjoy the foretaste of Paradise before, having divided his teaching activities between Germany and the United States for some time, and soon afterward his bliss became perfect on ...

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  • On Rwanda

    J. F.

    Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century by Alain Destexhe (New York University Press, 92 pp., $19.95), with an introduction by William Shawcross, is a short account of the definition of genocide and its applicability in the twentieth century. Destexhe, a former secretary general of Médecins Sans Frontières, abbreviates the UN’s 1948 definition as follows: “a criminal act…with the intention of destroying…an ethnic, national or religious ...

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  • A Short History of Anti-Hamitism

    James Fenton

    It begins when the Flood subsides. Noah plants a vineyard, makes wine, and falls into a stupor in his tent. Ham, Noah’s son, sees his father’s nakedness and tells his two brothers what has happened. Shem and Japheth take a cloak between them and, walking backward into the tent, cover their father’s nakedness without themselves seeing it. When Noah wakes up and learns what has happened he ...

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  • Austria & the Ghost of the New Europe

    Tony Judt


    On Sunday December 17 two parliamentary elections were held in Europe. In Russia, the subcontinent’s largest country, the Communists and their allies were victorious, emulating similar successes by Communist and ex-Communist parties in Hungary, Poland, and elsewhere in the former Eastern bloc. In Austria, one of Europe’s smallest states, nothing much happened: the governing majority was once again returned to office, fighting off a challenge from right-wing ...

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