In 1958, at the height of the Algerian crisis, with Arabs bombing French cafés in Algiers, Paris tacitly condoning the use of torture by the occupying French army, and paratroop colonels demanding a free hand to end terror, the French philosopher Raymond Aron published a small book, L’Algérie et la République.[^1] Cutting through the emotive and historical claims of both sides, Aron explained in his characteristically cool prose ...Read »
Anthony Hecht was born in 1923, which means he belongs to the generation of writers who served in World War II and hit their stride in the 1950s. From the perspective of the cultural anarchy that was about to break loose, the Fifties are usually dismissed as a timorous and conformist decade: the cold war was at its height, nuclear catastrophe seemed imminent, Senator McCarthy was on the rampage, and ...Read »
In an arched room, its checkerboard floor strewn with parsnips, gourds, and onions, a vast cauldron bubbles over a wood fire. On a pedestal behind it, a stately old man in a broad-brimmed hat presides over a busy scene. The sickle in his hand reveals that he is the god Saturn. Men and women bring him a live pig and other offerings. To the viewer’s left, a young man ...Read »
Andrei Sakharov first came to world attention on July 22, 1968, when The New York Times published his essay “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom.” With the advent of nuclear weapons, he wrote, mankind was faced with a choice: to risk extinction by increasing its divisions, or to move toward economic, social, and ideological convergence between socialist and capitalist systems, and a united approach to global problems.
The ...Read »
For some time now, the cultural historian Peter Gay has been one of the most prolific and most convincing apologists for that remote, maligned age, the nineteenth century. His approach is practical rather than theoretical, corrective rather than revisionist. He has a refreshing ability to separate insights—especially Freud’s—from the systems of thought that produced them. In his five-volume history of the Victorian middle classes, The Bourgeois Experience ...Read »
These three books under review do not have much in common, but what does bind them together is James Madison, the influential framer of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the fourth president of the United States. Today, Madison’s reputation as a Founder has never been higher. Robert A. Dahl calls him “our greatest political scientist” and the person most responsible for our constitutional system. Michael Novak ...Read »
Polish poetry is one of the marvels of twentieth-century literature. As usually happens with work written in one of the less well known languages, its many riches were nearly unknown until fairly recently. Many minor French and Spanish poets were translated before Czesl/aw Milosz and Wisl/awa Szymborska became widely read in this country. Long before these two received Nobel Prizes for Literature in 1980 and 1996 respectively, however ...Read »
Since the age of the great Victorians ended, it has come to be taken for granted, in English, that narratives, particularly if they are of any length and complexity, will be in prose. By now the assumption seems to us to be part of a deepening condition, something that has become obvious, ineradicable, the manifestation of an unnamed emergent desire, like the development of language itself. Even so, it has ...Read »
“Treason is not inherited, my lord,” Rosalind pleads of her uncle, Duke Frederick, in the opening act of As You Like It, as she tries to persuade him not to banish her the way he did her father. Raised alongside Frederick’s daughter Celia, Rosalind is baffled by the sudden imposition of exile. “Thou art thy father’s daughter—there’s enough,” is Frederick’s only explanation. “Let it suffice ...Read »
At first only cherries and the comic flight
of bats, the apple moon, a drowsy owl,
the tang of icy water on school outings.
The city’s towers rise like words of love.
Afterwards, long after, Provence’s golden dust,
fig trees in the vineyards, the lesson of white Greece,
obscure museums, Piero’s Madonna great with child
—in the interim, two occupations, two inhuman armies,
death’s clumsy vehicles ...
No one can doubt that the production and consumption of scientific knowledge are major enterprises in the operation of the modern state and in civil society. Societies too impoverished to create their own science and technology use and feel the impact of those activities in their economic and political interactions with others, even if it is only to employ those technologies as weapons against their own creators. The penetration of ...Read »
The ground bass of the great Irish melody is complaint. Successive waves of invasion by Celts, Norsemen, Anglo- Normans, English, have allowed us in Ireland always to lay the blame for the ills that beset us upon the Other; upon, indeed, a rapacious host of Others. Hence the acronym employed recently by the journalist and critic Fintan O’Toole: MOPE, that is, Most Oppressed People Ever. Yet as the historian ...Read »
James Lasdun’s short thriller is dark and dense with exotic ingredients. It is threatening, surreal, and barefacedly Kafkaesque, centering on the performance of a play adapted from Kafka’s short story “Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor”—the one in which the eponymous hero is pursued by two mysterious ping-pong balls with lives of their own. The adapter is a Bulgarian academic called Trumilcik: he has recently stormed out after being ...Read »
In the 1990s, the government of Mozambique first became suspicious, and then suspicion turned to alarm, about rising rates of HIV infection in the southern provinces of the country. Nuns at a Catholic mission hospital in a small railway town in Gaza province had begun noticing that the number of patients coming to them with AIDS was rising sharply. Meanwhile, Ministry of Health surveys were showing that the proportion of ...Read »
To the Editors:
At the recent Smithsonian symposium on Copenhagen, my projection of original German and Farm Hall documents on the screen caused one questioner to inquire angrily why Mr. Powers had not included such evidence in his lengthy book [“‘Copenhagen’ Revisited,” NYR, March 28].
Among the documents drawn from my book Heisenberg and the Nazi Atomic Bomb Project and shown that day were the 1940 official reports of Heisenberg ...Read »
To the Editors:
A small point of clarification regarding Brian Urquhart’s fine review of my book ‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide [NYR, April 25]. I did not mean to give the impression that Isaiah Berlin in fact met personally with Polish diplomat and Holocaust witness Jan Karski, whose firsthand atrocity reports were doubted by Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and countless others. Berlin did ...Read »
To the Editors:
I enjoyed Martin Filler’s comments on the new Berlin [“Berlin: The Lost Opportunity, NYR, November 1]. I live in Potsdam, and have watched how the grand promises of a new metropolis have turned into the disappointing reality of a Las Vegas. As a historian, however, I wanted to point out that most experts now believe that the Nazis did not “torch the Reichstag,” but that the ...Read »
To the Editors:
I am completing a biography of Caresse Crosby, patron of the arts and co-founder of the Black Sun Press. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who knew her.
William Paterson University Wayne, New Jersey 97470