Orbán’s Rhetoric: An Exchange

Réka Szemerkényi, reply by Jan-Werner Müller

Dieter Nagl/AFP/Getty Images

Réka Szemerkényi, Ambassador of Hungary to the United States: Jan-Werner Müller paints a rather distorted picture of Hungary. While everyone is free in their particular selection of quotes and personal interpretations, factual correctness is not a matter of choice.

Jan-Werner Müller: Ambassador Szemerkényi claims that my piece contains factual errors, but then fails to identify any. Instead, she attributes an argument to me that I did not make.

Amazing Building Adventures!

Martin Filler

Matthias Gnehm

Architecture may seem to have little in common with comics. Yet the two mediums not only have a natural affinity, but the multi-panel drawing format can bring alive as few other mediums can the long, tedious, disjointed, and arcane process of the building art. An intriguing new exhibition at Oslo’s National Museum-Architecture provides a fascinating overview of this phenomenon.

Jerusalem: Why Should Things Not Get Worse?

David Shulman

Mahmoud illean/Demotix/Corbis

Fear, also hate, makes for a light finger on the trigger, especially in an atmosphere of rabid nationalism that is deliberately fanned by government spokesmen and the prime minister himself. Army intelligence predicts the current violence will get worse; already, Hamas is said to have directed its forces on the West Bank to carry out suicide bombings. And why should things not get worse?

Wonderful, Bickering Ghosts

Francine Prose

Richard Termine/Abrons Arts Center

In Sisters’ Follies: Between Two Worlds, puppeteer Basil Twist has devised two gravity-defying human marionettes, trussed up in harnesses and yanked about by mostly invisible strings. Watching it, one feels a giddy, childlike sense of wonder and awe—but without the terror that an actual child might experience at a play that features two extremely spooky and persuasive ghosts.

Pagodas in Quebec

Christopher Benfey

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
A taste for Asian things is often associated with Commodore Matthew Perry’s “opening” of Japan in 1853–1854, but a horizon-expanding exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston shows that the prodigious appetite for Asian luxury goods;graceful porcelain jars, gilded folding screens, shimmering lacquered chests, colorful Indian bedspreads; began centuries earlier. Surely the Ursuline nuns in Quebec were in on the joke when they depicted, on a decorative altar covering, pagodas alongside Algonquin longhouses.

What Libraries Can (Still) Do

James Gleick

Deutsches Historiches Museum/Arne Psille/Art Resource

Librarians will need to cherish their special talent as “stewards” while letting go of the instinct to be “collectors.” Knowledge in physical form needs to be preserved and curated. But with digital information pouring into iPhones and Kindles in petabytes, libraries need to rethink old habits. They cannot collect everything, or even a small fraction of everything.

A Charmer in the Trenches

Jenny Uglow

The Shepard Trust/Punch Ltd.

E.H. Shepard was already drawing with passion as a child, fascinated by two subjects, soldiers and the theatre—both of which would mingle, oddly, in his wartime work. I had pigeonholed Shepard as the genius who illustrated Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows. Yet an intriguing exhibition of Shepard’s World War I drawings at the House of Illustration, London, show an officer with his sketchbook in the trenches.

The Big Bush Question

Elizabeth Drew

David Levine

Though Jeb Bush set out to run for president with the line, “I am my own man,” he has discovered that being George W’s brother is quite a burden. What is arguable about the events of 9/11 is whether they could have been stopped; what isn’t arguable is that George W. Bush didn’t try. The 9/11 Commission avoided assigning individual blame in order to get a unanimous report, and it deliberately avoided saying whether the attacks could have been prevented, though it was apparent that some commissioners believed this to be the case.

Looking for Primo Levi

Tim Parks

Studio Pericoli

I began to suspect that the small changes to the facts that Primo Levi makes in his memoirs are driven by a desire for freedom. His commitment to bearing witness to the truth of Auschwitz was becoming a kind of straitjacket, something people expected of him, imposed almost. He was also expected to behave in a proper fashion, receiving warnings from the Turin synagogue when it became known he was flirting with a woman journalist. Was writing about the imprisonment of Auschwitz becoming itself a kind of prison?