Nazi Propaganda: Out of the Cage

Francine Prose

Many propaganda films produced under the aegis of the National Socialist Party, including some forty movies made between 1933 and 194, are still illegal to show publicly in Germany, except in an approved academic setting. What Forbidden Films, Felix Moeller’s excellent documentary, seeks to answer is the question of whether these films are not only chemically but politically incendiary—and whether they should continue to be banned.

Dancing Mrs. Dalloway

Adam Thirlwell

The Royal Ballet/Tristram Kenton

Should a ballet be about something? Wayne McGregor’s new ballet, Woolf Works, which is derived from, or based on—the verbs being precisely the problem—three novels by Virginia Woolf, recently premiered at Covent Garden in London. It is a brilliant, uneven, tender piece—and it offers one way of thinking about this constant conundrum for the art of ballet.

Baltimore: What Hasn’t Changed

Steven H. Wright

Jim Bourg/Reuters/Corbis

The arrest of the six Baltimore officers might have provided an opportunity for the kinds of reform that would prevent the abuse or death of future Freddie Grays. But by failing to match prosecution with LEOBR reform, the officer’s indictment and possible conviction is likely to be little more than a symbolic act of accountability to calm fed-up African-Americans.

The Writer’s Shadow

Tim Parks

Studio Pericoli
How is it possible that even when I know nothing about a novelist’s life I find, on reading his or her book, that I am developing an awareness of the writer that is quite distinct from my response to the work? Literary genius is the ability to draw readers into one’s own world of feeling, with all its nuance and complexity, and to force them to position themselves in relation to you.

Here Comes Waterloo!

Jenny Uglow

Leeds Art Gallery

There’s some irony in celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the British defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, given Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to hold a referendum within two years to decide if Britain should leave the European Union. Nevertheless, Britain has got Waterloo fever.

Why the Pope Chose Francis

Garry Wills

RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource

In 1219, Saint Francis traveled to Egypt to carry the words of Jesus to the Sultan al-Kami, a nephew of the great Saladin. While others were trying to make converts with the sword, he communicated the words of Jesus by dialogue. The sultan heard him out, and though he was not converted, he sent him safely back through the lines. Pope Francis, too, communicates with Muslims, and is trying to prevent a modern holy war. When he was elected, Pope Francis chose a name no other pope has used, for a very good reason.

Fragments of a Family

Francine Prose

Joan Marcus/Circle in the Square Theatre

Part of what’s fascinating about the Broadway adaptation of Fun Home is how closely it adheres to the outline and details of Alison Bechdel’s story—yet so differs from the book that it seems to be a related but entirely original work. Together, the memoir and the musical argue for the fact that plot and character are just a part of what affects us when we experience art. Our response is also determined by form, genre, setting—not only by the story but by the way the story is told.

Reining in the NSA

David Cole

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

If Edward Snowden had not revealed the NSA’s sweeping surveillance of Americans, Congress would have simply renewed Section 215, the USA Patriot Act provision that the NSA relied on—as it had done on seven previous occasions since 2001. Instead the Senate has passed the USA Freedom Act, which will bring an end to the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

Simenon’s Island of Bad Dreams

John Banville

Mondadori/Getty

In Georges Simenon’s The Mahé Circle, translated now into English for the first time, François Mahé is suffering from a sense of general dissatisfaction. It is a quintessential Simenon crise, in which a man who has spent his life in servitude to family, work, society, suddenly lays down his burden and determines to live for the moment, and for himself.

Gaza: Killing Gets Easier

David Shulman

Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos

In early May, Breaking the Silence, the organization of Israeli ex-soldiers, published a report on the Israeli army’s campaign in Gaza last summer. It revealed that the large number of civilian casualties on the Palestinian side was a consequence, among other things, of military tactics and orders explicitly adopted by the IDF.