Ian Buruma


Ian Buruma is currently Paul R. Williams Professor of Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College. His previous books include Year Zero: A History of 1945, Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents, and Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies. He writes frequently for The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and the Financial Times. In Spring 2015, NYRB will reissue his book The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Japan and Germany.

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  • Normal Nazis

    February 19, 2014

    Millions of German and Austrian viewers thought Generation War was wonderful. So why has there been so much fuss about it, especially in Poland, where the filmmakers were accused of “falsifying history”?

  • Imelda's Sweet Sauce

    May 7, 2013

    Turning the life and times of Imelda Marcos into a piece of musical theater set in a disco is almost too obvious. And yet Here Lies Love, the musician David Byrne’s imagining of Imelda’s inner landscape, mostly works very well.

  • The Japan Beneath the Snow

    April 10, 2013

    Swept away in the 1940s by a Japanese version of chauvinistic ethnography, the photographer Hiroshi Hamaya embarked on his extraordinary documentation of rural life in the so-called Snow Country of northeastern Japan. The results, however dubious in origin, were astonishing.

  • A Rivalry With God

    March 15, 2013

    The Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s latest movie is about a young woman who is tortured to death with the highest intentions. What makes the story of Beyond the Hills tragic, instead of merely sad and sordid, is the way it shows two realities, the secular and the Orthodox, colliding.

  • Kiarostami's Tokyo

    November 13, 2012

    Several Western directors have tried to make movies in Japan. Most are terrible. Now we have Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love. The actors are all Japanese, and the story takes place entirely in and around Tokyo. The ultimate modern metropolis, with its neon-lit commercial graffiti and buildings that look like a pastiche of everywhere and nowhere, it is perfect for Kiarostami’s story of closeness between strangers. To most foreign visitors, Tokyo looks uncannily familiar and yet deeply strange. Kiarostami is a stranger in Tokyo, but his depiction of the city is extraordinarily intimate and delicate.

  • Holocaust on Stage

    June 16, 2010

    Recreating--if that is the right word--the daily routine of mass murder at Auschwitz with miniature puppets made of plasticine may not seem a promising enterprise. However artfully done, it could make what actually happened look trivial, like a kind of game. And yet Kamp, staged at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn in the first week of June, by a Dutch group called Hotel Modern, was weirdly gripping.

  • Himmler's Favorite Jew

    March 1, 2010

    Hitler’s Third Reich produced no great films. Leni Riefenstahl was a brilliant innovator and superb editor, with an extraordinary gift for visual effects, but I would hesitate to call Triumph of the Will, or even Olympia great films, unless greatness can be confined to technical prowess. Nazi Germany did not have the equivalent of an Eisenstein or Pudovkin, who still managed to create masterpieces out of political propaganda. Perhaps this reflects a difference between National Socialism and Communism, even though Stalin was no less murderous than Hitler. Great work can still emerge from the utopian ideal of the workers’ paradise. It is harder to imagine artistic excellence arising from violent racism. D.W. Griffith’s white supremacist movie The Birth of a Nation is a possible exception to this rule, but this film, too, is more remarkable for its technical innovation than anything else.

  • André Zucca's Wartime Paris: What You Don't See

    December 11, 2009

    “The French photographer André Zucca was not a Nazi,” Ian Buruma writes in his recent article on Paris during the German occupation, “but he felt no particular hostility to Germany either…. Zucca simply wanted to continue his pre-war life, publishing pictures in the best glossy magazines. And the one with the glossiest pictures, in fine German Agfacolor, happened to be Signal, the German propaganda magazine.” Born in Paris in 1897, Zucca worked for both French and foreign publications in the 1930s, and covered the Russian–Finnish War in the winter of 1939–1940 for Paris-Soir, before becoming a photographer for Signal from 1941 to 1944. After the liberation he was arrested but never prosecuted, and spent the remainder of his career as a wedding and portrait photographer in a small town west of Paris. He died in 1973. Recently, a volume of Zucca’s controversial wartime pictures of Paris was published in France. Here is a selection from it with comments by Buruma. —The Editors

  • Japan: A Quiet Revolution

    October 14, 2009

    Hatoyama Yukio, the new prime minister of Japan, is no great thrill. His wife, Miyuki, an ex music review actress, is more interesting: she claims to have met Tom Cruise in a former life. And yet Hatoyama, wealthy scion of a political dynasty that goes back to the 19th century (his grandfather was also prime minister), has presided over a victory that is, in its way, as revolutionary as Obama’s in the US.