Ian Buruma is a professor at Bard. His new book, Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War, was published in January. (April 2016)


In the Capital of Europe

Belgian soldiers posing for a photograph while patrolling the Grand Place, Brussels, December 24, 2015
Brussels is rather chaotic, a political mess of nineteen different municipal districts, each with its own public authorities competing for funds, with an uncoordinated police force prone to conspicuous failures, and different political parties, linked to different language groups, operating their own more or less corrupt systems of patronage.

French Love for Sale

Jean Béraud: The Proposition or The Assignation in the Rue Chateaubriand, circa 1885

Splendours and Miseries: Images of Prostitution in France, 1850–1910

Great cities have often been compared to whores. The Whore of Babylon, mentioned in the Book of Revelation, may have been a metaphor for imperial Rome, or possibly Jerusalem. Juvenal’s satirical poem about Rome, written at the end of the first century AD, conjures up the lascivious image of Messalina, …

The Violent Mysteries of Indonesia

Rohani, an Indonesian woman whose oldest son, Ramli, was killed as a suspected Communist in the mass murders of 1965–1966, in Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary film The Look of Silence

Beauty Is a Wound

by Eka Kurniawan, translated from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker

The Act of Killing

a film directed by Joshua Oppenheimer
Two extraordinary documentary films by Joshua Oppenheimer, shot in Indonesia over a period of ten years, begin with the same terse statement: In 1965, the Indonesian government was overthrown by the military. Anybody opposed to the military dictatorship could be accused of being a communist: union members, landless farmers, intellectuals, …

In North Korea: Wonder & Terror

Suki Kim teaching a class at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, North Korea, 2011

In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China

by Michael Meyer

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite

by Suki Kim
The northeast of China used to be called Manchuria. Another name was “the cockpit of Asia.” Many wars were fought there. A French priest who traveled through the region in the 1920s wrote: “Although it is uncertain where God created paradise, we can be sure He chose some other place …


Lost in China’s Exploding Future

Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart tells the story of Tao, a bouncy young woman caught in a love triangle between two suitors who represent different faces of modern China. It is superb at catching the changing moods of his country in poetic, frequently wordless, and often absurd images.

A Downpour of Fish: Murakami on Stage

Nino Furuhata as Kafka and Naohito Fujiki as Oshima in Yukio Ninagawa's production of Kafka on the Shore at Lincoln Center, 2015

Yukio Ninagawa’s production of Kafka on the Shore at Lincoln Center in July—a surreal play that mixes slices of contemporary Japanese life with a ghostly spirit world, based on the 2002 novel by Haruki Murakami—was a brilliant example of Japan’s modern theater tradition. The words “modern” and “tradition” may appear contradictory, but in this case they are not.

Thailand’s Banned ‘King’

Kelli O’Hara as Anna Leonowens and Ken Watanabe as the king in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I, 2015

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I is more than a brilliant piece of froth. It dramatizes something historically profound about nineteenth-century Siam, which escaped from being colonized by a Western nation through what has been called “protection by mimicry.” The only way to keep Western powers at bay was to modernize as quickly as possible along Western lines.

The Mistress and the Marionette

Egon Schiele: Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, Standing (Edith Schiele in a Striped Dress), 1915

“The conventional opinion about Egon Schiele’s 1915 portrait of his wife Edith,” writes Ian Buruma in the Review‘s April 2 issue, “is that it betrays his romantic disappointment. His wife may have represented domestic calm, a point of stability in respectable Viennese society, and so forth, but she wasn’t sexy like his mistress Wally. So how does the apparently wholesome innocence of Edith’s portrait fit into Schiele’s oeuvre? Is it just an expression of conjugal assurance and erotic disappointment? Or is there more to it? I think there is. Looked at more closely, the picture still reveals Schiele’s fascination with the very Viennese entanglement of sex and death.” Here we present a series of Schiele’s paintings of Edith, Wally, and himself, with commentary drawn from Buruma’s piece.