Ian Buruma is a Professor at Bard. His latest book is Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War. (December 2016)

IN THE REVIEW

The Weird Success of Guy Burgess

Guy Burgess (right) with the British journalist Tom Driberg, who flew to Moscow after Burgess’s defection to interview him for a biography, August 1956

Stalin’s Englishman: Guy Burgess, the Cold War, and the Cambridge Spy Ring

by Andrew Lownie

Guy Burgess: The Spy Who Knew Everyone

by Stewart Purvis and Jeff Hulbert
One of the oddities about Guy Burgess, the most colorful of the so-called Cambridge spies, was that in his usual state of extreme slovenliness, with food stains all over his rumpled suits and the stink of raw garlic and alcohol permanently on his breath, he always insisted on wearing his …

Oscar Wilde’s ‘Living Death’

Oscar Wilde having lunch with Lord Alfred Douglas near Dieppe in 1898, after his release from Reading Gaol

Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison

an exhibition produced by Artangel at Reading Prison, Reading, England, September 4–December 4, 2016
The exterior of Reading Prison in Berkshire, formerly known as Reading Gaol, where Oscar Wilde spent almost two years in confinement between 1895 and 1897, is impressive in a grandiose Victorian, mock-Medieval-Tudor-Gothic way. Designed by George Gilbert Scott and William Moffatt in the 1840s, the prison was made to look …

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, …

NYR DAILY

Auschwitz on Trial: The Bully and the Witness

Mick Jackson’s new film Denial, about the 2000 trial between British Holocaust denier David Irving and American academic Deborah E. Lipstadt, is best in the scenes that focus on a particular conflict, between Lipstadt’s view of herself and her legal team. At the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau, for example, we see Lipstadt praying in front of the ruins of the gas chamber, while Rampton is making careful notes and asking awkward questions about the exact procedures of mass murder. On the “sacred” spot of the killing, cool analysis and a search for legal proof look like disrespect to her.

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.

NYR CALENDAR