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.
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, …
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 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 …
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.
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.
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 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.
It is fascinating to see, for example, how the image of prostitutes changed, not just from artist to artist, but in the course of time. The show is not just about art, but an absorbing illustration of social history.