José Manuel Prieto is a novelist and translator. His latest novel is Rex. (May 2011)

IN THE REVIEW

Havana: The State Retreats

On my first visit to Cuba in ten years, I had the chance to observe the first signs of the dismantling of this gigantic state, visibly in retreat. I saw the detritus left behind: the disaster of a dysfunctional economy and a deep financial crisis aggravated by a dual currency system. All amid the growing discontent of the population and surging dissidence.

Reading Mandelstam on Stalin

Osip Mandelstam; photograph by Moses Nappelbaum, known for his portraits of St. Petersburg’s writers, including Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak, as well as his portraits of Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin
Described by one critic as the sixteen lines of a death sentence, this is perhaps the twentieth century’s most important political poem, written by one of its greatest poets against the man who may well be said to have been the cruelest of its tyrants.

NYR DAILY

Atomic Light

The gas-dynamic plasma trap, used by scientists of Institute of Nuclear Physics to hold and heat the plasma in a magnetic field, Akademgorodok, 2014

What is most astonishing about this genuine relic of Soviet science that Ortiz Monasterio has brought to light in his photographs is the precarious nature of the installations, the austere conditions in which the scientists worked and lived. None of those immaculate laboratories illuminated by fluorescent lighting that Hollywood has made us come to expect. Unplugged science, I might be tempted to call it, if it were not for the tangles of cables that appear in so many of the images.