Madeleine Schwartz, a former member of the New York Review editorial staff, lives in Berlin, where she is a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow. (December 2017)

Follow Madeleine Schwartz on Twitter: @mmschwartz.


Writing on Thin Ice

Jenny Diski, Cambridge, England, August 2002

The Vanishing Princess

by Jenny Diski, with a foreword by Heidi Julavits
Jenny Diski covered nearly every conceivable topic in her essays for the London Review of Books: shoes, Stanley Milgram, the women’s movement, Karl Marx. But the essays are always as much about herself as the subject at hand. “I start with me, and often enough end with me,” she once …


Trump to Undocumented Teens: Give Birth or Get Out

People with Planned Parenthood protesting for

At the core of the anti-abortion movement is the tenet that a fetus is a person whose rights need to be protected. The Trump administration is taking this argument to an absurd and cruel extreme. A fetus in the United States requires the full protection and support of American law. As for its undocumented, adolescent mother—well, if she wants her rights, she should leave the country.

Germany’s Election: Choosing the Unspeakable

Stage crew members covering the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) logo after a campaign event, Gendarmenmarkt Square, Berlin, September 22, 2017

The apparent calm of the election belied the real concerns of the German public, concerns evident in the election results. Chancellor Angela Merkel barely campaigned. To the eyes of the public, the two major parties seemed nearly identical. This provided the far-right party with an opening to be the opposition. If people turned to a party that said the unspeakable, it was partly because very speakable things weren’t being said at all.

El Salvador: A Town Without Violence?

A soldier in San José Guayabal, El Salvador, August 21, 2016

In El Salvador, gangs dictate a significant part of the economy, while the government’s law-and-order strategy has failed to reduce one of the highest murder rates in the world. Turning citizens into informants, the town of San José Guayabal claims to have defied this trend, anticipating violence before it happens. But it’s unclear whether its approach can be replicated at the national level.

Dressing for the King

The Renaissance accountant Matthäus Schwarz often took note of the outfits in which he looked particularly fine. In 1520, at age twenty-three, he hired an artist to draw his most notable getups and collected these in a book that he continued to fill throughout the rest of his life.

Intrusive, Invasive, Inquisitive Calle

From Suite Vénitienne, 1983

In The Address Book, the French artist Sophie Calle found an address book on a Paris street, photocopied its pages, and returned it to its owner. She then interviewed the people listed within and published the results in the French daily Liberation. Critics of Calle’s work often describe it as mere snooping. She may be a an excellent stalker, but in her pursuit of strangers, Calle presents a kind of artistic Zeno’s paradox: the closer you get to someone else, the more you realize the distance separating you.

They Once Touched Roman Lips

Detail of a cup by Ennion, first century AD

“Ennion: Master of Roman Glass” was the Metropolitan Museum’s first ancient glass exhibit. This lovely small show presented the work of Ennion, the best-known glassmaker of antiquity. During his career in the first century AD, Ennion’s wares decorated the homes of Rome’s upper and middle classes from Jerusalem to Venice. The show is a welcome reminder of just how keen the Romans were about precious glassware—easy to forget, since so little of it survives.