Mark Lilla is Professor of Humanities at Columbia. His new book, The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction, will be published in September. (March 2016)

IN THE REVIEW

How the French Face Terror

A demonstrator with an issue of Charlie Hebdo at the march against terrorism, Paris, January 11, 2015. The cartoon on the cover shows a Jew, a Catholic, and a Muslim demanding that ‘“Charlie Hebdo” must be veiled!’

Open Letter: On Blasphemy, Islamophobia, and the True Enemies of Free Expression

by Charb, with a foreword by Adam Gopnik

Who Is Charlie?: Xenophobia and the New Middle Class

by Emmanuel Todd, translated from the French by Andrew Brown, with maps and diagrams by Philippe Laforgue
Intellectuals, no less than politicians, respond to crises based on what they think they learned from earlier ones. It is difficult to see what is genuinely new in an emergency, harder still to admit ignorance in the face of it. Our instinct is to assume that the unforeseen confirms our picture of the world rather than the necessity of altering it.

France: Is There a Way Out?

Actors from the Globe Theatre performing Hamlet for refugees and migrants in the Jungle refugee camp, Calais, France, February 2016
Economic stagnation, political stalemate, rising right-wing populism—this has been France’s condition for a decade or more. So has nothing changed since the Charlie Hebdo killings? Yes it has, and not simply because of the Bataclan massacre.

The Strangely Conservative French

André Malraux, France’s first minister of culture, Paris, 1968; photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People

by Sudhir Hazareesingh
Two and a half weeks after the Swedish Academy announced that the French novelist Patrick Modiano would receive the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature, the French minister of culture, Fleur Pellerin, appeared on a popular television show to talk about herself and her work. She expressed pride that “France is …

NYR DAILY

France: The Ground Shifts

Demonstrators on the Triumph of the Republic statue at Place de la Nation, during the march in support of Charlie Hebdo, Paris, January 11, 2015

No one had predicted or even expected the Charlie Hebdo attacks. But already one reads and hears that “all the signs were there” and that “they”—the government, the police, multicultural journalists—refused to recognize them. It is not a hard story to sell.

Tyrant of the Commune

The artist Otto Mühl, dancing with a member of his Friedrichshof commune, June 1, 1989

Paul-Julien Robert is an angry young man. And he has every right to be. Robert was born in 1979 to a young Swiss woman living in Friedrichshof, a famous, and later infamous, Austrian commune that was once the largest in Europe. Like so many utopian communities founded over the past two centuries on the principle of participatory democracy, this one was the brainchild of an individual visionary. He was Otto Mühl, a former Wehrmacht soldier who in the Sixties helped found the Actionist art movement in Vienna. Over the years Mühl became increasingly dictatorial and in the Eighties it came to light that he was sexually abusing some of the children. The commune was dissolved, and in 1991 he was convicted of pedophilia and spent seven years in prison. He died this past May at the age of eighty-seven.

Filippic

F Train, Smith & 9th Street, 6:35pm

A poem for the Brooklyn Book Festival The F train
Is the brain train. iPad lasciate,
Voi ch’intrate,
Eve’s backlit apple,
Gold ‘n delicious,
Tempts us not.
We have spines to break,
Penguins to tame.

The Nation We Have, Not the Nation We Wish For

Drawing by David Levine

The reaction of the Republicans and Democrats to Tuesday’s historic election was a study in contrasts. John Boehner, surrounded by ecstatic supporters, moved quickly to dampen expectations, reminding the public that the president still “sets the agenda” and therefore can still be held responsible for what comes next, and tried as best he could to appear humbled rather than vindicated. Marco Rubio, the Tea Party favorite who is now Florida’s Senator-elect, put the matter bluntly in a strong acceptance speech that conservative pundits are already swooning over: “We make a grave mistake if we believe that tonight these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican Party.” These two men get it: Tuesday’s massive defeat for Barack Obama was not an embrace of the Republican Party that voters had soundly rejected just two years ago.

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