North Korea’s Mystery Bomb

Jeremy Bernstein

A map of seismic waves from North Korea’s nuclear test, Korea Meteorological Administration, Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016
Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

On January 6, North Korea detonated a nuclear device with a yield larger than that of any previous North Korean test, but the kind of bomb tested remains a mystery. Most likely, the bomb was a “boosted device.” This is a very serious matter because these weapons, while having an enhanced yield, can be made light enough to fit on rockets, which the North Koreans have in abundance.

A Thousand Movies in One

Adam Thirlwell

Portuguese director Miguel Gomes in “The Enchanted One,” the third part of Arabian Nights, 2015
O Som e a Fúria/Shellac Sud/Komplizen Film/Box Productions/Kino Lorber

Director Miguel Gomes has always enjoyed combining two separate elements in a single film, and in Arabian Nights this technique is cosmically expanded. The dream is of pure lightness (a film as fantasia) and simultaneously of pure weight (a film as witness). Or, to put this another way: How do you take political and aesthetic risks in a film’s form while dramatizing them within that film as well?

A Long Way from Primo Levi

Tim Parks

Drawing by Sonja Waldsteinová during her captivity in Terezín concentration camp; Waldsteinová, who survived, was sixteen when she was interned in March 1943
Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

In my previous piece on translation, discussing Stuart Woolf’s translation of Levi’s first memoir, If This is a Man, I observed that, although mostly serviceable as a translation, the English is frequently a little stilted or simply odd where the original is fluent and standard. Here, I compare places, in Goldstein’s translation of Levi’s The Truce, where the English sounds distinctly odd, or where I felt that there was some interference from the Italian original, to Woolf’s translation of the same text. Since it seems unfair to criticize others without offering up something of one’s own to be shot down, I’ll give my version too.

Afghanistan: Threatening News

Ahmed Rashid

The Tolo TV news studio, in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 18, 2015
Ahmad Masood/Reuters

At least seven people were killed when, January 20 in Kabul, a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into a minibus taking forty journalists and staff of Afghanistan’s Tolo TV home after a day at the office. With the Tolo TV massacre, public patience for President Ashraf Ghani is running out.

The Clinton System

Simon Head

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton during the seventh annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), New York City, September 22, 2011
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

What stands out about the Clinton System of big money politics is the scale and complexity of the connections involved, the length of time they have been in operation, the presence of former president Bill Clinton alongside Hillary as an equal partner in the enterprise, and the sheer magnitude of the funds involved.

Revolution from Another Angle

Jamey Gambrell

Alexander Rodchenko: Pioneer Playing a Trumpet, 1930
Centre Pompidou, Paris/Estate of Alexander Rodchenko/RAO, Moscow/VAGA, New York

The serendipitous confluence of technology, art, and politics in the fields of photography and film is the subject of the Jewish Museum in New York’s current exhibition, “The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film.” In his catalogue essay, the Russian art historian Alexander Lavrentiev, grandson of the artists Varvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko, gives a nuanced view of the complex situation in which Soviet photography developed: photography was dominated by three groups or tendencies, whose aesthetics mirrored, to some extent, the spectrum of political factions on the post-Soviet cultural stage. None of these groups opposed the Revolution, however; initially, in fact, most artists and the intelligentsia supported the regime.

China: Surviving the Camps

Zha Jianying

2003 © LI Zhensheng (CONTACT PRESS IMAGES)

After reading Ji Xianlin’s The Cowshed: Memories of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a Chinese intellectual friend summed it up to me: “This is our Auschwitz.” Indeed, though what happened in the cowshed where the celebrated Indologist Ji was held was by no means exceptional (torture and violence were widespread at the time), of all the memoirs of the Cultural Revolution I have read, I cannot think of another one that offers such a devastatingly direct and detailed testimony on the physical and mental abuse an entire imprisoned intellectual community suffered.

Uganda: When Democracy Doesn’t Count

Helen Epstein

Riot police dispersing a gathering of opposition supporters in Jinja, eastern Uganda, September 10, 2015
James Akena/Reuters/Corbis

In exchange for putting Ugandan troops at America’s disposal, Uganda has received some $15 billion in foreign aid from the West since 1990 and a virtual free pass from the US when it comes to human rights violations. Its presidential election on February 18 may be decided outside the voting both.

‘My Personal Vendetta’: An Interview with Hong Kong Publisher Bao Pu

Ian Johnson

Bao Pu, 2015
Ian Johnson

Bao Pu: I am interested in telling stories about human nature. The Communists are so against human nature….I’m going to demythify Chinese culture. My example is Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta. Our next book will be like that—a graphic non-fiction book on the Lin Biao incident [the probable attempted coup and flight by Mao’s most trusted aide in 1971, ending in his death in a plane crash].

In the Tumult of Translation

Tim Parks

Francisco Goya: Against Common Good, 1810-1820
Museo del Prado

My review of Levi’s Complete Works regrettably did not name the translators or discuss their work. We owe Stuart Woolf our gratitude and admiration for having introduced If This Is a Man to the English-speaking world when it mattered in a highly serviceable, if undistinguished, translation. Unfortunate­ly, that is the version we still have, since the 2015 “revision” amounts to little more than a light edit.