Ian Buruma is the author of numerous books, including Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, Year Zero: A History of 1945, and, most recently, A Tokyo Romance.


Art of a Degenerate World

Otto Dix: Prostitute and Disabled War Veteran. Two Victims of Capitalism, 1923

Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One

an exhibition at Tate Britain, London, June 5–September 23, 2018

Before the Fall: German and Austrian Art of the 1930s

by Stefanie Heckmann, Andreas Huyssen, Olaf Peters, Alfred Pfabigan, and Ernst Ploil
On Hyde Park Corner in London, facing the Duke of Wellington’s old house, where one can still see a giant sculpture of a fully nude Napoleon towering over the hall, stands a curious monument known as the Royal Artillery Memorial. A huge sculpted model of a Howitzer gun points to …

V.S. Naipaul (1932–2018)

V.S. Naipaul, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, 1981
V.S. Naipaul’s fastidiousness was legendary. I met him for the first time in Berlin in 1991, when he was being feted for the German edition of his latest book. A smiling young waitress offered him some decent white wine. Naipaul took the bottle from her hand, examined the label for …

Stray Dog

Photograph by Daidō Moriyama from ‘Tokyo Color,’ December 2008–July 2015; included in Daido Tokyo

Daidō Moriyama: Record

edited by Mark Holborn

Provoke: Between Protest and Performance—Photography in Japan 1960/1975

edited by Diane Dufour and Matthew S. Witkovsky, with Duncan Forbes and Walter Moser
Most people can come up with a decent photograph once in a while, which will look like millions of other photographs. Only the greatest photographers can be easily identified by a unique personal style. Moriyama Daidō is one of them.

Fools, Cowards, or Criminals?

Nazi leaders accused of war crimes during World War II standing to hear the verdict in their trial, Nuremburg, October 2, 1946. Albert Speer is third from right in the back row of defendants; Karl Dönitz is at the far left of the same row.

The Memory of Justice

a documentary film directed by Marcel Ophuls, restored by the Academy Film Archive in association with Paramount Pictures and the Film Foundation
Marcel Ophuls’s The Memory of Justice never suggests that Auschwitz and the My Lai massacre, or French torture prisons in Algiers, are equivalent, let alone that the Vietnam War was a criminal enterprise on the same level as the Holocaust. Nor does Ophuls doubt that the judgment on Göring and his gang at Nuremberg was justified. Ophuls himself was a refugee from the Nazis, forced to leave Germany in 1933, and to flee again when France was invaded in 1940. Instead he tries, dispassionately and sometimes with touches of sardonic humor, to complicate the problem of moral judgment. What makes human beings who are normally unexceptional commit atrocities under abnormal circumstances? What if such crimes are committed by our fellow citizens in the name of our own country? How does our commitment to justice appear today in the light of the judgments at Nuremberg? Will the memory of justice, as Plato assumed, make us strive to do better?


V.S. Naipaul, Poet of the Displaced

V.S. Naipaul, 1968

Naipaul was our greatest poet of the half-baked and the displaced. It was the imaginary wholeness of civilizations that sometimes led him astray. There is no such thing as a whole civilization. But some of Naipaul’s greatest literature came out of his yearning for it. Although he may, at times, have associated this with England or India, his imaginary civilization was not tied to any nation. It was a literary idea, secular, enlightened, passed on through writing. That is where he made his home, and that is where, in his books, he will live on.

Araki, Erotomaniac

If Araki’s self-presentation is authenticity, it is a stylized, theatrical form of authenticity. His mode is not confessional in the way Nan Goldin’s is. Araki is not interested in showing his most intimate feelings. He is a showman as much as a photographer. His round face, fluffy hair, odd spectacles, T-shirts, and colored suspenders, instantly recognizable in Japan, are now part of his brand, which he promotes in published diaries and endless interviews. But that life looks as staged as many of his photographs.

Doolittle Done Well

Lauren Ambrose and Harry Hadden-Paton in My Fair Lady, Lincoln Center Theater, 2018

One of the most moving scenes is the private celebration after the ball, where Eliza manages to pass for the first time as a grand lady. Higgins is toasted by all his servants, and Pickering sings: “You did it! You did it!…” All the while, Eliza sits in a corner, utterly ignored, as though she had played no active part in her transformation from a flower girl to a lady, as though she were nothing but Higgins’s artifact. This is also the moment of her rebellion.

Myth-Maker of the Brothel

Utamaro: Moon at Shinagawa (detail), 1788-1790

Of all the masters of the woodblock print in the Edo Period, Utamaro has the most colorful reputation. Hokusai was perhaps the greatest draughtsman, Hiroshige excelled in landscapes, and Kuniyoshi had the wildest theatrical flair. Utamaro (1753–1806), whose work is featured in an exhibition at the Sackler Gallery, was the lover of women.