Ian Buruma will be the new editor of The New York Review of Books in September 2017. He has been a frequent contributor to the Review since 1985. From 2003 to 2017 he was professor of human rights, democracy and journalism at Bard College. Buruma was born in 1951 in The Hague, Holland. He was educated at Leyden University, where he studied Chinese literature and history, and at Nihon University College of Arts, in Tokyo, where he studied cinema. Living in Japan from 1975 to 1981, Buruma worked as a film reviewer, photographer, and documentary filmmaker. In the 1980s, Buruma was based in Hong Kong, where he edited the cultural section of the Far Eastern Economic Review, and from where he later travelled all over Asia as a freelance writer. Buruma was a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin in 1991, and a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC in 1999. He is a fellow of the European Council of Foreign Relations and a board member of Human Rights in China. In 2008, Buruma won the Erasmus Prize for “exceptional contributions to culture society, or social sciences in Europe.” Buruma has written seventeen books, including The Wages of Guilt (1995), Murder in Amsterdam (2006), Year Zero (2013), and Theater of Cruelty (2014). He has won several prizes for his books, including the LA Times Book Prize for Murder in Amsterdam, and PEN-Diamonstein Spielvogel award for the art of the essay for Theater of Cruelty.

IN THE REVIEW

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?

Robert B. Silvers (1929–2017)

Robert B. Silvers in his office at The New York Review of Books, early 1980s
From its first issue in 1963, Robert Silvers was either co-editor with Barbara Epstein or, after her death in 2006, editor of The New York Review. Bob worked almost to the very end of his life, which would be no surprise to those who knew him well, including those who have written these brief memoirs.

The ‘Indescribable Fragrance’ of Youths

Kitagawa Utamaro: The Young Man’s Dream, from the series Profitable Visions in Daydreams of Glory, circa 1801–1802. In this woodcut, Ian Buruma writes, a wakashu,or ‘beautiful youth,’ is ‘dreaming of sleeping with a famous high-class courtesan (the dream is revealed in a cartoon-like bubble over his head), while a young woman solicitously wraps a jacket around his shoulders lest he catch a cold.’

A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Edo-Period Prints and Paintings (1600–1868)

an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, May 7–November 27, 2016; and the Japan Society, New York City, March 10–June 11, 2017
Lusting after pretty teenage boys was not considered shameful in premodern Japan. Experienced older women did it. Young women did too. Older men indulged in it (as long as the boys were passive sexual partners). Adultery was not permitted, on the other hand, and it was unseemly for grown men …

NYR DAILY

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.

The Earthy Glories of Ancient China

Earthenware dog, Henan Province, eastern Han dynasty, 25–220 AD

The fascinating exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Qin and Han Dynasty artifacts presents objects that lay buried in tombs for many centuries. Having been beautifully preserved underground for thousands of years, these objects delight us still. It is easy to forget that the past remains another country. But perhaps it isn’t a complete illusion.

Auschwitz on Trial: The Bully and the Witness

Mick Jackson’s new film Denial, about the 2000 trial between British Holocaust denier David Irving and American academic Deborah E. Lipstadt, is best in the scenes that focus on a particular conflict, between Lipstadt’s view of herself and her legal team. At the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau, for example, we see Lipstadt praying in front of the ruins of the gas chamber, while Rampton is making careful notes and asking awkward questions about the exact procedures of mass murder. On the “sacred” spot of the killing, cool analysis and a search for legal proof look like disrespect to her.

Lost in China’s Exploding Future

Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart tells the story of Tao, a bouncy young woman caught in a love triangle between two suitors who represent different faces of modern China. It is superb at catching the changing moods of his country in poetic, frequently wordless, and often absurd images.

NYR CALENDAR