Rapping with Fanon

Adam Shatz

Performers with portraits of Ahmed Sekou-Toure, Leader of the Democratic Party of Guinea, Pan-African Festival, Algiers, 1969

Rocé’s anthology album carries more than a whiff of radical chic nostalgia, which he does little to conceal when he describes the 1960s and 1970s as “an epoch of struggles, of possibility.” Yet Par les damné.e.s de la terre is an unexpectedly moving document, not only because it presents an extraordinary archive of recordings, but also because it illuminates the radical hopes that Frantz Fanon’s ideas had once inspired. It is a powerful reminder of what that world sounded like. 

Can a Translation Be a Masterpiece, Too?

Tim Parks

An engraving, nineteenth century

A translation can indeed be creative and “important,” but it is the creativity of astute accommodation and damage limitation, the “importance” of allowing as much as possible of that original to happen in the translator’s culture. To imagine, however, that Henry James could ever be to the Italians what he is to us, or Giovanni Verga to us what he is to Italians, is nonsense.

Poons v. Koons: The Art of ‘The Price of Everything’

Susan Tallman

Artist Larry Poons walking to his studio in East Durham, New York, from Kahn’s The Price of Everything, 2018

The quandary at the heart of The Price of Everything, the art world documentary recently acquired by HBO, is summed up in a scene with the great German artist Gerhard Richter. Gesturing to one of his own paintings, Richter explains, “It’s not good when this is the value of a house. It’s not fair. I like it, but it’s not a house.” Viewers who anticipate a filmic celebration of capitalism as a force for cultural good, or alternatively, a condemnation of commodification, will be disappointed. The Price of Everything develops no particular argument, posits no solutions, uncovers no scandals. It isn’t a polemic, it’s a portrait, and in its mix of the grotesque and the earnest, a pragmatic and recognizable one.

Listening to Women’s Bodies

Anna Altman

Between hiding what we’re told is embarrassing and presenting ourselves to the world to be appraised, women’s relationships to our bodies can be complex, even brutal. As the host of Bodies podcast Allison Behringer reminds us in one episode, being a woman only comes with one instruction: “Be beautiful.” Behringer emphasizes sharing practical, constructive information. Bodies wants to help. The show demonstrates the difference between a compassionate, forward-thinking doctor and one who is just going through the motions. It empowers women to do their own research.

Welcome to El Paso

Danny Lyon

A teenager from Central America in the children’s room and library at Nazareth House, El Paso, Texas, December 2018

The neighborhood at the border crossing in El Paso is called “ Chihuahuita,” Little Chihuahua. I wear an NYPD press credential, which has been called “the Shield,” around my neck with a chain. The medallion (it’s a laminated, heavy plastic square) has a picture of me in the middle. With it, I look like a cop. As we neared the Greyhound station in El Paso, I put it inside my shirt. I jumped out of the car and walked up to a van with a CNN cameraman sitting behind the wheel. “You can’t take pictures inside,” the newsman cautioned. This kind of talk only excites me.

Paris Pastoral: A City Recultivated

Mira Kamdar

Sheep grazing in Saint-Denis, Paris, November 2018

Located just north of Paris, the administrative department of Seine-Saint-Denis is France’s poorest and most ethnically diverse. Its Brutalist public housing complexes, once triumphant monuments to socialist modernism, are now sites of social marginalization. It’s the last place one would imagine seeing wandering shepherds tending their flocks. Yet here, and elsewhere in metropolitan Paris, an urban agricultural revolution is taking root. When I walked with the sheep of the Bergers Urbains on their migration to winter quarters in the Parc Georges-Valbon a few weeks ago, a group of young men stopped to take selfies with them, and a shopkeeper called out an offer to buy one for 600 euros (they’re not for sale).

Matthew Whitaker: The Ethical Mire of Trump’s Top Law Officer

Murray Waas

President Donald Trump and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker at a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, December 18, 2018

When Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker accepted the role of overseeing the Mueller investigation, he failed to disclose to Department of Justice ethics officers that, as head of a conservative watchdog group, he had previously cooperated with senior White House aides of President Trump in finding ways to attack the work of the special counsel. If Whitaker had revealed these discussions with the White House and his actions on Trump’s behalf, they would almost certainly have compelled his recusal from oversight of the special counsel. According to a senior Justice official, Whitaker may face investigation by the department’s inspector general over his omission.

The Radical Empathy of Amos Oz

Jonathan Freedland

Amos Oz

Although I had come of age in Habonim, a Jewish youth movement dedicated to the ideals of the kibbutz and steeped in Labor Zionism, I could have decided that the whole thing was a sham, that the Zionist enterprise was rotten from the start and that everything I’d been taught was myth and propaganda. Plenty of my Jewish contemporaries made precisely that move. But then, at that very moment, along came Amos Oz and In the Land of Israel.

‘Roma’: Through Cuarón’s Intimate Lens

Caleb Crain

Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo in 
Alfonso Cuarón's Roma, 2018

Roma is an act of understanding—an investigation by director Alfonso Cuarón of where he came from, and of what and who made him—and it’s moving in the way that an honest and generous investigation of that kind can be. The film’s juxtaposition of political violence so cruel and total as to seem almost an act of God, on the one hand, with tender and quiet appreciation of the gift that some people are able to make merely by their daily presence, on the other, made it feel to me like an act of mourning, as well—a pause to acknowledge the beauty of the world that we have lost and are continuing to lose.

The Tender Nostalgia of ‘Cold War’

Claire Messud

Joanna Kulig as Zula in Paweł Pawlikowski's Cold War, 2018

In Cold War, Paweł Pawlikowski deploys his artistic echoes skillfully—his allusions are deliberate, simultaneously affectionate and ironic—but his recreation, however deft, of an actual and artistic era (mid-century Paris and the films of that Paris) doesn’t rival the visceral power of the earlier Polish scenes. By the time the narrative regains a bleaker East, it seems that the artistic exhilaration of the film’s first twenty minutes cannot be retrieved, and that perhaps this is Pawlikowski’s point. But somehow, Wiktor, Zula, and their creator, find a way out, a return, if you will, to purity; and the film’s conclusion is as beautiful as its opening.