The Achievement of Chinua Achebe

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Chinua Achebe, photographed by Eliot Elision, at his house in Enugu, Nigeria, 1959

Chinua Achebe found a way to represent for a global Anglophone audience the diction of his Igbo homeland, allowing readers of English elsewhere to experience a particular relationship to language and the world in a way that made it seem quite natural—transparent, one might almost say. A measure of his achievement is that Achebe found an African voice in English that is so natural its artifice eludes us.

Hungary: The War on Education

Jan-Werner Müller

Riot police blocking people protesting the law aiming to close the Central European University (CEU) near the Fidesz Party headquarters, Budapest, April 9, 2017

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, long a pioneer in anti-liberal government in Europe and an admirer of Donald Trump, is making a wager that a crackdown on universities is the latest addition to the increasingly sophisticated repertoire of right-wing populism—with implications that go far beyond Hungary’s borders.

Putin’s Monster

Amy Knight

Vladimir Putin and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov have long had a Faustian bargain. Putin counts on Kadyrov’s ruthlessness to keep potential unrest in his Muslim-majority republic, where the Kremlin has fought two wars, from coming to the surface. In return, the Kremlin funnels vast sums of money into Chechnya—by one estimate one billion dollars annually, much of which goes into Kadyrov’s own pocket. Kadyrov runs the republic as his personal fiefdom.

The End of an Artist

J. Hoberman

Bogusław Linda as Władysław Strzemiński  in Andrzej Wajda's Afterimage, 2016

Few filmmakers meant as much to his country as Andrzej Wajda did to Poland. Both a world-famous director and a national conscience, Wajda—who died last October at age ninety—was a singular artist. It is appropriate then that his final film, hauntingly titled Afterimage, would be a drama concerning the last years of another Polish artist, the abstract painter Władysław Strzemiński.

The Bruegel of Bendel’s

Christopher Benfey

Florine Stettheimer: Asbury Park South, 1920

There is a larger cultural dimension to much of what we see in Florine Stehttheimer’s paintings at the Jewish Museum: the skyscrapers, the department stores, the African-American jazz, the shifting gender roles. Viewers in search of the perfect counterpoint to the Stettheimer retrospective need only walk a block south to the razzle-dazzle show “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s.”

The Autocrat’s Language

Masha Gessen

Donald Trump has an instinct for doing violence to language. Using words to lie destroys language. Using words to cover up lies, however subtly, destroys language. Validating incomprehensible drivel with polite reaction also destroys language. This isn’t merely a question of the prestige of the writing art or the credibility of the journalistic trade: it is about the basic survival of the public sphere.

The Universe in a Nutshell

Tamsin Shaw

Detail from a boxwood prayer bead showing the Adoration of the Magi, Netherlands, early sixteenth century

The gothic boxwood miniatures currently exhibited at the Cloisters—thought to be in large part the work of a single individual in the Netherlands in the sixteenth century—are so breathtakingly intricate, the minuscule scenes in prayer beads and altarpieces rendered so exquisitely, that any viewer should be prepared to gasp, “How did they do it?” These diminutive objects have an impact for which the viewer who expects merely to marvel at technical virtuosity will be unprepared.

The Body and Us

Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

Long Island City, 1969

Parks: It seems to me you’re still avoiding my main question. If I am the world I experience, what is this sense I have of being a subject separate from the world? How can I be both subject and object?

Manzotti: What you call a subject is nothing but a particular combination of objects that are relative to another object, your body. Being a subject means no more than being experience, i.e. a collection of objects, relative to your body. You ask how, if this is the case, the feeling of “subjectivity” can arise. My answer is: thanks to two misconceptions.