News / Locked

    A Stupid Cartoon and the University Ideology

    Among the thousand currents of the university turmoil during these last several months, the tiny ripple that most securely caught my eye was a distinctly minor scandal at Harvard back in February, which caused not a single broken window or student riot or mass invasion by agents of the state. This was a scandal over…

    The Heroic Illusion of Alexei Navalny

    Alexei Navalny was killed in the far north above the Arctic Circle, in the small town of Kharp, where the Ural Mountains are intersected by a railroad leading to the city of Labytnangi on the Ob River. This place of death, this scene of the crime, is not random. It puts a period to the…

    October 7: The Tragedy of the “Debate”

    Three months after its barbaric attack on southern Israel, Hamas published a memorandum explaining its actions. “The events of October 7 must be put in their broader context,” it said. That broader context, according to Hamas, is “all cases of struggle against colonialism.” Zionism is a “colonial project,” according to the memorandum, and Israel is…

    Happy Birthday, Harmonium

    Wallace Stevens’s Harmonium recently turned a hundred. When Knopf published this brashly youthful and original first book of poems in September 1923, the poet himself was hardly youthful, and he was known only to a few modernist cognoscenti from his poems in little magazines such as Poetry, Others, and The Little Review. Nor did Stevens…

    Why Were We Beaten?”: Atrocity, Law, Beaten?”: Atrocity, Law, and Truth

    On Easter Day, April 6, 1903, a violent mob attacked the Jewish population of Kishinev, killing forty-nine people and wounding hundreds. During two days of bloody massacre, about a third of the city was destroyed, leaving hundreds of Jewish families destitute, their meager belongings smashed, broken, torn, or stolen. Hospitals were overwhelmed with injured men,…

    No Art

    The art of losing isn’t hard to master.  Elizabeth Bishop You know everything will come to an end: the sugar, the tea, the dried sage, the water. Just go to the market and restock. Even your shadow will abandon you when there is no light. So just keep things that require only you: the book…

    Rescue Plane

    I wish I had a rescue plane to fly over Gaza to drop wheat flour and tea bags, tomatoes and cucumbers, to remove the rubble of the houses, to retrieve the corpses of my loved ones. I wish for a second rescue plane to drop flowers for children— the ones still alive—to plant on the…

    Right or Left!

    Under the rubble, her body has remained for days and days. When the war ends, we try to remove the rubble, stone after stone. We only find a bone from her body. It is a bone from her arm. Right or left, it does not matter as long as we cannot find the henna from…

    Who Has Seen the Wind?

    After Bob Kaufman The ceiling of my bedroom, my fridge and the stale bread in it, the notebook inside which I hid the love letters from my wife before we married, the foreign coins in my piggy bank , my expired debit cards and my brother’s death certificate, the pieces of shrapnel on or near…

    Howl

    I’m howling, howling in Cairo. I jump off my chair. I hug the closest thing to me, the gray corner of my room, my head glued to it like a stamp so eager to travel. Books on the shelf, they listen to the whispers of my nose as it smells the old paint, as it…

    Is a Public Philosophy Still Possible?

    Are we living in a “golden age” of public philosophy, as some claim? There sure is a lot of it, as magazines, blogs, podcasts, and Substack newsletters proliferate. Even the New York Times ran a philosophy column for over a decade in which philosophers shared their thoughts on issues “timely and timeless” with the hoi…

    A Series of Small Apocalypses: On the Real Threats of AI

    In the doldrums of last summer, I found myself swept up in a fleeting social-media frenzy. I had thought this could not happen to me again. I had myself written an entire book describing the mechanisms that cause such explosions of irrationality, and counseling readers on how to claw their way out of the naïve…

    Music in the Prison of History

    On December 21, 1908, several hundred men and women gathered at the Bösendorfer-Saal in Vienna, settled into their seats, and bore unexpected witness to one of the great revolutions in musical history. Heading the program that night was a new work for string quartet and soprano by a controversial young composer named Arnold Schoenberg, already…

    Ilse Aichinger’s Bad Words

    “It’s a sad poem,” Bettina said as we walked down the glistening wet ribbon of a Vienna street one rainy evening. “I don’t read it every day.” Bettina, a Viennese psychoanalyst, was describing the daily walk from her home in Leopoldstadt, in the Second District, to her office in the inner city, the First District….

    From The Party to The Person: The Example of Victor Serge

    Those banished from a church are always its elite. They are ahead of their time.  ERNEST RENAN  I In the eyes of many, Victor Serge, the Belgian-born writer and anti-Stalinist militant, has come to stand for political probity in a time of cowardice and falsehood. The child of exiles from Tsarist Russia, from whom he…

    Cleopatra’s Nose, Renata’s Braid

    1. There was a myth in college that Renata Adler had come over to America in a suitcase, and that’s how she got her tremor. Students gossiped about her at Bryn Mawr in the 1950s, and so did writers in Manhattan, later on, when she started working for The New Yorker. One man apparently thought…

    Vladimir Jankélévitch: A Reader’s Diary

    There are writers you do not so much read as live alongside: writers of a depth, a density, a multiplicity of suggestions that resist the sort of encapsulation by which their names wither into the occasion for empty allusions and knowing nods. For nearly twenty years now, the French philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch has been such…

    Language

    So the word for Did you know her You may be thinking Are you thinking Of someone else The red oak survives Life in the city Feng is wind in Chinese Sirocco wind  Over the Sahara A wind off the dessert Burdened Memory now sand A lost ring Buried there Bells In European towers Sound…

    Immigrants

    Aren’t we all, all of us? Coming from a world  before time and dream, a place without time a place that does not exist into a world that does, of time and content. The clock starts with a slap, breath, an intake of  our air, the colors of this world and first dreams of what’s…

    Afternoon Idyll

    You were dreaming again, of holding her  in the failing light of some failing stop over or another, some merely broken down  town with nothing operative but corruption.  The sun like a cavity filling with blood  on the western horizon made the ocean Pacific, the late afternoon dangerous in its willingness to reveal. Were you…

    Dust

    So when I think of you there is light. There is a window that disappears at night and returns at sunrise. There is the dust of us on the slant of incoming rays warming the rooms where we were, the many rooms, the dust of us blended, one sheath of light.

    Why Did Humphrey Bogart Cross the Street?

    This is a small thing, but it happened in a time when we were content to hang on the marvel of moving photography. In 1946, without undue fuss or fraud, the medium could record actual things and say, look, this happened. That’s what we were up for then, the appearance of a changing now. Even…

    The Trance in the Studio

    The vastness and nuance and intelligent, rough beauty of John Dubrow’s paintings, the rhythmic turmoil which roils their cakes of paint, tempts one to conceive of them as natural wonders. How are such things made? These works sometimes put me in mind of the forces of nature that combine to create hurricanes and mountain ranges….

    A Paschal Homily by Naomi Klein, with a Commentary

    I. On the second night of Passover, in the year of our Lord 5784, a seder was held in the streets of Brooklyn, in Grand Army Plaza, a block away from the residence of Senator Chuck Schumer. The event was called the Seder in the Streets to Stop Arming Israel. It was addressed by a…

    Like Peeling Off a Glove

    Reflecting on Philip Roth in Harper’s not long ago, the journalist Hannah Gold observes that few of the novelists she read during her high school years “captured my imagination and became my companion throughout adulthood the way Roth did.” It is a moist confession familiar to writers who recall clinging to Little Women in faraway…

    The Olive Branch of Oblivion

    To run out of memory, in the language of computing, is to have too much of it and also not enough. Such is our current situation: we once again find ourselves in a crisis of memory, this time marked not by dearth but by surplus. Simply put, we are running out of space. There is…

    The History of My Privileges

    Is it possible to be a historian of your own life? To see yourself as a figure in the crowd, as a member of a generation who shared the same slice of time? We cannot help thinking of our own lives as uniquely our own, but if we look more closely, we begin to see…

    A Prayer for the Administrative State

    In February 2017, Steve Bannon, then senior counselor and chief strategist to President Donald Trump, pledged to a gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC; initiates pronounce it “See-Pack”) that the Trump administration would bring about “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” Bannon’s choice of the word “deconstruction” raises some possibility that he had…

    The Poverty of Catholic Intellectual Life

    1 In the middle of August in 1818, some three thousand five hundred Methodists descended on a farm in Washington County, Maryland, for days of prayer and fellowship. Their lush surroundings seemed to quiver in the swelter of a mid-Atlantic summer, to which the believers added the fever of faith. Men and women, white and…

    after St Francis of Assisi

    Here goes; and there it went. It might stay gone. What next? Play faster with the quick and dead, with the tightened fist play looser: amplify the beggar in the chooser.   Cursed are we who lop the tops off trees to find heat’s name is written in the wood; cursed are we who know…

    after Margaret Cropper

    Genesis, behold your progeny:  inventor, behold your inventory:   protagonist, behold your agony:  window, the wind is in your eye:   Capuchin, here’s your cappuccino:  tragedy, I’ve got your goat:   and here I come O deathless mortgage, O unmanageable manifesto. Ready or not.

    Job 42:10–17

    Yesterday P. asked: “Do you think the children from Job’s second chance could actually be happy?”                                  – Anna Kamieńska, A Nest of Quiet: A notebook, translated by Clare Cavanagh   But then amid the helplessness of Lives and corrugated sewage,…

    Job 3:11–26

    To me moans came for food, my roars poured forth like drink. – John Berryman, “Job” “So why did my umbilicus, umbrella of the belly, not asphyxiate and fix me at my birth                  and make my due my expiration date?  Why was I lapped in aprons, and…

    Wessobrunn Prayer

    Once, there were neither bottled-up fields nor bluebottled breeze; nor trill of pollen, tree nor hill to die on was there there (there, there): not yet our unseated adjustment of dust; no striking star, nor stroke of sun; nor did the moon light, like the grey, scaled nodule nodding off the dead end of a…

    The War in Ukraine and The Fate of Liberal Nationalism

    1 If nationalism sounds like a dirty word, then Ukrainian nationalism has sounded even worse. In the imaginations of many, it is associated with extreme xenophobic violence. Even those who sympathize with Ukraine are not free from this image. Michael Ignatieff, for example, an eminent Western liberal intellectual, wrote shortly after visiting independent Ukraine: “I…

    Liberland: Populism, Peronism, and Madness in Argentina

    For Carlos Pagni  1 Too many electoral results are described as earthquakes when in reality they are little more than mild tremors, but the self-described anarcho-capitalist Javier Milei’s victory in the second and deciding round of Argentina’s presidential election over Sergio Massa, the sitting minister of the economy in the former Peronist government, who in…

    Curricular Trauma

    A number of years ago — sometime in the decade between the financial crash and the advent of Covid — I found myself at the hotel bar of the Modern Language Association’s annual conference (in Vancouver? Boston? Chicago?) arguing with a professor about modernism. Or rather, about modernism as a field of current scholarship in…

    Mercenaries 

    In the summer after the fall of Afghanistan, I received an invitation to speak at CIA headquarters. I used to work as a paramilitary officer at the Agency and a former colleague of mine attended the discussion. Afterward we went back to his office to catch up over a drink. The two of us had…

    Observations on Mozart

    As we know, a musical composition does not by nature have the presence of a picture, a sculpture, a novel, or a movie. It lays dormant in the score and needs to be made audible. It is the performer’s obligation to kiss it awake. “Bring the works to life without violating them,” was Edwin Fischer’s…

    Persecution and The Art of Filmmaking

    Iran today may be best known for two things: one of the most repressive regimes in the world and one of the most remarkable cinemas in the world. The coexistence of the two is a conundrum that perplexes many people. How does a country known for ferocious repression of dissent and artistic freedom produce some…

    The Bad and The Beautiful

    “Genius and evildoing are two things that do not combine,” Mozart remarks in Mozart and Salieri, Alexander Pushkin’s short play written in 1832. The Mozart of Pushkin’s play is an impure genius. He does not see perfection in himself or seek perfection in others. He has a natural humility and earthiness. On his way to…

    Under Instinct

    Let me explain to you mortals  what an instinct is: the end of explanation. Settlements are where your belongings are dropped. Like gravity, there’s nothing  under there. None of you go around asking gravity why it exists. Life wants, like gravity wants.   * “Unlike the rest of you, I refuse to be governed  by…

    Portable Fire

    In theory, anything can be depicted. And what is? What, on the walls and floors and ceilings of theory, is depicted and not? Not in the lover’s light of retribution. Not in the poets’ utilitarian light.    In the fat-and-fire-in-a-cup light.   Artificial, if that’s what that means: light from other than  the foot-wide sun….

    The Shallows

    Here we are. The baby needs changing. It’s early in a midweek, late summer day. The cool skepticism that blankets us all before the dew drops,  before the dawn god rises reluctant from her bed, is a memory now,  a feeling faded into thought.   Strange hours those, empty of opinion. Strange feeling—so total then,…

    Wherever, Whenever

    How long all this will go on, the circulating blood—hauling, having  its way with us, around us, skin-deep  presence and us oblivious, blood that stays where it should until                     it doesn’t— how long its warming,  halting, stock-taking, unremitting run between some bloodlike-before and,  after, what then,…

    Readymade

    Be like the grasses, which are not waiting, says the sun-whipped god. Always with her partial information. What grasses? What must we go out there and learn about now? The wild grasses— here only of the wind’s accord, happy survivors, rewarded for their ignorance, their         readiness, the seeds that took                                   —are…

    The Red Business: PTSD and The Poet

    The representation of “real war” is more naturally expected in epics or novels than in a lyric poem or even a sequence of poems. But Walt Whitman is a rare hybrid, a lyric-narrative poet, and is necessarily aware that a war poem must visibly exhibit its primal archetype in realistic battle. His war poems can…

    Reason, Treason, and Palestine

    The Palestinian refugee camp Dheisheh is buckling beneath poverty and inherited hopelessness. The despair is palpable even in the pictures that my friend and co-worker Ali sends me from inside the camp. I have never been there — even before October 7 it was not simple or prudent for a Jewish woman to visit Palestinian…

    Giving and Forgiving

    Look who thinks he’s nothing. All these blacks and whites make existence grey. The certainties, the rectitudes, the stridencies, are like a cloud cover interdicting the light, halting it in its natural course to us, and trapping the world in a dense foggy dread. It sometimes seems as if the more people make a claim…

    The Technology of Bullshit

    Apart from being sent to bed early, the worst part about being the youngest member of my family was that everyone around me could read except me. Even if I wasn’t born into a bookish family, I could intuit the power of the written word. It allowed my mother to remember what she had to…