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Seeing the Whole

From the February 2021 Print Edition

A few years ago, I visited Albi, a small town in southern France famed for its Cathedral of Saint Cecilia. Constructed of the rose-colored brick typical of the region, the building was begun in the thirteenth century, about a hundred years after the Albigensian Crusade against the region’s . . . . Continue Reading »

L’affaire Voltaire

From the January 2021 Print Edition

Americans know little of Voltaire. French high-schoolers, by contrast, know him the way we once knew Thoreau and Whitman, before social justice eclipsed history as the rationale for our syllabi. Like America’s Liberty Bell, Voltaire’s tomb in Paris’s Panthéon is still visited by school groups . . . . Continue Reading »

Down to Earth

From the December 2020 Print Edition

Gertrude Stein characterized the young men and women emerging from the wreckage of World War I as the “lost generation.” I had Stein’s words in mind while reading Vera Brittain’s memoir, Testament of Youth, published in 1933. The book is a classic of the period, written from the . . . . Continue Reading »

Whistling Past the Grave

From the November 2016 Print Edition

When we talk about the key shifts of the twentieth century—those involving politics, trade, consumption, art—we leave out what is surely the most astonishing physical change in all of human history, one that has happened mostly during the last century: the doubling of the human life span in much . . . . Continue Reading »