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Kafka’s Trials

From the June/July 2023 Print Edition

The job of a translator is both difficult and one of great responsibility. An author can be utterly misrepresented in a language that is not his own: ­David Magarshack, for example, who translated Chekhov’s plays, argued that the entire Western approach to Chekhov was grossly mistaken and based . . . . Continue Reading »

Houellebecq's Omelette

From the May 2022 Print Edition

As Chekhov conveyed boredom without being boring, so Michel Houellebecq conveys meaninglessness without being meaningless. Indeed, his particular subject is the spiritual, intellectual, and political vacuity of life in a modern consumer ­society—France in this case, but it could be any . . . . Continue Reading »

The Fall of Dr. Raoult

From the December 2021 Print Edition

Nothing stimulates the emergence of a guru like a crisis, especially one to which the correct response is far from clear. People want simple, reassuring answers. They eagerly suspend their critical faculties; their wishes are father to their beliefs. A good guru can transform the proudest skeptic . . . . Continue Reading »

Identity as Ideology

From the February 2020 Print Edition

Like many persons possessing limited insight into the future, I had supposed that, with the collapse of the Soviet Empire, utopianism would die out in the Western world. I was mistaken. Identity politics in the West is veering in the direction of totalitarianism. A book I read . . . . Continue Reading »

France Fractured

From the December 2019 Print Edition

Living between Britain and France, I am often surprised by how little each country looks to the other. They are separated by a narrow stretch of water, but they might as well be antipodes as far as commentators in each are concerned. Many of their social and political problems are so similar, and . . . . Continue Reading »

Crimes in Concrete

From the June/July 2019 Print Edition

Making Dystopia:  The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism by james stevens curl oxford, 592 pages, $60 In a recent debate in Prospect magazine on the question of whether modern architecture has ruined British towns and cities, Professor James Stevens Curl, . . . . Continue Reading »

Rare and Common Sense

From the November 2017 Print Edition

Simon Leys:  Navigator Between Worlds by philippe paquet translated by julie rose la trobe, 720 pages, $59.99 It is a curious fact that Communist dictatorships were at their most popular among Western intellectuals while they still had the courage of their brutality. Once they settled down to . . . . Continue Reading »