Poet in History

From the January 2018 Print Edition

Miłosz: A Biographyby andrzej franaszektranslated by aleksandra parker and michael parkerbelknap, 544 pages, $35 The impression left in the mind of an American reader, after he finishes Andrzej Franaszek’s exhaustive new biography of Czesław Miłosz, is the absurdity that this man was ever . . . . Continue Reading »

Saint Louverture

From the March 2017 Print Edition

Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Lifeby philippe girardbasic books, 352 pages, $29.99The Virginia planter and Fire-Eater Edmund Ruffin, who in 1865 blew his brains out rather than live under Yankee rule, called Toussaint Louverture “the only truly great man yet known of the negro race.” In . . . . Continue Reading »

Tocqueville in the Gutter

From the January 2017 Print Edition

The Art of Being Free: How Alexis de Tocqueville Can Save Us from Ourselvesby james poulosst martin’s, 304 pages, $26.99Alexis de Tocqueville was sensitive about his height, a mere 5 feet 4 inches, but it would have made him feel a giant to see some of the midgets who have followed after him. No . . . . Continue Reading »

The Green and the Brown

From the March 2016 Print Edition

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warningby timothy snydertim duggan books, 462 pages, $30 F aced with the challenge of finding something new to say about the Holocaust, a lesser author will offer a picture of Nazism that resembles his present-day political opponents. In a strange reversal, . . . . Continue Reading »

Stewardship of the Reader's Eyes

From Web Exclusives

The central paradox of censorship, according to the historian Paul S. Boyer, is that however sane and fair-minded your set of standards might be, the people who end up doing the censoring will always be the last ones you’d trust with the responsibility. Considered in the abstract, Boyer’s rule makes sense. Continue Reading »

Their Decadence and Ours

From Web Exclusives

The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw movements calling themselves “decadent” in both England and France, and from the modern reader’s perspective there is very little that separates Oscar Wilde and Arthur Symons, on one hand, and Joris-Karl Huysmans and Villiers de L’Isle Adam on the other. They wrote in the same exquisitely mannered prose, embraced the same cult of artifice and ornament, took as their anti-heroes the same dissolute aristocrats bemoaning the same prevailing philistinism. At the end of Villiers’ play Axël, the hero withdraws from the world with the parting cry, “As for living, the servants will do that for us.” That is a line Walter Pater would have applauded from his box, if he could have bestirred himself to do something so vigorous. Continue Reading »

The New Nonconformist Conscience

From Web Exclusives

Mozilla’s Brendan Eich, the Miami Dolphins’ Don Jones, HGTV’s Benham brothers: 2014 has been a good year for those seeking to enforce the new moral orthodoxy by depriving others of their livelihood. It’s bad enough to see people joining these bandwagons without pausing to reflect on dark side of such feeding frenzies, but even more dispiriting are those who argue, in the cold light of their own reflection, that such tactics are righteous. Continue Reading »

Counterfeit Goods

From the Aug/Sept 2014 Print Edition

Republishing the early work of a novelist who has hit it big is usually a bad idea, but there are exceptions to the rule. It is interesting, for example, to learn that Patricia Highsmith’s second novel was a sympathetically drawn lesbian love story with a happy ending, since the psychological . . . . Continue Reading »

Bloodless Moralism

From the February 2014 Print Edition

Dame Rebecca West had a theory that the history of civilization since Christ could be divided into three panels like a triptych. In the first panel, stretching roughly from the Crucifixion to the Middle Ages, the language of theology so dominated learned debate that all complaints were expressed in . . . . Continue Reading »