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Russian Purgatory

The Russian soul. The phrase serves as shorthand for Russia’s national character, after the manner of American innocence, French arrogance, Italian dolce far niente, and what used to be the English stiff upper lip. Russians are reputed to feel more than the rest of us do, think deep thoughts . . . . Continue Reading »

Strategic Long-Term Propaganda

In the opening lines of Cold Warriors, Duncan White notes that “between February and May 1955, a group covertly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency launched a secret weapon into Communist territory”: balloons carrying copies of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. This was perhaps the . . . . Continue Reading »

Briefly Noted

Tyll: A Novel by daniel kehlmann, translated by ross benjamin pantheon, 352 pages, $26.95 Daniel Kehlmann’s novel Tyll, like its title character, is full of dark surprises. Tyll ­Ulenspiegel, a legendary figure from German folklore, is a prankster, magician, and traveling performer. Throughout . . . . Continue Reading »

Perilous Directions

Pity the satirist: He labors under a double burden. There is, first and foremost, the need to be funny. Whatever kind of laughter the satirist conjures—whether it be queasy or full-out—the jokes have to land. Comedians have no safety net, and the ground is hard-packed. Then there is the . . . . Continue Reading »

Learning Latin

Some people acquire foreign languages more easily than others. I, alas, am one of those others. I cannot truly say that I have possession of any foreign language. I have perhaps two hundred or so words of Yiddish—just enough to fool the Gentiles into thinking I know the language, but not . . . . Continue Reading »

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