Annette Gordon-Reed on Hillary Clinton February 8, 2018 / Volume LXV, Number 2 Simon Callow: PAUL ROBESON Masha Gessen’s Life Stories David Salle on Laura Owens Magris ❖ Babel ❖ Goldsworthy ❖ Contents 4 Masha Gessen To Be, or Not to Be 8 Simon Callow Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary by Gerald Horne No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow 12 Annette Gordon-Reed 15 Neal Ascherson Blameless by Claudio Magris, translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel 17 Andrew Motion Ephemeral Works 2004–2014 by Andy Goldsworthy Projects by Andy Goldsworthy 19 Janine di Giovanni 21 Adam Shatz 23 Stanley Moss 24 Charlie Savage 28 Gary Saul Morson 31 Sean Wilentz 34 Garry Wills 36 Jonathan Freedland Shtisel a television series created by Yehonatan Indursky and Ori Elon 38 David Salle Laura Owens an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, November 10, 2017–February 4, 2018 Catalog of the exhibition edited by Scott Rothkopf 41 Letters from What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton GIMME S H E LT E R Lebanon: About to Blow? Solo: Reﬂections and Meditations on Monk an album by Wadada Leo Smith Poem The Pentagon’s Wars: The Military’s Undeclared War Against America’s Presidents by Mark Perry The Essential Fictions by Isaac Babel, edited and translated from the Russian by Val Vinokur Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel, translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk Odessa Stories by Isaac Babel, translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian by Richard Aldous The New Testament: A Translation by David Bentley Hart Adam Jacobs, Ferdinand Mount, Peter Bridges, Jeffrey Gettleman, Elizabeth S. Olson, Justin S. Golub, and Jerome Groopman ELAINE TYLER MAY CONTRIBUTORS NEAL ASCHERSON is the author of Black Sea, Stone Voices: The Search for Scotland, and the novel Death of the Fronsac. He is an Honorary Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. SIMON CALLOW is an English actor and director who has written books about Orson Welles, Charles Dickens, and Shakespeare. His latest book, Being Wagner: The Story of the Most Provocative Composer Who Ever Lived, will be published in paperback this year. JANINE DI GIOVANNI is the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria. She will be teaching a course on war reporting and human rights at Columbia this spring. JONATHAN FREEDLAND is an editorial-page columnist for The Guardian. His latest novel is To Kill the President, published under the pseudonym Sam Bourne. MASHA GESSEN is the author of The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the National Book Award for Nonﬁction in 2017. She is a staff writer at The New Yorker. ANNETTE GORDON-REED is the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. She is the author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for History, and Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, with Peter S. Onuf. GARY SAUL MORSON is the Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities and a Professor in the Slavic Languages and Literatures Department at Northwestern. Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities, cowritten with Morton Schapiro, was published last year. STANLEY MOSS published his Almost Complete Poems in 2016. A new book, Abandoned Poems, will be published next fall. ANDREW MOTION is Homewood Professor in the Arts at Johns Hopkins. Between 1999 and 2009 he was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. His latest book is Coming in to Land: Selected Poems, 1975–2015. DAVID SALLE is a painter and essayist. CHARLIE SAVAGE is a Washington Correspondent for The New York Times. His latest book is Power Wars: The Relentless Rise of Presidential Authority and Secrecy. ADAM SHATZ is a Contributing Editor at the London Review of Books. SEAN WILENTZ is the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton and the author of The Politicians and the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics. GARRY WILLS is the subject of a Festschrift published by Northwestern’s Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Nation and World, Church and God: The Legacy of Garry Wills. His latest book is What the Qur’an Meant: And Why It Matters. Editor: Ian Buruma Deputy Editor: Michael Shae Senior Editors: Eve Bowen, Gabriel Winslow-Yost Prudence Crowther, Julie Just Senior Editor, Poetry: Jana Prikryl Assistant Editor: Andrew Katzenstein Founding Editors: Robert B. Silvers (1929–2017) Barbara Epstein (1928–2006) Publisher: Rea S. 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NYRDaily Matt Seaton, Editor; Lucy McKeon, Assistant Editor. AROUND THE WORLD nybooks.com/daily » Joshua Jelly-Schapiro: Dominica, After the Storm » Ian Johnson: China’s Insider Artist, Qiu Zhijie » Mark Gevisser: South Africa’s Next President » Agnès Poirier: Céline’s Anti-Semitic Pamphlets Plus: Sarah Boxer on Chris Ware, Danny Lyon’s Memories of Mississippi, Lisa Appignanesi on Trump’s Crazy, and more. “Few historians have probed the hidden undercurrents of the Cold War as perceptively and brilliantly as Elaine Tyler May…. A major contribution and a mustread to understand the origins of the Age of Trump.” —MARTIN J. SHERWIN, Pulitzer Prize–winning coauthor of “America founded itself on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but for much of the last century, it has been increasingly seized by fear, suspicion, and anxiety. 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Subscription services: www.nybooks.com/customer-service, or e-mail email@example.com, or call 800-354-0050 in the US, 903-636-1101 elsewhere. 3 To Be, or Not to Be This essay was delivered in a slightly different form as the Robert B. Silvers Lecture at the New York Public Library on December 18, 2017. 1. Fetus The topic of my talk was determined by today’s date. Thirty-nine years ago my parents took a package of documents to an ofﬁce in Moscow. This was our application for an exit visa to leave the Soviet Union. More than two years would pass before the visa was granted, but from that day on I have felt a sense of precariousness wherever I have been, along with a sense of opportunity. They are a pair. I have emigrated again as an adult. I was even named a “great immigrant” in 2016, which I took to be an afﬁrmation of my skill, attained through practice— though this was hardly what the honor was meant to convey. I have also raised kids of my own. If anything, with every new step I have taken, I have marveled more at the courage it would have required for my parents to step into the abyss. I remember seeing them in the kitchen, poring over a copy of an atlas of the world. For them, America was an outline on a page, a web of thin purplish lines. They’d read a few American books, had seen a handful of Hollywood movies. A friend was fond of asking them, jokingly, whether they could really be sure that the West even existed. Truthfully, they couldn’t know. They did know that if they left the Soviet Union, they would never be able to return (like many things we accept as rare certainties, this one turned out to be wrong). They would have to make a home elsewhere. I think that worked for them: as Jews, they never felt at home in the Soviet Union—and when home is not where you are born, nothing is predetermined. Anything can be. So my parents always maintained that they viewed their leap into the unknown as an adventure. I wasn’t so sure. After all, no one had asked me. 2. Vulnerable As a thirteen-year-old, I found myself in a clearing in a wood outside of Moscow, at a secret—one might say underground, though it was out in the open—gathering of Jewish cultural activists. People went up in front of the crowd, one, two, or several at a time, with guitars and without, and sang from a limited repertoire of Hebrew and Yiddish songs. That is, they sang the same three or four songs over and over. The tunes scraped something inside of me, making an organ I didn’t know I had—located just above the breastbone—tingle with a sense of belonging. I was surrounded by strangers, sitting, as we were, on logs laid across the grass, and I remember their faces to this day. I looked at them and thought, This is who I am. The “this” in this was “Jewish.” From my perch thirty-seven years later, I’d add “in a secular cultural community” and “in the Soviet Union,” 4 but back then space was too small to require elaboration. Everything about it seemed self- evident—once I knew what I was, I would just be it. In fact, the people in front of me, singing those songs, were trying to ﬁgure out how to be Jewish in a country that had erased Jewishness. Now I’d like to think that it was watching people learning to inhabit an identity that made me tingle. Some months later, we left the Soviet Union. In autobiographical books written by exiles, the moment of emigration is often addressed in the ﬁrst few pages— regardless of where it fell in a writer’s life. I went to Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory to look for the relevant quote in its familiar place. This took a while because the phrase was actually 3. Diversity On Valentine’s Day in 1982—I was ﬁfteen—I went to a gay dance at Yale. This was a great time for gay dances. It was no longer terrifying to be queer on Igor Stomakhin Masha Gessen Svetlana Boym had a private theory: an émigré’s life continues in the land left behind. It’s a parallel story. In an unpublished piece, she tried to imagine the parallel lives her Soviet/Russian/ Jewish left-behind self was leading. Toward the end of her life, this retracing and reimagining became something of an obsession. She also had a theory about me: that I had gone back to reclaim a life that had been interrupted. In any case, there are many stories to be told about a single life. Masha Gessen at her apartment in Moscow in the early 1990s, when she was in her mid-twenties on page 250 out of 310. Here it is: “The break in my own destiny affords me in retrospect a syncopal kick that I would not have missed for worlds.” This is an often-quoted phrase in a book full of quotable sentences. The cultural critic and my late friend Svetlana Boym analyzed Nabokov’s application of the word “syncope,” which has three distinct uses: in linguistics it’s the shortening of a word by omission of a sound or syllable from its middle; in music it is a change of rhythm and shift of accent when a normally weak beat is stressed; and in medicine it is a brief loss of consciousness. “Syncope,” wrote Svetlana, “is the opposite of symbol and synthesis.” Suketu Mehta, in his Maximum City, wrote: Each person’s life is dominated by a central event, which shapes and distorts everything that comes after it and, in retrospect, everything that came before. For me, it was going to live in America at the age of fourteen. It’s a difﬁcult age at which to change countries. You haven’t quite ﬁnished growing up where you were and you’re never well in your skin in the one you’re moving to. Mehta didn’t let me down: this assertion appears in the very ﬁrst pages of his magniﬁcent book; also, he moved to America at the same age that I did. And while I think he might be wrong about everyone, I am certain he is right about émigrés: the break colors everything that came before and after. campus, but gay life was still half-hidden in a way that was thrilling. I do not remember, in fact, dancing, and I don’t even remember catching anyone’s eye. In other words, I’m pretty sure that no one noticed me. Strangely, that wasn’t crushing. Because what I do remember is standing somewhere dark, leaning against something, and feeling like I was surrounded by community. I remember thinking, This is who I could be. What the syncope of emigration had meant for me was the difference between discovering who I was—the experience I had in the woods outside of Moscow—and discovering who I could be—the experience I had at that dance. It was a moment of choice and, thanks to the “break in my destiny,” I was aware of it. 4. Entitlement In this sense my personal narrative splits from that of the American gay and lesbian movement. The latter was based on choicelessness. A choice may have to be defended—certainly, one has to be prepared to defend one’s right to make a choice—while arguing that you were born this way appeals to people’s sympathy or at least a sense of decency. It also serves to quell one’s own doubts and to foreclose future options. We are, mostly, comfortable with less choice—much as I would have felt safer if my parents had not set out on their great emigration adventure. After I left Moscow, one of my grandmothers was compelled to hide the fact of our emigration—we had committed an act of treason that could have threatened those left behind. So in the little town where she lived and where I had spent summers as a child, she continued to update my friends on the life I wasn’t leading. In that Soviet life, I applied to colleges and failed to get in. In the end, I settled for some mediocre-sounding technical route. I was hurt by the predictability of the story my grandmother chose for me. In the United States, I was living an imaginative and risky life—I dropped out of high school, ran away from home, lived in the East Village, worked as a bicycle messenger, dropped out of college, worked in the gay press, became the editor of a magazine at twenty-one, got arrested at ACT UP protests, experimented sexually and romantically, behaved abhorrently, was a good friend, or tried to be—but in the mirror held up by my grandmother, it wasn’t just my location that was different: it was the presence of choice in my life. After ten years in this country, I went back to Moscow as a journalist, on assignment. I felt so unexpectedly comfortable in a country that I had expected to feel foreign—as though my body relaxed into a space that had stayed open for it—that I also felt resentful about not having had a choice in leaving. I kept going back and eventually stayed, refashioning myself as a Russian-language journalist. I pretended that this was the life I would have had if I had never left, but deep inside I believed that my grandmother had been right: there was some parallel me, toiling miserably on some deadend engineering task. This made me a double impostor in the life I was living. I’m not sure when I made the choice to stay in Russia, but I remember hearing the statement come out of my mouth, surprising me, as it sometimes happens when a decision makes itself known. I had been living there a year, and I was talking to a close friend, an American graduate student who had also been there a year and was now going back. “I think I’m going to stay,” I said. “Of course you are,” he responded, as though it weren’t a choice at all. Around the same time, I was interviewed by a young Russian journalist: having chosen to return to Russia made me exotic enough to be written about. He asked me which I liked better: being a Russian in America or an American in Russia. I was furious—I believed myself to be a Russian in Russia and an American in America. It took me many years to come around to liking being an outsider wherever I go. I remet my two grandmothers, whom I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager, and started interviewing them. This project became a book about the choices they had made. The one who disapproved of our emigration had become a censor, which, she told me, was a moral choice. She had been educated to be a history teacher, but by the time she had completed her studies she was convinced that becoming a history teacher in the Soviet Union would require her to lie to children every day. Censoring, on the other hand, seemed to her a job that could have been done by a robot: any other person would have crossed out the same lines or conﬁscated the same mail (her ﬁrst job was as a censor of printed material in incoming international mail), whereas The New York Review NEW FROM THE Getty Harald Szeemann Museum of Obsessions Edited by Glenn Phillips and Philipp Kaiser With Doris Chon and Pietro Rigolo The Swiss curator Harald Szeemann is arguably one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century art. Both at the Kunsthalle Bern and as a freelance curator, he championed influential artists, such as Joseph Beuys, Michael Heizer, and Andy Warhol. This exhibition catalogue provides new insight into Szeemann’s remarkable curatorial philosophy by drawing upon his archive. THE GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE Hardcover $69.95 Harald Szeemann Selected Writings Harald Szeemann Edited by Doris Chon, Glenn Phillips, and Pietro Rigolo As a curator who helped herald in movements as disparate as Pop Art, Conceptualism, and Fluxus, Harald Szeemann is recognized as a tastemaker of twentieth-century art. He was also a prolific writer, and up until now his writings had not been collected in English. This thoughtfully assembled volume takes up that task and the result is a lively look inside the mind of the eccentric and respected Swiss curator. 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This erudite volume studies aspects of these questions from the perspectives of sixteen leading art historians, including essays on Conceptual art, Roman sculpture, and contemporary photography in India. THE GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE Paper $45.00 The Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture The Birth of the French School, 1648 –1793 Christian Michel Translation by Chris Miller The Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (French Academy of Painting and Sculpture)—perhaps the single most influential art institution in history—governed the arts in France for more than 140 years, from its founding in 1648 until its abolition in 1793. Christian Michel’s sweeping study presents an authoritative, in-depth analysis of the Académie’s history and legacy. THE GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE Paper $75.00 Keep It Moving? Conserving Kinetic Art Edited by Rachel Rivenc and Reinhard Bek Kinetic art not only includes movement but often depends on it to produce an intended effect and therefore fully realize its nature as art. It can take a multiplicity of forms and include a wide range of motion, from motorized movement to motion as the result of wind or other sources of energy. This volume considers issues of technology, as well as looking at how professional are rethinking concepts like authenticity. THE GETTY CONSERVATION INSTITUTE Paper $40.00 Getty Publications A WO RLD OF A RT , RESEA RC H , C O NSERVATION, AND PHILANTHROPY www.getty.edu/publications 800 223 3431 © 2018 J. Paul Getty Trust February 8, 2018 5 every history teacher uses a different kind of charm and persuasion to distort children’s understanding of the past. My other grandmother I knew as a rebel and a dissident, someone who never compromised. But as I interviewed her I learned that when she was offered a job with the secret police (as a translator), she had agreed to take it. This was during Stalin’s so-called anticosmopolitan campaign, when Jews were purged from all kinds of Soviet institutions. She could not get a job to save her life, or, more to the point, her toddler son’s life. It had been no choice at all, she told me: she had to feed her child. She never started the job because she failed the medical exam. The central ﬁgure in the book, however, was her father, who was killed in Majdanek. I had always known that he had participated in the rebellion in the Bialystok Ghetto. But then I also found out that he had served in the Judenrat (Jewish council) before choosing to help the rebels. As I studied the archives—a remarkable number of documents from the Bialystok Ghetto have been preserved—I realized that my great-grandfather had been one of the de facto leaders of the Judenrat. He had been responsible for food deliveries to and garbage removal from the ghetto, and I saw strong evidence that he took part in putting together the lists of names for extermination. I also found a memoir written by a member of the resistance in which she recalled my great-grandfather’s efforts to stop the resistance. Later he apparently changed his position and started helping the resistance to smuggle weapons into the ghetto. Before the war, he had been an elected ofﬁcial, a member of both the city council and the Jewish council, so it was clear to me that he had seen his duties in the Judenrat as the logical outgrowth of his elected service. I could see the trajectory of my great-grandfather’s choices. My grandmother didn’t want me to publish the part about the Judenrat, and we had a protracted battle over whose story it was to tell—hers or mine, or both of ours. In the end, she had only one demand: that I omit a quote from Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem. This is the infamous quote in which Arendt says that the Holocaust would not have been possible without the help of the Jewish councils. I saw it as a story of impossible, anguished choices that he nonetheless insisted on making. Totalitarian regimes aim to make choice impossible, and this was what interested me at the time. I was awed by the gap between my capacity for judgment and the unbearably limited options faced by my grandparents. I ﬁxated on the ideas of “impossible choice” and of having “no choice.” But what interests me now is that I think resistance can take the shape of insisting on making a choice, even when the choice is framed as one between unacceptable options. 5. Science-Based Back in the United States, my parents’ adventure came to a halt, eleven years after we landed in America. My mother died of cancer in the summer of 1992. Another eleven years later, I returned for a yearlong fellowship—to be a Rus6 sian in America for a year. During that year I took a test that showed I had the genetic mutation that had caused the cancer that killed my mother and her aunt before that. I was “born this way”—born to develop cancer of the breasts or ovaries, or both. The genetic counselors and doctors asked me what I wanted to do. It was a choice, framed as one between “aggressive monitoring”—for the ﬁrst signs of cancer, which the doctors were certain would appear—and preventive surgery. I ended up writing, ﬁrst, a series of articles and then a book on making choices in the age of genetic testing. I talked to people who had faced far more drastic choices than the one before me. These people had chosen to live without such essential organs as the stomach or pancreas, whereas all the doctors were suggesting to me was the removal of breasts and ovaries. I chose to remove my breasts and reconstruct them. I was choosing my breast size and my fate! The doctors, incidentally, didn’t think this was the right choice: they advocated for the removal of the ovaries rather than, or more importantly than, the breasts. I found more compelling evidence in favor of keeping the ovaries for a while, but two and a half years ago I had those removed as well. Around that time, my doctor was strongly suggesting I really no longer had a choice. 6. Transgender Two decades after moving back to Russia, I left again. It was one of those impossible choices that don’t feel like much of a choice: I was one of many people pushed out of the country during the crackdown that followed the protests of 2011–2012. Some were given the choice between emigrating or going to prison. My options were emigrating or seeing social services go after my kids, on the grounds that I am queer. What had happened to the life my discontinuous self was leading back in America while I was in Russia? My writing life had been proceeding apace, more or less—I was publishing in the United States while living in Russia. Socially, who was I? Who were my people? Where did I belong? I had lost some friends and gained others. Some friends had become couples, split up, recoupled, had children. I had coupled and recoupled and had children too. Also, some of the women I had known had become men. That’s not the way most transgender people phrase it; the default language is one of choicelessness: people say they have always been men or women and now their authentic selves are emerging. This is the same “born this way” approach that the gay and lesbian movement had put to such good political use in the time that I’d been gone: it had gotten queer people access to such institutions as the military and marriage. The standard story goes something like this: as a child I always felt like a boy, or never felt like a girl, and then I tried to be a lesbian, but the issue wasn’t sexual orientation—it was gender, speciﬁcally, “true gender,” which could now be claimed through transitioning. I found myself feeling resentful at hearing these stories. I too had always felt like a boy! It had taken some work for me to enjoy being a woman (whatever that means)—I’d succeeded, I had learned how to be one. But still: here I was, faced with the possibility that in the parallel life that my left-behind self was leading in the United States while I was in Russia, I would have transitioned. True gender (whatever that means) didn’t have much to do with it, but choice did. Somehow, I’d missed the fact that it was there. I had written an entire book on making choices that had to do with removing the parts of the body that would appear to have made me female: the breasts, the ovaries, the uterus. And I had not questioned the assumptions that after a mastectomy one considers one’s options for reconstruction, and after a radical hysterectomy one considers whether to receive hormone “replacement” in the form of estrogen. Indeed, I had had reconstruction and was taking estrogen. I had failed, miserably, at seeing my choices, made as they were under some duress, as an opportunity for adventure. I had failed to think about inhabiting a different body the way one would think about inhabiting a different country. How do I invent the person I am now? I quit estrogen and started testosterone. I had some trouble with the evidence part of the science, because, as I have found, all published papers on the use of testosterone in people who start out as women fall into one of two categories: articles that aim to show that people taking testosterone will experience all of the masculinizing changes that they wish for, and ones that aim to show that women will have none of the masculinizing changes that they fear. I am taking a low dose, and I have no idea how it’s going to affect me. My voice has become lower. My body is changing. But then again, bodies change all the time. In her book The Argonauts Maggie Nelson quotes her partner, the artist Harry Dodge, as saying that he is not going anywhere—not transitioning but being himself. I recognize the sentiment, though I’d probably say the opposite: for thirty-nine years, ever since my parents took those documents to the visa ofﬁce, I have felt so precarious that I lay no claim to someone I “really am.” That someone is a sequence of choices, and the question is: Will my next choice be conscious, and will my ability to make it be unfettered? 7. Evidence-Based It took little effort to organize the notes I jotted down for this talk around the seven words that the Trump administration was reported to have banned the Centers for Disease Control from using. All seven words—from “fetus” to “evidence-based”—are words that reﬂect on our understanding of choice. Choice is a great burden. The call to invent one’s life, and to do it continuously, can sound unendurable. Totalitarian regimes aim to stamp out the possibility of choice, but what aspiring autocrats do is promise to relieve one of the need to choose. This is the promise of “Make America Great Again”—it conjures the allure of an imaginary past in which one was free not to choose. I’ve been surprised, in the last year, that the resurgence of interest in some of the classic books on totalitarianism has not brought back Erich Fromm’s wonderful Escape from Freedom (though Fromm, who was a psychoanalyst and social psychologist, has been rediscovered by many people in the mental health profession because he introduced the idea of “malignant narcissism”). In the introduction, Fromm apologizes for what he perceives as sloppiness, which he says stems from the need to write the book in a hurry: he felt that the world was on the verge of catastrophe. He was writing this in 1940. In the book, Fromm proposes that there are two kinds of freedom: “freedom from,” which we all want—we all want our parents to stop telling us what to do—and “freedom to,” which can be difﬁcult or even unbearable. This is the freedom to invent one’s future, the freedom to choose. Fromm suggests that at certain times in human history the burden of “freedom to” becomes too painful for a critical mass of people to bear, and they take the opportunity to cede their agency—whether it’s to Martin Luther, Adolf Hitler, or Donald Trump. No wonder Trump appears to be obsessed with people who embody choice. Immigrants are his most frightening imaginary enemy, the ones who need to be “extremely vetted,” blocked out with a wall, whose crimes need to be reported to a special hotline and whose families need to be kept out of this country. It puts me in mind of the “aggressive monitoring” for the cancer that’s sure to come. Transgender people have been another target of Trump’s apparently spontaneous lashing out— witness the transgender ban in the military, the rescinding of protections for transgender students, and now the ban on the very word “transgender.” But in speaking about immigrants we tend to privilege choicelessness much as we do when we are speaking about queer people or transgender people. We focus on the distinction between refugees and “economic migrants,” without asking why the fear of hunger and destitution qualiﬁes as a lesser reason for migration than the fear of imprisonment or death by gunshot wound—and then only if that wound is inﬂicted for political or religious reasons. But even more than that, why do we assume that the more restricted a person’s choices have been, the more qualiﬁed they are to enter a country that proclaims freedom of personal choice to be one of its ideals? Immigrants make a choice. The valor is not in remaining at risk for catching a bullet but in making the choice to avoid it. In the Soviet Union, most dissidents believed that if one were faced with the impossible choice between leaving the country and going to prison, one ought to choose exile. Less dramatically, the valor is in being able to experience your move less as an escape and more as an adventure. It is in serving as living reminders of the choicefulness of life— something that immigrants and most trans people do, whether their personal narratives are ones of choice or not. I wish I could ﬁnish on a hopeful note, by saying something like: If only we insist on making choices, we will succeed in keeping darkness at bay. I’m not convinced that that’s the case. But I do think that making choices and, more important, imagining other, better choices, will give us the best chance possible of coming out of the darkness better than we were when we went in. It’s a bit like emigrating that way: the choice to leave rarely feels free, but choices we make about inhabiting new landscapes (or changed bodies) demand an imagination. The New York Review How our obsession with quantifying human performance threatens our schools, medical care, businesses, and government Cloth $24.95 “One of the most intriguing and provocative books on education published this year.” —Frederick Hess, American Enterprise Institute Timeless wisdom on death and dying from the celebrated Stoic philosopher Seneca Cloth $16.95 “A fitting tribute to someone who was truly ‘ever the leader.’” —Lawrence S. 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Paper $18.95 Cloth $27.95 press.princeton.edu February 8, 2018 7 The Emperor Robeson Simon Callow Beinecke Library, Yale University/Van Vechten Trust Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary by Gerald Horne. Pluto, 250 pp., $18.00 (paper) No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow. Scribe, 292 pp., $19.95 (paper) When I was growing up in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, Paul Robeson was much in evidence, on records, on the radio, on television. His name was haloed with the sort of respect accorded to few performers. The astonishing voice that, like the Mississippi in the most famous number in his repertory, just kept rolling along, seemed to carry within it an inherent sense of truth. There was no artiﬁce; there were no vocal tricks; nothing came between the listener and the song. It commanded effortless attention; perfectly focused, it came from a very deep place, not just in the larynx, but in the experience of what it is to be human. In this, Robeson resembled the English contralto Kathleen Ferrier: both seemed less trained musicians than natural phenomena. The spirituals Robeson had been instrumental in discovering for a wider audience were not simply communal songs of love and life and death but the urgent cries of a captive people yearning for a better, a juster life. These songs, rooted in the past, expressed a present reality in the lives of twentiethcentury American black people, citizens of the most powerful nation on earth but oppressed and routinely humiliated on a daily basis. When Robeson sang the refrain of “Go Down Moses”—“Let my people go!”—it had nothing to do with consolation or comfort: it was an urgent demand. And in the Britain in which I grew up, he was deeply admired for it. For us, he was the noble representative, the beau idéal, of his race: physically magniﬁcent, ﬁnely spoken, ﬁercely intelligent, charismatic but not at all threatening. At some point in the 1960s, he faded from our view. Disgusted with America’s failure to address his passionate demands for his people, he had gone to Moscow, endorsing the Soviet regime. Meanwhile, a new generation of black militants, ﬁerce demagogues, had become prominent, and suddenly Robeson seemed very old-fashioned. There were no more television reruns of his most famous movies, Sanders of the River (1935) and The Proud Valley (1940); his music was rarely heard. When news of his death came in 1976, there was surprise that he was still alive. And now, it is hard to ﬁnd anyone under ﬁfty who has the slightest idea who he is, or what he was, which is astonishing—as a singer, of course, and, especially in Proud Valley, as an actor, his work is of the highest order. But his signiﬁcance as an emblematic ﬁgure is even greater, crucial to an understanding of the American twentieth century. Robeson was born in the last years of the nineteenth century, to a father who had been a slave and at the time 8 Paul Robeson as Othello, 1944; photograph by Carl Van Vechten of the Civil War had ﬂed to the North, to the town of Princeton, New Jersey, eventually putting himself through college and becoming a Presbyterian minister. He drummed his own ﬁerce determination and rigorous work ethic into his children, especially Paul, who was a model pupil. Studious, athletic, artistically gifted, he was an all-around sportsman, sang in the school choir, and played Othello at the age of sixteen. At Rutgers University, despite vicious opposition from aggressive white teammates, he became an outstanding football player; he graduated with distinction. He then studied law, ﬁrst at NYU and then Columbia. On graduation, he was marked out for great things, tipped as a possible future governor of New Jersey, but he gave up the law almost immediately after a stenographer refused to take dictation “from a nigger.” Instead he threw himself into the vibrant artistic life of Harlem at the height of its Renaissance, appearing in plays by Eugene O’Neill, giving concerts of African-American music, and occasionally playing professional football; he was spoken of by Walter Camp as the greatest end ever. His fame spread with startling speed; within a couple of years, he was lionized on both sides of the Atlantic. From an early age, he was perceived as almost literally iconic. His stupendous physique seemed to demand heroic embodiment, and he was frequently photographed and sculpted, as often as not naked; the frontispiece of the ﬁrst of many books about him—Paul Robeson: Negro (1930), by his wife, Eslanda (Essie)—shows Jacob Epstein’s famous bust of him. He was the black star everyone had been waiting for, the acceptable face of negritude. His appearances in England were especially warmly received: he was seen onstage in The Emperor Jones, Show Boat, and, most daringly, as Othello. His singing voice was extensively broadcast by the BBC, and he made ﬁlms; by 1938 he was one of the most popular ﬁlm stars in Britain. Swanning around in the most elegant circles, hobnobbing on equal terms with painters, poets, philosophers, and politicians, he felt exhilarated by England’s apparent lack of racial prejudice. He bought himself a splendid house, threw parties at which one simply had to be seen, and engaged in a series of liaisons with English women under his wife’s nose. He had not completely given in to the adoration, though. All the while, he was being quietly radicalized. He consorted with left-wing thinkers and young ﬁrebrands, like Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta, bent on overthrowing colonial rule. Touring Europe, drawing crowds of tens of thousands to his con- certs, he was stirred by his audiences’ response to his music, and became interested in theirs. He was, he said, a folk singer, not an art singer; folk music, he declared, was universal, the living proof of the community of mankind. He absorbed his audience’s songs into his repertory, whenever possible in the original language; enrolling in the philology department of the School of Oriental and African Languages at London University, he began a study of African languages. His increasing awareness of leftwing ideology showed in his choice of work—in London he played the leading role in Stevedore, a play that directly addressed racism—but also inexorably led him to Moscow in 1934. Russia grasped him to its collective bosom; audiences went mad for him, Sergei Eisenstein wanted to make a ﬁlm with him as Jean- Christophe, emperor of Haiti. He was overwhelmed, declaring that for the ﬁrst time in his life he felt himself to be “not a Negro but a human being”; he placed his young son in a Russian school. Fired by a sense of the coming battle to be fought, he went to Spain, then in the throes of the civil war. He sang for the Republican forces and was received rapturously, as he was wherever he went, except in Hitler’s Germany, through which he passed rapidly and uncomfortably, narrowly avoiding confrontation with Nazi storm troopers. In his speeches, he increasingly framed the struggle for racial equality as a war on fascism. In the run-up to World War II, Robeson became less of an artist, more of a moral force; less an American, more a world ﬁgure. But when Hitler invaded Poland and the war in Europe was ﬁnally engaged, he returned to America, pledging to support the ﬁght for democratic freedom. He saw American participation in the war as a tremendous opportunity to reshape the whole of American life and, above all, to transform the position of black people within the nation. His fame and inﬂuence rose to extraordinary heights, and after America joined the war, his endorsement of its ally the Soviet Union proved very useful. In 1943, he reprised his Othello on Broadway, the ﬁrst time an amorously involved black man and white woman had ever been shown on stage there; to this day the production holds the record for the longest run of any nonmusical Shakespeare play on Broadway, and it toured the land to strictly nonsegregated audiences. The following year, Robeson’s forty-sixth birthday was marked with a grand gala, attended by over 12,000 people; 4,000 had to be turned away. The playwright Marc Connelly spoke, describing Robeson as the representative of “a highly desirable tomorrow which, by some lucky accident, we are privileged to appreciate today.” He was the man of the future; America was going to change. O r so it seemed for a brief moment. The dream was almost immediately shattered when black GIs returning from the war were subjected to terrifying outbursts of violence from white The New York Review HER Duty HER Passion HER MAJESTY SEASONS 1 & 2 STREAMING NOW Visit THIRTEEN.ORG/PASSPORT February 8, 2018 9 10 Hungarian uprising in 1956, stubbornly maintained his unqualiﬁed admiration of the Soviet Union and what he insisted was its essentially benevolent character. His passport was ﬁnally restored to him in 1958, and he sped away. He based himself in England, where he sang in St. Paul’s Cathedral and in the Royal Festival Hall; he played Othello for one last season at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. He returned to Moscow, where ecstatic crowds ﬁlled stadiums to welcome him back. He made his way to Australia and New Zealand. But something was imploding within him. Back in Moscow, en route for the US, where he planned to speak in favor of the ﬂedgling civil rights movement, he was found with slashed wrists on the ﬂoor of the bathroom of his hotel room. From there he went to London, where he received heavy sedation and massive doses of electroconvulsive therapy before being transferred to a somewhat less draconian hospital in East Germany. At last, in 1963, he came back to America and lived out the remaining thirteen years of his life as a private citizen with very occasional public interventions; there were manic interludes and depressions, but mostly he was just very quiet. When he died in 1976, most of the obituaries—even in the AfricanAmerican press—expressed a respectful incomprehension. since it elides the point that (by far) African-Americans in their quest for global aid to combat Jim Crow were attracted to Japan.” The author’s analyses of world affairs and his assessments of history’s leading players are, to put it gently, crude; this, for example, is Winston Churchill: “the pudgy, cigar-chomping, alcoholguzzling Tory.” And he takes certain, shall we say, contentious things as selfevident—notably the essential goodness of the USSR. When Robeson ﬁrst saw Stalin in Moscow, Horne reports, he was struck by the dictator’s “wonderful sense of kindliness . . . here was one who was wise and good,” and duly held up his son Pauli to see this para- cated study of languages was designed in part to illustrate the essential unity of humankind, continues to symbolize the still reigning slogan of the current century: “workers of the world, unite!” I’m sorry to break it to Mr. Horne, but he doesn’t. And it isn’t. Jeff Sparrow’s No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson is the polar opposite of Horne’s book, a work not of assertion but of investigation. It takes nothing at all for granted. The author, an Australian left-wing commentator, is very present in the book: it’s his journey (and thus our journey) as much as it is Robeson’s. He goes to see for himself a world that is, he admits, far from his own experience. The result is arresting, illuminating, and ultimately upsetting. Sparrow’s starting point is a curiously moving newsreel, readily available on YouTube, showing Robeson in his early sixties visiting workers on the building site of the Sydney Opera House and spontaneously singing for them as they sit utterly rapt; here, he discovered the plight of the Australian aborigines, ardently pledging himself to their cause decades before it became fashionable. It is this sense of Robeson’s universalism that Sparrow seeks to investigate. It takes him back to Robeson’s birth, and then goes back further—into the history of Robeson’s father, the Reverend William, born into slavery, and further still into the hist is an altogether extraorditory, or rather the experience, nary life, the stuff of epic. It of slavery itself. has not lacked for scholars: What, Sparrow wants to A photograph of Paul Robeson inscribed to Carl Van Vechten, most notably the radical histoknow, was slavery actually circa 1930; from Gather Out of Star-Dust: A Harlem rian Martin Duberman’s maslike? He goes to North CaroRenaissance Album, Melissa Barton’s catalog of a recent terful and all- encompassing lina and talks ﬁrst to the very exhibition at the Beinecke Library at Yale. It is published ﬁve-hundred-page life (1989). nice and decent descendants by the library and distributed by Yale University Press. Robeson’s son, Paul Jr., offered of slave owners who slowly, unhis personal perceptions of the comfortably, reveal the reality great man’s ﬁrst forty years in An Artgon of benevolence. Horne has nothing of slavery for their families. One of ist’s Journey (2001), the ﬁrst volume of to say about Robeson’s comment, aptheir young servant girls was savagely The Undiscovered Paul Robeson, carparently ﬁnding no fault with it. whipped for “being slow.” “They might rying the story through to its bitter end, Elsewhere, Horne makes desperately have been cultured and intelligent peoﬁve years later, in a second volume, strained attempts to force every action ple,” says Sparrow, “they might have The Quest for Freedom, passionate of Robeson’s into a political mold: of cared for their children and showed and contentious. More recently, there the actor’s heroic assault on the role of kindness to their neighbours, but they’d has been Jordan Goodman’s politically Othello in London—a part of immense ordered a young slave girl thrashed to radical A Watched Man. And now— technical and emotional challenges for the bone because she dropped a dish.” coincidentally or not—at a time of acany actor, let alone an untrained and As it might be in a novel, this small decelerating racial unrest in America, relatively inexperienced one—he tells tail of daily and routine brutality, endthere are two new books about him, as us: “Robeson’s groping as an actor in lessly repeated as part of a way of life different from each other as chalk from his attempt to grasp the lineaments of only 150 years ago, is somehow more cheese. Othello was of a piece with his gropchilling than a description of greater Gerald Horne’s Robeson: The Artist ing as a black man seeking to grasp the atrocities. as Revolutionary is bafﬂing. It is writlineaments of capitalism, colonialism, Likewise, Sparrow notes what it was ten with great sincerity and passion, and white supremacy.” No, it wasn’t: that Robeson’s father, a former slave but its constant reiteration of certain it’s just a very hard part. Horne has eviwith no education whatsoever, had to words and phrases—we learn on page dently read a great deal and had access do to get ﬁrst a BA, then an MA, and ﬁnally a degree in theology: it “meant after page that Robeson was, indeed, a to some remarkable material, but it is mastering Ancient Greek, Latin, Herevolutionary—hardly constitutes an often impossible to fathom from the brew, geometry, chemistry, trigonomargument, while the simple presentabook what is really happening at any etry, mineralogy, political economy, tion of a narrative eludes the author one moment or what was going on in and the myriad other components of completely. Horne seems unable to Robeson’s mind. a nineteenth-century classical educapresent a clear picture of Robeson’s Horne cites any number of searing tion.” William Robeson, as a slave, personality or the world in which he details, but lacking articulate analysis, would have had no formal education at lived; it is a chronological free-for-all, his account is numbing and bewildering all. This ﬁerce—heroic—work ethic the as we giddily lurch from decade to dein equal measure, like being addressed Reverend Robeson passed on to his son. cade, backtracking or suddenly leapfrom a dysfunctional megaphone. His He never spoke about his experience of ing forward. Often sentences make no rousing conclusion, bringing his obsesslavery. But the lesson was clear: the sense whatever: “Though Robeson’s sion with Robeson’s linguistic gifts to a only way out of poverty and humiliation tie to Moscow is often derided,” says climax, is simply stupefying: was hard, hard work—working harder Horne, “this is one- sided—akin to than any white man would have to, to judging a boxing match while only This multi-lingual descendant of achieve a comparable result. focusing on one of the ﬁghters— enslaved Africans, whose dediJames Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection/Beinecke Library, Yale University racists determined to make it clear that nothing had changed. After a murderous attack on four African-Americans in Georgia, an incandescent Robeson, at the head of a march of three thousand delegates, had a meeting with the president, Harry S. Truman, in the course of which he demanded “an American crusade against lynching.” Truman coolly observed that the time was not right. Robeson warned him that the temper of the black population was dangerously eruptive. Truman, taking this as a threat, stood up; the meeting was over. Asked by a journalist outside the White House whether it wouldn’t be ﬁner when confronted with racist brutality to turn the other cheek, Robeson replied, “If a lyncher hit me on one cheek, I’d tear his head off before he hit me on the other one.” The chips were down. From that moment on, the government moved to discredit Robeson at every turn; it blocked his employment prospects, after which he turned to foreign touring, not hesitating to state his views whenever he could. At the Soviet-backed World Peace Council, he spoke against the belligerence of the United States, describing it as fascist; these remarks caused outrage at home, as did his later comments at the Paris Peace Congress, at which he said: “We in America do not forget that it was on the backs of the white workers from Europe and on the backs of millions of blacks that the wealth of America was built. And we are resolved to share it equally. We reject any hysterical raving that urges us to make war on anyone.” These comments provoked denunciations from all sides—not least from the black press and his former comradesin-arms in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, anxious not to undo the steady progress they felt they had been making. Robeson’s universal approbation turned overnight into nearly universal condemnation. When he spoke in public in America, the meetings were often broken up by protesters armed with rocks, stones, and knives, chanting “We’re Hitler’s boys” and “God bless Hitler.” At a meeting in Peekskill, New York, Robeson narrowly escaped with his life. He now found himself subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where, refusing to state whether he was a member of the Communist Party, he turned the tables on the interrogator who questioned why he had not stayed in the Soviet Union. “Because my father was a slave and my people died to build this country,” replied Robeson. “I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it.” Before long, his passport was conﬁscated (a move, astonishingly, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union). Robeson was now effectively imprisoned in his own country, where he found it virtually impossible to earn a living because of FBI threats to theaters that might have hired him. But he could not be silenced: from time to time he would go into a studio and broadcast talks and concerts that were relayed live to vast crowds across the ocean. Through all of this, he kept up his criticism of the government’s racial policies, but also, despite mounting evidence of the Terror in Russia under Stalin and the brutal suppression of the I The New York Review And then, as another of Sparrow’s interviewees, a distant relative of Robeson, tells him, when a black man has ﬁnally achieved something, a certain circumspection is necessary. As Robeson himself wrote with bitter anger in Here I Stand, his 1958 autobiography: Even when demonstrating that he is really an equal . . . [c]limb up if you can—but don’t act “uppity.” Always show that you are grateful. (Even if what you have gained has been wrested from unwilling powers, be sure to be grateful lest “they” take it all away.) Sparrow deploys this contrapuntal effect—this dialogue between past and present—brilliantly. He talks to the elegant British black actor Hugh Quarshie, a recent Othello for the Royal Shakespeare Company, about the challenges of the role, and speciﬁcally about what it might have felt like for Robeson to play the part, painfully conscious as he must have been that he was “the only black face in the room.” Sometimes, says the Oxford- educated Quarshie, he ﬁnds himself talking to some patron of the arts, expatiating on “Mozart and Buñuel, and then suddenly I wonder if what they are actually seeing are thick lips and a bone through my nose.” Sparrow never lets the reader forget how other, how fundamentally alien, black people have been made to feel in American society, and how recently unspeakable brutality and contempt were the norm. At the turn of the twentieth century, in 1901, for example, when Robeson was three years old, President Theodore Roosevelt had lunch at the White House with Booker T. Washington, the great educator and former slave, eliciting this comment from the North Carolina senator Benjamin Tillman: “The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they learn their place again.” This was the world into which Robeson was born. Wherever Robeson went, Sparrow goes too: to Harlem to get a sense of its all-too-brief Renaissance; to London to see the four-storied mansion in Hampsted, in which at the crest of Robeson’s ﬁrst wave of popularity he and his wife lived with ﬁve liveried servants; to Spain to see, as Sparrow’s chapter heading has it, “what Fascism was.” Going there in 1937 was a fearless, almost reckless, thing for Robeson and his wife to do, but he had to do it. He had to endorse what he felt was essentially the same ﬁght he was ﬁghting, the ﬁght for human dignity and freedom. The night before a big battle, he addressed the soldiers, and then he sang, sang himself hoarse, as the volunteers shouted out their requests; when he sang “I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” the grizzled commander of the unit, reported the radical journalist Charlotte Haldane, turned beetroot red with the effort of ﬁghting down the tears. Sparrow shows how this admittedly splendid actor, this marvelous singer, this charismatic speaker, had somehow evolved into something more: he had for many people become the embodiment of the global longing for a better world, a juster dispensation. In the radically polarized pre-war world, this passion- February 8, 2018 ate commitment led him, inevitably, to Moscow, where he felt that his visionary ideas had the best chance of becoming reality. Sparrow takes us to the National Hotel, opposite Red Square, where Robeson told Eisenstein, “Here, for the ﬁrst time in my life, I walk in full human dignity. You cannot imagine what that means to me as a Negro,” and sees with his own eyes why Robeson might have felt that, in the Moscow of 1935, he was in the promised land. Sparrow interviews a young black Russian TV personality now living in Moscow who has a more complicated story than Robeson’s to tell. Her grandmother, she tells him, was a white woman who had married a black man and come to Russia because they could scarcely hope to live together in America. “It didn’t work out as we hoped,” she said, “but the idea, the idea was right.” He pursues Robeson’s commitment to that elusive idea. Robeson, it is clear, knew that his dream was just that: that the reality was otherwise. But he had to maintain his faith, otherwise what else was there? The pressure on him from all sides, the expectation that he would somehow ﬁnd a path through all these contradictions, may have led to his attempted suicide in the Sovietsky Hotel in 1961: Sparrow surmises that it may have directly stemmed from the desperate requests from Robeson’s Russian friends to help them get out of the nightmarish world they found themselves in. “I am unworthy, I am unworthy,” Robeson gasped, over and over again, to the maid who discovered him with slashed wrists on the bathroom ﬂoor. Sparrow convincingly suggests that his descent into bipolarity and the subsequent attempts to kill himself (“in 1965 there were more half-hearted suicide attempts,” he reports laconically) were part of the anguish of his having failed to square his vision with reality. In an epilogue that must have been painful for Sparrow—a man of the left—to write, he acknowledges that Robeson’s endorsement of Stalin and Stalin’s successors, his refusal to acknowledge what had been done in Stalin’s name, is the tragedy of his life. And it is a tragedy for us, too, because Robeson had an almost unique combination of gifts that enabled him to articulate his cause in a way that spoke to all people. “Every artist, every scientist must decide NOW where he stands,” he had said when he returned from Spain. “He has no alternative. There is no standing above the conﬂict on Olympian heights.” As Sparrow describes it, it is a pitiful spectacle: this heroic ﬁgure, striving for dignity for all of his fellow human beings, robbed of his own, somehow bafﬂed and cheated by the world. Sparrow quotes a trade unionist who having met him said: “[Robeson] stands like a giant, yet makes you feel, without stooping to you, that you too are a giant and hold the power of making history in your hands as well.” To which Sparrow soberly adds: “The disintegration of the movements for which Paul had been such an icon had left behind a profound void from which we were yet to recover. We did not feel ourselves giants; we did not feel capable of making history.” History, he says, has become meaningless. “And a ﬁgure such as Paul became almost incomprehensible.” On the contrary. Sparrow has made perfect and haunting sense of him. New from University of Toronto Press Growing a Sustainable City? The Question of Urban Agriculture Gentrifier by John Joe Schlichtman, Jason Patch, and Marc Lamont Hill In this book Christina Rosan and Hamil Pearsall reveal how growing food in the city has become a symbol of urban economic revitalization, sustainability, and gentrification. ‘This book helps us shelve what we thought we knew about gentrification, and gives us instead a brutally honest reckoning with the ills, conveniences and virtues of gentrification.’ Michael Eric Dyson, author of ‘Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America’ In the Children’s Best Interests Recalling Recitation in the Americas by Christina D. Rosan and Hamil Pearsall Unaccompanied Children in AmericanOccupied Germany, 1945-1952 Borderless Curriculum, Performance Poetry, and Reading by Lynne Taylor by Janet Neigh This book delves deep into the debates, struggles, and policies of refugee relief agencies that shaped the lives of over 40,000 unaccompanied and displaced children in postwar Europe. Recalling Recitation in the Americas explores the far-reaching effects of poetry memorization and recitation on the development of modern performance poetry in North America. utorontopress.com 11 Female Trouble Annette Gordon-Reed The title of Hillary Clinton’s memoir of her unsuccessful campaign for the presidency, What Happened, has no question mark at the end, although many people around the world might reﬂexively add one. Clinton’s defeat surprised—stunned—many, including, as is clear from her recollections, Clinton herself. The majority of polls of the likely electorate indicated that she was headed for a nearly certain win, although her prolonged struggle for the Democratic nomination against a wildhaired, septuagenarian socialist from Vermont was a blinking sign of danger ahead. A signiﬁcant number of voters were in no mood to play it safe, and the safe choice was what Clinton far too conﬁdently offered in both the primaries and the general election. It was not only the polls that led observers astray; their instincts did as well. Many, within and outside the country, had trouble imagining that the American people would elect to the most important position in the land, perhaps in the world, a man who had never been elected or appointed to public ofﬁce, nor sworn an oath of allegiance to the United States as a member of the armed services, nor shown any serious interest in public service. From the time candidates can be said to have openly campaigned for the ofﬁce, those aspiring to the presidency have touted their possession of these extraconstitutionally mandated qualiﬁcations, and all presidents before Donald Trump had at least one of them. They are “extraconstitutional” because none is a requirement for the presidency. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution lists only three qualiﬁcations relevant to modern times: that the president be a “natural born citizen,” at least thirtyﬁve years old, and a resident “within the United States” for fourteen years. The historian Jack Rakove observed that the American presidency “posed the single most perplexing problem of institutional design” that the framers faced. “The task of establishing a national executive on republican principles,” Rakove says, “puzzled” them.1 What kind of executive would be suitable in post-Revolutionary America? What type and amount of power should the Constitution give to a person who, in the absence of a vigilant citizenry, might begin to act like a king? And what if the people came to love the president so much that they did not mind—perhaps even welcomed—deviations from republican principles? Despite these reservations, it was understood by the framers that the president had to be a powerful ﬁgure who could symbolize the nation. Just what that meant has been contested. Rakove’s notion that the substance of 1 Jack N. Rakove, “The Political Presidency: Discovery and Invention,” in The Revolution of 1800: Democracy, Race, and the New Republic, edited by James J. Horn, Jan Ellen Lewis, and Peter S. Onuf (University Press of Virginia, 2002). 12 the presidency had to be “discovered” and “invented” seems exactly right; and the process of discovery has continued, with varying results, over the years. While adhering to the Constitution’s minimal qualiﬁcations, American voters have always had the ability to choose a president who did not ﬁt the norms as they have evolved. They did that in spectacular fashion when they elected a black man, Barack Obama, to the presidency in 2008. It had long for women holding ofﬁce, appointive or elective. Indeed, when Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin noticed a shortage of individuals qualiﬁed to hold ofﬁce during the second Jefferson administration, he suggested that the president consider hiring women. President Jefferson, taking his role as the symbol of the nation to heart, replied, “The appointment of a woman to ofﬁce is an innovation for which the public is not prepared, nor am I.” As things turned out, cultural understandings about the electoral process in relation to gender were more powThomas Dworzak/Magnum Photos What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Simon and Schuster, 494 pp., $30.00 Hillary Clinton on television during her ﬁrst presidential debate with Donald Trump, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, September 2016 been assumed by most Americans that being white was a requirement for the highest ofﬁce in the land. It would likely never have occurred to the men who wrote the Constitution that they had to specify that the person at the head of the government of the United States—and the symbol of the nation— was to be white. This would have been a deeply felt cultural understanding, and cultural understandings can have signiﬁcantly more force and staying power than rules of law. The framers also likely never thought to state explicitly that the president had to be a man. As former British subjects, they knew it was possible for a woman to head the nation as queen, when the king had no male heirs. That did not happen very often, however, and the American Revolution got rid of monarchy and the possibility of queens. Under the new Constitution, presidents would be elected by qualiﬁed voters, who would almost invariably be male. For a brief period in the early American republic, New Jersey, in the words of the historian Jan Ellen Lewis, made the “lonely” decision to allow single, propertied women to vote. It was the sole state in which this happened.2 Even if there was a narrow and short-lived precedent for women voting, there is no evidence of enthusiasm erful than understandings about it in relation to race. Much to the chagrin— rage, actually—of many white female abolitionists and women’s rights activists, the Fifteenth Amendment gave newly freed black men the right to vote in 1870. Although cultural understandings that promoted white supremacy interfered with the law for decades (and continue today in the form of voter suppression), black men voted and held ofﬁce during Reconstruction—Mississippi had two black senators, Louisiana for a short time had a black governor, and “an estimated 2,000 black men served in some kind of elective ofﬁce during that era.”3 It was not until 1916 that the ﬁrst woman, Jeannette Rankin, was elected to national ofﬁce. Rankin was elected to Congress from Montana. Women in Wyoming were given the right to vote in 1869. But women of all races had to wait until the twentieth century, with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, for the constitutional right to vote. The question of who would go ﬁrst in the march of national electoral progress—black men or white women—was asked again during the 2008 presidential primary contest between Obama and Clinton. The answer was the same as it had been in the 1860s. 2 Clinton writes in the book’s ﬁrst line, Jan Ellen Lewis, “Rethinking Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey, 1776–1807,” Rutgers University Law Review, Vol. 63, No. 3 (Spring 2011), pp. 1017, 1018. “This is my story of what happened,” 3 Eric Foner, “Rooted in Reconstruction,” The Nation, November 3, 2008. acknowledging that her account of the 2016 election will inevitably be subjective. What Happened is her third memoir, and with it she deﬁes the conventional wisdom that would suggest waiting at least a few years after important events to reﬂect upon them, with an eye toward gaining the perspective that distance is said to bring. Clinton’s choice to write this book now, however, seems ﬁtting because nearly everything about the election of 2016 was unconventional. It brought forth the ﬁrst woman to mount a serious run for the presidency, a rival candidate strange for the reasons listed above (and many more not listed), and the ﬁrst inkling that a new form of technology-based espionage had been deployed in an effort to shape the outcome of a US election. Historians can beneﬁt from Clinton’s near- contemporaneous consideration of each of these issues. They will likely ﬁnd her quick ﬁrst draft engaging (when she does not lapse into campaign-speak), witty, and useful, even as they take note of her natural self-interest in writing about these matters. What Happened is necessarily about gender. Clinton’s femaleness mattered so much to her candidacy—how she ran, what she could and could not do, the expectations people had of her, and the expectations she had for herself—that the subject suffuses even the chapters in which gender is not explicitly addressed. It could hardly be otherwise, given the history of women and electoral politics. In “On Being a Woman in Politics,” the ﬁrst chapter of “Sisterhood,” one of the book’s six thematic sections, Clinton vents. “In these pages, I put to paper years’ worth of frustration about the tightrope that I and other women have had to walk in order to participate in American politics.” There was a basic problem of which she was well aware: In short, it’s not customary to have women lead or even to engage in the rough-and-tumble of politics. It’s not normal—not yet. So when it happens, it often doesn’t feel quite right. That may sound vague, but it’s potent. People cast their votes based on feelings like that all the time. Becoming the president of the United States, Clinton believes, is a particularly difﬁcult goal for a woman to achieve. “Women leaders around the world,” she observes, “tend to rise higher in parliamentary systems, rather than presidential ones like ours.” She may have been inﬂuenced by the political scientist Farida Jalalzai, whom the Atlantic Monthly commentator Uri Friedman quoted when he wrote, in a postmortem of Clinton’s campaign, that women “are more likely to serve as prime ministers than as presidents, perhaps because in parliamentary systems women can ‘bypass a potentially biased general public and be chosen by the party.’” Friedman goes on to suggest that “to win a national vote in a presidential system, women must contend more directly, and on a larger scale, with sexism and The New York Review stereotypes.”4 It should not surprise us that requiring candidates to run as potential symbols of the nation would place women at a disadvantage. The person at the head of the ticket undoubtedly matters in both parliamentary and presidential systems. But the person matters more in a system that encourages voters to ﬁxate on their instinctive responses to a candidate’s personality, rather than on support for a party and its overall policies. This effect is ampliﬁed by the media’s tendency to concentrate on personalities over policies, aping the convention that governs Hollywood’s treatment of celebrities: a star’s ineffable qualities are more important than his or her competence as an actor. In such a system, the candidate must be acceptable—likable—across a wide swath of the voting population, 5 and capable, in Clinton’s words, of “speaking to large crowds, looking commanding on camera, dominating in debates, galvanizing mass movements, and in America, raising a billion dollars.” It is an enterprise based on seduction. Women can obviously do these things, but how are they received when they do them effectively? A woman operating in the US’s political system, as Jalalzai suggests, will necessarily encounter age- old understandings about femininity and masculinity that have remained in place to a greater extent than many care to acknowledge, and that remain undisturbed by ﬁrsthand experiences with the candidate. On the other hand, Clinton says, in parliamentary systems prime ministers are chosen by their colleagues—people they’ve worked with day in and day out, who’ve seen ﬁrsthand their talents and competence. It’s a system designed to reward women’s skill at building relationships, which requires emotional labor. One suspects that Clinton is right in suggesting that in another place, in another system, her qualities would have made her the head of her party and, ultimately, prime minister. Even though it was not the only reason she did not become president—the media’s excessive focus on her e-mails and James Comey’s bizarre and devastating actions in the week before the election both did their part—it matters greatly to considerations of Clinton’s loss in 2016 that the United States has never elected a woman president, and it is naive to think otherwise. History and culture tell us why no woman has ever occupied this ofﬁce, and why putting a woman in the country’s ultimate position of power might have been difﬁcult for a good number of men and women voters to do—especially for many whites after the culture-shaking experience of having had a black president. It is not just the presidency. According to statistics compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 2017, the United States “lags far behind many countries” in women’s overall participation in the national government, ranking 101st out of 193. The US’s lackluster record in electing women to national public ofﬁce must be acknowledged, not just for what it says about Clinton, but for what it says about the likely experiences and fortunes of women who run for president in the future. Even had Clinton won it would be appropriate to pay attention to her treatment as a female candidate. Talking about the part gender played in her defeat is not to make excuses, as has been charged whenever the harmful double standards applied to her are pointed out. And it is far too easy to say that Clinton was simply the “wrong” woman, a tactic often employed to short- circuit discussions about gender and the election. There is no reason to doubt that any woman who had been the ﬁrst to run for president with the backing of a major party would have encountered some of the gender-based scrutiny Clinton faced, and that female candidates in the immediate future will shoulder some of it as well. The journalist Ezra Klein has observed that Elizabeth Warren, a politician very different from Clinton in style, temperament, and political orientation, has begun to receive the same kind of gender-based treatment that Clinton faced. “We routinely underestimate,” he wrote this past fall, what it means that our political system has been constructed and interpreted by men, that our expectations for politicians have been set by generations of male politicians and shaped by generations of male pundits.6 Another journalist, Jill Filipovic, even more adamantly linked the recent allegations of sexual misconduct by various media ﬁgures to the presidential campaign: Many of the male journalists who stand accused of sexual harassment were on the forefront of covering the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Matt Lauer interviewed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump in an ofﬁcial “commander-in- chief forum” for NBC. He notoriously peppered and interrupted Mrs. Clinton with cold, aggressive, condescending questions hyper-focused on her emails, only to pitch softballs at Mr. Trump and treat him with gentle collegiality a half-hour later. Mark Halperin and Charlie Rose set much of the televised political discourse on the race, interviewing other pundits, opining themselves and obsessing over the electoral play-by-play. Mr. Rose, after the election, took a tone similar to Mr. Lauer’s with Mrs. Clinton—talking down to her, interrupting her, portraying her as untrustworthy. Mr. Halperin was a harsh critic of Mrs. Clinton, painting her as ruthless and corrupt, while going surprisingly easy on Mr. Trump. The reporter Glenn 4 Uri Friedman, “Why It’s So Hard for a Woman to Become President of the United States,” The Atlantic, November 12, 2016. 5 Clinton won the popular vote by nearly three million; it was our creaky eighteenth-century constitutional structure that tripped her up. But the stubborn chosen narrative, set in stone back in the 1990s, was that, unlike her husband, Hillary Clinton was not that most prized thing in American politics: likable. February 8, 2018 6 Ezra Klein, “Political Journalism Has Been Profoundly Shaped by Men Like Leon Wieseltier and Mark Halperin and It Matters,” Vox, October 27, 2017. 23 TANIA BRUGUERA UNTITLED (HAVANA, 2000) THROUGH MAR 11 ONLY Tania Bruguera. Untitled (Havana, 2000). 2000. Sugar cane bagasse, video, and live performance. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.The Modern Women’s Fund and Committee on Media and Performance Art Funds. © 2018 Tania Bruguera. Installation view, VII Bienal de La Habana, 2000. Photo: Casey Stoll 11 West 53 Street, Manhattan 13 Thrush, currently on leave from The New York Times because of sexual harassment allegations, covered Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign when he was at Newsday and continued to write about her over the next eight years for Politico.7 These revelations, which also reignited stories of sexual misconduct by Bill Clinton and by the current president, have made it clear that genderbased negative attitudes and actions do not just affect the individual women at whom they are aimed; they impede the progress of women overall. The misogyny of major participants who helped shape the 2016 election must be a part of any serious historical analysis of what happened in the campaign. O ther factors—her name, her personal history, and her campaign strategy—also worked against Clinton. Voters had every right to chafe at the notion that in a nation so large and blessed with talent as the United States, two of the people who emerged as likely standard-bearers for each party were named Bush and Clinton. Jeb Bush, scion of the Bush dynasty, was quickly dispatched and Hillary Clinton was left to bear the brunt of the public’s hostility toward establishment candidates. She had served four years in the Obama administration in 7 Jill Filipovic, “The Men Who Cost Clinton the Election,” The New York Times, December 1, 2017. Glenn Thrush has since been reinstated at the Times, but not on the White House beat. the high-proﬁle position of secretary of state and been subjected to harsh criticism for foreign policy blunders, both real and imagined. Many disaffected Democrats felt that she was too close to Wall Street because she took corporate money and gave speeches before ﬁnancial institutions, some of whose members now run the ﬁnancial system of the United States. In the eyes of a crucial number of voters, Clinton symbolized a hated neoliberal status quo. The status quo for many Americans—leaving aside those who the journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates persuasively argues wanted to vote for a white man to uphold white supremacy8 —was one of economic stagnation, generalized anxiety about the future, and anguish over the loss of young people to opioid addiction in depressed areas of the nation. Bernie Sanders, whom Clinton describes as “outraged about everything,” and Donald Trump, who knew how to develop themes on social media better than all of his competitors, appealed to people who believed that the country’s future depended on sharply altering the course of history. And then there was Clinton’s image of herself as the meticulous, responsible choice. “Sweating the Details,” the title of one chapter, is important in politics, but an inspirational and easily digestible story is more effective in a campaign than seeking to impress with facts and details, as much as we might wish otherwise. As Mario Cuomo famously said, politicians “campaign in poetry” but “govern in prose.” Only if 8 Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The First White President,” The Atlantic, October 2017. their poetry is good enough will they be allowed to govern. Perhaps the most revealing passage in What Happened is Clinton’s statement that she has “always identiﬁed with the older brother” in the parable of the Prodigal Son, an admission that highlights both her Methodism, something she played down during most of her political career, and her sense of who she is and how she has been seen: Indeed. How grating it must have been after all of her hard work for the Democratic Party, including prodigious fundraising, to be challenged by Sanders, who after decades in politics joined the party only during the primaries. How grating it must have been, after her dutiful care and attention to policy questions, to lose the presidency to Trump, who disdained discussing policy at any level other than the most general. Dutifulness faltered in the face of passion: In my more introspective moments, I do recognize that my campaign in 2016 lacked the sense of urgency and passion that I remember from ’92. Back then, we were on a mission to revitalize the Democratic Party and bring our country back from twelve years of trickle- down economics that exploded the deﬁcit, hurt the middle class, and increased poverty. In 2016, we were seeking to build on eight years of progress. For a change-hungry electorate, it was a harder sell. More hopeful voters bought it; more pessimistic voters didn’t. F She is said to have murdered someone— her husband’s deputy White House counsel, Vincent Foster—and ordered the executions of others. She has been pronounced “the Antichrist.” Clinton ad- James Siena Accordion bound book with 36 woodblock prints, 18 x 14 1/2 inches, Ed. 20 hirambutler.com 14 Historically, women haven’t been the ones writing the laws or leading the armies and navies. We’re not the ones up there behind the podium rallying crowds, uniting the country. It’s men who lead. It’s men who speak. It’s men who represent us to the world and even to ourselves. That’s been the case for so long that it has inﬁltrated our deepest thoughts. I suspect that for many of us—more than we might think— it feels somehow off to picture a woman President sitting in the Oval Ofﬁce or the Situation Room. It’s discordant to tune into a political rally and hear a woman’s voice booming (“screaming,” “screeching”) forth. Even the simple act of a woman standing up and speaking to a crowd is relatively new. Think about it: we know of only a handful of speeches by women before the latter half of the twentieth century, and those tend to be by women in extreme and desperate situations. Joan of Arc said a lot of interesting things before they burned her at the stake.9 How grating it must have been to see his wayward sibling welcomed back as if nothing had happened. It must have felt as if all his years of hard work and dutiful care meant nothing at all. inally, there is the schizophrenic response to Clinton. Regularly hailed as one of the most admired women in the world, she has also been the object of an intense, unremitting hatred that, for some, appears to know no boundaries. 6HTXHQFH2QH, 2009–10 And here was this woman, well past the age of visibility, insisting on being seen and heard! Journalists spoke of hating to hear the sound of her voice. Clinton notes this reaction to her use of the most primary means by which politicians communicate—speaking: dresses both of these ways in which she has been viewed, and is clearly more perplexed by the hatred than the admiration. What person other than one in the grip of crippling self- doubt—which Clinton is deﬁnitely not—thinks herself or himself worthy of deep hatred? One could have been implacably opposed to everything Clinton stands for and have worked overtime to ensure her defeat in this past election and in 2008 without actually hating her. Something more is clearly going on here, and it is not all about her shortcomings as a politician and a person. Can hating Hillary Clinton as a politician be separated from hating Hillary Clinton as a woman? More speciﬁcally, in how many minds were those thoughts separated during the 2016 election? There is no question that a segment of the population, male and female, hates and disrespects women and ﬁnds it hard to take them seriously when they move outside of traditional roles. This is doubly true of women past a certain age, who are supposed to become invisible. One suspects that this kneejerk and, in most cases, unconscious animosity added an extra measure of feeling to whatever legitimate policy disputes many observers had with Clinton—hate topped off principled opposition. And this hate seemed to spread over the course of the campaign to voters and commentators who would not, perhaps, have come to hate Clinton on their own. Because human beings are social creatures, expressions of contempt are hard to contain in just one individual. People who do not feel it may try to understand why others have had such an extreme and personally debilitating response. Eventually, they may come to assume that the object of hatred must deserve it. Clinton ends her memoir at the place where her public life began: Wellesley College, where she famously gave an address at her commencement in 1969. Listening to the 2017 Wellesley student speaker, Tala Nashawati, Clinton is captivated by the young woman’s comparison of herself and her classmates to “ﬂawed emeralds” that are often “better than ﬂawless ones” because their “ﬂaws show authenticity and character.” Authenticity and character are two attributes that Clinton’s most ardent detractors insist she does not possess, deﬁning her solely in terms of her ﬂaws. Her joy at Nashawati’s reclamation of the word “ﬂaw” is touching and instructive. After all this time, Clinton feels the need to make the case that she is, after all, a human being. 9 During her UK book tour, Clinton discussed the campaign in a public conversation with the historian Mary Beard, whose most recent book, Women and Power: A Manifesto (Liveright, 2017), discusses, among other things, the millennia- old hostility toward women speaking in public. See “Hillary Clinton Meets Mary Beard: ‘I Would Love to Have Told Trump: “Back Off, You Creep,”’” The Guardian, December 2, 2017. The New York Review Death in Trieste Neal Ascherson In a museum of war, a ﬁre breaks out— or just possibly is ignited by someone— and kills the museum’s creator. This is not surprising. He sleeps among his exhibits in a wooden cofﬁn, wearing a samurai mask and a Prussian spiked helmet, and he smokes abundantly, ﬂicking the butts out of the cofﬁn as he grows drowsy. Although he appears and reappears throughout Blameless, this ﬁgure is not exactly a protagonist. He is certainly heroic, a human bundle of generous actions and outbursts to which most episodes in this novel refer. Claudio Magris doesn’t give him a name. But in an author’s note at the end, he lets it be known that he had a real person in mind: also true that the Germans allowed him to choose an example of each of their weapons before they handed them over to the New Zealanders. This is a war museum like no other. The black iron hulks of siege guns are Futurist-sculptural; the intricacies of a rangeﬁnder or the feed system of early machine guns are shown as masterpieces of human ingenuity. Beside them are diagrams of mortality and money. The Triple Entente and its allies called 48.1 million men to arms in World War I and lost 5.6 million dead to do is let time ﬂow backward and everything is reclaimed.” The “ﬁrebreathing objects in the Museum” will become nightmares of a troubled, dispelled dream, a ﬁlm projected backward, beginning with death and destruction and ending with people . . . ultimately happy and smiling, to make it clear that death, every death, comes before life, not after. At ﬁrst, it seems curious that Magris does not give a name to this ﬁgure who is and isn’t Diego de Henriquez. But Danilo De Marco Blameless by Claudio Magris, translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel. Yale University Press, 349 pp., $26.00 Professor Diego de Henriquez, a brilliant, uncompromising Triestine of vast culture and ﬁerce passion, who dedicated his entire life (1909–1974) to collecting weapons and military materiel of all types to build an original, overﬂowing War Museum that might, by displaying those instruments of death, lead to peace. Not because the weapons were ugly. On the contrary, de Henriquez wanted to show their awful beauty and superb technical ingenuity, alongside the astronomical sums of money that went into their construction rather than into making people healthier or wiser. He did indeed die in a ﬁre, “in circumstances never wholly clariﬁed,” after he had spent all his own money on acquisitions and faced impossible debts. But today, after a generation of neglect, the city of Trieste has taken over his scattered collection and housed part of it— death engines of the Great War, which began for Italy in 1915—in a spacious new museum on the Via Cumano. The museum tries to be faithful to its founder, its “coltissimo e bizarro ricercatore.” This most cultured and bizarre researcher must have been impossible to work with, but he was also impossible to resist. Blameless tells anecdotes about him so extravagant that I was sure Magris had made them up, but on a visit to the museum in Trieste I found that almost all of them were true. De Henriquez did beg weaponry from armies on the battleﬁeld, even before World War II was over. He cajoled them from the Germans, from Italian arms factories, from the Yugoslav partisan armies that brieﬂy occupied Trieste in 1945, from the Allied military government that succeeded them, from local councils anxious to be rid of the smoking scrap metal blocking their streets. It’s not ﬁction but historical truth that, on his own, de Henriquez negotiated the ﬁnal surrender of Trieste’s German garrison to a New Zealand tank brigade. And General Hermann Linkenbach, the German commander, really did give him his own braided and beribboned tunic in gratitude (de Henriquez used to wear it on proud occasions). It’s February 8, 2018 Claudio Magris at Caffè San Marco, Trieste, 2000; photograph by Danilo De Marco (the British share of that achievement alone cost $49 billion). Beyond the weaponry, to one side, are the results of all that beauty and inventiveness and investment: photographs of the torn, headless, helpless bodies of young men. The thoughts of Diego de Henriquez are on the walls. Some, like “War=Death, Peace=Life,” once the slogan over the entrance, are straightforward enough. Others, concerning his “International Center for the Abolition of Wars and for Universal Brotherhood,” are more challenging. If there were such a thing as a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize, de Henriquez should obviously win one. But then it’s not quite clear that he believed in being posthumous, because he did not quite believe in death. He called his museum “the ﬁrst center in the world for the reading and modiﬁcation of the past, and of the future through the inversion of time as a consequence of loosening space-time in order to abolish evil and death.” What might this mean? The Trieste authorities have stuck the proclamation up on the museum wall but don’t presume to decrypt it. They are spending much time and money and imagination on behalf of this man; they describe him, beautifully, as “the prisoner of a dream we now wish to make our own.” But for Magris those words begin to glow with signiﬁcance. A novelist knows all about loosening spacetime and inverting the ﬂow of time to run backward. Magris makes his de Henriquez character declare that “death does not exist . . . it is merely an inverter, a machine that simply reverses life like a glove, but all you have with this author the namelessness is not accidental. Magris doesn’t do character, or not in the conventional way. Many other people in Blameless have names, and yet the reader is allowed little sense of what they are like beyond the odd mention that they have beautiful hands or are putting on weight. There are detailed accounts of what they do and—in long, elaborate ﬂights of discussion and imagery—of what their experiences do to them. We learn a lot about them, but there’s no attempt to set up what most ﬁction sets up: the illusion of recognizing a real person. Perhaps Magris has in mind Muriel Spark’s darkly theological warning that the novelist commits the worst of mortal sins against God by creating human beings without the capacity to redeem themselves. Blameless revolves around the city of Trieste, the town of Italo Svevo and James Joyce to which Magris also belongs. Trieste is a small but ancient Adriatic city, liminal between several worlds. It was once the main port and naval base of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; today, it perches on a spit of Italian territory fenced in between the Slovenian frontier and the sea. From its Habsburg, Slav, and Italian background grew a diverse population with a gift for backing swaggering losers and then for adjusting loyalty to the next conqueror. The main action of the novel takes place between the Fascist 1930s and the city’s liberation in 1945, concentrating on the years of German-inﬂicted terror at the end of the war. After Italy’s surrender in 1943, the northern shores of the Adriatic, including Trieste, were directly annexed to the Reich and occupied by the Wehrmacht and the SS, which established the only Nazi concentration camp on Italian soil. The Risiera in Trieste was an old brick rice mill, today a museum. There—while most Italians looked the other way—German and Ukrainian guards murdered some three to ﬁve thousand people by gas chamber, ﬁring squad, and wooden bludgeon. Their victims were members of the Italian resistance, civilian hostages, Slovene nationalists and partisans, and patients from mental hospitals. (That is not counting the Jews of Trieste and the Veneto. The Risiera men killed only a few dozen of them, herding the rest into trains bound for Auschwitz-Birkenau.) Human ash and bone from the crematorium ovens were dumped in an inlet of the Adriatic, where they still coat the sea ﬂoor. In that period, many important people in Trieste behaved in ways they later preferred to forget. Postwar ofﬁcialdom saw their point. The Italian title of this novel is Non luogo a procedere (No Grounds for Further Proceedings): this was the welcome conclusion of the magistrate appointed to investigate allegations of collaboration with mass murder at the Risiera. The recent past had not only to be forgotten. It was necessary to forget that you had even forgotten. As Magris puts it, “not . . . oblivion, but . . . oblivion of oblivion.” In the novel, that is exactly what the museum founder tries to reverse at the end of his life. As the real de Henriquez did, he goes to the Risiera as soon as the slaughterers have left and ﬁnds the walls covered with thousands of scratched and scribbled grafﬁti, the last messages of those who knew they were about to die and—often enough—the names of those individuals in Trieste who denounced them to the Gestapo. He copies all the inscriptions down in notebooks, partly as an “inverter” to bring the dead back to life and partly because he anticipates what did in reality happen. Someone in the Trieste police, whose leaders had collaborated comfortably with the Nazis, had the walls rapidly and thickly whitewashed. The oblivion of oblivion. But the notebooks remained. In the novel, they disappear after the curator’s death in further “circumstances never wholly clariﬁed.” In the Via Cumano museum, though, all de Henriquez’s notebooks are preserved: 287 volumes, containing 38,000 pages of close, neat writing and drawings. (Some of the prisoners drew faces of women and portraits of their SS guards on those walls, and he copied them as well as the grafﬁti.) It’s an attractive trait in Magris that he so obviously can’t resist a good story. He seems to collect them from all over the world, sometimes from neglected archives or forgotten books, sometimes from contemporary media or chance conversations. The peculiar structure of Blameless reﬂects this: a string on which powerful stories hang loosely threaded like beads. The string is the tale of the museum founder, his 15 T he courtship and contentment of Luisa’s father and mother are beautifully told by Magris. They are both, as he puts it, singing “the songs of Zion in a 16 strange land,” and yet they do not allow grim events—his sister is set upon in a London pub because of her skin color and kicked to death—to dismay them. He explains to his small daughter that she is named after another Luisa. This is the legendary Luisa de Navarrete, a freed slave who was abducted from Puerto Rico in the 1580s by Carib raiders from Dominica. Here begins another elaborate Magris “true story,” all about ambiguous identity and cover-up. Over years of exile, this Luisa assimilates with her captors and adopts the ways of the Kalinago tribe, becoming the passionate mistress of their chief. But on her return, she is arraigned and threatened with death as a pagan witch; to survive, she invents a narrative of ceaseless torment by her kidnappers and rape by FriĀ reappears later in Blameless. But now it is the 1940s, and he is a sick old man dying among his rotting cactus collection in Prague during the Nazi occupation. This allows Magris to recount at length the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the merciless Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, and the tragedies that followed. First, the heroic death of his killers, cornered in a Prague church crypt, and then—following Hitler’s order to “shoot ten thousand Czechs” in retribution for Heydrich’s death—the extermination of the village of Lidice and its inhabitants. The only act of resistance by FriĀ has been to put some cacti behind the benches in the Waldstejn Gardens, “so that German soldiers, when they go there with Czech girls, might maybe get pricked in the ass.” He expires fancy- ﬁrst miracle of healing. But meanwhile, the two journalists who had ﬁrst broken the Schimek story, an Austrian and a German, did more research and developed doubts. There was no evidence that Schimek had refused to shoot anyone. But there was evidence that he had deserted and had been caught by the Feldgendarmerie in a Polish street, dressed in civilian clothes with a loaf of bread under his arm. A mudslide of hate fell on the researchers who had changed the story. They were sullying a hero of faith, truth, and love; they were cynical intellectuals, probably Communists, almost certainly Jews. But in the Trieste museum, Luisa still wonders which version is true. Perhaps, she reﬂects, truth is a sort of landmine that Danilo Faita/Diego de Henriquez War Museum for Peace, Trieste visions and passions, and his end. But the beads? After twice reading Blameless, it was still not easy to see how these stories— in themselves often marvelously vivid and ironic—relate in any direct way to the narrative of the war museum and its obsessed director. True, they deal very broadly with some of his themes: deceit and cover-ups, the ghastly ambiguities of war and of those chosen to be its heroes, the sense of exile that never leaves those who have been persecuted because of their race, the loneliness of difﬁcult individuals driven by the need to ﬁnd and publish the truth. But the reader may come to feel—and I think that it should be a warmly sympathetic feeling—that Magris was bursting with stories simply too good not to tell and dropped them into the mix, trusting, as writers do, that they would somehow work their way into being (those boring words) “appropriate” or “relevant.” Luisa’s story is not like the others, in that it recurs in installments throughout the novel, in a sort of counterpoint to the tale of the tragic collector himself. She is introduced at the beginning as an administrator, appointed by the city to plan the new museum and bring together all the weapons and vehicles and papers that have lain scattered in hangars and sheds and backyards during the decades since the collector’s death. But her own life, her own past, turns out to be a journey across familiar Magris themes: the cover-up of evil and the transit between identities. Luisa is the daughter of two racial outsiders who had a brief, loving marriage. Her father was a black American soldier from a Creole- Caribbean background who was posted to Trieste. Her mother, Sara, was a Triestine Jew, saved as a child because her own mother, Deborah, hid her with a Slovene family on the Istrian coast. Returning after the war, Sara ﬁnds that her beloved mother had been seized on the street and sent to her death, along with most of the other Jewish families and those who tried to save them. But as Sara grows up, she realizes that there is embarrassed evasion around her mother’s fate. Something terrible is being covered up. There are sudden silences, awkward changes of subject, and then, ﬁnally, a screaming outburst from a survivor. How was it that, a few days after Deborah’s arrest, the Germans raided the house where she had been hiding and took away to their deaths all the other Jews there and the Italian lawyer who had been sheltering them? Nothing is certain. But Sara’s life enters a long darkness: “How she envied that gift that seemed given to others, to so many others, to almost everybody; the ability to forget, or at least to live as though you had forgotten.” The darkness is lifted by her happy marriage to the American soldier—two people whose races leave them with an inescapable sense of exile—but falls again when he is killed in an airﬁeld accident. Luisa, their daughter, is doubly bereaved. Their very happiness excluded her, and as a young woman she knows that she will never ﬁnd her own way into such certainty of love. Diego de Henriquez with a German Marder tank destroyer that he acquired in 1946; the photograph was taken in Trebiciano, near Trieste, in 1971 their chief, and pleads—dishonestly but successfully—that all she has ever wanted is to be a Christian “good wife.” Now her namesake, in her museum ofﬁce, is wondering where to display a Chamacoco war club from Paraguay. This diverts the novel off into the long, tangled story of Alberto Vojtėk FriĀ, the historical Czech botanist and ethnologist who assembled the world’s ﬁrst serious collection of cacti and gave his heart to the Chamacoco people in the Paraguay rainforest. FriĀ brought one of them, the princely Cherwuish, to Prague, where he became a fashionable sensation—this was in 1908— and was whirled from writers’ cafés to avant-garde theaters without really understanding the voyeurism of his audiences. Jaroslav Hašek met the original Cherwuish, now nicknamed “ÿerviĀek,” and found his Prague adventures entertaining enough to write a story about him. But in Magris’s version, at least, ÿerviĀek’s bewilderment began to turn violent and he ran increasingly wild, ﬁghting the Habsburg gendarmerie in the street and leaping onstage at a Yiddish theater performance that he mistook for a tribal dance party. FriĀ eventually took him home to South America. In the novel, Cherwuish vanishes in the carnage of the Chaco War, the meaningless struggle between Bolivia and Paraguay that Magris describes in pages of horrible eloquence, war’s madness as seen through the doomed Cherwuish’s imagination. (Historically, Cherwuish took no part in that war, but lived on for many years as an elder respected for his strange experiences.) ing that he is changing into one of his own cacti, which in turn resembles Hitler’s face: “prickly spines, the Führer’s mustache—I can make him die, the cancer is spreading and has completely invaded me, I am him and I’ll let myself die, and him with me.” Another ambiguous death that is either heroic or heroically unheroic, depending on which you want to believe, is that of Private Otto Schimek, a young Austrian conscript in World War II. The excuse that Magris ﬁnds for retelling this rather well-known mystery is the sight of a German MP-44 machine pistol hanging on the museum wall. This represents either the gun that young Schimek laid down when he refused to join a ﬁring squad to shoot Polish hostages or the gun that he threw away when he decided to become a deserter. Whichever he did, he was shot for it in November 1944 by Feldgendarmerie military police, near the village of Machowa in Nazi-occupied Poland. That much is agreed. So is the fact that Schimek thought the war was wrong and un-Christian. Nothing else is certain. Magris skillfully ventriloquizes the voices of journalists, historians, priests, and politicians in the miserable controversy that broke out later. Church and state in Poland, supported by Pope John Paul II and the Austrian chancellor, set about recruiting him as a noble martyr for peace and Poland and a candidate for sainthood. Pilgrimages to his grave began (it has since been found to contain someone quite different), and soon there was a begins by destroying others and ends up destroying itself; it knocks the pedestal out from under an idol, and crash-bang! the idol falls, but then it smashes the plinth on which the pedestal rested . . . until the ground all around caves in and even the truth is sent ﬂying. And Magris makes one of the researchers say that instead of photographs and begonias, they should just place a nice big loaf of bread on that grave in Machowa. . . . He deserves it, the glory, because of that loaf. . . . Real, tangible, something you can chew and put in your mouth or maybe even give a piece to another starving man, never mind plaques and songs and medals, bread is bread. It was inevitable that Magris—a pied piper of ﬁction—would lead his mesmerized readers a few miles out of Trieste to the white walls of Miramare. The little palace leaning over the sea was built in 1856 by Archduke Maximilian, brother of the Austrian emperor, for his young bride Charlotte, daughter of the king of the Belgians. But it is Maximilian’s pathetic decision to become emperor of Mexico, only to die before a ﬁring squad at Querétaro, that Magris wants to imagine. That, and Maximilian’s discovery of a new species of bedbug, which opens into a witty, leisurely Magrisian disquisition on bedbugs and their remarkable agility. Mention of the castle then evokes another “memory”: a drunken orgy in April 1945 as the Nazi and Fascist rulers of Trieste, knowing that defeat and retribution are only days away, celebrate Hitler’s last birthday at Miramare. There are many other anecdotes rattling or jingling on this long, heavy necklace of a book. Sometimes Claudio Magris’s prose can seem self-indulgent, overweight with its endless aphorisms and recondite allusions. But in the end Blameless, wonderfully translated by Anne Milano Appel, succeeds as a prayer for mercy and reason in a world of torturers and whitewashers. And Magris can, when he wants, write with the economy of a master artist. Here is Luisa’s mother, locked into her own despair: Life is out there, what you catch sight of when the windshield wiper momentarily clears the glass obscured by rain or snow. If you can wait for epiphanies in this novel, you will ﬁnd them. The New York Review The Pencil of Nature Andrew Motion Andy Goldsworthy Ephemeral Works 2004 –2014 by Andy Goldsworthy. Abrams, 367 pp., $85.00 Projects by Andy Goldsworthy. Abrams, 367 pp., $85.00 February 8, 2018 It’s easy to see why critics in the past have sometimes described this ﬂurry of busyness as childlike: there’s a youthful restlessness about it, and also a primitive pleasure in traipsing off into the wilds and just mucking about. Goldsworthy used to resist this characterization, but later came to accept it as a form of praise. “Since I have had my own children,” he told the London Observer in 2007, and seen how intensely a child looks at things, you really can’t describe that looking as naive. My work is childlike in the sense that I am never satisﬁed to look at something and say that is just a pond or a tree or whatever. I want to touch it, get under the skin of it somehow, try and work out exactly what it is. ‘Icicles Frozen to Icicles. Midday Sun Warming the Bank Above Where I Worked. Causing Some Ice to Melt and Fall. Continued to Freeze in the Shadows. Cold Overnight. Still Intact the Following Day. Collapsed Two Days Later. Dumfriesshire, Scotland. 8 January 2010’; photograph by Andy Goldsworthy Andy Goldsworthy The British artist Andy Goldsworthy, who ﬁrst made a name for himself in the early 1980s, has always been most strongly associated with the land art practitioners of his own and the previous generation. Although other ﬁgures haunt the outer ring of his inspiration (Brancusi with his smooth forms, Matisse with his ﬂowing cut-out lines), Goldsworthy’s most obvious afﬁnities are with his fellow British earth-inscriber Richard Long and with Americans of the 1960s such as Robert Smithson (whose signature work Spiral Jetty uses more than six thousand tons of black basalt to form a counterclockwise coil that runs from the Rozel Point peninsula into the Great Salt Lake in Utah) or Michael Heizer (whose Double Negative consists of two enormous trenches cut into the eastern edge of the Mormon Mesa in Nevada). But whereas these artists have long been embraced by the academy and honored with museum exhibitions, Goldsworthy’s reputation has always depended on a more popular kind of support. His books—including A Collaboration with Nature (1990), Stone (1994), Wood (1996), Time (2000), Passage (2004), Enclosure (2007), and many others—sell as Christmas presents, and not just in museum shops. He is much celebrated in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park but only recently did any of his work make it into the Tate. As a result, the idea has taken root in some quarters that his art might be a bit too likable for its own good and excessively straightforward in its consideration of how the human species does and does not connect with the environment. Is this suspicion simply a form of snobbism? Two enormous and beautifully produced new volumes representing Goldsworthy’s recent activities offer the chance to ﬁnd out. One, Ephemeral Works, contains a photographic record of what Goldsworthy considers to be the two hundred “most signiﬁcant” ﬂeeting and/or small works he made between 2004 and 2014. These range from creations shown in the book’s two opening photographs—one taken in early spring of a hazel tree in which a couple of branches have been neatly “smeared with black earth,” and one taken near the start of summer of the same tree with the same branches now “rubbed with chalk”—to a concluding picture of the jagged stump of an ash tree, crowned (or maybe wounded) by Goldsworthy with spikes of ice. Between these images, on page after lusciously presented page, we ﬁnd a multitude of other photographs that address themes the book jacket handily identiﬁes as “materiality, temporality, growth, vitality, permanence, decay, chance, labor, and memory.” They include images of rocks in a waterfall on which Goldsworthy has plastered patterns of gaudily green sycamore leaves, hawthorn trees from which he has dangled rickety structures made of nettle stalks, sidewalks in New York impressive is the range of materials that Goldsworthy uses: wind-fallen branches, lumps and smearings of clay, rugged boulders, and found objects such as a hawser, barbed wire, and gloves ﬁnd their way into these works, alongside more predictable items such as stones from walls and roof slates. ‘Sycamore Leaves Edging the Roots of a Sycamore Tree. Berrydown Foundation, Hampshire. 1 November 2013’; photograph by Andy Goldsworthy on which he has splashed gutter water, lines of snow on a hillside that he has photographed as they melt, whiplashes of kelp he has tossed into the air and photographed as they coiled and scribbled against a gray sky, and icicles he has broken and reconstructed to form various snaky or starburst shapes. The sheer number of these works seems to bear out the publisher’s claim that Goldsworthy creates something “on an almost daily basis,” now most commonly around his home in the vil- lage of Penpont, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, where he settled in 1986. It is well worth saying, therefore, that Ephemeral Works is among other things a monument to an extraordinarily active physical and mental engagement with circumstance. So too, at a necessarily slower pace, is the companion volume Projects, which provides a record of forty-four larger-scale works, most of which involved a great deal more preparation and effort, and have been produced mainly since 2010. Equally These remarks are a useful entry point for thinking about Goldsworthy’s Ephemeral Works. On the one hand they catch his commitment to the value of looking as an end in itself; on the other, they register his hunger to engage with difﬁcult themes that might lie beneath the superﬁcial beauties of the world. But does the book realize this dual ambition? It’s oddly difﬁcult to give a settled answer, because many of the qualities that distinguish his work— its energy, in particular—mean that we look at each creation knowing that another one is waiting for us just around the corner. This means that we feel continually hurried on from page to page, with a voice in our ear saying, “Or you might prefer this next one instead.” Goldsworthy’s work is in some respects reminiscent of the poems of Ted Hughes: it’s convulsively spontaneous, endlessly enthusiastic about natural forms, and extraordinarily proliﬁc. To the extent that these things make us think about Goldsworthy’s major themes—ﬂow, change, mortality itself—all well and good. But, as with Hughes, they can also make us feel the work is too provisional, that it is content merely to take a stab at something and might actually be rather complacent about the ideas Goldsworthy wants to persuade us he takes urgently. Given this, it’s helpful to see what recurring patterns emerge from the swirl of his ephemeral creations, and ask if they provide his work with a foundational solidity. There is the pattern of his material, of course—those many natural ingredients that ﬂagrantly express the fragility of existence. There is also the pattern of his shapes, which are generally less speciﬁc in their value, but which for this reason are possibly more signiﬁcant in their effect. One shape that recurs very strikingly through the book, so that it might be considered a kind of punctuation mark, is that of Goldsworthy’s own body—left on a road surface, a forest path, a boulder, a 17 I n works such as these, the paradoxes of Goldsworthy’s vision (which are preserved for us by a mechanical means—photography—that is itself paradoxically at odds with the material it represents) are tense and alive. But they are not presented with equal 18 strength in all the photographs included in Ephemeral Works. Several feel saccharine or kitschy (“Wet, yellow elm leaves. Laid around a smooth, barkless, dark, wet, fallen elm tree. Dumfriesshire, Scotland. November 2011”); others seem insufﬁciently proofed against ironical mockery (a photo sequence of the artist burrowing through a line of hay); still others seem conceptually slight (that kelp ﬂying through the air). This probably explains why Goldsworthy’s reputation is reckoned by some to be less secure than Richard Long’s, and why the Tate took such a long time to acquire any of his work (although it now has several photographs). The plain fact of the matter is that in Ephemeral Works, as well as in previous books, Goldsworthy comes across as an artist of uneven quality—bold in conception and dramatically engaged with the battle between opposites when at his best; inconsequentially glib and decorative at his worst. How do these strengths and weaknesses show up in Projects? The majority of the works in this companion volume use the same or similar material (boulders, cut stone, clay, parts of trees); they explore a similar range of organic shapes (spheres, zigzag lines, cairns); they examine the relationship between Goldsworthy’s interventions and whatever landscape in which they are placed; and they echo the “rain shadows” in a series of “Sleeping Stones,” which are smooth and shallow hollows carved out of a cut-stone foundation block and made to ﬁt Goldsworthy’s body. Here, though, we notice a difference from the ephemeral work. In every one of the “rain shadows” Goldsworthy’s physical form is brieﬂy preserved with his arms raised from his sides and his feet apart; in the “Sleeping Stones” he is compressed, arms down and feet together. The effect is to make us think less about the snow angels that children like to make and more about corpses in burial chambers. This is a signiﬁcant shift, and forms a part of the generally darker vision that appears throughout Projects. Maybe this increase in gravity is simply a product of Goldsworthy’s advancing age and the inevitably clearer view he now has of his own grave. But it’s also the case that in recent years he has suffered the loss of both parents (in one of the ephemeral pieces we see him casting his father’s ashes), and also the death in a car accident of his ﬁrst wife and the mother of his children, the sculptor Judith Gregson. None of these events is dwelled upon in the lengthy interview with his present partner, the art historian Tina Fiske, that serves as a preface to Projects, but it’s impossible not to speculate about their effect on the work—as well as the effect of the lingering trauma caused by the early death of his sister-in-law, which he has sometimes described as the event that conﬁrmed his obsession with “the permanence of temporary objects and the temporality of permanent objects.” Goldsworthy’s engagement with mortality is simply more somber now than previously. It is more graphic in its investigation of themes to do with shelter and burial, alongside those to do with decay, ﬂow, and growth that have shaped his thinking from the beginning. Culvert Cairn (2013), in California, seems central to this development. Goldsworthy describes it in the brief text accompanying his photographs of the work as “the most technically and physically challenging project represented in this publication,” and the pictures themselves give a good sense of what he means. At the outset we see an unpromising jumble of rocks surrounding a couple of corrugated iron pipes that jut out from beneath a road circling a hillside and incompetently carry a stream. These are followed by other pictures of the site being cleared and a round chamber being constructed from beautiful Greywacke sandstone that Goldsworthy describes as “extremely hard to cut but also prone to fracture,” then yet more pictures, this time of a sixfoot-high cairn made of the same mateAndy Goldsworthy pavement, or a fallen tree trunk when he lies down at the beginning of a rain shower, and which then remains as a ghostly print when he stands up again, until the falling rain or some kind of trafﬁc obliterates it. These “rain shadows” form an interesting counterpart to the ﬁgures created by his contemporary Antony Gormley. Gormley’s self-images are placed in a variety of settings—on rooftops, in cathedral crypts, along seashores—to insist on their isolation and vulnerability even while making us feel how substantial they are. Goldsworthy’s insert themselves into a scene to raise similar questions about transience and integration. They also force us to consider the relationship of the lines created by his anatomy to other lines that exist in the natural or urban scene surrounding them. In the end, they make us think that human beings only ﬁnd their place in the scheme of things with difﬁculty, and, even when they do, make an awkward ﬁt. In this respect, the human lines share a common purpose with all the other lines that Goldsworthy directs us to consider: the straight lines of his sticks and stalks, for instance, which cut through a landscape, or a tree shape or a stream that insists on bending. Or the jagged lines of his icicles remade into zigzags, which are arranged against a background of gentler or simpler shapes. Or the snaking lines of his beech leaves when they are woven into a long and sinuous strand that wanders and ripples along the broader current of a stream. Each of these forms is in some way at odds with its setting—seeking to become a part of it, often in fact derived from it, but incapable of doing more than pass through it. In other words, Goldsworthy’s most powerful images embody a series of linked paradoxes. They recognize the inevitability of decay while making a plea for ﬁxity; they celebrate surfaces while discovering whatever it is that surfaces conceal; and they enjoy a moment of belonging that they admit cannot last. His works that include spherical holes of one kind or another are especially important in this connection, because they create an idea of completion (roundedness) even while they make us think about extinction. The work called Black Earth Stone (July 2005), for instance, consists of an almost perfectly round black ball set among stones on a beach in Martha’s Vineyard. It is at one and the same time an artifact made of natural things that has been set among other natural things and a terrifying little shocker. Much the same goes for the hummock hole of Hay Field (March 2009), made in the long grass of a Scottish hayﬁeld ﬂattened by wind and rain. The swirl of grass stems around the opening and the darkness of the interior of the hole as it appears in a wide sea of grassy greenness no sooner raise thoughts about playful pastoral hiding places and creaturely burrows than they replace them with entirely dreadful notions. The twisting grass around the hole is like the swirl of water in a basin that drains down to the Everlasting. ‘Five Storm-Damaged Branch Throws. Sycamore. Chestnut. Beech. Scots Pine. Oak. Berrydown Foundation, Hampshire. 28 October 2013’; photograph by Andy Goldsworthy rial being nested inside the chamber. The series closes with pictures of the stream deluging onto and around the cairn. Like all Goldsworthy’s best work, Culvert Cairn amounts to a tightly constructed maze of paradoxes. The cairn is what it is, but equally and obviously mysterious: Is it solid or is it ﬁlled with life? It is a product of very hard work that merits exposure and commendation, but is also hidden—not just in an out- of-the-way spot under a lonely road but also, after rainfall, by the torrent that gushes over it. The associations of its shape are largely benign or even life-afﬁrming (it is a kind of egg), but also sinister—it is like the pod of an alien species, possessing who knows what powers. It is set in a location that should require usefulness (the control of ﬂoods, support of a road as it passes over a stream) but seems to exist purely as the embodiment of an enigmatic kind of value—namely beauty. The same kind of tensions appear in a number of the other photograph clusters in Projects. In Refuges des Arbes (2008) a substantial oak bough is tightly contained in a cofﬁn-like box made of slate. In Stone Sea (at the St. Louis Art Museum, 2012), nineteen severely hunched limestone arches are squeezed into the “awkward space” created when a new extension was made to the museum by the British architect David Chipperﬁeld. In Coppice Room (2010), undertaken for the Jupiter Artland Foundation in Edinburgh, 120 sycamore tree trunks are ﬁxed vertically from ﬂoor to ceiling “and positioned so that they became more closely packed toward the far end wall.” In such snippets of commentary that Goldsworthy provides to accompany his images, he is usefully informative about facts and ﬁgures and materials, but less articulate about intentions and effects. About Coppice Room, for instance, he says: “People are able to walk into the room, through the trees, until they can progress no further, making the relatively small space feel almost endless.” What he might equally well have said, and does not, is that the increasingly crowded-together tree trunks create a human cut- off point, a lostness and a blockedness. In one sense this reluctance to say more than he does is not surprising: Why should—and how can—artists of any kind say what their work is meant to achieve? In another respect the reticence is revealing, because it alerts us to a quality in Goldsworthy’s work that is precisely to do with things being unsaid, or unsayable. Goldsworthy hinted at this in Rivers and Tides, the excellent documentary Thomas Riedelsheimer made about his work in 2001 (a second documentary by him, Leaning into the Wind, will be released in the US this March). “There’s a world,” Goldsworthy told his invisible inquisitor, “beyond what words can deﬁne for me. Words do their job, but what I’m doing here”—which in the ﬁlm is throwing handfuls of ground-up ironstone into a river, and watching it stain the current red—“says a lot more.” Says without speech, that is. Says by purely being, or purely doing. Says in the mute voice of the cairn under the stream ﬂow, or the oak bough in its box, or the beech trunks in their shed—or the glacial rock contained in a section of wall in a forest in New Hampshire, in the piece called Watershed Boulder (2015). Moving as these wordless works are, their power is conﬁrmed and elaborated in Projects by others that appear to be in dialogue with them. Two striking examples of this are Five Men, Seventeen Days, Fifteen Boulders, One Wall (2010) and Wood Line (2011). The latter lays a snaking trail made of 113 sections of eucalyptus logs through the Presidio of San Francisco, and the former (which in this respect is akin to a well-known earlier piece by Goldsworthy called Storm King Wall, which was built between 1997 and 1998) consists of an undulating wall that ripples around boulders at the Storm King Art Center in New York State. Both pieces comprehend the sense of ﬁnality and enclosure that Goldsworthy creates in Coppice Room and elsewhere, but both show his human-made line wriggling past obstacles so that it can insist on the possibility of escape or even freedom. They are, in their qualiﬁed way, works that are as optimistic as those dealing with conﬁnement and ending are bleak and suffocating. They are also works that impressively extend the expression of themes that have obsessed Goldsworthy from the beginning of his career. At the same time as they let us hear the silence produced by the deadlocked confrontation of equally weighed and weighted opposites, they allow the earth to have its say. Not just by giving close attention to small and insigniﬁcant-seeming things such as thorns and leaves and nettles and petals, but by embracing the fact of their own transience while also reminding us that everything in nature involves a past and future, as well as the present in which we regard it. The New York Review Lebanon: About to Blow? Janine di Giovanni February 8, 2018 Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are ﬁghting against forces loyal to the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, which is supported by Saudi Arabian air strikes. The conﬂict has created a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in which, according to the UN, a child dies every ten minutes. In early November, a missile was ﬁred by Yemen’s armed Houthi group toward Riyadh and intercepted en route by the Saudis. A second balistic missile ﬁred by the Houthis later that month was also brought down. This was clearly a message from Iran; the Yemenis are not likely to possess such sophisticated nity in exile. In Ouiza, they spin out their days in boredom and confusion. Ismail, at thirty, is the oldest of the group and tells me that when he does work as a laborer in the nearby town of Sidon, he can earn about 50,000 Lebanese pounds (approximately $30) in two days—only enough to cover the cost of a doctor’s visit for his kids, who often get sick. The last time he went to pick up a prescription, a group of Lebanese men taunted him with “Nique ta mère”—Fuck your mother—and threw stones at him. When I visited in October, it was olive season. Many of the children were abandoned buildings on the outskirts of towns, or even unheated garages. Anyone can just drive in. There is special concern about children who have grown up in refugee settlements and do not remember the old life in Homs, Aleppo, or Hama. “Many of these kids don’t know what Syria is or where they come from,” says Jassen, a twenty-seven-year-old refugee from Raqqa whom I met in Tripoli. “They don’t know the ﬂag, or the country.” During a visit to an outdoor “shift school,” I saw Syrian preschoolers being taught to draw a Syrian ﬂag. Khalil el Helou, a retired Lebanese general, told me that he feared these children could be easily recruited. “Imagine a young Syrian, eight years old. If he lives like this for ten more years, imagine him at eighteen. If they are not contained in Lebanon,” he added, “they will be more dangerous on the streets of Manhattan.” Patricia Khoder, a journalist with L’Orient Le Jour, a Beirut daily, has expressed other reasons for Lebanese antipathy to refugees. “Look—we had thirty years of Syrian occupation,” she said, referring to the Syrian troops that were sent to protect Christians during the civil war but overstayed their welcome by decades. At one point, President Hafez al-Assad even sent his son, Bashar, to oversee the Syrian forces in Lebanon. The Syrians did not leave until after Raﬁk Hariri’s assassination in 2005. Khoder likens the current refugee crisis to an imaginary scenario in postwar France. If 20 million German refugees had descended on Paris in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation, she tells me, “I don’t think the French would have accepted that. How can we?” Last summer, a video went viral of a group of Lebanese men, since detained, who physically and verbally assaulted a Syrian refugee called Uklah from Deiral-Zour in eastern Syria, demanding that he renounce his country and ISIS. The BBC reported a “voice note” that was widely shared on WhatsApp calling on Lebanese to “beat Syrians.” These events are not uncommon. They illustrate a recent rise in crimes and hate speech directed at refugees, who have become scapegoats for a variety of Lebanese grievances. A Lebanese businessman named Alan Bey compared them to Mexican-Americans: “They work hard and do the work the Lebanese don’t want to do, but they get blamed for everything.” Much of the hatred has been stirred up by the conniving foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, who in October famously said, “Yes, we are racist Lebanese,” adding, “and at the same time, we are open to the world, and no one has the right to lecture us about being humanitarian.” This was a jab at European countries that have taken a fraction of the refugees that Lebanon has. Bassil is forty-seven and the son-inlaw of President Michel Aoun, a former Lebanese army general. He is the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, also known as the Aounist Party, the largest Jerome Sessini/Magnum Photos Lebanon is a tiny country, with a population of around six million; it could ﬁt neatly between Philadelphia and Danbury, Connecticut. It has survived many crises over the past several decades: a brutal civil war from 1975 to 1990 that left 100,000 dead, a string of political assassinations since 2004 whose perpetrators have gone unpunished, and occupations by Israel and Syria. But Lebanon’s resilience is fraying. Its infrastructure is badly damaged and unemployment is high. It is also struggling to accommodate a large refugee population—500,000 Palestinians, many descended from those who ﬂed the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and nearly 1.5 million Syrians, a majority of them Sunni Muslims. Most of the Syrian refugees I met in Lebanon do not want to be there—or in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, or Egypt. They are ﬂeeing intense ﬁghting, ethnic cleansing, starvation, chemical attacks, and Russian air strikes that devastated Aleppo and other rebelheld areas. It is clear that they are not welcome in Lebanon, where they are increasingly seen as disrupting the country’s delicate sectarian balance among Shia Muslims, Druze, and Christians and as vulnerable to Islamist radicalization. Lebanon’s most recent crisis was the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on November 4 during a visit to Saudi Arabia. His announcement, in which he explained that he was afraid for his life, surprised even his closest advisers and rattled the country. He has since returned to Lebanon and has suspended his resignation. Hariri’s father, Raﬁk, a former prime minister and a prominent Sunni businessman, was assassinated in 2005, along with twenty-two others, when explosives hidden in a van were detonated as his motorcade drove near the St. Georges Hotel in Beirut. After a painful inquiry, the UN determined that the assassination was likely committed by members of Hezbollah with Syrian planning and logistical support. Hezbollah is the Shia political party and militant organization funded by Iran and Syria. Hariri’s death was followed by a series of sectarian murders of other anti- Syrian politicians, compounding the long-standing frustration with Lebanon’s failure to bring his killers to justice. Hezbollah, which backed President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war, has attained so much power in Lebanon that it is considered a state within a state. It holds sway in parliament and is able to inﬁltrate Lebanese military intelligence. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the regional Sunni giant emboldened by the Trump administration’s seal of approval, has a stake in keeping Sunnis prominent in the Lebanese government. These rising tensions are part of a much larger conﬂict. Saudi Arabia and Iran, the regional Shia giant, are ﬁghting proxy wars for inﬂuence in the Middle East. The bloodiest battleﬁeld so far has been Syria. In Syrian children from Homs in Tripoli, Lebanon, October 2013 military hardware. Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, claims to be working toward a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, but the two nations continue to jostle for regional supremacy. Hariri’s sudden fall from power and the rising sectarian tension in Lebanon have created fear that the country will be the next battleground of the Saudi-Iranian proxy war. In the middle of this uncertainty are Syrian refugees. T he experience of refugees in Lebanon is an extended waiting game. The government has made clear that it wants to prevent their integration into Lebanese society in order to ensure that they won’t stay, as the Palestinians have. Lebanon barely tolerates the Palestinians; it certainly does not embrace them. The miserable refugee complex of Sabra and Shatila—a sprawling place of desperation and hopelessness—is a testament to that. The Ouiza refugee settlement outside Sidon, where Syrian refugees are dumped, is next to a Palestinian refugee camp called Ain al-Hilweh—Arabic for “sweet water spring.” In August, clashes at the Palestinian camp between police and Sunni Islamists left two dead, and in April, seven people were killed. I spoke to three men from the Syrian city of Hama whose stories were familiar—their lack of work, adequate housing, and medical care, their trauma of escaping a burning country, but also their profound sense of indig- out picking olives or selling tissues on the streets. The teenage boys weren’t in school; they lumbered through their days, increasingly bored and agitated. “There’s a lot of neglect with these kids,” explains Kevin Charbel, an Irish aid worker from the Belgian aid organization Soutien Belge. “It’s not that their parents don’t love them, it’s just that they have no idea how to raise them in these circumstances.” Baha, another of the three men from Hama whom I spoke to, told me he was twenty when he got to Lebanon. His education was interrupted: he feels that his life has simply halted. It’s a miserable predicament, he says, to have the sense of waiting for something to happen. “I’ve spent six years here, doing nothing. When I was twenty, I thought I had a future. These six years, I’ve become twenty years older.” Some days, he says, he’d rather die in his country than be humiliated here every single day. Many Lebanese fear that the settle- ments are, or will become, hotbeds of radicalism. Sheikh al-Rafei, the leader of the Salaﬁst community in Lebanon, warned that refugees suffering from a sense of dislocation and social humiliation could easily be preyed upon by radical recruiters. This is the technique used by zealous preachers in the isolated banlieues of France, and it wouldn’t be hard to replicate in Lebanon. Syrian refugees live in open “settlements,” which are often simply 19 Some refugees are already being forced home. Last summer in Arsal, a border town, a repatriation deal brokered by Hezbollah and the armed Syrian opposition forces initiated two separate deportations of thousands of refugees back to Syria. Some were combatants, but many were civilians— wives and children. The UN was not present to witness the exodus. Such deportations violate international law and set a dangerous precedent for dealing with a complicated crisis. They leave the Syrian men who return vulnerable to conscription into Assad’s army. Mireille Girard, the head of the UN Refugee Agency in Lebanon, said: “There is a fear in Lebanon that the longer refugees stay, the less they may 20 want to go back.“ She added that although they want to go home, they will do so only when “they feel conﬁdent and safe. Return is about trust.” There is real anxiety about Hezbollah’s domination in Lebanon, and about Iran’s not very subtle aim of expanding Shia power from Tehran to Beirut. The Saudis, meanwhile, are seeking to prop up their own Sunni ﬁghters in Syria, stretching the proxy war over the border into Lebanon. And Syrian refugees are caught in the middle. The conﬂict is especially apparent in cities like Arsal and Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city and a northern coastal Sunni stronghold with strong links to the towns of Hama and Homs in Syria. In Tripoli, Islamic militants who oppose President Assad are ﬁghting both ing in Al-Qusayr. As a devout Salaﬁst, he is determined that Sunnis will not lose in the sectarian conﬂict. A t the heart of the issue is the absence of an ofﬁcial policy or long-term strategy for what to do with the refugees. When the Syrian civil war began in 2011, Lebanon and other “frontline” states (Turkey, Jordan) maintained an “open- door policy.” Nadim Shehadi, from the Fletcher School, recalled that in 2012 Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his advisers called donors and UN Agencies asking for help in dealing with 50,000 refugees. He was told that the agencies were already overstretched and was asked to “present a plan.” Mikati did not do so because refugees were crossing Ali Hashisho/Reuters Christian party and the second largest in Lebanon’s parliament. An engineer by training, he became foreign minister in 2014, and has his eye on the Lebanese election next May. His strategy is not sophisticated: “Bassil is trying to radicalize Lebanese people,” says Ziad el Sayegh, a senior adviser to the Ministry of State for Displaced Persons. “It’s simple. Raise fear in Lebanese society, polarize votes.” Many Lebanese ﬁnd Bassil and his rhetoric odious. One political analyst refers to him as “Im-Bassile.” But like Nigel Farage, who played a large part in encouraging pro-Brexit sentiment, there are many who listen to him. “Bassil started very early on trying to gain political traction by creating a panic about the refugees,” says Nadim Shehadi, who is Lebanese, from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. One night in Beirut I attended a gala in support of freedom of the press and whistleblowers. The annual event is hosted by a Maronite Christian journalist, Dr. May Chidiac, who lost a leg and an arm in a car bomb after criticizing the Syrian regime in 2005. The assassination attempt on Chidiac came after Raﬁk Hariri’s murder, along with a string of others. No one took responsibility, but Chidiac has openly blamed Hezbollah. It was the Lebanese version of the Oscars—red carpets, women in long ball gowns, waiters in black tie serving iced Johnny Walker Red and champagne cocktails, and Beirut’s shiniest politicians, diplomats, businessmen, actors, and crooners. Models lounged on white leather sofas. A troupe of dancers did a routine from Grease and drove a pink Cadillac convertible onto the stage. It was a long way from the Ouiza settlement. A Lebanese socialite who asked me not to use her name told me, “We can’t handle the refugee situation, we can’t cope.” Her shrill tone echoed not only Bassil but also his father-in-law, President Aoun, who gave an identical quote to a group of foreign diplomats: “We can’t cope.” Bassil’s xenophobia has been apparent for years; as energy minister, he blamed power cuts in Lebanon on refugees and foreigners. Now he demands that the Syrians go home—immediately. “Syrian citizens have only one route, which is the route that leads them to their homeland,” he said on a recent trip to the Bekaa Valley. Then billboards started going up in Beirut that said: “We will not become a minority in our own villages and cities. Let’s gather in a mass rally to demand the departure of the Syrians.” Palestinian women at the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon, Lebanon, August 2017 Assad’s supporters (in the form of Alawite armed groups) and the Lebanese government. Armed conﬂict has swept across parts of Beirut such as the Alawite Jabal Mohsen area and the Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh district, with Sunni refugees ﬁnding themselves in the midst of the violence. Residents of both neighborhoods ﬁght on opposite sides in Syria, and then come home and continue the conﬂict. “We are just waiting for an order from Saudi Arabia to open up the next battle,” a local commander told a German reporter in 2015. “We have to protect our Sunni community here.” Attempts have been made to foster “cultural unity”—multifaith cafés, theatrical collaborations, academic studies. But at the Taqwa Mosque, which has been a recruiting ground for young Lebanese Sunnis to go ﬁght in Syria, Sheikh Salem al-Rafei told me that the situation was “very critical. Worse than ever.” When Sheikh Rafei, who survived an assassination attempt allegedly by Hezbollah in 2013, gave a sermon to a crowd consisting largely of Syrian refugees, he encouraged them to no longer tolerate their marginalization. He cited their lack of status in Lebanese society, their lack of a future, the humiliations they face every day, and the deepening sectarian divisions in Lebanon. This was a week before Prime Minister Hariri resigned in Saudi Arabia. During the bloody battle for the border town of Al- Qusayr in 2013, when Hezbollah sent ﬁghters to aid Assad’s army, Sheikh Rafei sent his own men. “It was a religious duty to ﬁght in Syria,” he said. About thirty ﬁghters from Tripoli alone died ﬁght- the border in very high numbers and it was impossible to predict how many more would come. “Mikati was right,” says Shehadi in retrospect. “Had he made a plan, mindful of 200,000 refugees, his plan would have collapsed once the number had grown to one million refugees. The entire system would have collapsed. Now there are 1.5 million.” Khalil el Helou, a retired Lebanese general whose family came from Syria in 1970 and who now advises the government, has suggested one sort of ofﬁcial policy. He recommends that Lebanon contain and police refugee settlements, preferably with an international force, to prohibit jihadist recruiters from entering. He is not sure who would fund this policy, and acknowledges that the international community has already done a poor job of providing enough humanitarian aid in Syria. But we have to act soon, he says. “If we don’t, we are creating a new generation of terrorists who will strike at Beirut—or New York.” The Syrian war will eventually end— painfully, and without the result the United States government wants to see: the end of the Assad regime. As for the refugees, no one seems to have any idea what to do with them. “Sometimes there simply is no solution,” Nadim Shehadi admits. “We’ll do the same thing we do with the Palestinian issue, that is, turn a blind eye. But the future is very alarming. If one percent of the refugees radicalize and decide to take up arms to ﬁght, that is 25,000 radicalized people. Only one percent is in fact a lot.” —January 10, 2018 The New York Review Silence Bigger Than a Table Adam Shatz Some artists start out with a bang, others with barely a whisper. The trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith, one of the most inﬂuential ﬁgures of the postwar black musical avant-garde, could not have begun his career more quietly. In 1972, Smith, then a thirtyone-year- old musician living in New Haven, released a solo album called Creative Music—I, on which, besides trumpet, he played ﬂugelhorn, wooden ﬂute, harmonica, hand zithers, and an assortment of percussion instruments set up on steel poles: bells, gongs, xylophones, cymbals, whistles, aluminum pot drums, metal plates. And for long periods of time, Smith did not play at all. Instead, he allowed silence to ﬁll the space of his music. Not many people heard Creative Music—I when it ﬁrst appeared, but its contemplative radicalism was not lost on those who did. Smith was returning to the foundations of music: sound and silence, articulation and breath. While he drew inspiration from the free jazz revolution that had begun more than a decade earlier, his own sensibility could not have been further from the style of free jazz known as “energy” or “ﬁre” music. Loud, intense, often frenetic, ﬁre music suggested a primal scream repressed for too long. The meanings of the scream were spelled out by the album titles of the period: political (Jackie McLean’s Let Freedom Ring), erotic (Alan Shorter’s Orgasm), sacred (Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity), cosmic (John Coltrane’s Interstellar Space). For much of the 1960s, it was contagious. Even Miles Davis, the great poet of space and stillness, who claimed to disdain the cacophony of free jazz, ended up embracing the noise, playing ﬁerce, jabbing notes against roiling backdrops of electric guitars on albums like Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson. A quiet ﬁre burned in Smith’s music, but more often it suggested water and wind. Some of his titles resembled haikus: the ﬁrst track on Creative Music—I was titled “Nine (9) Stones on a Mountain.” While most free jazz channeled the coiled energies of the great northern cities, Smith evoked the vast rural landscapes of the Mississippi Delta where he had grown up. Formally, his music was more radical than ﬁre music, less encumbered by traditional song forms. But his was a pastoral modernism: spacious, serene, and in no hurry to reach its destination. Smith was not the only pastoral modernist to emerge from the ranks of the free jazz movement. His friend Marion Brown, an alto saxophonist who evoked memories of his rural Georgia childhood, and Don Cherry, a fellow trumpeter who created an imaginary folk music while wandering through North Africa and Turkey, also worked in this vein. But Smith would become its most committed exponent, and the most systematic: an “organic intellectual,” in the words of George Lewis, a trombonist and composer who has known him since the early 1970s. February 8, 2018 Smith’s unusual feeling for time was also distinctly southern, nourished by his childhood memories of rural Mississippi and governed by a nonmetrical approach that he called “rhythm units,” in which a long sound was followed by a long silence, a short sound by a short silence. The place of silence in his music reminded some early listeners of John Cage, a composer he admired, but Smith attributed it to jazz musicians who had “a style of phrasing that included silence within the context of a phrase,” among them Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and, not tracks are original compositions that Smith describes as “proﬁles” of Monk. (Two are, in fact, the same piece, an adagio performed with, and without, a mute.) Their titles offer visual descriptions of Monk—one imagines him at Shea Stadium with the pianist Bud Powell, another at the Five Spot Café, where Monk played extensively in the late 1950s, wearing a ﬁve-point ring— and the music is embedded with shadowy allusions to Monk’s work. Solo: Reﬂections and Meditations on Monk emerged much as Creative Music—I did: not in the cutting contests of Michael Jackson Solo: Reﬂections and Meditations on Monk an album by Wadada Leo Smith. TUM Records, $19.98 Wadada Leo Smith at the Montreal Jazz Festival, July 2016 least, Thelonious Monk, who spent his ﬁrst ﬁve years in North Carolina before moving to New York City in the Great Migration. Silence also served a different purpose in Smith’s music than it does in Cage’s. Smith did not want to surrender control or subjectivity to chance, but to assert them: his music was willful rather than a renunciation of will. And the effect of his silences was to draw attention to the beauty of his trumpet playing: stately and soaring, alternately buoyant and plangent, it is indebted to the modernism of Davis, Booker Little, and Don Cherry, yet equally reminiscent of the brassy, southern ebullience of Louis Armstrong. As the French writer and philosopher Maurice Blanchot wrote of Stéphane Mallarmé, Smith’s trumpet seemed to emerge miraculously out of “nothingness . . . whose secret vitality, force and mystery it carries out in meditation and in the accomplishment of its poetic task.” Since the release of Creative Music— I nearly a half- century ago, Smith’s music has evolved in a number of directions, but he has continued to work with rhythm units, and to draw on the power of silence and negative space. On his extraordinary new album, Solo: Reﬂections and Meditations on Monk, he applies these principles to the pianist and composer, whose centenary was last year. The album includes four of Monk’s best-known ballads: “Ruby, My Dear,” “Reﬂections,” “Crepuscule with Nellie,” and—the album’s haunting ﬁnale—his most famous tune, “’Round Midnight.” The other four onstage combat, the traditional testing ground of jazz creativity, but at Smith’s home in New Haven. Twenty-ﬁve years ago, a pianist friend gave him a book of Monk piano transcriptions by Bill Dobbins, and he began practicing them in his spare time. He particularly liked the ballads (or as he calls them, adagios) because “they allow me to really express my tone.” He played them as if the bar line didn’t exist, organizing the music with rhythm units rather than chord progressions, so that the pieces would “ﬂow like a wave, and . . . people can ride that wave with me.” He decided to record these pieces on solo trumpet because “the essence of Monk is, I believe, in his solo performances.” Smith thereby reveals their brilliant corners, the way they lend themselves to “expansions and further explorations,” while at the same time presenting himself as a student paying homage to a great teacher. All that one hears is the celestial sound of Smith’s trumpet and the silences around it. The music could not be sparer or richer. “Most people would never realize that I am closer to Thelonious Monk than to any other artist,” Smith writes in his liner notes. He is not exaggerating. Smith has paid homage in his song titles to many jazz musicians, but never to Monk. Nor has he ever displayed the characteristics typically associated with Monk, such as angular melodic turns, eccentric phrasing, and impish humor. But as Smith goes on to observe, Monk, with his exceptional sensitivity to the spaces between notes, understood silence not as “a moment of absence,” but “as a vital ﬁeld where musical ideas exist as a result of what was played be- fore and after”—the same principle that underlies Smith’s rhythm units. On Solo: Reﬂections and Meditations on Monk, Smith elongates and intensiﬁes Monk’s silences until they sound like his own. This transformation, far from betraying Monk, distills the lyricism, tenderness, and yearning at the heart of his melodic writing. “I see Monk as a . . . mystical philosopher,” Smith, who is seventy-six, told me at National Sawdust, a theater in Brooklyn, where he performed in late October. “I once heard a writer ask Monk, ‘What’s the meaning of life?’ And Monk said the meaning of life is death. And I thought that was the most perfect answer, because every breath we take . . . is leading to that magniﬁcent moment. It’s the other end of the journey, and it’s all connected to the ﬁrst big bang, the ﬁrst breath of life. And . . . death is not a concept only of leaving, but of change, or transformation.” “The second reason” he was drawn to Monk, he went on, is that “he spent a lot of time in isolation, and I did the same thing. The reasons were essentially the same: no one would hire us.” Monk’s cabaret card, which was required to play at clubs in New York City until the early 1960s, was revoked on several occasions, on mostly spurious charges of narcotics possession. But as Smith notes, “He didn’t sit around thinking about that: he actually kept developing and developed so uniquely that that isolated moment was probably a gift from the Almighty, just as mine was. I didn’t sit around, I didn’t feel left out. I did my research. . . . I performed every week in my house, not for people—for me.” He would tape his performances and then examine the tapes for “ﬂaws in musical direction, ﬂaws in conceptual design,” as well as in “how well I received the inspiration that I was trying to transmit. And what I discovered . . .was something about sound and silence, . . . about nonmetrical movement, where you don’t have to be in beat or in time, but you connect with the universal time, which is more like a wave as opposed to a beat.” Smith’s research has yielded what is now widely recognized as one of the most innovative bodies of work in American music since the 1960s. The last decade or so has been the most fertile period of his career. He leads an electric ensemble called Organic, and a more traditional jazz group called the Golden Quartet. He has written for string quartet, orchestra, and solo cello, as well as for gamelan and koto ensembles. His four-hour reﬂection on the civil rights era, Ten Freedom Summers, written for a quintet version of the Golden Quartet and a nine-piece chamber orchestra, was one of three ﬁnalists for the Pulitzer Prize in 2013. Smith’s ravishing “graphic” scores— small, delicate sketches that in their combination of abstract imagery and symbols recall Kandinsky and Klee— have been the subject of recent exhibitions at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Renaissance Society in Chicago. Just before we spoke at National Sawdust, Smith played a solo version of “Ruby, My Dear,” a song Monk wrote 21 Leo Smith was born in 1941 in past your knees, . . . past your chest and past your head, at every one of those moments I’m amazed, because, look, I’m taller than the sun, and when the sun passed my head, I realize, I’m just a speck.” In this humbling “zone of transition,” with its natural cycles of presence and absence, he found “an organic link of sound and visual and silence.” He honed his technique by practicing outdoors: on the front porch, in the ﬁelds, even in the woods, where he noticed how the sound of his horn would slowly fade away as he reached the edge of the forest. In 1967, after ﬁve years in the army, Smith settled in Chicago and joined the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a not- It was also, by his own admission, one of the least loved. “We were like the outside guys,” Smith recalls in George Lewis’s history of the AACM, A Power Stronger Than Itself. “Notions of silence, rhythmic design, directed motion, those kinds of things were very different from the notion of playing the greatest solo or cutting everybody to pieces that you’re playing on the same stage with.” During a year-long sojourn in Paris from 1969 to 1970, Smith managed to thoroughly confound French critics, who did not know what to make of a style that rejected all the clichés of the ﬁre music that many of them considered an expression of black authenticity. “We would drop a silence bigger than a table. What do you do? Do you say, hey, source a new world music: creative music, a 1973 manifesto permeated by the revolutionary romanticism of the Black Arts Movement. In notes (8 pieces), Smith calls for a new set of aesthetic criteria proper to black improvised music and looks forward to the day when “the creative music of afro-america, india, bali and pan-islam. . .will eventually eliminate the political dominance of euroamerica in this world.” In order to take part in this cultural and political struggle, musicians would have to declare independence from the music industry (“this factory of death”) and develop a “heightened awareness of improvisation as an art form.” But perhaps the most revolutionary feature of notes (8 pieces) is the way it used the language of cultural nationalism to upend narrow cultural nationalist assumptions, particularly those having to do with black music’s relationship to percussion. Smith took particular exception to the “fallacy that if the drum is not present then it is not black music (creative music).” Louis Armstrong’s most famous recordings, after all, did not include drums, and yet “the spirit- essence of the drums is there.” This essence, from which black creative music derived its power and originality, was more fundamental, if less immediately audible, than its external trappings. He had discovered it by exploring rhythm units and the “space silence that is the absence of audible sound-rhythms,” and, as he wrote in a rapturous passage, it had opened his eyes to Wadada Leo Smith for his ﬁrst love, at his sound check. He rendered its exquisite melody with little embellishment except for his signature silences, as though he were leaving a place for Monk’s ghost to enter the room. After a brief improvisation (or “creation,” as Smith prefers to say) and a reprise of the melody, he suddenly stopped. “I felt it was ﬁnished,” he told me. “People often play past their inspiration. . . . It’s OK not to play sometimes because your presence on stage, whether you’re playing or not, inﬂuences the music.” That afternoon, he was dressed in a kind of black smock, with the stack of dreadlocks he has worn since the early 1980s, when he converted to Rastafarianism and added Wadada to his given name, Leo Smith. (He later converted to Islam and made the Hajj to Mecca in 2002, adding yet another new name, Ishmael, before Wadada.) He rarely moved from a ﬁxed position except to huddle, as if the force of his horn depended on sustained physical compression. Like his music, his onstage presence has a riveting stillness. Leland, Mississippi, “a town so small you could walk from one end of it to the other in a minute.” He has not lived there since the early 1960s, but his drawl is still as thick as jam, and he often expresses nostalgia for his southern childhood. Although he grew up in town, where his mother worked as a cook, he spent his summers picking corn, cotton, and soybeans on his grandparents’ farm. (He still draws on agthe wonder and gorgeousricultural metaphors to describe ness of nature—i’ve heard his work, likening the trumpet the sounds of the crickets, to a ﬂower, the breath projected the birds, the whirling about through it to a seed.) and clinging of the wind, the Smith started out on melloﬂoating waves and clashing of phone and French horn, before water against rocks, the love switching to trumpet when he was of thunder and beauty that Wadada Leo Smith’s score for Symphony No. 1: Fall, 2008. twelve. (He had ﬁrst “received” prevails during and after the The illustration, and the symbols it contains, serve as a guide for improvising musicians in an ensemble. music in church, “like all dark lightning—the toiling of souls Smith refers to the visual language of his scores as “Ankhrasmation.” people do.”) His ﬁrst important throughout the world in suffermusical inﬂuence was his steping—the moments of realizafor-proﬁt black musicians’ collective gimme another drink, or what?” On his father, the electric blues guitarist Alex tion, of oneness, of realness in all and conservatory founded two years return to the United States, he moved “Little Bill” Wallace. Elmore James, of these make and contribute to earlier by the pianist Muhal Richard to New Haven and went into near secluB. B. King, and Little Minton often the wholeness of my music—the Abrams and three other musicians. sion. He studied the scores of Charles stopped by the house to play on the sound-rhythm beyond . . . expresAbrams, who died in late October at Ives and Carl Ruggles; read Emerson, weekends. Smith was “mesmerized” sion that is clothed in the garment eighty-seven, envisioned the AACM Thoreau, and Frederick Douglass; and by the stories these bluesmen told in of improvisation. . . . it is what as a laboratory for generating original took classes in ethnomusicology at their songs, and impressed by how makes my life complete with all forms and structures for avant-garde Wesleyan, where he discovered the aftheir lyrics combined profundity and its suffering and all of its pleasures jazz, or what he called “creative music.” ﬁnities between black American music brevity. Many of their songs were about and all that makes life life. In the AACM, Smith found himself and the improvisatory traditions of women loved and lost, but he realized among such kindred spirits as Roscoe West Africa, Indonesia, and Japan. He that women were really a “metaphor for “I was arguing with the planet,” but Mitchell and Anthony Braxton, saxovisited New York occasionally to see transformation,” much like references especially with musicians “born into the phonists who shared his fascination friends, but left his horn at home, since to wine in the Suﬁ poetry he would later North,” Smith said when I was asked with the properties of sound. Before he had no interest in session work, and read. “The Blues was my ﬁrst language him what inspired him to write notes (8 long, he distinguished himself as an felt in any case that New York was “aland it never went away,” Smith says. pieces). “In the South you look for esadventurous composer and improviser. most lost as a place of creativity.” By the time he was thirteen, he was sence. You don’t look just for the table, Although his work was steeped in blues Having exiled himself from the New playing the blues at a local whites- only you look for the essence of the table, and jazz tradition, that knowledge reYork scene, Smith created his own, country club. He entered through the [which is the] seed—it’s not a tree. It’s a vealed itself in extremely subtle ways, surrounding himself with like-minded kitchen, where he was instructed to seed that sprouted into this wood thing.” rather than in recognizable “licks” or young musicians: the alto saxophonist look neither left nor right, and, above That search led him to invent not only riffs, much less grooves. Marion Brown, the pianist Anthony all, never to make eye contact with the idea of rhythm units, but the visual Puckish off-stage, Smith cut an earDavis, the drummer Pheeroan akLaff, guests. Looking at a white woman language of “Ankhrasmation,” a system nest, ascetic proﬁle in performance: the bassist Wes Brown, and the vibracould get you killed. of vivid, multicolored drawings that he unlike the Art Ensemble of Chicago, phonist Bobby Naughton. He estabAt nineteen, Smith left Mississippi to has often used to inspire musicians in the AACM’s best-known group, he had lished his own label, Kabell Records, join the army. But the Delta—its blues, improvised settings. (“Ankhrasmation” no interest in the aesthetics of collage, and recorded a series of albums, startits natural beauty, its slowness—left an is a portmanteau of Ankh, the Egyptian ironic citation, or absurdist mischief. ing with Creative Music—I. (These reindelible imprint on his musical imaginasymbol for life; ras, the Ethiopian word The Creative Construction Company, cordings were released in 2004 by John tion. “When you come up in Mississippi for leader; and ma, for mother.) With the band he formed with Braxton, the Zorn’s label, Tzadik, in an extraordinary and you walk out in the morning before rhythm units and Ankhrasmation, violinist Leroy Jenkins, and the drumbox set, Kabell Years: 1971–1979.) He sunrise, . . . there’s nothing in front of you Smith devised a system to structure mer Steve McCall, was one of the most also self-published a series of theoretiexcept a long open ﬁeld. And you watch his work and to teach other musicians experimental ensembles of the AACM. cal writings, such as notes (8 pieces): the sun come up out of the ground, . . . to play it, but it was supple enough to 22 The New York Review allow for intuition and spontaneity. Explaining the impact of Ankhrasmation on the actual sound of Smith’s music is somewhat elusive; but then, as the pianist Craig Taborn, who has worked with Smith, told me, “so much of Wadada’s work resides in its mystery.” For the ﬁrst half of his career, Smith was known for a pensive, nearly ambient form of spiritual jazz. It shimmered with enigmatic, painterly timbres on works like Divine Love (1979), which featured an ensemble of Smith and two other trumpeters, a bass clarinetist, double bass, and vibraphone; and The Burning of Stones (1980), a piece for Smith’s muted trumpet and three harps that evoked Japanese court music. (Smith was formerly married to a Japanese poet, Harumi Makino, and has long been fascinated by Asian music.) But this ceremonial lyricism is only one aspect of Smith’s body of work, which has grown far less austere and far more accessible since his early investigations of rhythm units. He has explored reggae beats, recorded with the great Zimbabwean chimurenga singer Thomas Mapfumo, and, with his Golden Quartet, helped to extend the vocabularies of modal and electric jazz that Miles Davis pioneered in the 1960s and 1970s. Smith’s vernacular inspirations, particularly blues and funk, have become more pronounced, his playing hotter and more propulsive, as if he now felt liberated to draw upon all the inﬂuences he had succeeded in purging from his rigorous youthful modernism. Smith has also tried to connect his music more directly to questions of spirituality, racial justice, and ecology, concerns often invoked in notes (8 pieces). In the somber, preacherly large-scale works that have consumed much of his energy over the last decade—The Great Lakes Suite, America’s National Parks, and Ten Freedom Summers, which he recently performed in Alabama—the United States appears as a land of epic promise, ravaged by internal demons. America in the civil rights era is the nominal theme of the monumental Ten Freedom Summers, but it looks back to the Dred Scott decision of 1857 and all the way forward to September 11, 2001, as if to suggest that the latter tragedy cannot be fully absorbed without a candid reckoning with what America has, and has not, been to its own people. A mournful blues performed by the Golden Quintet, “September 11, 2001: A Memorial,” is, in my view, the most haunting piece inspired by the event, a work that invites comparison with “Alabama,” Coltrane’s 1963 elegy for the four girls killed in the Birmingham church bombing. For all the minimalism of his sound, Smith has turned out to be a maximalist in his ambitions, evolving into one of our most powerful storytellers, an heir to American chroniclers like Charles Ives and Ornette Coleman. Smith’s portrait of Thelonious Monk appears to unfold on a smaller canvas, harking back to the intimacy of his early solo work, but this impression is misleading. Performing Monk without accompaniment, after all, is a mountain that few musicians dare to climb, and Wadada Leo Smith has spent his life preparing for this moment. Through patience, humility, and, above all, silence, he has reached the top of that mountain, and rewarded us with the glorious culmination of a career devoted to the “divine love” of creative music. —Wall Street Journal LOEB CLASSICAL LIBRARY Edited by JEFFREY HENDERSON Fragmentary Republican Latin Volume I: Ennius, Testimonia. Epic Fragments Volume II: Ennius, Dramatic Fragments. Minor Works Ennius History of Rome Volume X: Books 35–37 Livy Edited and translated by J. C. Yardley Widely regarded as the father of Roman literature, Ennius is best known for domesticating Greek epic and drama. This two-volume edition, which inaugurates the Loeb series Fragmentary Republican Latin, replaces that of Warmington in Remains of Old Latin, Volume I and offers fresh texts, translations, and annotation that are fully current with modern scholarship. Livy’s history, composed as the imperial autocracy of Augustus was replacing the republican system that had stood for over 500 years, presents in splendid style a vivid narrative of Rome’s rise from the traditional foundation of the city in 753 or 751 BC to 9 BC and illustrates the collective and individual virtues necessary to achieve and maintain such greatness. The books of the fourth decad (31–40) focus on Rome’s growing hegemony in the East in the years 200–180. This edition replaces the original Loeb edition by Evan T. Sage. 2018 | L294 | L537 | $26.00 each 2018 | L301 | $26.00 Edited and translated by Sander M. Goldberg Gesine Manuwald Hygiene Volume I: Books 1–4 Volume II: Books 5–6. Thrasybulus. On Exercise with a Small Ball GET OUT Back in 1290 AD London, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I might have made it across the Channel— no donkey or dog, God knows. Sorry, God would not have known or given a damn. Some Middle English in my head, chilly, thought it best to head south. The compass had not yet arrived from China, a person like me might have known the stars teach direction. A venerable rabbi taught, “Moss often grows on the north side of trees, there is safety among swarms of blackﬂies and bees.” I might have descended past Aix-en-Provence, in need of rest, stopped, picnicked on wild strawberries. I hope I read Roman de la Rose before I crossed the cruel Catholic Pyrenees, passed some gothic days and nights in Barcelona, “Ciudad de mis amores,” escaped a ﬁery death on Montjuïc. I hope I, another, dined on sea urchins. I walked to Cartagena, Santes Creus, for the love of life to dazzling Córdoba where I discovered the highest degree of charity: Make someone independent, the second highest—Give charity in secret. —Stanley Moss February 8, 2018 “The Loeb Library . . . remains to this day the Anglophone world’s most readily accessible collection of classical masterpieces.” Galen Edited and translated by Ian Johnston Hygiene ranks among Galen’s most important works, providing a comprehensive account of the practice of preventive medicine that still has relevance today. Also included are two shorter treatises on the relationship between health and wellness. Thrasybulus explores whether hygiene is part of medicine or gymnastics, and On Exercise with a Small Ball strenuously advocates that activity’s superiority to other forms of exercise. 2018 | L535 | L536 | $26.00 each For information about the digital Loeb Classical Library visit: www.loebclassics.com “Its scope is huge—Homer to Bede—and its search capabilities will make it a sine qua non even for readers who do not really need the translations.” —Los Angeles Review of Books Harvard University Press 23 Controlling the Chief Charlie Savage It was August 2004, and the Iraqi insurgency was raging in Anbar province. Major General James “Mad Dog” Mattis of the Marines, who is now the Trump administration’s defense secretary, called a meeting with a group of religious leaders outside Fallujah. His division was coming under daily ﬁre from both local militants and foreign terrorists associated with al- Qaeda’s afﬁliate in Iraq, and he hoped to persuade the leaders that it was misguided of them to encourage local young men to pick up riﬂes and shoot at American forces rather than trying to throw out al- Qaeda, whose bombings and beheadings were transforming their province into a hellscape. “How could you send your worshipers, some of them young boys, against us when their real enemy is alQaeda?” Mattis asked them, according to the military analyst Mark Perry in his new book, The Pentagon’s Wars: The Military’s Undeclared War Against America’s Presidents, a history of highlevel Pentagon decision-making and of relations between uniformed and civilian executive branch ofﬁcials over the past quarter- century. Perry goes on to repeat further details about this meeting drawn from Bing West’s The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq (2008). When the religious leaders continued sipping their tea, Mattis shouted: “They’re kids. . . . Untrained, undisciplined teenagers. They don’t stand a chance.” Later, Mattis told West that the tribes at the time “only saw us as the enemy”; what was needed was for al- Qaeda’s militants to make mistakes and “expose themselves for what they were.” Al- Qaeda’s tactics did eventually repulse Anbar’s tribes enough for them to band together in the so- called Sunni Awakening and drive the foreign terrorists out. The reprieve was temporary; the remnant of al- Qaeda’s Iraq afﬁliate would regenerate across the border in Syria, rebrand itself as the Islamic State, and sweep back into Iraq in 2014. But for a few years, Anbar became a somewhat less dysfunctional and dangerous place, as Mattis had thought it could be. More than a decade later, Mattis, now in a civilian position, is once again trying to navigate a tricky and dangerous situation. Widely regarded as one of the “grown-ups” in the idiosyncratic Trump administration, he is among the striking number of military men with whom Trump has chosen to surround himself. Trump appointed another retired four-star general, John Kelly, as his homeland security secretary, then elevated him to White House chief of staff. He made an active-duty three-star general, H. R. McMaster, his national security adviser. McMaster’s chief of staff is a retired three-star general, Keith Kellogg, and many of the lower-level policy specialists gradually succeeding Obamaera holdovers at the National Security Council also have military backgrounds. As a result, the upper reaches of the ex24 ecutive branch, which felt at times like a law ﬁrm under Obama, are coming to resemble a command post. T his spreading militarization of the executive branch makes it timely to think about the experiences that have shaped the past generation of top Pentagon brass. The most important of Trump’s military men—along with General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was appointed to that position by Obama— share a remarkably narrow range of experience. Mattis, Kelly, and Dun- There is already a growing disparity between Trump’s rhetoric as a candidate and his foreign policy decisions. For all his campaign talk about being eager to “bomb the hell out of” the Islamic State, he ran for president as something of an isolationist—an opponent of military missions that did not put “America ﬁrst”—and at times even portrayed himself as more dovish than Hillary Clinton. For instance, he criticized George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq (ignoring the inconvenient truth that at the time, he had told Howard Stern that he supported it), for which Clinton had famously voted, and he denounced her Mark Wilson/Getty Images The Pentagon’s Wars: The Military’s Undeclared War Against America’s Presidents by Mark Perry. Basic Books, 341 pp., $30.00 into the vacuum left behind if American forces departed. “My original instinct was to pull out—and, historically, I like following my instincts,” he said. “But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Ofﬁce.” In October, after the deaths of four American army soldiers in an ambush in Niger focused attention on a buildup of hundreds of American forces there, a deployment that began under Obama and expanded under Trump, Mattis testiﬁed that the administration had sent the troops to be trainers and advisers who would help that nation resist incursions by Islamic State ﬁghters: “Why did President Obama send troops there? Why did President Trump send troops there? It’s because we sensed that as the physical caliphate is collapsing, the enemy is trying to move somewhere.” Mattis added, “We’re trying to build up the internal defenses of another country so they can do this job on their own.” P President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis outside the White House on Inauguration Day, January 2017 ford are all Marines, the smallest of the military services and the one that has the greatest reputation for cultural conservatism and for a warrior identity. They have also known one another and worked together for a long time: Kelly and Dunford even served in the unit that Mattis commanded in Anbar. While McMaster is an Army ofﬁcer, he also came up ﬁghting insurgents in the post–September 11 Muslim world. Some of The Pentagon’s Wars’ most interesting passages focus on these men. Perry writes that observers might like to believe that their familiarity “with the terrible costs of war” would make them “unlikely to support the military interventions that had marred the terms of the four previous presidents.” But he is skeptical about this, pointing to various episodes in their backgrounds that suggest that “each of these four ofﬁcers believed deeply in American military power—and in its ability to shape the international environment.” He adds: Senior military commanders who knew and had served with Mattis, Kelly, Dunford, and McMaster now regularly reassured the press that the election of Trump would not lead to an upending of America’s traditional role as the enforcer of global stability. The war on terrorism would continue, the defense budget would be increased, the US military would be strengthened, and, as Donald Trump reassured the public, the United States “would start winning wars again.” advocacy of Obama’s ill-fated 2011 intervention in Libya. In a major foreign policy speech in April 2016, Trump said: “Unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my ﬁrst instinct. You cannot have a foreign policy without diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength.” In a series of moves starting just days after he took ofﬁce, Trump has approved Mattis’s requests to give the military more freedom to attack Islamist militants at its own discretion, removing Obama- era constraints on drone strikes and commando raids in places like Yemen and Somalia. In April, after the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians, Trump ordered a punitive missile strike on an Assad regime air base without offering any public explanation of his rationale for how it complied with the constraints imposed by the international laws of war. In August, Trump answered the military’s request for more troops in Afghanistan by authorizing a new surge of thousands of additional American forces there, winding back up a sixteenyear- old war that Obama had tried to wind down. In explaining his decision in televised remarks, Trump denied that the United States was resuming a nation-building mission in Afghanistan, saying instead that the forces were there only to kill terrorists. But he conceded that he had been talked into changing his position on troop levels out of fears that terrorists would ﬂow erry explains that The Pentagon’s Wars “is not a recounting of America’s recent wars, but a narrative account of the politics of war—the story of civil-military relations from Operation Desert Storm to the rise of the Islamic State.” For those hoping that a skeptical, assertive military mindset is exactly what is needed to restrain the potential excesses of the Trump administration, Perry’s portrayal of many of the most important Pentagon leaders of the past generation may be disturbing. He deplores the “professional, and inbred, military establishment” of the post–cold war era, writing that all too often three- and four-star ofﬁcers have been weak, ego- driven, and selfpromoting, while rarely independent and outspoken enough to stand up to presidents who advance bad ideas. The bad ideas Perry has in mind are protracted nation-building missions. He is critical of many of the United States’ military interventions abroad in places like Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, believing that they squandered the US’s position of strength at the end of the cold war. He acknowledges that civilian control of the military is a hallmark of our democracy. But he suggests that—confronted by a series of “political leaders whose vision of a world made safe by American arms, with nations rebuilt according to our ideals” was doomed to fail—senior military ofﬁcers have too often fallen into line instead of offering unvarnished advice: they should have more aggressively “insisted that our civilian leaders question their assumptions or rethink their options.” This sounds more like a tale of unduly supine generals than of a Pentagon that has been engaged in an undeclared war against America’s presidents. Indeed, The Pentagon’s Wars contains only a few episodes that live up to its provocative subtitle. In Perry’s account, the most striking instance in the last twenty- eight years of a senior military ofﬁcer telling a president “no” came when General Colin Powell, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, rebelled against President Clinton’s attempt The New York Review in 1993 to let gays and lesbians serve openly in the military. Powell’s revolt, resulting in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” compromise, was a “triumph” of sorts, Perry writes, because henceforth, “for the ﬁrst time in history, the head of the military had a veto: Clinton believed he couldn’t successfully promote a military policy decision without his concurrence.” Yet Powell’s victory for the institutional clout of the military may have been pyrrhic: in Perry’s telling, the nation’s top civilian ofﬁcials since then have “purposely named military ofﬁcers they believed they could control” to inﬂuential positions, rewarding those who salute and agree and stiﬂing those willing to express dissent. W hatever one makes of Perry’s arguments, the analytical portions are his book’s most interesting and valuable component. But its factual portions have certain limitations. First, The Pentagon’s Wars contains very little new information. As the endnotes make clear, the essential details of most of the meetings and events it recounts are taken from previously published books and articles by journalists like Michael Gordon, Thomas Ricks, David Halberstam, and Bob Woodward, and from memoirs by retired generals and other former national security leaders. Although Perry conducted many interviews, a typical passage of his book will lay out a well- established episode based on material already put forward by others and then append a new minor detail or observation about it. Second, the contributions of his Greek chorus of mostly anonymous sources are often jarringly gossipy. We are told, for instance, that Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, the leader of the ﬁrst Gulf War, under pressure just before the start of the air campaign, was “almost whimpering” and “acting like a baby.” General Wesley Clark, who led the Clinton- era interventions in the Balkans as the head of European Command, was a “tireless self-promoter . . .who’d gotten ahead by rubbing shoulders with the right people, endlessly polishing his own credentials—and by his singular focus on himself.” Air Force General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the Bush administration’s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, “never disagreed with his boss,” to the point that he was supposedly called “limp Dick” behind his back. While Perry writes that Mattis was a “fearless ﬁghter and plain talker” as a battleﬁeld commander, he also quotes an unnamed former subordinate Marine who describes Mattis as a back-slapper who displayed a need to “parade his masculinity” among lower-ranking troops by swapping stories about women they knew. Whatever the value of this kind of snark, it’s not clear how much credence to give it. I took a closer look at one of the few bits of original reporting about one of the generals who went on to work for Trump and came away unconvinced that it was true. Perry recounts an acrimonious phone call between Mattis and Tom Donilon, then Obama’s national security adviser, in December 2012. At the time, Mattis was in charge of the US Central Command, which oversees military opera- tions in the Middle East, and he was developing a reputation for favoring a more aggressive approach to curbing Iranian misbehavior than some of Obama’s civilian advisers. According to the book, Mattis unilaterally moved a carrier group closer to Iran, and Donilon, when he noticed, told Mattis to pull it back. But Donilon told me that neither the phone call nor the carrier group incident ever happened. I then talked to half a dozen former White House and Pentagon ofﬁcials who were in a position to know about it, and none remembered the incident either.* Finally, Perry made some puzzling choices about what to omit. The book largely ignores the unusual policy issues that arose after September 11 and led to recurring battles between civilian and uniformed ofﬁcials in both the Bush and the Obama administrations. There is no discussion of Guantánamo or trying terrorists before military commissions, for example, and only a ﬂeeting reference to torture amid a brief mention of the Abu Ghraib scandal. The absence of these crucial issues in a history of recent civilian–military relations is glaring, and is all the more unfortunate because their inclusion *Others who told me they thought this story was false included Jeremy Bash, the chief of staff to former secretary of defense Leon Panetta; James Miller, the former undersecretary of defense for policy; and John Allen, a nowretired Marine general who was formerly Mattis’s deputy commander at Centcom. I received no answer when I reached out to Mattis through the Pentagon press ofﬁce. would have helped to illuminate signiﬁcant moves by Trump’s generals. For example, one of Mattis’s early accomplishments as Trump’s secretary of defense was to persuade the president to abandon his campaign promise to sanction the use of torture for interrogating suspected terrorists. Another example is Kelly’s decision, on his ﬁrst day as Trump’s chief of staff, to send a draft executive order on detainee policy, which had been nearly ready for Trump’s signature, back to lower-level staffers across the various security agencies for reworking so that its ﬁnal language might better lay the groundwork for putting Guantánamo, which Kelly had overseen during the Obama years as leader of the US Southern Command, to a wider use. In making sense of those moves, it helps to know that during the Bush administration, many (though not all) uniformed military leaders pushed back hard against civilian ofﬁcials’ desire to bypass the Geneva Conventions when it came to abusive interrogations of wartime detainees. And it helps to know that during the Obama administration, foot- dragging Defense Department ofﬁcials sometimes put up passive resistance to the White House’s policy of trying to empty Guantánamo. Including those civilian–military ﬁghts over policy during the war on terror would have better supported the book’s subtitle—and made it even more timely for the Trump era. B ut there is ample material in The Pentagon’s Wars to raise an important question about the Trump administration: 7KH']DQF%RRNVΖQWHUQDWLRQDO /LWHUDU\3URJUDP :RUNVKRSVOHFWXUHVLQȴFWLRQSRHWU\ QRQȴFWLRQPHPRLUDQG3RUWXJXHVHOLWHUDWXUHFXOWXUH "+!&"#" $)%"!$&'$")$%"!$%/" "!!!%%+!!"!&%+$""#%,!%& "%1'2%*"&"!&"'%$%&$2"$&"%! "$&$$!&&$2%"!0"($%!!+ &$!,$$&! !+ "$ ZZZGLVTXLHWLQWHUQDWLRQDORUJ February 8, 2018 25 Christopher Marlowe Entries are now invited for the twentyninth Calvin & Rose G Hoffman Prize to be awarded in December 2018. The closing date for entries to be received is 1st September 2018. 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TO ORDER, go to shop.nybooks.com or call 646-215-2500 26 I Brendan Smialowski/AFP /Getty Images The Calvin & Rose G Hoffman Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly Essay on Are Trump’s generals cut from the after he took over as Trump’s national Mattis has also repeatedly reafsame mold as their recent Pentagon security adviser. ﬁrmed America’s unconditional supcolleagues, whom Perry sees as havBut Kelly has also done things that port of NATO after Trump called it into question, and said publicly that ing been yes-men? There is some evilooked more accommodating to his it was in America’s interest to stay in dence to believe they are not. Even if boss—and not just carrying out, as the Iran nuclear deal, even as Trump the purported carrier group incident is homeland security secretary, Trump’s threatened to abrogate it. In Novemdubious, it is widely agreed that Matﬁrst, poorly designed travel ban, which ber, Air Force General John Hyten, tis’s hawkish views on Iran created tencaused chaos before courts blocked it. the commander of the US Strategic sions with the Obama administration. In October, after a Democratic conCommand, which controls the United When he ran Southern Command, gresswoman criticized Trump over States’ nuclear weapons, told an audiKelly was also known for candidly sayhis apparent botching of a consolaence at a security forum that if Trump ing what he believed even when it put tion call to the widow of one of the gave him an “illegal” nuclear attack him at odds with the White House, as soldiers killed in Niger, Kelly came to order, he would reject it and try to steer when he blamed a major 2013 hunger the White House podium to invoke the the commander-in- chief toward lawful strike at Guantánamo on Obama’s combat death of his own son, while atoptions. de facto abandonment of his effort to tacking the lawmaker as an “empty close the prison in his administration’s barrel” whom he had once witnessed middle years. And McMaster, as Perry crassly bragging, at the dedication cern short, Trump’s generals—some still reminds us, wrote a book that became emony for an FBI building in Miami named after two slain agents, about in uniform, some now civilians—are inﬂuential in military circles called how she had used her access to Presiclearly trying to mitigate turmoil and Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, curb potential dangers. That Robert McNamara, the Joint may be at once reassuring and Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That disturbing. In the United States, Led to Vietnam (1997). In it, he the armed forces are supposed condemned the Joint Chiefs for to be apolitical. While the nation failing to forcefully question (or should be grateful in these trouresign in protest against) Johnbled times that the military as an son’s disastrous escalation of the institution has remained loyal to Vietnam War. constitutional values, Ned Price, Against that backdrop, one a former CIA ofﬁcer who served of the striking patterns duron the National Security Council ing the ﬁrst year of the Trump under Obama, wrote in an essay administration has been the in Lawfare that the military’s repeated spectacle of these curvery act of contradicting or disrent and former military men tancing itself from the president, contradicting or brushing off even subtly, “goes against the the commander-in- chief. Some grain of our democratic system of this has come in culture-war and should engender at least episodes, such as the debate over White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in the Oval Ofﬁce, ﬂeeting discomfort among even transgender troops. After Trump October 2017 the most virulent administration abruptly declared on Twitter critics.” Thus, even if it is a good that transgender people would dent Obama to secure funding for the thing for now that the line between no longer be permitted to serve in the project. When video of the ceremony “civil and military affairs in American American military “in any capacity,” surfaced showing that Kelly’s accusasociety” is getting a bit blurred, in the Dunford said that transgender troops tion was false, he refused to apologize. long run, Price warned, “that line must could remain unless and until some His performance drew a rebuke from again become inviolable when our pomore formal directive arrived from the retired Admiral Mike Mullen, who litical class returns to its senses.” Or as White House. When the Trump White served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mullen, in a speech in October at the House ﬁnally produced such a docufrom 2007 to 2011, and who agreed US Naval Institute, put it: ment, Mattis launched a lengthy study with an interviewer in November that during which transgender troops would Kelly now appeared to be “all-in” on How did we get here to a point be permitted to keep serving. And supporting Trump as a policy matter: where we are depending on retired Dunford later testiﬁed that his advice generals for the stability of our was that currently serving transgender Certainly what happened very system? And what happens if that troops should be permitted to stay in sadly a few weeks ago, when he bulwark breaks, ﬁrst of all? I have the military after all, raising the poswas in a position to both defend been in too many countries globsibility that the president’s edict may the president in terms of what hapally where the generals, if you will, fade away. pened with the gold star family and gave great comfort to their citiAnother example came after the rathen he ends up—and John ends zens. That is not the United States cially tinged violence surrounding the up politicizing the death of his own of America. marches in Charlottesville sparked by son in the wars. It is indicative of the city’s plan to remove a statue of the fact that he clearly is very supThe more immediate question, howRobert E. Lee. After Trump prompted portive of the president no matter ever, may be whether Trump’s generals widespread outrage by equating the what. And that, that was really a will last through the Trump presidency. white supremacist protesters with antisad moment for me. McMaster is a regular target of farracist counterprotesters, Mattis gave a right media outlets that see him as a speech to troops that took a starkly difStill, for all the turbulence of these threat to Trump’s nationalist agenda ferent tone, urging the military to “just culture-war moments, and for all the and have urged the president to ﬁre hold the line until our country gets slow-burn escalation of counterterrorhim. And in late August, Trump, who back to understanding and respecting ism deployments, the military men’s hates being managed, lashed out at each other.” Kelly complicates this pattern. In most important contribution may be Kelly, who later reportedly told other some ways he has looked like a rein restraining full-scale war. This past White House staffers that he had never straining force, using his power as chief summer, for example, in response to been spoken to like that in his thirtyof staff to impose order on the chaotic North Korea’s provocative testing of ﬁve years of public service and that he White House by regimenting the ﬂow more powerful nuclear weapons and would not abide such treatment in the of information to Trump and supportlonger-range missiles, Trump declared future. While Mattis so far has escaped ing the ouster of several of the most that “talking is not the answer.” But Trump’s penchant for abusing his suborunconventional staffers of his adminMattis contradicted him just a few dinates, it seems safe to predict that he istration, such as Anthony Scaramucci, minutes later, telling reporters: “We’re too will eventually get on the mercurial the foulmouthed and short-lived White never out of diplomatic solutions.” president’s wrong side. In the meanHouse communications director, and Similarly, when Trump told reporters time, it looks increasingly as though Stephen Bannon, the head of Breithe might use the American military Mattis’s long-ago meeting outside Falbart News whom Trump had made his to intervene in Venezuela amid deeplujah, asking over tea that the religious chief strategist. Those moves echoed ening unrest there, McMaster swiftly leaders of Anbar province see reason, a similar overhaul and purge at the reassured the world that “no military foreshadowed his ﬁnal mission: trying, National Security Council launched options are anticipated in the near on a far larger scale, to keep things from by McMaster last spring and summer, future.” spinning out of control at home. The New York Review 70% DE 1 H off Taught by Professor Ronald D. 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No exams. No homework. Just a world of knowledge available anytime, anywhere. Download or stream to your laptop or PC, or use our free apps for iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire, or Roku. Over 600 courses available at www.TheGreatCourses.com. 27 The Horror, the Horror Gary Saul Morson The Essential Fictions by Isaac Babel, edited and translated from the Russian by Val Vinokur. Northwestern University Press, 404 pp., $21.95 (paper) Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel, translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk. London: Pushkin Press, 219 pp., $18.00 (paper) Odessa Stories by Isaac Babel, translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk. London: Pushkin Press, 221 pp., $18.00 (paper) On January 17, 1940, Stalin approved the sentences of 346 prominent people, including the dramaturge Vsevolod Meyerhold, the former NKVD (secret police) chief Nikolai Yezhov, and the writer Isaac Babel. All were shot. Babel had been arrested on May 15, 1939, in the middle of the night, and, the story goes, he remarked to an NKVD ofﬁcer: “So, I guess you don’t get much sleep, do you?” Grim wit was Babel’s trademark. He is best known for a cycle of short stories entitled Red Cavalry, a ﬁctionalized account of his experiences as a Bolshevik war correspondent with a Cossack regiment during the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1920. Lionel Trilling, who introduced Babel to the English-speaking world, recognized these stories as the masterpiece of Soviet literature.1 Some of Babel’s other stories, especially his Odessa tales, also impressed Trilling and have remained favorites. They offer a tragicomic portrait of Odessa’s large Jewish community, with its rabbis, sensitive schoolboys, and, improbably, a Jewish gangster whose adventures combine epic heroism with a trickster’s ingenuity. How did a young man “with spectacles on his nose and autumn in his heart,” as he describes himself in one story, wind up in a regiment of Cossacks, known for their extreme brutality, violent masculinity, and hatred of Jews? Born into a middle- class Jewish family in 1894, Babel, who received a traditional Jewish education, was steeped in the polyglot, multicultural communities of Odessa, where he acquired ﬂuency in Hebrew, Yiddish, and French, as well as Russian. In one story, he describes how Odessa Jews were obsessed with turning their sons into great violinists, like Mischa Elman or Jascha Heifetz; but Babel, who concealed copies of Turgenev on his music stand, preferred the traditional Russian view of literature as the most important thing in the world. Inﬂuenced by Maupassant, he wrote his ﬁrst stories in French, but as he recalls in his autobiographical tale “My First Honorarium,” he was inhibited by his belief that “it was pointless to write worse than Lev Tolstoy.” With Tolstoy, he told an interviewer, “the electric charge went from the earth, through the hands, straight to the paper, with 1 Trilling’s introduction to Isaac Babel, The Collected Stories, translated by Walter Morison (Criterion, 1955). 28 no insulation, quite mercilessly stripping off any and all outer layers with a sense of truth . . . both transparent and beautiful.” But it was not Tolstoy’s incomparable realism and transparent style that Babel would cultivate. It was his ability to strip away all life’s accidents and reveal its “essence.” In his tale “Childhood. At Grandmother’s,” the young Babel learns to see everything around him—streets, shop windows, stones—“in a special way . . . and I was quite certain that I could see in them what was most important, mysterious, what we grown-ups call the essence of things.” He discovered in his Cavalry, and it is certainly important. But something else is going on. The author approaches the world as an anthropologist, a disinterested spectator recording the odd customs of Cossacks, Jews, Poles, priests, Hasidic rebbes, camp whores, and every sort of perpetrator or victim of extreme violence. Observing his own reactions as if they were someone else’s, or placing himself in dangerous situations in order to monitor his own emotions, he treats himself as just another specimen of the human condition. In his story “My First Goose,” he wonders at his own taste for violence and its intimate link with A photograph of Isaac Babel taken by the NKVD after his arrest, circa 1939 grandfather a man who “was ruled by an inextinguishable search for knowledge and for life.” His grandmother told him not to trust anyone, but to acquire all human knowledge: “You must know everything,” she demanded, and with these words she shaped “my destiny, and her solemn covenant presses ﬁrmly—and forevermore—upon my weak little shoulders.” That destiny, as he conceived it, was to become “the [Russian] literary Messiah, awaited in vain for so long.” To see into the essence of things requires experience. In one autobiographical tale, a proofreader rebukes Babel for not knowing the natural world: “And you dare to write! A person who doesn’t live in nature, as a stone or an animal lives in nature, will never write two worthwhile lines in his entire life.” But it was human beings, in all their beauty and loathsomeness, he most wanted to know. In 1915, he moved to St. Petersburg and wrote some stories that impressed Maxim Gorky, who published Babel’s work in his newspaper New Life, until the Bolsheviks shut it down. As Babel recalled, Gorky advised him to go into the world and acquire real experience. Over the next few years, Babel served as a soldier on the Romanian front and may even have worked for the nascent Cheka (secret police) before becoming a war correspondent. T here could hardly have been a more grotesque pairing than a sensitive Jewish intellectual with a brutal Cossack regiment. For Trilling, this contrast constitutes the central theme of Red sexuality. He has to know everything. But what is the morality of looking at human suffering from outside, as a scientist examines specimens? That, too, is a theme of these stories and of Babel’s work in general. In her memoir Hope Against Hope, Nadezhda Mandelstam describes Babel as a risktaker, willing to do anything, however dangerous or morally questionable, to learn about unexpected situations and strange people. Babel listened with more intensity than anyone she had ever met, while everything about him “gave an impression of all- consuming curiosity—the way he held his head, his mouth, his chin, and particularly his eyes. . . . Babel’s main driving force was the unbridled curiosity with which he scrutinized life and people.” Babel even seemed to enjoy risk itself. During the great purges, he had an affair with the NKVD chief Yezhov’s wife. Instead of living in apartment buildings for writers, he chose a house where foreigners stayed. “Who in his right mind would have lived in the same house as foreigners?” Mandelstam asked, since any contact with foreigners was a likely death sentence. She also reports that Babel spent a lot of time with “militiamen,” a euphemism for NKVD agents. Mandelstam’s husband, the poet Osip Mandelstam, asked Babel why he was so drawn to such company: “Was it a desire to see what it was like in the exclusive store where the merchandise was death?” Babel replied: “I just like to have a whiff and see what it smells like.” One might suppose that Yezhov had Babel arrested for sleeping with his wife, but in fact he was arrested after Yezhov fell, apparently because it was routine to incarcerate anyone associated with an enemy of the people. Under interrogation, which almost always involved torture, Babel implicated other cultural ﬁgures—not as spies, but for the views they actually held, which no one but a totalitarian would ﬁnd objectionable. Sergei Eisenstein, according to Babel, had remarked that under current conditions gifted individuals could not fully realize their talents, while the writer Ilya Ehrenburg complained that “the continuing wave of arrests forced all Soviet citizens to break off any relations with foreigners.” As was not uncommon, Babel’s confession was bloodstained. The narrator of Red Cavalry—the war correspondent Vasily Lyutov, the pseudonym Babel himself had used among the Cossacks—observes everyone anthropologically, even his fellow Jews, as if they were a strange tribe. In the opening story, “Crossing the Zbruch,” he is quartered with a poor Jewish family, consisting of a pregnant woman, a man with a covered head asleep against the wall, and two “scraggy necked Jews” who hop about “monkey-fashion.” As if he were disgusted by contact with Jews, Lyutov describes ﬁnding in the room assigned to him “turned-out wardrobes . . . scraps of women’s fur coats on the ﬂoor, human excrement, and shards of the hidden dishware Jews use once a year— at Easter.” These Jews take their revenge on him for his imperious treatment of them. He discovers to his horror that the man with the covered head, next to whom he has been sleeping, is a corpse with a cut throat. The woman explains that her father begged the Poles to kill him outside, so his daughter wouldn’t see him die, “‘but they did as they saw ﬁt. He met his end in this room and was thinking of me. And now I should wish to know,’ said the woman with sudden and terrible violence, ‘I wish to know where in the whole world you could ﬁnd another father like my father?’” Red Cavalry draws on a diary Babel kept in which he expresses horror at the violence committed by Reds, Poles, and partisans alike.2 Everyone kills Jews, and he asks himself, “Can it be that ours is the century in which they perish?” Like Lyutov, the war correspondent in the stories, Babel clings to a belief in revolution as more than senseless killing, but encounters everywhere “the ineradicable cruelty of human beings.” Several stories are narrations by Bolshevik soldiers who nonchalantly describe their hideous, needless brutality as a ﬁght against “treason” and “counter-revolution.” Babel entertains the thought that “this isn’t a Marxist revolution, it’s a Cossack rebellion,” which at least leaves open the possibility that a true Marxist revolution is taking place elsewhere, but he soon surrenders even this consolation. “Our way of bringing freedom—horrible.” The Bolshevik soldiers resemble their enemies. “The hatred is the same, the Cossacks just the same, the cruelty the same, it’s nonsense to think one army 2 Isaac Babel, 1920 Diary, edited by Carol J. Avins and translated by H.T. Willetts (Yale University Press, 1995). The New York Review GALLERIESANDMUSEUMS A CURRENT LISTING Pati Hill, Alphabet of Common Objects, c. 1975-79, 45 black and white copier prints, each 11"x 8.5" ; Image courtesy Estate of Pati Hill. Andrei Kushnir, Timeless, 9 ¼” x 12 ¼” Oil American Painting Fine Art 5125 MacArthur Blvd., NW, Suite 17, Washington, DC 20016; 202-244-3244; classicamericanpainting.com; Wed. thru Sat. 11 am–7 pm, and by appointment. Current Exhibit: Small Treasures, works by Gallery Artists, Guest Artists and members of the Washington Society of Landscape Painters. Small paintings in oil, acrylic, mixed media and watercolor, all framed and perfect for giving (or keeping!). Also, works by gallery artists Andrei Kushnir, Michele Martin Taylor, David Baise, Michael Francis, Carol Spils, Stevens Jay Carter, and Ross Merrill. Our gallery is dedicated to the ﬁnest work in landscape, still life, genre, urban and marine art by current traditional American painters, many with national reputations. Boris Lurie Art Foundation 599 11th Avenue, Floor 4, New York, NY 10036 Boris Lurie in Habana, a large-scale retrospective survey of Lurie’s work at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes La Habana, Cuba has been extended through January 28, 2018. "The majority of the works in this exhibition are enBORIS LURIE. “NO in Orange”, c. 1962 tertaining only as an afterthought l believe; their primary intention is to communicate, or more accurately, be a savage experience that owes little to that diplomatic ﬁnesse which all commercial art must cultivate. Why? Because serious art in a rather cowardly mass society such as ours must constantly assert to the public that it is motivated by a different purpose than the decorative or simply artful work which is gobbled up by mass-media man without Indigestion. We have too much sickness in every compromised area of our lives to need art that soothes." Seymour Krim, 1963 Pink Bath, 2016, acrylic on panel, 16" x 20" John Davis Gallery 362 ½ Warren Street, Hudson, NY 12534; (518) 828-5907; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.johndavisgallery.com Polina Barskaya, Paintings. Feb 2 – 25. "My recent paintings are of my immediate surroundings. They are usually self-portraits or portraits of my husband in different moments of our daily life. They are a kind of documentation, a way of examining, breaking apart, remembering, understanding the passing of time, and recording the stillness of private moments in a very fast paced isolating world." Polina Barskaya, 2018 Swann Auction Galleries 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010; (212) 254-4710; swanngalleries.com. Upcoming Auction: “Early Printed, Medical, Scientiﬁc & Travel Books,” March 8; Preview: March 3 to 7. Featuring a selection of early Spanish books on agriculture, heraldry, horses, law, literature, medicine, theology and travel. Fine incunabula include the earliest surviving manual of chess, Arte de Ajedres by Luis de Lucena, circa 1496-97. First illustrated editions of two early astronomical texts—the 1478 Sphaera mundi Luis de Lucena, Arte de ajedres, by Johannes Sacrobosco, and the 1482 ﬁrst edition, Salamanca, circa Poeticon Astronomicon by Caius Julius 1496-97. Estimate $10,000 to Hyginus—will also be offered. $15,000. If y ou would like to a d ver tise a g alle ry or m useum exhibition in T he New York R e v ie w’s Galle ri e s & Museums Listing, p le as e cont act T y Ana nia a t email@example.com or (212) 293-1630. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1(880 – 1938) Nudes on the Beach, Fehmarn Island, 1912 W & K Fine Art, Vienna will be Participating in Master Drawings New York 2018 and is showing highlights, including paintings and sculpture, from the Vienna gallery’s collection at their New York partner-gallery, Shepherd W & K. The Master Drawings even takes place from Saturday 27 January to Saturday 3 February 2018. Further information can be found on our website: Shepherdgallery.com. Wildlife Art https://www.michaelbankswildlifeart.com/ Painted of an old tiger I photographed in Ranthambhore, India. A portion of each sale goes to WWF, Panthera, or, Defenders of Wildlife. After the web site visit, send all inquiries to: Michael Banks: mike@ westendantiques.com. Emily Nelligan: Selected Cranberry Island Drawings Marvin Bileck: Rain Makes Applesauce February 10th through March 24th Loren MacIver: Early Work February 10th through March 24th Emily Nelligan, Untitled, c. 1975, charcoal on paper, 13 x 9 7/8 inches. Deborah Rosenthal, Scholar’s Landscape, 2016. Gouache on paper, 22" x 11" GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS Shepherd / W & K Galleries 58 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10075; (212) 861-4050; Fax: (212) 772-1314; shepherdny@ aol.com; shepherdgallery.com. Alexandre Gallery (212)755-2828; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.alexandregallery.com. Bowery Gallery 530 West 25 Street, NY NY 10001; (646) 230-6655; www.bowerygallery.org Falling Uphill: Paintings (January 30–February 24) brings together new paintings by Deborah Rosenthal in gouache on paper and oil on canvas. This work reﬂects the artist’s recent stays in Rome and in upstate New York. New and recurring themes— classical columns juxtaposed with sculpted ﬁgures; the pensive, reclining man or woman in a wide landscape—are set to an insistent beat of vertical-and-horizontal in these crosshatched compositions. Lyman Allyn Art Museum 625 Williams Street, New London, CT 06320; (860) 443-2545; www.lymanallyn.org. Pati Hill: Photocopier, A Survey of Prints and Books (on view through March 4, 2018) is an exhibition that considers the ﬁrst phase of the cross-disciplinary art of Pati Hill. Although her exploration of the photocopier did not begin until the early 1970s, Hill is regarded as a pioneer due to her singular approach to the medium. Employing the copier to record items as common as a gum wrapper or as unexpected as a dead swan, she also applied the process to transform appropriated photographs for her experiments with narrative. "Tiger Mountain. It is 24" x 36" acrylic. Blue Mountain Gallery 530 W 25th St, NY, NY (646) 4864730; bluemountaingallery.org; Tues–Sat 11–6 Anne Diggory: Out of Place January 30–Feb 24th, 2018 Reception: Thurs, Feb 1, 5–8pm Gallery talk: Sat, Feb 24, 4pm Blue Mountain Gallery presents Out of Place, an exhibition of recent works by Anne Diggory that involve shifts in media, location “Why I am not a poet” 24 x 24”. acrylic/ and content. The light-infused canvas. Homage to Grace and Frank works include large lake scenes derived from canoeing Adirondack waterways in upstate New York, plein air paintings from trips to California and Arizona, and studio interiors with surprising juxtapositions of palettes, everyday objects and paintings. The Grolier Club 47 East 60th Street, New York, NY 10022; (212) 838-6690; grolierclub.org “A Conversation larger than the Universe: Science Fiction and the Literature of the Fantastic 1762-2017,” from the collection of Henry Wessells, January 25 through March 10. Marking the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this is the ﬁrst science ﬁction exhibition at The Grolier Club. Seventy books, manuscripts, letters, and works of art are on view, charting the emergence of science ﬁction from the Gothic and its history up to our dystopian present, and including notable works by Shelley, H. G. Wells, Katharine Burdekin, Philip K. Dick, Joanna Russ, and others. An illustrated catalogue is available, 288 pages. (ISBN 978-1-60583-074-2). 29 In one story, Lyutov encounters an old Jew, Gedali, who questions whether paradise can be achieved by random killing and a war on religion. “The Revolution—we will say yes to it, but are we to say no to the Sabbath?” asks Gedali. Poles beat Jews and the Revolution beats Poles, which makes sense, but then why does the Revolution practice violence on Jews as well? The narrator, pretending to be an unshakable Bolshevik, replies that the revolution “cannot do without shooting, . . . because she is the Revolution.” If so, Gedali asks, how is one to tell revolution from counterrevolution? “I want an International of kind people,” Gedali declares, “I would like every soul to be registered and given ﬁrstcategory rations. There, soul, please eat and enjoy life’s pleasures.” As the story closes, “Gedali, founder of an impossible International, has gone to the synagogue to pray.” The cycle’s core story, “The Life and Adventures of Matthew Pavlichenko,” questions the anthropological impulse itself. What is the morality of treating living people experimentally, whether to understand human nature, as the narrator wishes, or to test sociological theories, as suggested by the phrase “the Soviet experiment”? Babel based the tale not only on a real ofﬁcer, Apanasenko, described in his diary as especially brutal, but also on his own impulse to take brutality as a key to human nature. “Must penetrate the soul of the ﬁghting man, I’m penetrating, it’s all horrible, wild beasts with principles,” he notes in the diary. The ﬁctional Pavlichenko, who narrates the story, practices cruelty not only out of revenge or revolutionary principle but, like Babel himself, out of a desire to “penetrate the soul.” Before the Revolution, Pavlichenko’s master, Nikitinsky, exploited him and slept with his wife, but now the tables are turned. As a Red general, Pavlichenko returns to the estate, terriﬁes Nikitinsky, and claims to be delivering a letter written by Lenin to Nikitinsky personally. I took out a blank page, Pavlichenko explains, and pretended to read, “though I can’t read to save my life. ‘In the name of the people and the establishment of a bright future, I order Pavlichenko, Matvei Rodionych, to deprive certain people of life according to his discretion. . . . That’s Lenin’s letter for you.’” Since this is apparently a revenge story, we expect Pavlichenko to shoot his former master, but learn that the general has more on his mind than settling scores. Like Babel, he regards himself as a sort of social scientist who, with disinterested curiosity, seeks to learn the essential truth about life. In the most chilling passage of Red Cavalry, Pavlichenko, groping for words, experiments on his victim. Instead of shooting him, I trampled my master Nikitinsky. I trampled on him for an hour or more than an hour, and in that time I got to know life in full. Shooting—I’ll put it this way— only gets rid of a person, . . . shooting won’t get at the soul, to where it is in a person and how it shows itself. But, some of the times, I don’t 30 spare myself, some of the times, I trample an enemy for more than an hour, seeing as I wish to get to know life, this life we live. Time and again, Pavlichenko does not spare himself. The quest for knowledge demands no less. Untold horror results when knowledge is more important than people, and still more when one imagines that life’s essence is to be found in extreme situations. Babel here enters a debate running through Russian literature about whether true life resides in extreme situations, as Dostoevsky’s characters tend to assume, or in the most ordinary ones, as Tolstoy and Chekhov believed. Babel and Lyutov are drawn to extremes, but repeatedly discover the value of the ordinary. In “The Death of Dolgushov,” Lyutov’s coachman Grishchuk, seeing people torn apart, asks: “Why do women bother?. . . What’s the point of matchmaking and marriages and kin dancing at weddings” and all that effort to raise children? “Makes me laugh . . .why women bother.” What women do every day, that’s what matters, and what violent men—those “wild beasts with principles”—do destroys the results of all their prosaic work. Lyutov and Grishchuk encounter an injured soldier with his insides hanging out and his heartbeats visible, who begs Lyutov to shoot him so the Poles won’t be able “to play their nasty tricks” on him. Lyutov can’t do it, and his refusal horriﬁes his friend Afonka Bida, who rightly detects cruelty in such “compassion.” “Your kind with your glasses feel sorry for our brother like a cat’s sorry for a mouse,” Bida fumes. As Lyutov despairs at losing Bida as a friend, Grishchuk, who understands prosaic goodness, comforts him. As the story ends, he “took a shriveled apple from under his driver’s seat. ‘Eat,’ he said to me. ‘Please, eat . . .’” In both the diary and the stories, the author treats the wanton destruction of beehives as symbolic of war on everyday life and its prosaic values. “Total destruction. . . . The orchard, apiary, destruction of the hives, terrible, bees buzzing despairingly, the men blow up the hives with gunpowder . . . a wild orgy . . . I feel sick about it all,” he writes in the diary, and one Red Cavalry story begins: “I mourn for the bees. . . . We deﬁled untold hives. . . . There are no more bees in Volhynia.” Bees matter to the artist Pan Apolek, who scandalizes churchmen by painting Jesus and Mary with the faces of local sinners, as if to show that the sacred resides not in mythic distance but right before one’s eyes. He tells a story about how gnats plaguing Jesus on the cross asked a bee to sting him, but the bee refused since Jesus is a fellow carpenter. Soldiers kill bees, but Jesus is their brother. Babel strove for concision. It is said that he rewrote one story twenty-two times to make it as brief and powerful as possible. For Babel, the right word, le mot juste, was often the word omitted. Unsurprisingly, his output was small, and he produced less and less as Stalinist rule tightened. This silence, and the reasons for it, became the target of his own mordant irony in his speech at the Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934. The Party and the government, he explained, “have given us everything, depriving us of only one privilege—that of writing badly.” Of course, without that right, it is impossible to write anything worthwhile at all. So fearful am I of disappointing readers, he concludes, I have become the master of a new genre: the genre of silence. This comment resonated over the years since so much Russian literature was written for the drawer, appearing only decades later, or, like Babel’s last work, was seized by the NKVD and never reappeared. as “crumpled” (smyatyi), the way one crumples a piece of paper before throwing it away. The ruins are not twisted or gnarled or brought to confusion, but crooked: the word skruchennyi, as my colleague Nina Gourianova reminds me, is the one used in Samuil Marshak’s famous translation of the English nursery rhyme about a crooked man in a crooked house. Babel’s strange lexicon, and the peculiar image of a town resembling a crumpled letter, disappear. And the translators omit the double use of the word “in” (“In NovogradVolynsk, in the hastily crumpled city”), so the sentence’s rhythm changes. Dralyuk makes a principle of explaining. His introduction offers as an example of his method a passage where Babel describes old letters as istlevshikh (rotten, decaying). Dralyuk alters this to “letters worn thin”: “If one takes a moment to imagine what Babel’s narrator imagines . . . one can conjure the fragile letters before one’s eyes, feel their texture; they have been ‘worn thin’ by friction and sweat.” But Babel does not describe them as worn thin, and the Red Cavalry stories constantly offer images of rot, decay, and moldering. Translation is the theme of Babel’s story “Guy de Maupassant.” A woman loves Maupassant passionately, but her renditions remain “tediously correct, lifeless and loud, the way Jews used to write Russian.” The narrator helps: “I spent all night hacking a path through someone else’s translation,” he explains (Vinokur). “A phrase is born into the world both good and bad at the same time. The secret lies in a barely discernible twist. The lever should rest in your hand, getting warm. You must turn it once, but not twice.” Too often, Morison turns it twice, and Dralyuk not at all. Vinokur gets the right effect most often. “Guy de Maupassant” contains Babel’s most quoted line about style: “No iron can enter the heart as icily as a period placed in time.” (“Nikakoe zhelezo ne mozhet voiti v chelovecheskoe serdtse tak ledenyashche, kak tochka, postavlennaya vovremya.”) It is especially sad when translators get the timing of this very sentence wrong. They drag it out, which is like giving a joke a wordy punch line. In Morison’s version, “No iron can stab the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place,” while Vinokur renders: “Nothing of iron can breach the human heart with the chill of a period placed just in time.” “Stab” and “breach” are interpretations; “with force” does not mean “icily”; the right place is not the right time; and the word “just” is only implied. For both translators, Babel’s fourteen words needlessly expand to eighteen. The period arrives, like a bungled witticism, a bit late. Translators, like the rest of us, cling to words, thoughts, and images that are all too hopelessly familiar. That is why Babel crafted a style to shock readers into seeing the strangeness before their eyes. He gave his words a terrifying twist that lodges them in the heart and mind. Those given, as he was, to romanticize violence and seek truth in extreme situations would do well to attend to his invisible voices and resonant silences. Sovphoto/ UIG /Getty Images is different from another. . . . There’s no salvation.” Isaac Babel with his grandson, date unknown Babel’s prose depends on his silences, on what he does not say. Like his contemporaries the Russian Formalists, he wanted to shock readers out of cliché and routine perceptions, and so he cultivated a style demanding interpretations he did not provide. When convention or common sense suggests one word, he provides another, slightly but signiﬁcantly different. The test of a good translator is whether she preserves the strangeness. When Babel writes “invisible voices,” does the translator supply (as Walter Morison does) “mysterious voices”? Without realizing it, most translators betray Babel’s style by interpreting his words. The new translations by Boris Dralyuk and Val Vinokur, like Morison’s classic one, provide a readable text that captures much of what makes Babel’s stories great, but they often explain—that is, explain away—Babel’s oddities. In the story “Pan Apolek,” Babel begins a sentence: “V NovogradVolynske, v naspekh smyatom gorode, sredi skruchennykh razvalin,” which, as literally as possible, means: “In Novograd-Volynsk, in the hastily crumpled city, amid the crooked ruins. . . .” Vinokur gives us “In NovogradVolynsk, among the twisted ruins of that swiftly crushed town,” while Dralyuk offers “In Novograd-Volynsk, among the gnarled ruins of that hastily crushed city.” And Morison: “In Novograd-Volynsk, among the ruins of a town swiftly brought to confusion. . . .” These are all interpretations, almost paraphrases. Babel describes the city The New York Review The High Table Liberal WireImage/Getty Images Sean Wilentz Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian by Richard Aldous. Norton, 486 pp., $29.95 Arthur Schlesinger Jr. loved American politics. Nominating conventions thrilled him. Late-night schmoozing on the campaign trail was hard to beat. “I must say,” he wrote in his journal in 1960, “that I adore sitting around hotel rooms with politicians and newspapermen exchanging gossip over drinks.” Some of the precincts he frequented were seriously glamorous. (Also from his journal, about a giant Adlai Stevenson rally at the old Madison Square Garden in 1952: “Lauren Bacall hailed me excitedly . . . her voice quivering with feeling, ‘Arthur, did you read Walter Lippmann’s column this morning?’”) But Schlesinger delighted in the humblest political rites—whistle-stop speeches at the crack of dawn, hackﬁlled Democratic Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners—with what he called their mixture of “corny pontiﬁcal introductions, wisecracks and seriousness.” Today the midcentury American liberalism that Schlesinger defended and in large measure deﬁned seems as antiquated as whistle-stops and JeffersonJackson Day dinners. About thirty years ago, most liberal politicians and intellectuals (though not Schlesinger) dropped the toxic “L-word,” denigrated by the left as well as the right, and began calling themselves “progressives,” which had been a decidedly antiliberal term of the left. With fewer people rising to claim or even describe its principles, and with the Democratic Party reduced to a congeries of special interests, liberalism lost its élan and came to be redeﬁned by its political enemies. Now, a decade after his death, Schlesinger’s liberalism, in a remarkable convergence of radical left and radical right, is widely regarded as the politics of a decadent, self- enraptured, war-mongering globalist establishment that long ago abandoned the working class and the poor. Known in left-wing circles as “neoliberalism”—once a precise term in economic theory deﬁning Thatcherism that has morphed into a sweeping pejorative against liberals, progressives, and European social democrats not of the hard left—this caricature stoked rage at both ends of the spectrum in last year’s election and had a lot to do with the victory of Donald J. Trump. In view of this recent history, the subtitle of Richard Aldous’s otherwise solid biography is misleading as well as erroneous. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was in no way an “imperial” historian; he was an anti-imperial historian. He created no empire of academic acolytes. Nor did he write of the United States as an empire. He did title one of his ﬁnest books The Imperial Presidency, but this was a warning about the dangers of unchecked executive power. Aldous might have better described him as a democratic historian (or even, given his partisan loyalty, a Democratic historian), although that would have elided his elite associations and his oldschool, martini-at-lunch, Century Club style. Schlesinger is best described as a February 8, 2018 just after FDR’s death, when (fresh from the Harvard Society of Fellows via the Ofﬁce of Wartime Information and the Ofﬁce of Strategic Services, and not yet thirty) he published his second book, The Age of Jackson. For decades, patrician historians had defamed Andrew Jackson’s presidency as an erratic disaster, headed by a lawless, violent, unschooled rufﬁan and supported blindly by the newly enfranchised, ignorant masses. Schlesinger replaced that view with an account of Jackson as a genuine democratic leader, the foe of monopoly and what his supporters called “the money power” as well as of the militant, fractious South Carolina slaveholders led by John C. Calhoun. Above all, Schlesinger wrote, Jackson advanced a liberal politics based on “executive vigor and government action,” in contrast with abiding Jeffersonian fears of centralized power. P Alexandra and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. at Tavern on the Green, New York City, May 1987; photograph by Ron Galella liberal historian; he was a leading member of an outstanding generation of liberal historians that included Richard Hofstadter and C. Vann Woodward. Aldous’s subtitle conveys a different impression, portending a book that will string together all the familiar and trite putdowns of Schlesinger as the Kennedy family’s obsequious courtier and (as many leftists saw him) an apologist for various cold war crimes—that is, an imperial historian. But Aldous, a British-born historian who now teaches at Bard, is not that kind of biographer. His earlier writings on modern Anglo-American diplomacy and, above all, on the sometimes strained relations between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan shrewdly depict the play of principle, obligation, and psychology that drives politics at the highest levels. It is a quality of perception that distinguished Schlesinger’s best historical writing, and it helps Aldous illuminate that writing as well as Schlesinger’s political forays. Aldous clearly respects Schlesinger’s politics, but his detachment gives him room to criticize without sanctimony and to empathize without evasion. His book helps reveal why Schlesinger mattered so much to the history of modern American liberalism, a history and a politics now badly in need of rescue and repair. Schlesinger made large intellectual contributions to three major phases of twentieth- century American history: the New Deal, the coming of the cold war, and the advent of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Born in 1917, he was too young to be an actual New Dealer; his real inﬂuence began in 1945, raised by academic as well as popular reviewers, The Age of Jackson instantly became a rare scholarly best seller and won a Pulitzer Prize—and soon enough it began to attract unfriendly scrutiny. Some pro-business critics called it a wrongheaded attack on early American banking and ﬁnance; left-leaning historians called it an apology for capitalism.1 Both sides agreed that Schlesinger had projected the politics of the New Deal back a century earlier, creating a fanciful heroic Jackson in the mold of the book’s true hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The latter charge especially was facile and unfair. The Age of Jackson was a product of its time, but scholars had presaged its main contentions, particularly about the importance of urban labor and antimonopolism to Jacksonian politics, long before 1945 or even 1932. (Not least among the revisionists, in fact, was Schlesinger’s father and fellow Harvard historian, Arthur Schlesinger Sr.) By rooting Jacksonianism in turbulent class conﬂicts, the younger Schlesinger completed a larger shift in historians’ emphasis away from celebrating regionalism and the western frontier as the wellsprings of American democracy. FDR’s presence can be detected easily enough; Schlesinger was not shy about suggesting likenesses between the past and present. But The Age of Jackson, even with its inﬁrmities in retrospect, is a deeply researched, brilliantly written, and intellectually acute account of the 1830s, not the 1930s. “One turns with relief from more partisan myth-making histories,” Hofstadter, who would later become a sharp critic of Schlesinger’s argument, wrote in an early review, “to a study so 1 An assistant secretary to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, Bray Hammond (not Hamilton, as Aldous has it) led the pro-business attack on Schlesinger’s approving account of Jackson’s war on the Second Bank of the United States. An entire sub-school of historians, based at Columbia and arguing mainly from the left, claimed that the faux-populist Jackson, no friend to labor, was in fact a tribune of cutthroat entrepreneurs. 31 2 “Democracy in the Making,” The New Republic, October 22, 1945. 32 A lthough directed at international affairs, The Vital Center had everything to do with domestic cold war politics. The alliance between New Deal liberals and the pro- Communist wartime Popular Front left had ruptured. By 1948, the pro- Communists, lambasting President Harry S. Truman’s containment policies, were supporting the Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, FDR’s jilted ex-vice president Henry Wallace. Schlesinger had recently joined a group that included Niebuhr, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Walter Reuther of the United Automobile Workers to form Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), which in its statement of principles rejected “any association with Communists or sympathizers with communism in the United States.” The Vital Center, expanded with customary serving a presidency from the inside— a presidency that he hoped would build upon the liberal political tradition his books had traced back to Andrew Jackson. He had every intention of eventually completing “The Age of Roosevelt,” but something along the lines of a book (or several) on the age of Kennedy began taking shape. operation—or a bland politics of bipartisan consensus in opposition to the left and the right. The book’s whole point was that liberals had to champion “a ﬁghting faith,” locked in struggle over enduring vital issues, while also repudiating the Communist temptation. Aldous’s best chapters concern Schlesinger’s third contribution, in his later work for and with John F. Kennedy. In 1952, by then a political intellectual with connections at the highest levels, Schlesinger enlisted in Adlai Stevenson’s presidential campaign, where he mastered the art of breakneck speechwriting. Although taken with Stevenson as an intelligent new force in national politics, Schlesinger became frustrated by his indecisiveness, which the candidate projected as highmindedness, and by his conservative T Dominique Nabokov much concerned with the larger problems of historical causation and powered to such an unusual degree by a capacity for analytical thinking.”2 The book did, however, make sense of Jacksonian democracy in ways that helped readers make sense of the New Deal—especially readers who, like Schlesinger, came of age in the 1930s—which helped to account for its popular success. (Aldous aptly calls it a “generational” book.) In their zigzag opportunism, the New Dealers offered shifting rationales for their experimental policies but nothing like a coherent political philosophy. Schlesinger, plowing through stacks of long-forgotten speeches, letters, pamphlets, and editorials—by long-forgotten pro-Jackson radicals as well as mainstream ofﬁceholders—found a broad coherence in the Jacksonians’ ideas that carried over to contemporary politics on three speciﬁc points. First, Schlesinger claimed—and on this, he quoted FDR himself—Jacksonian democracy upheld a doctrine “that entrusts the general welfare to no one group or class.” Second, the Jacksonians advanced the interests of noncapitalist groups, preeminently farmers and laboring men, in what Schlesinger called “that enduring struggle between the business community and the rest of society which is the guarantee of freedom in a liberal capitalist state.” Finally, the Jacksonians, chieﬂy through President Jackson’s assertion of executive power, began breaking down the Jeffersonian obsession with curbing the powers of the national government. Here was the intellectual basis for a liberalism that accepted capitalism (which the 1930s Marxist left did not) but that was also intensely suspicious of capitalists, a liberalism that endorsed a powerful national government and a powerful presidency as the chief instruments for protecting ordinary Americans from the power of business. Schlesinger would return to those themes in his subsequent three volumes of a projected but never completed magnum opus, “The Age of Roosevelt,” published between 1957 and 1960. But by the time those books appeared, he had already made his second major contribution to liberalism with his cold war manifesto, The Vital Center (1949). Aldous correctly links The Vital Center to Schlesinger’s growing discomfort with the treacherous conventional political cant of “left” and “right.” Amid the global struggle against totalitarianism, Schlesinger charged, liberals everywhere had to disown communism just as sharply as conservatives had to disown fascism. In defense of democracy, the book also presented a critique of political perfectionism. This was grounded in the theology of Reinhold Niebuhr, which took special aim at a naive if wellintentioned faith in reason, moral nobility, and human progress that Schlesinger called “Doughface” progressivism. The human ﬂaws inherent in the species, Schlesinger wrote, demanded a strenuous, tough-minded egalitarian politics that was also informed by a sense of its own fallibility and tragedy—a politics that recognized basic conﬂicts, then proceeded from “the continuing struggle to try and solve them, not from the vain hope of their solution.” Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Carl Bernstein, New York City, 1985; photograph by Dominique Nabokov Schlesingerian speed from an article he had published early in 1948, became a handbook of anti- Soviet liberalism. It remains a genuine classic in the literature of American politics. The rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy soon thereafter led to unjust charges that Schlesinger and the pro-Truman liberals had abetted the rise of the Red Scare and, more broadly, to the distortion that their pragmatic rejection of political purism marked a readiness to sacriﬁce principles for the sake of gaining power. To be sure, the Truman administration, under pressure from the right, blundered into supporting an egregious loyalty oath program; and as Aldous shows, Schlesinger’s own actions in the early 1950s were not impeccable. (In 1951, for example, when a leftist editor who had irked him by turning down George Orwell’s Animal Farm was named as a member of the Communist Party before a Senate subcommittee, Schlesinger denounced him in the press, a disgraceful episode he later regretted.) But the witch hunts alarmed Schlesinger, who would have nothing to do with what he called an obsessive anticommunism that “argued that critics of McCarthy were ‘objectively’ (an old Communist Party formulation) pro- Communist.” He denounced redhunters as well as Stalinists and their naive liberal pawns—and soon enough, his own name would appear on the right-wing crusaders’ lists of suspected pinkos. Even more unjust were claims that The Vital Center validated either a revised form of Popular Front politics of liberals and leftists—the Popular Front was, by deﬁnition, a Communist instincts, not least over the emerging issues of civil rights for blacks. Still an admirer and seeing no better alternative, Schlesinger stuck with Stevenson in the 1956 campaign, but four years later (with some anguish and awkwardness) he defected to Kennedy. Schlesinger’s move has been criticized as a product of disloyal ambition mixed with an attraction to amoral politics. Aldous explodes that notion: Schlesinger was actually put off by Kennedy’s colder, more ruthless side but came to see in him qualities of leadership he identiﬁed with FDR and thought Stevenson lacked—above all, he wrote, “a sense of cool, measured, intelligent concern with action and power.” For Schlesinger, politics without a realistic understanding of power amounted to beautiful-loser moral preening that crippled the battle against plutocracy and played into the hands of divisive left-wing demagogues. The question, for Schlesinger, was whether Kennedy was truly a liberal, not merely “committed by a sense of history,” he wrote, but “consecrated by inner conviction.” Although denied an everyday part in the 1960 campaign, Schlesinger was delighted to join the new administration in the vaguely deﬁned position of special assistant to the president. For Kennedy, Schlesinger would be a personal bridge to the pro- Stevenson ADA liberals and a gadﬂy (the word is Aldous’s) in White House policy counsels. He would also be, Kennedy expected, a future in-house historian. For Schlesinger, the job offered an extraordinary opportunity for a professional historian to inﬂuence events while ob- hat age, brutally, would last less than three years. Schlesinger’s part history, part memoir of it, A Thousand Days, would bring him back to the top of the best-seller list and win him a second Pulitzer Prize, but it would also enhance his reputation as a rhapsodic and highly selective apologist for Kennedy and his family. Various insiders minimized Schlesinger’s importance to Kennedy, not least Secretary of State Dean Rusk (whom Schlesinger despised) and Schlesinger’s rival Theodore Sorensen, who by 1963 had successfully cut Schlesinger out of most presidential speechwriting. Subsequent releases of declassiﬁed material could make Schlesinger look like a conniver in administration cover-ups. If punctilious academics at the time (including his father) winced at his preference for the White House over his old ofﬁce in Harvard’s Widener Library, later historians would charge that he had become a Kennedy hack. Aldous ﬁnds that Schlesinger was neither a central participant nor a complete outlier in the White House; he was a subordinate whom Kennedy could ﬁnd exasperating, with his barrages of lengthy memos, but whom he genuinely liked, greatly respected, and consulted regularly. Schlesinger was not above occasional sycophantic ﬂattery. But he was also unafraid to press stubbornly for his liberal views, including his opposition to the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, when he stood out among the White House staff as a lonely dissenter. On at least one occasion, pushing Kennedy in 1961 to take a more ﬂexible position on the cold war ﬂashpoint of Berlin, he made an important contribution that may well have shaped Kennedy’s shrewd restraint in handling the Cuban missile crisis a year later. Aldous effectively describes the turf-war intrigue and the ricochet of egos among Kennedy’s aides and appointees, intramural struggles in which Schlesinger, with all his cleverness, did not always prevail. By the summer of 1963, Schlesinger could see Kennedy’s presidency fulﬁlling his New Dealer liberal hopes with its growing sympathy for the civil rights movement, which had become, he said at the time, the greatest surge of “spontaneous mass democracy in this country” since the sit- down strikes and spurt of labor organizing in 1937. “In each case,” he wrote, “ordinary people took things into their own hands, asserted their rights, and outstripped not only the government but their own organizations.” Kennedy, in fact, reacted in a more clear- cut way than FDR had, with an unequivocal speech in early June backing the movement. But Schlesinger’s enthusiasm came with a historian’s understanding of how protest movements had to respect and work with the realities of power in order to accomplish great reforms. “It is indispensable for the liberals to bring pressure on a [Democratic] president to do things and to complain about his slowness to The New York Review N that the president himself disliked and worked to change. In 1997, Schlesinger issued a public dressing- down, instructing Clinton on the difference between the vital center and the dead center. Yet Schlesinger, who understood something of the White House’s political predicament and was persuaded that Clinton “plainly remains a believer in activist government,” never jumped ship. (He was even more persuaded about Hillary Clinton.) He continued to serve as a valued elder and counselor, encouraging Clinton’s more liberal aspirations and accomplishments. And when the Republican radicals launched their impeachment drive, Schlesinger leapt into the fray, leading historians’ opposition to the impeachment on constitutional grounds. (Full disclosure: he would later describe me in his journal as his “anti-impeachment co- conspirator.”) For a moment he felt young again, and the center was vital once more; for his efforts, he received the predictable slurs from the right—“that arch pseud and fraud,” one columnist sniggered—but also from the left, with Christopher Hitchens leading the charge, scorning him as no historian at all but “a composer of proﬁles in Democratic opportunism.” Schlesinger was in fact one of the few truly great American historians; he left a legacy of intellectual consequence and serious productivity that puts his detractors to shame. But his writing covered much larger ground than history, and his history writing had implications that reached far beyond even his largest subjects. Apart from helping to deﬁne the essential principles of modern liberalism, Schlesinger showed how political leadership had achieved momentous reform and could succeed again through the inevitable and often harsh realities of democratic politics. Without ever losing sight of the crucial activities of agitators and social movements, he demonstrated how it ﬁnally took liberal political leaders to overcome obdurate privilege and plutocracy. He explained how political purists, insistent on fundamental principles, actually undermined the realization of those very principles, and how in the ﬁght for democratic change purists became prey for demagogues. He was drawn to power politics not as an end in itself but in preference to powerless politics. If Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who died in 2007, were still around to defend liberalism—perhaps in a new rendering of The Vital Center—he would certainly address the latter-day versions of the politics he engaged in in his own time. Liberals are left to pick up that challenge as best they can. It is well to remember that Schlesinger never renounced the label of “liberal” or lost his tough-minded and undogmatic ﬁghting spirit. Because he so deeply grasped liberalism’s history, he was able to make a good deal of it himself. David Levine act: this is indispensable in order to in 1980 won Schlesinger’s backing but enlarge his range of alternatives,” he proved something of a last hurrah—or observed. But liberals also had to unso it seemed. derstand that “theirs is a contributory Aldous devotes just ﬁfty pages to the role,” and that ﬁnally it remained to last forty-two years of Schlesinger’s presidents “to feel the balance of preslife, which is much too little. There is sure” and turn dreams into realities. some familiar material about his soKennedy’s assassination—a tragedy cializing as a man about town in his that battered even Schlesinger’s stoiadopted home of Manhattan; and there cal liberalism—proved the beginning are some touching passages about his of the end of that momentous converreweaving of what had been a lessgence, and with that the beginning of a than-happy family life. But while he crisis of liberal politics that continues to never managed to complete “The Age blight our politics half a century later. of Roosevelt,” Schlesinger remained The heroic portrayal of Kennedy in A a stalwart and productive defender Thousand Days would be fodder for of liberal politics, tacking against the decades of snide critics who dismissed Reagan right-wing wind while taking the book as (in the words of one of the sharp issue with what he saw as illibsnidest, Christopher Hitchens) Arthur Schlesinger Jr. “the founding breviary of the cult of JFK.” The dismissals ignored the book’s main theme: that Kennedy’s liberal instincts only emerged in the crucible of politics, with an appreciation of the limits as well as the possibilities of democratic leadership that was bound to dismay many liberals and leftists. Indeed, that dismay in time curdled into a counternarrative of the Kennedy presidency as a sybaritic men’s club, reckless in foreign policy and craven in domestic affairs—a reaction that basically proved Schlesinger’s point about the rampant cluelessness among intellectuals and pundits about how politics and government actually work. No less important, Schlesinger believed, was an understanding of the historical role of “contingency, chance, ignorance, and sheer stupidity,” and how they can afﬂict even the noblest of causes. Chance and contingency—and some monumental stupidity by liberal zealotry on the left. The best of his eral leaders—would deepen Schlesinglater books, The Disuniting of America er’s tragedy, and liberalism’s. Lyndon (1991), was a cri de coeur for liberal Johnson’s disaster in Vietnam (which pluralism that skewered the ethnic and Schlesinger had sternly warned Kenracial identity tribalism that, under nedy to avoid and expected that he the guise of multiculturalism, had bewould) ruined his Great Society, paved come the latest ideological straitjacket the way for Richard Nixon, and left of well-intentioned progressive intelliberals badly divided (as they remain) lectuals and educators. Schlesinger ofover the proper direction of US forfered no comfort to the right—an even eign policy. Robert Kennedy’s chalgreater threat than multiculturalism, lenge to Johnson in 1968 came to its he would quip, was monoculturalism— violent end, breaking Schlesinger’s but he was swiftly denounced as “a folheart once more; Kennedy’s death, lower of David Duke” and an advocate preceded by Martin Luther King’s asof “cultural white face.” sassination, inﬂamed baser instincts The Bill Clinton years aroused his in racial politics on both sides of the old political enthusiasm. Schlesinger color line. saw in Clinton qualities he had longed for since the 1960s: “Clinton is plainly ixon’s White House crimes aroused of the FDR-Truman-Kennedy-Johnson Schlesinger to write in 1973 The Impeschool and regards government as a key rial Presidency, which with a certain means of promoting the general welNiebuhrian humility recanted some of fare,” he observed a year into the ﬁrst his most exuberant assessments of exterm, surprised by the suffocating punpansive presidential authority. Nixon’s dits’ consensus that the president “was downfall, though, soon enough yielded abandoning liberals and moving to the the presidency of Jimmy Carter, whom right.” Some of Clinton’s actions after Schlesinger came to regard as an inept, the disastrous 1994 midterms, in which narrow-minded technocrat who lacked the Democrats lost control of both understanding of, let alone passion for, houses of Congress for the ﬁrst time the liberal tradition. Edward Kennein forty years, appalled him, above all dy’s bumbling effort to displace Carter Clinton’s signing of a welfare reform bill “. . . one of the most admired journals of its kind.” —The New York Times Please use one of the enclosed order cards or go to www.nybooks.com/subscriptions VALENTINE’S DAY ROMEO AND JULIET LITERARY SCARF A vintage-inspired photo collage of Romeo’s quote: “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night” after meeting Juliet. 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TO ORDER, go to shop.nybooks.com or call 646-215-2500 February 8, 2018 33 A Wild and Indecent Book Garry Wills Museum Ludwig, Cologne/Peter Willi/Bridgeman Images/© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS ), New York/ADAGP, Paris The New Testament: A Translation by David Bentley Hart. Yale University Press, 577 pp., $35.00 It was subtle of God to learn Greek when he wished to become an author, and not to learn it better. —Friedrich Nietzsche on the New Testament At last a man comes riding to the rescue of the English Bible. Condemning earlier translations of the New Testament, David Bentley Hart claims that “most of them effectively hide (sometimes forcibly) things of absolutely vital signiﬁcance.” He does not tell us what “forcibly” means here, but he condemns translations done by committee (even the majestic yet punchy King James Version) and those done by an individual (even the ones who claim to stick close to the Greek). The committees, according to Hart, are bound to strike compromises between the individuals’ contributions. Actually, King James’s panel of translators had the good sense to incorporate William Tyndale’s New Testament almost wholesale. As David Daniell wrote, “Nine-tenths of the Authorised Version’s New Testament is Tyndale’s.” We should change the common view that the KJV and Shakespeare are the most inﬂuential shapers of the English language and say that Tyndale and Shakespeare share that honor. But that will not give the KJV immunity from Hart’s indictment. He says that any translation ﬁltered through one person’s literary sensibility (even Tyndale’s magniﬁcent one) is bound to homogenize the collection of different genres and authors in the New Testament—what Nietzsche claimed is an agglutination of letters, sermons, putative biographies, tendentious histories, and fever-dream revelations. How does Hart escape his own criticism in this, his own single-translator exercise? Does he not have a literary sensibility? Of course he does. But he claims that he has suppressed it here, that he reveals the idiosyncrasies of each element in the collection. He even boasts, in the vein of Dickens and T. S. Eliot, that he can “do the police in different voices” for the different texts. He clearly agrees with Nietzsche on the quality of the book’s koine Greek. He ﬁnds the Gospel of Matthew “rarely better than ponderous,” that of Mark “awkwardly written throughout,” and that of John “syntactically almost childish,” while Paul’s letters are “maladroit, broken, or impenetrable” and Revelation is “almost unremittingly atrocious.” Sometimes he does convey the original’s sheer gooﬁness: “Fallen, fallen, Babylon the Great who has given all the gentiles to drink from the wine of the vehemence of her whoring” (Rev. 14:8). No wonder Hunter Thompson said he did not have to worry about running out of LSD in a hotel. He could trip on the Gideon Bible’s Revelation. But is the direct transmission of bad Greek into bad English always as clear as Hart claims? He says he will avoid later theological constructs of the text, but then renders thlipsis mgalƝ as “the 34 Max Ernst: The Virgin Chastising the Christ Child Before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard, and the Painter, 1926 great tribulation” (Rev. 7:14), which is an event in the calendar of the End Time as formulated in late-nineteenthcentury premillennial dispensationalism. Thlipsis is a common term in the New Testament, from a verb (thlibo) for pressing down or squeezing. It can mean anything from “discomfort” to “extinction.” Lampe’s lexicon of early Christian Greek renders it as “afﬂiction”—and so does Hart, most of the time (e.g., Matt. 24:9). Paul uses thlipsis for the distress of helping others (2 Cor. 8:13), for the inconveniences of married life (1 Cor. 7:28), and for the anguish of mothers in childbirth (John 16:21). Even in Revelation, where Hart calls thlipsis megalƝ “the great tribulation,” he also translates the same words as “great afﬂiction” (2:22). He does the same for the “great afﬂiction” at Matthew 24:21. H art claims that he will not let his own theological views color his translation. But he clearly does not believe in hell—at least not in a permanent hell. Neither do many Christians (including me). They ﬁnd it hard to think that God could be crueler even than his creatures. As the rough-hewn John Adams of New England wrote in 1813 to the polished Thomas Jefferson of Virginia: He [God] created this speck of dirt and the human species for his glory; and with the deliberate design of making nine tenths of our species miserable forever, for his glory? This is the doctrine of Christian theologians in general, ten to one. Now, my friend, can prophecies or miracles convince you or me that inﬁnite benevolence, wisdom, and power created and preserves, for a time, innumerable millions to make them miserable forever, for his own glory? Hart says much the same, repudiating the idea of hell as “the God of love’s perpetual torture chamber.” He agrees with Origen’s third-century view that all mankind will be saved by Jesus. But rather than rely on crusty John Adams’s common sense, he labors to oust hell from the text of the Bible. This affects his translation in six ways: 1. Rather than call hell’s ﬁres “eternal,” he translates aiĿnios as “of the Age” (AiĿn) (Matt. 18:8, 25:41). That means that aiĿnios in non-hell contexts will prove puzzling. Instead of “You are a priest forever” (Heb. 5:6, 7:17), part of the formula for the ordination of Catholic priests, we get “You are a priest unto the Age.” When Jesus at the Second Coming (Matt. 25:46) divides the damned from the saved, he says, “These will go to the chastening of that Age, but the just to the life of that Age” (for KJV “everlasting ﬁre . . . life eternal”). 2. Instead of translating Gehenna as “hell,” Hart gives us “Hinnom’s Vale of ﬁre” (Matt. 5:22). 3. Hart transliterates the pagan “Hades” rather than translating it as a Christian word for hell (Rev. 6:8). 4. There can be no predestination without a hell into which to steer sinners for eternal storage. So Hart takes pro-orizein, normally translated as “to predestine,” instead to mean “to mark out in advance” (Eph. 1:5, 11), setting up an area in which free will can still operate. 5. The devil, without a hell to tend, is demoted by Hart to “the Slanderer.” Admittedly that is a literal translation of diabolos, but it reads more like a kenning than a translation, and it makes the devil play a reduced role like that of the Accuser (KatƝgǀr) in Revelation 12:10. Thus we get at Matthew 25:41: “Go from me, you execrable ones, into the ﬁre of the Age prepared for the Slanderer and his angels” (for Tyndale and KJV, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting ﬁre which is prepared for the devil and his angels”). 6. Despite all this meticulous exegetical slickery, Hart has to admit that the Letter of Jude (called by him Judas) uses an unequivocal word for “eternal” punishment, aidios (Jude 6)—but he dodges this bullet by saying in a footnote that this applies to an imprisonment of angels or daemons, not humans, and he goes back in the next verse to “ﬁre from the Age” (aiǀnios) for the fate of humans from Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 7). Why not just afﬁrm the unthinkableness of God making and populating a hell, rather than go through all these maneuvers to oust hell from the Bible, as if that alone will let Hart not believe in hell? If even one of these passages does support the idea of hell, would he be obliged to believe in it? That seems a rather fundamentalist position for one who claims to be so innovative. H art rightly says that his book is not for reading out loud in church (though, in an oral culture, the words were ﬁrst dictated to scribes and then read aloud by a lector to the intended audience). Hart wants to make people ﬁnally believe that Jesus told his followers to give up all their belongings (Luke 18:22), make no provision for the morrow The New York Review (Matt. 6.25–34), yield to harsh treatment or demands (Matt. 5:39–48), and hate their family (Luke 14:26): “Far from teaching ‘family values,’ Christ was remarkably dismissive of the family.” According to Hart, the ﬁrst Christians would repel us today; we would mock them as “extremists” and fanatics. But those messages are already there in earlier translations. We have failed to recognize them not because of faulty translation but because of our own evasion of what the words mean, no matter how they are translated. The reason for our obduracy is that we cannot believe that Jesus is coming back in our lifetime—as Paul and the evangelists did. They did not accuLouvre, Paris/Erich Lessing/Art Resource God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21–23). Paul certainly had a hiccupy style, which could veer into the spastic. Consider this account of a showdown in Jerusalem over the freedom of gentile converts from kashruth (here I omit Hart’s capitals for each new verse, which further complicate an already tangled mess): Domenichino: The Ecstasy of Saint Paul, seventeenth century mulate goods, since they could not be used after the End. When Christians in Thessaly began to worry that some had died before the Second Coming, Paul reassured them that those still living would see the End before they died (1 Thess. 4:13–18). Later church teachings would say that marriage is for the sake of children (proles). Paul does not tell people to marry for the sake of children, since the young cannot be educated to deal with a world that will not be there when they grow up. Instead he says not to marry at all, unless the ﬁres of desire are uncontrollable—“better to marry than to be aﬁre” (1 Cor. 7:8– 9). Slaves should obey their masters, knowing they will shortly exchange places with them (Eph. 6:5–9). Every aspect of the New Testament should be read in light of this “good news” that the world will shortly be wiped out. That certainty even affects Paul’s literary style. He writes trafﬁc-jam sentences, trying to say everything all at once—to cram it in during the short time left. Paul died while rushing from Jerusalem to Rome on the way to Spain. Hart captures some of that breathlessness—though he creates his own obstacles by capitalizing the ﬁrst letter of each traditional Bible verse. So a single sentence ends up looking like this: “Hence let no one boast in human beings; for all things are yours, Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or cosmos or life or death or things past or things imminent—all yours—And you the Anointed’s, and the Anointed But because of false brethren secretly brought in, who stole in so as to spy upon our freedom, which we have in the Anointed One Jesus, so that they could enslave us—to whom we did not yield in subordination for even an hour, so that the truth of the good tidings might remain with you. . . . [Hart interjects in a footnote at this point that “Paul’s syntax here is even more vagrant than usual”] and from those who were esteemed as something—precisely what sort of something at that time does not matter to me (God does not take a man at his face)—for to me these estimable men had nothing to add; rather, to the contrary, seeing that I have been entrusted with the good tidings for those of the foreskin, just as has Peter for those of the circumcision—for he who was operating in Peter for a mission to those of the circumcision was also operating in me for the gentiles—and, recognizing the grace given to me, James and Cephas and John—who appeared to be the pillars—gave their hands in fellowship to me and to bar-Nabas, that we should go to the gentiles and they to the circumcision, if only we should remember the poor—the very thing, indeed, that I was eager to do. (Gal. 2:4–13) Reading that aloud in church might make people think that poor Paul was in need of therapy. Hart goes on from this clash in Jerusalem to tell of its repetition in Antioch, where Peter seemed to go back on what was settled with that handshake in Jerusalem, prompting Paul to rebuke Peter “because he was being contemptible” (kategnǀsmenos—in the KJV, “to be blamed”) and indulging in “theatrical charlatanry” (hypokrisis— in the KJV, “dissimulation”) (Gal. 2:11, 13). Here Hart’s desire to shock makes him exaggerate what was a notoriously disturbing passage in the time of Jerome and Augustine (who fought over the embarrassment of the two main Apostles disagreeing). Hart’s standard is that “in most cases I truly believe that the more unsettling rendering is also the more accurate.” In most cases? Perhaps in many. Or some. Fresh translations of familiar texts are useful because they make us reexamine what we thought we knew. Hart has certainly made me think more deeply about the centrality of the world’s end to the entirety of the New Testament. I must reconsider Albert Schweitzer’s work on the eschatalogical Jesus. Hart tells us that he wanted to make this book wild, repellant, “just a bit indecent,” and not what we expected. He succeeds. New York Review Books (including NYRB Classics and Poets, The New York Review Children’s Collection, and NYR Comics) Editor: Edwin Frank Managing Editor: Sara Kramer Senior Editors: Susan Barba, Michael Shae, Gabriel Winslow-Yost, Lucas Adams Linda Hollick, Publisher; Nicholas During, Publicity; Abigail Dunn, Marketing Manager; Hilary Reid, Marketing Associate; Evan Johnston and Daniel Drake, Production; Patrick Hederman and Alaina Taylor, Rights; Yongsun Bark, Distribution. February 8, 2018 “The Juniper Tree is a fairy tale that haunts me because even at the end the evil in it is never wholly undone. Through her reimagining of the wicked stepmother ﬁgure, Comyns speculates convincingly as to how damage escalates despite all conscious attempts to limit itself.” —Helen Oyeyemi THE JUNIPER TREE Barbara Comyns Introduction by Sadie Stein Paperback and e-book • $14.95 “The Juniper Tree, which appeared in 1985, is one of Comyns’s most successful, conﬁdent and curious productions. It has the clear pure narrative quality of a fable, but also shows a humanity and maturity.” —Margaret Drabble ALSO BY BARBARA COMYNS Homeless and jobless, Bella Winter is the mother of a toddler by a man whose name she didn’t quite catch, and her once pretty face is disﬁgured by a scar from a car accident. Friendless and without family, she’s recently disentangled herself from a selﬁsh boyfriend and a cruel mother. But she shares a quality common to Barbara Comyns’s other heroines: a bracingly unsentimental ability to carry on. Before too long, Bella has found not only a job but a vocation; not only a place to live but a home and a makeshift family. As the novel progresses, the story echoes and inverts the Brothers Grimm’s macabre tale The Juniper Tree. Will Bella’s hard-won restoration to life and love come at the cost of the happiness of others? “A treasure from the 1980s. . . The Juniper Tree picks up the Grimm notion that an excess of maternal happiness can prove fatal. . . The Grimm story is about evil, revenge, and justice—an eye for an eye—but The Juniper Tree is about accidents, damage, and repair.” —Christine Smallwood, Harper’s “Comyns’s world is weird and wonderful. . . there’s also something uniquely original about her voice. Tragic, comic and completely bonkers all in one, I’d go as far as to call her something of a neglected genius.” —Lucy Scholes, The Observer THE VET’S DAUGHTER Introduction by Kathryn Davis OUR SPOONS CAME FROM WOOLWORTHS Introduction by Emily Gould Available in bookstores, call (646) 215-2500, or visit www.nyrb.com Publishing in time for Valentine’s Day, Maira Kalman’s adorable tale of love will charm and delight children of all ages and parents. Ooh-la-la (Max in Love) Maira Kalman Hardcover and ebook • $18.95 It’s happened. Before you can say “Pepé le Pew,” Max the millionaire poet dog has landed in Paris. Everyone is in a froufrou of delight over Max. There’s Fritz from the Ritz, Madame Camembert, Charlotte Russe, and Pierre Potpurri, who wants Max to perform in his Crazy Wolf Nightclub. Amidst the enchantment and beauty that is Paris in the spring, something is missing for Max. That je ne sais quoi. That quelque chose. Max has made his millions; when will he ﬁnd romance? “Ooh-la-la, c’est formidable! Busy, surreal illustrations combine with a sophisticated, witty text to create a fast-moving, hip-hopping Parisian adventure of canine amour. . . Brilliant, bold, funny and obscure, this is definitely one of Kalman’s best efforts to date.” —School Library Journal “With a palette as subtle as the light on Montmartre and a notably free, sophisticated style, Kalman incorporates witty references to artists and their work in her own delightfully lively paintings. . . marvelously rich language.” —Kirkus Reviews ••• Also by Maira Kalman • • • Hey Willy, See the Pyramids Max Makes a Million Available in bookstores, call (646) 215-2500 or from www.nyrb.com 35 Ultra-Orthodox ‘Friends’ Jonathan Freedland As a pitch, it would have sounded unpromising. A TV drama set entirely among the ultra-Orthodox Jews of Jerusalem, the men black-hatted, bearded with side curls, most of the women bewigged, their sleeves long and their skin covered up; the action centered on one family, speciﬁcally a widowed father and his unmarried son, sharing a cramped apartment, each sleeping on a narrow single bed; storylines touching on bereavement, the fading health of an elderly mother, power struggles within a religious elementary school, and the search for, if not necessarily love, then a person with whom it might be possible to share a life and make a home. No nudity, no profanity, no touching, and certainly no sex. There cannot be many TV executives who would rush to greenlight that one. But in 2016 Marta Kauffman, cocreator of Friends, announced that she had bought the rights to Shtisel, a hit show on Israeli television’s YES network, and that she planned to adapt the series for Amazon Prime. Her version will be called Emmis, Yiddish for truth; it will be located in Brooklyn rather than the Geula neighborhood of Jerusalem; and its primary language will be English rather than Hebrew, though it’s possible the characters will lapse into subtitled Yiddish when the situation demands it, as they do in the original. Shtisel, named for the family at the heart of the saga, will thus take its place alongside a series of successful Israeli TV exports. Showtime’s Homeland began life as Hatuﬁm, while HBO’s In Treatment, following a therapist and his patients over successive ﬁfty-minute sessions, was a translation of BeTipul. Meanwhile, Netﬂix viewers have lapped up Fauda, a thriller about an undercover intelligence squad and its Palestinian targets. So Shtisel comes with a good pedigree, or yichas as Rabbi Shulem Shtisel might put it. And yet it stands apart from the others. While those programs dealt with the lives of contemporary, nonreligious Israelis—who would at least look recognizable to the average Netﬂix viewer—Shtisel inhabits a subculture whose mores would strike most Americans, or indeed most people who lead secular lives, as utterly alien. It takes as given that characters murmur a bracha, or blessing, before eating or drinking anything; that most hours of a man’s day are devoted to studying the often abstruse teachings of centuries- old texts; and that no one would so much as think of using a phone or riding a bus during the prohibited hours of the Sabbath. Crucially, men and women observe the strictest rules of propriety. If they are not married to each other, and they are in a room alone, the door will always remain open. If they are married, they sleep in separate twin beds. Put like that, Shtisel might sound like The Handmaid’s Tale dubbed into Yiddish. But while religious rules set the boundaries for the lives on screen, they are not at the center of the action. 36 These obligations are assumed by the characters and, before too long, the viewer assumes them too. As a result, the focus remains on the people of the story, their trials, their longings, their memories, their ambitions—most of which are modest, on the scale of a regular human life. And yet the success of Shtisel points to a larger story—one about twentyﬁrst- century Israel and its changing composition, about Zionism and the strange paradox of unintended consequences, and about the persistence of faith in the era of globalization and technological progress. Meanwhile, Shulem has troubles of his own. In need of a wife, he too avails himself of the services of a matchmaker. But no woman can match the apparition of his late wife, who visits him at intervals, offering a word of tenderness or advice. Her absence, and his yearning for her, form the emotional bedrock of the story, even though she too was a stranger when they stood under the chuppah, the wedding canopy, together. Both the son and the husband she left behind are ﬂoundering. It’s clear that, in keeping with ultraOrthodox custom, Shulem has many children and too many grandchildren Roey Roth Shtisel a television series created by Yehonatan Indursky and Ori Elon Doval’e Glickman as Shulem Shtisel (left) in a scene from the Israeli TV show Shtisel Still, those wider meanings are not what you see on screen, or what drew large numbers of Israelis to watch the show, or what will doubtless lure millions more to follow the Englishlanguage adaptation. Instead, what you see is the quiet struggle of human beings, a universal story exquisitely told. V iewed one way, Shtisel is a reworking of that best known of all Yiddish tales, Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye and His Daughters, the inspiration for Fiddler on the Roof. But while Tevye struggled to marry off his girls, the recently widowed Shulem Shtisel toils to ﬁnd a wife for his youngest, most difﬁcult son, Akiva. The boy is, says one matchmaker, a “screw-up,” twenty-seven years old and still without a bride after several false starts. In his world, men are expected to become engaged after a single, arranged meeting—usually coffee and cake in a hotel lobby—the girl chosen for him by his parents, the couple-to-be barely into their twenties. Akiva tries to take that conventional path, several times. But while his father, a lifelong teacher at a cheder, and his brothers are satisﬁed with the life tradition prescribes for them—in which study is the only possible vocation—“Kiva” is a dreamer, never without a small exercise book in which he sketches ducks in a pond or the occasional ﬂower. By the second season, this artistic passion of Akiva’s will have blossomed, or escalated, into an existential crisis for both him and his father. (There is a nod here to the 1972 novel My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok’s portrait of the artist as a young Hasid.) to count. But narrative compactness demands that we see only a few. Akiva’s sister Giti spends the ﬁrst season coping with the shaming truth that her husband, Lipa, has ﬂed to Argentina, apparently discarding religious piety along the way. Giti remains strictly devout, as does her zealous daughter Ruchama. Meanwhile, her brother Zvi Arie studies hard but is frustrated in his ambition to head the yeshiva and, by the second season, is revealed as a man who had good reason to believe he would amount to more. Finally, there is Shulem’s aged mother, a resident of an old-age home where the default language is Yiddish. She is a human link with the European Jewish past and the vanished world it represents. With the exception of Lipa’s shortlived sojourn in Latin America, which is never fully discussed—Giti would rather not know the details, so the audience never hears them—Shtisel declines to provide the stock storyline associated with religious characters in a drama: the crisis of faith. Even when Akiva gets a serious break as an artist, one which threatens to collide with his religious practice, he does not consider a life ungoverned by Torah. It is simply not an option. The Sopranos do crime, the Underwoods do politics, the Shtisels do God: that’s just how it is. It’s not up for negotiation. It means that we see these lives from the inside. The gaze is not that of the secular outsider, looking upon exotic creatures whose return to normal, twenty-ﬁrst- century life is surely only a matter of time. On the contrary, perhaps thanks to the guiding hand of cocreator Yehonatan Indursky, who was raised as a Haredi Jew, Shtisel seems to be telling the stories these characters would tell about themselves. There is no explaining (a scruple the Amazon version might struggle to observe), no serving up of comforting clichés for non-Haredi consumption. Take Shulem Shtisel himself. A standard treatment would cast such a man—sixty-something, steeped in Torah and with the beard of a biblical prophet—as the sage patriarch, dispensing the wisdom of the ages. Shtisel does no such thing, daring to show Shulem’s naiveté, even his immaturity, allowing him to make a fool of himself with a younger woman, repeatedly issuing edicts to his children that are bound to be broken, and making all the wrong choices. He stops being the venerable ancient rabbi of Jewish kitsch and becomes a ﬂawed—and therefore real—man. But it is surely the romance that is most appealing. Thanks to the multiple restrictions, the ﬁrmly enforced rules and etiquette, the prohibition on even the mildest physical contact and, above all, the centrality and expectation of marriage, Shtisel plays out like a tale told by a Haredi Jane Austen, with sheitls, or wigs, for bonnets and peyot, or side curls, for cravats. There are the meddling parents, the yearning teenage girls, the elusive, uncertain bachelors, even a furtive love between cousins. US audiences are used to such fare when it comes dressed as period drama, usually via Masterpiece Theatre, which has aired multiple Austen adaptations in recent years. Nevertheless, it might be jarring to see it played out in contemporary New York. Emmis will be a novelty: No Sex in the City. T hat Shtisel exists at all is itself remarkable. Television is the terrain of secular Israel, which has long stood apart from the ultra- Orthodox Jews who make up just ten percent of the country’s population (but a third of Jerusalem’s). The relationship between the two has been one of mutual incomprehension, if not outright hostility. In Knesset elections in 2013, the second largest party was Yesh Atid (There is a Future), headed by the quintessentially secular ﬁgure of TV host Yair Lapid. That success was fuelled by Lapid’s pledge to end the exemption the Haredim enjoy from the military draft, a persistent source of secular resentment. (In September Israel’s supreme court ruled the exemption unconstitutional, sparking a potential political crisis.) For their part, the Haredim have stood aloof from the state in which they live from the day of its founding in 1948. Many deﬁne themselves as either non- or anti-Zionist, for reasons of strict theology. They hold to the notion that the establishment of a Jewish state represents a blasphemous usurpation of divine authority: the Jews should have waited for the coming of the Messiah, and the resultant ingathering of the exiles to the land of Israel, rather than doing God’s work for him. This is the doctrinal basis that underpins Haredi refusal to serve in the military. Regardless of the theology, what many The New York Review change hands among ultra- Orthodox devotees. One unlikely proof that the show has penetrated previously impregnable Haredi culture is the emergence of the Shtisel theme tune as a favored melody at ultra- Orthodox weddings. Perhaps one should not read too much into a single TV show, but it’s tempting to see Shtisel as achieving the kind of convergence, if not integration, that has tended to elude Israeli society itself. Shulem’s brother Nuchem, a schemer and businessman as worldly as Shulem is innocent, is played by Sasson Gabai, who was born in Baghdad. True, Gabai does not obviously look the part, but to see a Mizrachi, or Middle Eastern, actor play an Ashkenazi Jew, conducting long scenes in Yiddish, is to see what was once a sharp dividing line in Israel become blurred. Roey Roth secular Israelis see is a community only too happy to stand under the national umbrella while declining to help hold it aloft. This history is nodded to in Shtisel, but no more. In one episode Shulem is unsure whether to allow his young pupils to watch the ﬂypast of Israeli Air Force jets that marks Independence Day. Surely the young boys should ignore such godlessness? In another, his brother Nuchem dismisses a slogan of ofﬁcial Israel. “Who wants to build a nation?” he asks. “Reshaim Arurim, damned evildoers.” Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that when the crew of Shtisel arrived in the ultra- Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She’arim for the ﬁrst day of ﬁlming, they were chased out by a group of locals, outraged at the Doval’e Glickman and Sasson Gabai in Shtisel sight of a woman applying makeup to a male actor. After that, ﬁlming had to be done covertly, by a small, all-male crew dressed in ultra-Orthodox garb and using a hidden camera. According to The Forward, exterior scenes in the street were ﬁlmed from inside buildings, with each actor taking direction via an earpiece. The casual viewer would have no idea. Indeed, it is a tribute to the quality of the acting that it is astonishing to discover that not one of the cast is, in fact, ultra- Orthodox. (There is a small Haredi ﬁlm industry and there are Haredi actors, but they rarely appear in work produced by outsiders.) Dovel’e Glickman is so convincing as the hapless patriarch—from his Yiddish pronunciation to his gait—that few would guess that he was for twenty years the star of one of Israel’s favorite satirical TV shows. Kiva, the son, is played by the presenter of Israeli TV’s The Voice, a secular pinup rendered anew in peyot and tzitzit (the fringes on a prayer shawl). The result is that Shtisel has had the unexpected effect of providing a small patch of common ground for two tribes that have long shared the same space but barely touched. It’s allowed chilonim, the nonreligious majority, to acquaint themselves with the lives of a community some might never encounter any other way. A smattering of Shtisel’s Yiddishisms have entered street-level, secular Hebrew—apparently “Reshaim Arurim” is a particular favorite of the Tel Aviv hipster set— while the show is said to enjoy an underground following in a Haredi world that, ofﬁcially, eschews TV altogether. Downloads and DVDs reportedly February 8, 2018 P erhaps even more striking is the name of the script editor for the second season. It is Sayed Kashua, the Palestinian novelist, screenwriter, and weekly columnist for Haaretz. When it comes to Palestinian citizens of Israel, Kashua is more the exception than the rule—he recently left Israel for Champaign, Illinois, where he teaches advanced Hebrew as well as TV comedy writing in the University of Illinois’s Jewish studies department—but still, the fact of it is remarkable: a dramatic exploration of ultra- Orthodox Jewish life, guided by a Palestinian Arab. According to series co- creator Indursky, it’s a good ﬁt. “You’d be surprised how much Haredim and Arabs have in common.” There’s something in that: Israeli demographers often link the two groups together, usually under the heading of “economically inactive.” Unemployment is an issue for both communities, especially among those Haredi men who either lack the secular education required for the workplace or else see it as their religious duty to study in the yeshiva rather than earn a living. Both communities, Haredi and Arab, exist on the edges of the dominant culture, which is secular and Jewish. In one way, then, both the team behind Shtisel and the range of its audience suggest a vision of Israel far less balkanized than the picture conveyed on screen. For what the viewer sees is a community all but sealed off from the society that surrounds it. When secular characters appear—such as Kaufman, the gallery owner who takes Akiva under his wing—they look alien, even odd. The viewer begins to see the world through Haredi eyes. (As for Israel’s Arab minority, and the Palestinians of the occupied territories, they are barely mentioned. They might as well not exist. Which is probably an accurate, if disheartening, reﬂection of Haredi life.) But if this simple act of humanizing Haredi Jews for a secular Jewish audience is a milestone for Israel, given the sullen misapprehension that has long existed between the two groups, then it represents an even greater shift for Zionism. For the founding ideology of Jewish nationhood was, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, hostile to the strictest strands of Judaism. It wasn’t just the doctrinal dispute over the legitimacy of auto-emancipation, of Jews liberating themselves without divine assistance. There was something deeper too. The ﬁrst Zionists believed they were restoring the Jews to their rightful place as a nation rather than merely a religious faith. To them, ultraOrthodox Jews represented an earlier stage of evolution, one which it was the Jewish destiny to leave behind. What’s more, in the Zionist imagination the Haredi stood as a kind of uber– diaspora Jew. He was the galut, the exile, in human form. He was pale, introverted and buried in books, while Zionism was committed to a form of Muskeljudentum, a muscular Judaism that would raise a new Jew: tanned, strong, working the land and gazing toward the horizon. The Zionist pioneers were conﬁdent that the orthodoxy of the shtetl, its rituals and superstitions, would fade away once the Jews became what they deemed a normal people, healthy and rooted in a land of their own. Muttering, murmuring Yiddish would die out, replaced by a renascent, earthy Hebrew. So the ironies are many in an Israeli television show that depicts Haredi life with dignity and injects Yiddish into the national bloodstream. Shtisel was not what the bulk of Israel’s founding generation had in mind. And yet it can also be read as a consequence, albeit an unintended one, of Zionism. For it is just the kind of ﬂowering, the fruit of a vibrant Jewish culture, that a Zionist like, say, the essayist Ahad Ha’am (1856–1927) believed could only spring from the creation of a new society. Even if most of the country’s founders would have imagined Israel without Shtisel, it’s hard to imagine Shtisel without Israel. And yet none of this is what gives the show its strength. Shtisel is drama, not anthropology. Its power comes from its keen, forgiving eye for human foibles and weaknesses: parents projecting their own pain onto their children, daughters who cannot forgive their fathers, husbands seeking the love of their wives. There is humor. “May you swallow an umbrella that opens inside you,” says Nuchem, deploying a hoary Yiddish curse. “Come on,” says a would-be bride to Shulem, waiting for his proposal. “We’ve met ﬁve times already. What are we, modern Orthodox?” There is pathos. “Let me die like a rebbetzin,” pleads a previously mean-spirited widow of a rabbi in the old age home, as she chooses to end her own life rather than decay through illness. And there is insight into human beings, struggling to make their way in a universe that can seem harsh and full of sorrow—even to those who believe it was created by God Almighty. “Originally written in 1976 but not published until 2009 in China, this is a welcome discovery from a writer who is only now, more than two decades after her death, coming into her own.” —Kirkus Reviews Little Reunions is a roman à clef of Eileen Chang’s notoriously tumultuous, but fascinating life. The setting, both factual and ﬁctional, is a China struggling with the powerful import of western culture, tearing apart the fabric of traditional life at the same time as Japan is invading on its own imperial project. With candor and gravity and Chang’s typical style, this book, translated into the English for the ﬁrst time, illustrates the dense web of contradictions and compromises that made up one the world’s great author’s life and work. Julie, a young student at a Hong Kong convent school, is abandoned by her westernized parents: an opium-addicted father and a difﬁcult social-climbing mother. Haunted by her privileged but unhappy childhood, Julie’s life leads her into the arms of the magnetic Chih-yung, who is secretly conspiring with the Japanese puppet regime. “Before Joan Didion, there was Eileen Chang. A slender, dramatic woman with a taste for livid details and feverish colors, Chang combined Didion’s glamour and sensibility with the terriﬁc wit of Evelyn Waugh. She could, with a single phrase, take you hostage.” —Jamie Fisher, The Millions LITTLE REUNIONS Eileen Chang Translated by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz Paperback and e-book • $16.95 ALSO BY EILEEN CHANG NAKED EARTH Introduction by Perry Link LOVE IN A FALLEN CITY Translated by Karen S. Kingsbury Available in bookstores, call (646) 215-2500, or visit www.nyrb.com 37 Art in Free Fall Laura Owens/Collection of Nina Moore David Salle Laura Owens an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, November 10, 2017–February 4, 2018; the Dallas Museum of Art, March 25–July 29, 2018; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, November 4, 2018–March 25, 2019. Catalog of the exhibition edited by Scott Rothkopf. Whitney Museum of American Art, 663 pp., $45.00 (paper) (distributed by Yale University Press) 38 Laura Owens: Untitled, 66 x 66 inches, 2004 tention. Owens has interesting ideas, but it is her ability to give them form, often in unexpected ways sourced from unlikely corners of the visual world, that makes her art exciting. Owens’s paintings are squarely in the middle of a postmodern aesthetic that’s been gaining momentum for the last ten or ﬁfteen years. It is not the world of Luc Tuymans via Gerhard Richter, in which the painting’s photographic source is like a radioactive isotope that you could never touch but that, in its absence, is what really matters. The new attitude is not much interested in photography at all. It wants to rough an image up, put it through a digital sieve, and decorate the hell out of it. A tree imported from Japanese painting anchors a wispy, airy composition. The tree shelters a monkey, or an owl, or a cheetah, perhaps borrowed from Persian miniatures—brown and khaki on a cream- colored ground, accentuated here and there by swatches of painted grids and colored dots, or beads or bits of yarn, or shapes cut from colored felt. An Owens monkey in a tree (or a Peter Doig canoe) is imagery augmented, repurposed. This is composite painting. It coheres, but maybe not in the way we’re used to. Laura Owens/Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York and Rome; Sadie Coles HQ , London; and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne The Los Angeles artist Laura Owens brings a light touch and a tough mind to a new kind of synthetic painting. Her exuberant, bracing midcareer survey at the Whitney beams a positive, can- do energy. As a stylist and culture critic, Owens is neither a stone- cold killer nor a gleeful nihilist, traits embraced by some of her peers. She’s an art lover, an enthusiast who approaches the problem of what to paint, and how to paint it, with an open, pragmatic mind. Her style can appear to be all over the place, but we always recognize the work as hers. Her principal theme may be her own aesthetic malleability. Owens bends the conceits of art theory so that her own personality can ﬂourish. She is not afraid of wit. Enchantment has its place too. Walking through her show, I was reminded of something Fairﬁeld Porter once wrote about Pierre Bonnard: “He was an individualist without revolt, and his form . . . comes from his tenderness.” For decades, and especially in the mid-twentieth century, a persuasive reading of modern painting revolved around the idea of the gestalt—the way every element in a painting coalesced into one totality, one essence that blotted out ambiguity. A painting isn’t a thing about another thing—it just is. This gestalt theory of painting was especially alluring during abstraction’s dominance; it put a brake on the drive for narrative, and helped to establish painting’s autonomy from literalist interpretations. But a funny thing happened to the gestalt: life intruded. What if the whole is not more than the sum of its various parts, but more like a shopping list? What if all the various elements used to make a painting are just left out on the ﬂoor like pieces from a puzzle that no one bothered to ﬁnish? In a recent New Yorker proﬁle, Owens thoughtfully implies that the time for gestalts is over, that collage—i.e., something made out of parts or layers—is simply a feature of the life we all lead. Indeed, a big part of our culture is involved with putting things together, with little distinction made between the invented and the found, and even less between the past and the present. The fragmentary, the deconstructed, even the deliberately mismatched—that is our reality. We are all collage artists now. As someone who holds more or less the same view I can hardly fault Owens for believing this, but it seems to me that her paintings are very much gestalts anyway, though perhaps of a new kind, something closer in their effect to imagist poetry, and it’s their sometimes surprising gestaltness that holds our at- Laura Owens: Untitled, 66 x 72 inches, 1998 Owens has a big formal range at her disposal—her quiver is full. Odd color harmonies: teal, hot pink, raw sienna, fuschia, manganese blue, cream. The colors of the decorator shop. Art taste that’s been knocked down a notch or two. The paint is applied with a pleasing paint-by-numbers quality. You can feel the hobby store just around the corner. Paintings like illustrations in a children’s book. They feel liberated, unafraid to be garish. Saturated color and loose, agitated brushwork. Images that kids ﬁnd appealing: animals in the forest, princesses, wild-haired children— fairy-tale stuff. The spirit of Magritte hovers over these paintings—his vache paintings from the late 1940s, the ones that nobody wanted. A chunky white horse with a fanciful tail like a philodendron frolics against a loosely painted blue background (see illustration at left). The horse is happy, energized; it lifts its head and kicks up a front hoof, straining at the conﬁnes of the rectangle. Everything about this painting from 2004 is right: the brushwork like china painting, the scale, color, and image all aligned. This quality feels instinctual—not something Owens was ever taught. The paintings after 2005—a collage of grids in different scales colliding at different angles; a counterpoint of impasto freestyle painting, or silkscreened commercial imagery, or an expanse of text with the deadpan look of an old phone book. The compositions are retinal, assertive, like novel forms of candy seen in a glass jar. Their look is closer to greeting cards than to Franz Kline. This is strangely reassuring; they carry you along without protest, arbitrary, clownish, and weird. The reciprocity of silk-screen and digital printing, the computer’s replica of the hand-made, are products of the coding mind of twenty-ﬁrst- century painting. For artists of Owens’s generation (she’s forty-seven), the easy back and forth between found and made forms, and between painting and printing, is a given. Sometimes the paintings are so casual-looking they can trip you up. In 2013, Owens showed twelve large (roughly twelve-by-ten-foot) paintings of this new postmodern composite type in the gallery space that occupies the ground ﬂoor of her Los Angeles studio, and people have been talking about them ever since. Paintings that leave the impression they could be, or do, just about anything. Perhaps their most salient quality is conﬁdence. The digital enhancement of a sketch or doodle enlarged to twelve feet gives a vertiginous, Alice-in-Wonderland feeling to some of the paintings. Small grids on top of larger ones, hard- edged curlicues, computer-assisted drawings of cartoony Spanish galleons, red hearts and splashy arabesques, Photoshop lozenges and fat zucchinis of impasto thick as cake frosting, throbbing pinks and hot greens—all of it and much more is easily dispersed around the canvases, which were hung just inches apart, lest anything get too contemplative. The paintings don’t so much violate notions of good taste as ignore them. The New York Review February 8, 2018 Then there are, across a narrow corridor from each other, a pair of pale robin’s- egg blue paintings of medium size, both covered with clusters of what look like hand- drawn, variously sized, random numbers, which, on a closer look, are made with thin, raised ribbons of black acrylic paint. The numbers on one painting exactly match those on the other in size and position, but reversed, as if one painting is looking at itself in a mirror. A hand- drawn mirror image of a random jumble of numbers. The conceit is witty and cartoonyweird. I have no idea what it means. It’s engaging and fun to look at. But the color! Other artists might have an idea for mirror writing in painting, but I doubt they would have expressed it with the shade of blue found in a tea shop or a girl’s bedroom. The surprising color choice gives the paintings an identity separate from whatever idea generated them. One of Owens’s many strengths is her use of scale— the big painting and the internal relationship of shapes to the whole. She’s at ease with the large New York School canvas. Even though a lot has happened since, and no matter how anachronistic it may seem, our yardstick for serious painting is still shadowed by the achievements of the New Laura Owens: Untitled, 137 1/2 x 120 inches, 2013 York School. One of the hallmarks of that type of abstract painting is the “all-over” composition, in which the paint reaches all four edges of the canvas equally, and the eye roams through the picture in a nonhierarchical way. Owens extends and reinvigorates that tradition when she brings her afﬁnity for textiles to the allover, large-scale work. Textiles, weaving, 2-D design—all are full-ﬂedged high art now, and Owens has no problem letting herself be inﬂuenced by them. Another of her works from 2013 is an almost twelve-foot-tall painting with line drawings of cats playing with balls of yarn dispersed over its white ground (see top illustration on this page). Some drawings are carefully executed and others more slapdash; some are in plaid, others in the grid patterns that Owens is so fond of. Here and there are touches of spray paint in raspberry, yellow, and blue. It’s like a motif that one might ﬁnd on a young girl’s Laura Owens: Untitled (detail), ﬂannel pajamas, something a 138 1/8 x 106 ½ x 2 5/8 inches overall, 2014 sophisticated seven-year- old ored, Day- Glo even—are mounted would ﬁnd amusing and a bit arch. This on the canvas, parallel to its surface is a painting that says: You want allwith just enough clearance to freely over? OK, how about this? This is the turn. Wheels punctuate the composiway to be ambitious now. You don’t altion in a jaunty, syncopated rhythm— ways have to throw your Sunday punch. a chariot race without the chariots, a riot of implied motion on top of an he installation at the Whitney, overalready pushy abstract painting, not seen by Owens and Scott Rothkopf, going anywhere, in perpetuity. Hilarithe museum’s chief curator and deputy ous, breathtaking, circus glamour. The director for programs, restages exhibighosts of Jean Tinguely and Charles tions from Owens’s principal galleries Demuth, the Dada mind of Francis in Los Angeles, New York, London, Picabia. DISCOVER JOAN MURRAY, ONE OF THE 20TH CENTURY’S MOST REMARKABLE POETS Laura Owens/Ringier Collection T he critic most relevant to Owens’s work might be an Englishman who’s been dead for nearly forty years and never wrote about contemporary art. In his Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930), William Empson concerned himself with the ways in which poetical language— motifs, ﬁgures of speech, even individual words—can mean more than one thing at a time. He wanted to know how a poet or dramatist uses linguistic constructions to convey both the complexities of character and a setting for interpreting their actions. A ﬁgure of speech inserted into the right narrative structure can evoke the unstable experience of a protagonist who chooses a course of action, but who retains an awareness of the things not chosen. In literature, certain words, certain ﬁgures allow the reader to feel that psychic rub: this and not that—but with a bit of that still present; the memory of what was not chosen hangs over the action. Empson also made an important observation about an author’s intention. He believed that an author could say something in the work that could probably not be said apart from it. This type of ambiguity in particular resonates with visual art. When people talk about irony in painting, which they do quite a lot, what they usually mean is ambiguity. Irony is saying one thing and meaning its opposite, while ambiguity is the ability for a form to hold two or more meanings at the same time. Painting that trades only on irony can have a short shelf life. Ambiguity keeps on giving; it rewards prolonged looking. In painting, ambiguity is most often present in the imagery, in its references and connotations, as well as how that imagery is handled. The style, of course, inﬂects the feeling. This is true for Owens as well. What feels invigorating about her work is that the painting’s structure itself is also a marker of ambiguity. But even such painterly sophistication is not so rare; what really sets Owens apart is her dexterity at both kinds of ambiguity. Take, for example, one of her works from 2013 (not pictured): a dense ﬁeld of hot pink slashes on a pale lavender ground, overprinted with fragments of differently scaled grids in cadmium green, turquoise, or black—and that’s just the background. This eye-dazzler is covered with lots of wheels (eighteen!) of different sizes. Rubber tires on metal hubs or spokes—the kind of wheels found on tricycles, wagons, grocery carts, some brightly col- Laura Owens/Whitney Museum of American Art Owens’s paintings sometimes seem to have been made by another kind of intelligence altogether, one tuned to a frequency similar to our own, yet different, as if a space alien, stranded here on a mission from a distant galaxy, had been receiving weak radio signals from Planet X. You can just about pick out the command from the static: unintelligible . . . static . . . static . . . Put raspberry- colored grid on aquacolored rectangle. Add cartoon ﬁgures. Add black squiggles. Put drop shadows here and there. Don’t worry about placement—just put somewhere. Sign on back with made- up generic name. Try to pass as earthling until we can send rescue ship. T Though John Ashbery hailed Joan Murray (1917–1942) as a key influence on his work, her sole collection, Poems, published after her death at the early age of twenty-four and selected by W.H. Auden for inclusion in the Yale Series of Younger Poets, has been almost entirely unavailable for the better part of half a century. Poems was put together by Grant Code, a close friend of Murray’s mother, and when Murray’s papers, long thought to be lost, reappeared in 2013, it became clear that Code had exercised a heavy editorial hand. This new collection, edited by Farnoosh Fathi from Murray’s original manuscripts, restores Murray’s raw lyricism and visionary lines, while also including a good deal of previously unpublished work, as well as a selection of her exuberant letters. DRAFTS, FRAGMENTS, AND POEMS THE COMPLETE POETRY Joan Murray Edited by Farnoosh Fathi Preface by John Ashbery Paperback and e-book • $16.00 On sale Febraury 6th Author photograph courtesy of Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College CELEBRATE JOAN MURRAY’S POETRY Monday, February 12th, 7:30pm Greenlight Bookstore (Ft Greene) 686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn With Farnoosh Fathi, Simran Bansal, Corina Copp, Lucy Ives, Caroline Sasso, Emily Skillings, and others Wednesday, March 14th, 8pm The Poetry Project St Mark’s Church 131 East 10th Street, Manhattan With Farnoosh Fathi, Monica de La Torre, Shanna Compton, Katie Fowley, Darcie Dennigan, and others Available in bookstores, call (646) 215-2500, or visit www.nyrb.com 39 40 ambiguity as part of its structure, but the paintings are not difﬁcult or withholding. Like a character in a screwball comedy, they wear an expression that says, I don’t know what happened, Ofﬁcer; one minute I was just standing here, and then . . . The 663-page catalog that accompa- nies the exhibition is generous and full of anecdotes. Many voices are heard: the artist’s mother, her fellow artists, dealers, novelists, curators, and critics all contribute their shadings to Owens’s rise. The book is a hybrid literary form, a bildungsroman with pictures: add the conceptual icing, which is what the tuition buys at schools like CalArts, but you’d better bring your own cake. not only to the conditions of their own making, but also to the social nexus in which they participate. The work of art is one link in a chain that includes gallerists, curators and critics, her fellow artists, and of course the viewer. This focus on the social system of art is, in part, the legacy of conceptual art as it has been ﬁltered through the language of painting. Owens makes being a good citizen into an aesthetic. Probably many people can identify with the trajectory of Owens’s life. I know I can. Midwestern and middleclass, Owens as a teenager looked at paintings, noting which ones held her attention and why. She developed her Owens Laura Owens/Collection of the Artist and Cologne. Walls were built, hanging plans copied—and the result resembles a Laura Owens theme park instead of a traditional retrospective that aims to situate works in relation to one another as well as to deliver the greatest hits. The reason is that much of Owens’s thinking about her work, its generating impulse, is tied up with the notion of site speciﬁcity. There is a continuous run of invention and forward-thinking bravado; painting ideas ricochet around the rooms. You can either run alongside and try to hop on, or just get out of the way. I especially admire the way that Owens integrates her various sources and inﬂuences into her own pictorial vocabulary. The ability to be inﬂuenced in a productive way, which includes making one’s inﬂuences legible to the audience, might be essential to success in today’s art world—so much so that art schools should have a class in how to identify and use the myriad external points of reference from the visual world with which we make up our hybrid, signiﬁed selves. Let’s recognize too the generative power of folk art and all of its derivations, including gift shop, decorator store, calendar, and greeting- card art, as well as technical drafting, computer graphics, and the look of giveaway supermarket magazines. Owens can mash or stack up all of the referents, compass points, familial overlaps, and personal curiosities into one tightly compressed, orderly bundle. Hers is the painting equivalent of the machine that turns cars into a solid, dense cube of crushed metal. Owens’s work doesn’t look squashed—quite the opposite: its surface is open and inviting, but the structural components appear indivisible. As an image gatherer, Owens is peripatetic and astute. An estate sale yielded the source for an especially winning group of paintings from 1998: a crewel-work pillow enlivened with a swarm of honeybees arrayed around an orange-hued, dome-shaped hive (see illustration on page 38). As much as anything else in the show, the sure touch involved in successfully translating that image of wishful good vibes to a painting convinced me of Owens’s superior pictorial instincts. Her bees are made with thick blobs of black and yellow acrylic paint, their wings rendered as delicate black lines with veins of iridescent white, and the dozen or so insects hover and ﬂoat on an expanse of unpainted cotton canvas. The four tones—coral orange, cadmium yellow, deep burnt sienna, and umber, which together create an illusion of volume— form a perfect chord of color harmonies. The beehive paintings are secure in their directness and shorthand styling. They have what in the theater is called good stage manners: every decision is bold, clear, and appropriate. Owens’s work is part of the American pragmatic tradition. The intellectuality in her work feels new to me. As a thinker, Owens is self-reﬂexive, curious, and matter- of-fact. As a stylist she’s resourceful and fearless. She’s braided into the same rope with a few older painters, such as Albert Oehlen or Charline von Heyl, or, closer to her own age, Wade Guyton or Seth Price, but she doesn’t share their angst or spiky black humor. In fact, Owens doesn’t seem to have a nihilistic bone in her body. Her work incorporates Laura Owens: Untitled, 108 x 84 inches, 2016 the story of an earnest young woman from the provinces with an appealing, straightforward manner who, through luck and pluck and the benevolent intervention of some well-placed patrons, grows up to see her dream of being an artist realized. A blizzard of faxes, letters, clippings, photographs, and invoices to and from Owens and her dealers and peers shines a light on the world of professional art schools and the international network of galleries and alternative spaces that are the mechanisms of generational renewal. Owens approaches art-making with a democratic spirit, in the naturally collegial way that comes easily when you’re young. The catalog represents a welcome acknowledgment that any career of real substance is also a group project. That Owens so readily embraces that reality may be a gender thing; her male counterparts still cling for the most part to the “prickliest cactus in the desert” mode, tiresome though it has become. It has been terribly important to Owens that her paintings call attention skills at summer art camp, going off to college at RISD, and on to Cal Arts for grad school. This is how artists today are made: from avid teenaged drawer and painter to RISD adept who then ﬁnds herself questioned by the hardliners for whom painting was a lost cause. It’s a great recipe when combined with talent and drive. By the time Owens got to grad school, she had sufﬁcient self- conﬁdence to survive the ritual hazing known as the group critique. Although Owens put in her time at CalArts, that hotbed of conceptualism with the arch-enforcer Michael Asher, it doesn’t seem to have done her any harm, possibly because she was so clear about her vocation from an early age. What a relief to have a painter who didn’t get the stufﬁng knocked out of her at the Whitney Independent Study Program or its equivalent. A strong design sense, internalized early on and reinforced at critical junctures by encounters with Chinese painting, or Matisse, or Bauhaus textiles, can carry you through a whole career. You can takes the world of design, especially children’s books and childfriendly graphics, and teases out the forms that can be recast as art. Put another way, she has an instinct for choosing the right thing and knowing what to do with it. Her work has no anxiety about being nerdy, or not much anxiety period. This is art that’s comfortable wearing fuzzy slippers. Owens’s work is the apotheosis of painting in the digital age. The deﬁning feature of digital art—of digital information generally—is its weightlessness. Images, colors, marks, text, are essentially decals in a nondimensional electronic space. They exist, but only up to a point. They can excite the mind, but you can’t touch them. An air of weightlessness remains even when they are transferred to the physical surface of a painting. If these images were to fall, nothing would catch them. They’re like Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff, just before he realizes he’s churning air. Owens is part of the ongoing process of loosening the rules governing how a painting acquires meaning that began with the young painters of the late 1970s and early 1980s (of which I was one). The general idea was to dissolve the gravitational force ﬁeld that held the disparate elements of a painting together, like atoms bundled into a molecule. This “glue” was, and is, invisible to most viewers, just as it is in life generally. These artists wanted to make it visible, as though shining a black light on a painting to reveal the cracks in its surface. And they wanted to move painting out from under the infuriating drone of high- culture pieties, which had lost much of their credibility. There was a low-grade, cheerful nihilism in much of that work, but it didn’t go very far on the rebuilding side. The whole project eventually got absorbed into criticism as the original artists moved on to other things. The ﬁeld lay fallow for some years. Eventually, it fell to artists of Owens’s generation to replant. Owens, whether using embroidery, the computer, painted forms, or screen printing, stumbled on a hidden truth that has been more or less obscured since the late 1980s: the relationship between form, visual logic, and emotional catharsis is itself ambiguous. A strange thing happens after you spend some time at the exhibition. Once you become acclimated to the endless malleability of the prosaic that is at the heart of Owens’s visual syntax—Oh, this is actually not something found at the mall—what follows is like a tiny paint bomb that detonates in the mind’s eye, which leads in turn to a strange and unexpected hollow sensation. It’s the tart pinch of a correction you feel after the cheering stops. The effect of Owens’s work, with its ebullient leapfrogging into worry-free zones of pictorial busyness, can sometimes feel, to paraphrase John Haskell, like waiting for the happiness to arrive. I can’t fully explain why, but walking through the show I had the feeling, as I rounded a corner, of a dream of falling, one that was deprived of its conclusive ending when you hit the ﬂoor and wake. Pictorial free-fall—it’s thrilling, and quite unnerving. But no matter, The New York Review LETTERS WHERE THE LEMON TREES BLOOM To the Editors: In his review of Rüdiger Safranski’s Goethe: Life as a Work of Art [“Super Goethe,” NYR, December 21, 2017], Ferdinand Mount concludes: When [Goethe] finally made his longdreamed-of trip to Italy, he remained impervious to the Christian art he saw. He was disappointed even by the classical monuments he saw in Rome, most of them at this date overgrown tumbles of stone. For all his endless fertility, Goethe’s imagination or lack of it has a forbidding quality. He made an exception for Mantegna’s frescoes in the Eremitani Chapel in Padua, which seemed to have a blunt, pure presence. “Presence” is the key word here. He condemned what he saw as the poverty of Christian mythology, always longing for something absent, dwelling, in a way that he regarded as unholy, on deprivation, suffering, and expectation rather than empowerment and possession. The only true divinity was Nature. Goethe’s own impressions, as recorded in his Italian Journey (1786–1788), lead this reader to a wholly contrary assessment. His entry of October 17, 1786, from Cento, reveals he “liked very much one painting of [Guercino] which represents the risen Christ appearing to his mother.” An engraving after the painting shows the Christ child “in the foreground facing us, while the Madonna behind him is lifting his arm so that he may bless us with his raised fingers. A happy idea, and very much in the spirit of the Catholic [cf. ‘Christian’] mythology.” In Rome, finally, for the first time, he notes on November 1, 1786: Now, at last, I have arrived in the First City of the world! Had I seen it fifteen years ago with an intelligent man to guide me, I should have called myself lucky, but, since I was destined to visit it alone and trust to my own eyes, I am happy, at least, to have been granted this joy so late in life. Still further on that same day, he records: All the dreams of my youth have come to life; the first engravings I remember—my father hung views of Rome in the hall—I now see in reality, and everything I have known for so long through paintings, drawings, etchings, woodcuts, plaster casts and cork models is now assembled before me. terns recall barren terrain seen from the air. The paintings are bisected near their edges by vertical and horizontal bands of white, and here and there with bits of color (see illustration on page 40). They suffer in reproduction— there is a sound component to them as well—but their austerity, resourcefulness, and sense of resolve are impressive. I found them, and much else in the show, beautiful, dramatic, and moving, and a strong case for painting’s digitally assisted future. which gave me the keenest pleasure. I saw a St. Petronilla by Guercino. . . . The body of the dead saint is lifted out of the tomb, restored to life and received into Heaven by a divine youth. Whatever objections there may be to this twofold action, the painting is beyond price. lems, “Somalia Rebounds” [NYR, December 7]. In my experience Somalis tend to be brave, tough, and hardworking; but that does not quite explain where the money is coming from to rebuild Mogadishu. In good part the rebuilding may be financed by remittances from the large and growing Somali diaspora in America and elsewhere. One may wonder whether financing also comes from the huge ransoms paid to Somali pirates in recent years. A 2013 World Bank report entitled “Pirate Trails” estimated that piracy off the Somali coast had by that year earned over $300 million for the pirates and their financiers. One might wish, too, that Gettleman had said a few words about the future of the country. The growth in the Somali diaspora has to some extent eased the pressures caused by the population explosion in Somalia. That problem is, however, not going away. The CIA World Factbook estimates that the average Somali woman bears 5.8 children, while in Mexico, for example, the figure has fallen to only 2.2. Somalia does not support itself now; can it ever do so? Among other continuing problems, beyond the violence perpetrated by AlShabab, is the existence of Somali political entities besides the Federal Republic centered in Mogadishu. Most notable is the Somaliland Republic in the north, which attracts little international attention because it has enjoyed a quarter-century of relative peace, and which has not been formally recognized by foreign governments fearing a precedent that might be cited by breakaway groups elsewhere. Will there ever again be a Somalia unified within its pre– civil war borders? And is such unity really a necessity? His perception of the divinity of nature notwithstanding, Goethe’s reaction on viewing Christian-themed art in so many forms was anything but impervious. Adam Jacobs Wayne, New Jersey Ferdinand Mount replies: Certainly Goethe is now and then charmed by the pictures and frescoes he sees in Italy, and he is often impressed by the painterly technique of the artists in question. He is touched by pretty madonnas and chubby babies, but he remains indifferent, sometimes openly hostile, to the Christian message behind them. He detests in particular martyrdoms and crucifixions, in fact any graphic image of suffering. In between the passages quoted by Mr. Jacobs, he writes of the Carracci family, Guido Reni, and Domenichino: The main obstacle to understanding these painters is their absurd subjects, which drive me mad, though I would like to admire and love them. It is as if the sons of gods had married the daughters of men and begotten of them a variety of monsters. It is always the same, even with a genius like Guido. You find yourself in the dissecting room, at the foot of the gallows, on the edge of the corpse pit. His heroes always suffer and never act. Never an interest in everyday life, always the expectation of something fantastic about to appear from outside. . . . Out of ten subjects, only one should have been painted and even that one the artist was not allowed to paint from the proper angle. The large picture by Guido in the Church of the Mendicanti [the famous Pietà dei Mendicanti, now in the Bologna Pinacoteca] is, technically, everything that a painting should be, but the subject is the ultimate in absurdities which can be forced upon an artist. . . . When I look at history in this black mood, I feel inclined to say: first faith ennobled the arts, then superstition took over and ruined them (October 19, 1786). Goethe’s Italian Journey is largely made up of agreeable traveler’s impressions of the sort that any sensitive Grand Tourist, of his day or ours, might have put together. What seem to me uniquely and memorably Goethean are the passages where he breaks out in passionate revulsion against Christian liturgy and iconography. And on November 3, 1786: I looked at the frescoes and found some excellent ones by artists whose names I hardly knew—Carlo Maratti, for example, whom I soon came to love and admire. But it was the masterpieces of the artists whose style I had already studied February 8, 2018 WHITHER SOMALIA? To the Editors: It was pleasing to read Jeffrey Gettleman’s description of how, despite so many prob- Peter Bridges US Ambassador to Somalia, 1984 –1986 Arlington, Virginia AI NO LA W BL E! they have a different gravitas. Their terse, shimmering surfaces are made from black-and-white ﬁelds of digital static. Amorphous sprays of x’s and o’s and other pixilated data are the result of various objects put through a scanner, digitally manipulated, enlarged or reduced, allowed to play out in large swaths, and sometimes corralled into shapes with drop-shadow edges. These compositions are then printed on paper and glued to aluminum panels. The silvery-gray tones and irregular pat- 2018 New York Review Calendar and Planner AV just let it go. I was reminded of what the iconoclastic ﬁlm critic and painter Manny Farber wrote in 1968 at the end of his review of Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise: “No other ﬁlmmaker has so consistently made me feel like a stupid ass.” The last room at the Whitney contains three large paintings that were part of a complex installation made for the CCA Wattis Institute in San Francisco in 2016. Though clearly related to other paintings in the show, 2018 David Levine Calendar: Early Days of the Review $12.95 2018 Weekly Pocket Planner $10.95 Shipping is FREE within the US! Why not order one for yourself and several for your friends? Go to: shop.nybooks.com! Name Address City/State/Zip Country J Check enclosed* J AMEX Charge my: J Visa J MasterCard Jeffrey Gettleman replies: Credit Card Number I agree with Ambassador Bridges that investment from Somalis living in the diaspora is contributing to Mogadishu’s faint renaissance. And I too am concerned about Al-Shabab. The government security forces are still very weak. If it weren’t for the African Union, the Shabab would be sitting in the presidential palace right now. Ugandan and Burundian troops are the backbone of the African Union mission, and they have taken hundreds of casualties in the continuing battles to wrest neighborhoods from the Shabab. The Somali troops are infiltrated by Al-Shabab and have done much less. What is Somalia’s future? I think more of the same. Some areas of the country will stabilize; others will sink deeper into despair. Fragmentation will continue and more regional governments will assert themselves. I see the emergence of a loose, highly decentralized city-state model of governance, reminiscent of parts of Europe in the 1600s. (I think this could happen in other failing states as well, such as Yemen, Libya, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. I don’t see any of these nations Expiration Date Signature Item Qty Price Total 2018 Calendar X $12.95 = $ 2018 Weekly Planner X $10.95 = $ PLUS POSTAGE & HANDLING within US per item FREE! X $4.00 = $ 0.00 Canada per item X $5.00 = $ Rest of World per item X $10.00 = $ Orders to New York– add local Sales Tax =$ OR OR GRAND TOTAL $ *Check or US money order must be made payable toThe New York Review of Books in US dollars, drawn on a US bank account. We cannot accept international money orders. Please allow 1–2 weeks for delivery within the US and 2–3 weeks for delivery outside the US. Return this coupon to: Order Department, 435 Hudson Street, Suite 300, New York, NY 10014, or for credit card orders only, call (646) 215-2500 or visit shop.nybooks.com 41 LEND ME YOUR EAR To the Editors: We are auditory professionals who enjoyed the recent article by Jerome Groopman, reviewing The Language of Light: A History of Silent Voices, by Gerald Shea [“The Sounds of Silence,” NYR, December 7]. The history of sign language, the obstacles placed by organized religion, the eventual acceptance of, and the current trend away from, signing make a fascinating and illuminating story. We recognize the beauty and utility of sign language and the strong desire by those who use it to keep this language alive. However, the article ends with a discussion of cochlear implants that paints a picture of the implantee experience that is far less positive than it is in reality. The point we wish to make is the tremendous impact of being able to communicate with all others that cochlear implants bestow on deaf children and laterdeafened adults. Cochlear implantation took off during the 1990s, and so today we have decades of research on language acquisition by implantees. Scores of scholarly publications, including in the most reputable medical and scientific journals, have consistently shown that cochlear implants improve hearing and speech comprehension in children born deaf,1, 2 with social and emotional effects that extend beyond laboratory settings.3 For those wishing for a more entertaining learning experience, watch YouTube cochlear implant videos of everything from children hearing their family’s voices for the first time, to a young woman navigating university.4 In the latter, one finds a full story of the trials and triumphs of a cochlear implantee. Cochlear implants are not a perfect solution, they do not restore fully normal hearing, but there is no doubt that the cochlear implant is an amazing success story. It is not a finished story and hundreds of researchers continue to work to improve hearing, thanks to private industry, the National Institutes of Health, and other funding bodies. Cochlear implants are a tremendous benefit to society and their wearers, and to paint them as anything less is simply inaccurate. Elizabeth S. Olson, Ph.D. Justin S. Golub, MD, MS Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery NewYork-Presbyterian/ Columbia University Medical Center New York City 1 See J. K. Niparko et al., “Spoken Language Development in Children Following Cochlear Implantation,” JAMA, April 21, 2010. 2 See M. A. Svirsky et al., “Language Development in Profoundly Deaf Children with Cochlear Implants,” Psychological Science, March 1, 2000. 3 See A. K. Cheng et al., “Cost-Utility Analysis of the Cochlear Implant in Children,” JAMA, August 16, 2000. 4 These and other videos are available at nybooks.com/cochlear. 42 Jerome Groopman replies: I have no bias for or against cochlear implants. Contrary to the statement by Professor Olson and Dr. Golub, my portrayal of their effects is accurate. In fact, the first two studies cited in their letter fully support the points made in my review. Olson and Golub assert that “cochlear implants are a tremendous benefit to society and their wearers.” A more accurate assessment would add the phrase “when they work well.” The greatest benefit, as I wrote, is generally for those who once could hear and then lost the ability to do so. The university student in the YouTube video Olson and Golub cite had normal hearing until the age of nineteen months, and then developed meningitis and became deaf. But there is considerable variability in how well children with cochlear implants can acquire speech and language comprehension, as the first study they refer to shows. The 188 chil- children. “Since less than 0.25 percent of the American population can communicate with sign language,” I noted, “Shea acknowledges the understandable desire of parents to give their deaf children sufficient hearing to function in the larger world.” But he also argues that signing is a natural language of the deaf, and in much of the book recounts the impressive educational achievements of deaf children educated with signing. In both studies cited by Olson and Golub, there is no comparison between the academic achievement of children with implants and that of those who sign. The third reference offered by Olson and Golub is a cost-utility analysis of cochlear implants based on what is termed “qualityadjusted life-years” (QALYs). These are essentially thought experiments in which healthy people are asked to say what odds they would take to avoid deafness at the risk of immediate death (the standard gamble), or parents of deaf children are asked how many years of life would be worth giving up to avoid hearing loss (time trade-off). The health economist Paul Dolan and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman have found deep methodological flaws in these thought experiments, persuasively arguing that healthy individuals cannot make meaningful calculations about medical conditions they themselves have never experienced.1 Many with disabilities find the idea of healthy people imagining they would give up life to prevent their condition highly offensive. The YouTube testimonials feature “amazing” outcomes like that of the young Oxford student. But such inspiring anecdotes ought to be seen within a larger clinical setting. Children with scant benefit from the implant, like those in the study by Svirsky et al., should be featured as well. A recent review-article details the delayed complications experienced by those who received cochlear implants.2 Some 1,300 of 22,842 adult and pediatric recipients of cochlear implants suffered significant negative outcomes, most prominently “vestibular complications” such as impaired balance and dizziness. One might argue that there should be YouTube testimonials from such individuals, who have difficulty walking or feel themselves spinning, alongside those with outstanding outcomes, to give viewers a more accurate and complete picture of implants’ benefits and risks. Surgeons and scientists like Golub and Olson believe deeply in the positive net value of cochlear implants. Shea shows how many deaf people believe as deeply in signing, their “language of light,” as a hallmark of their identity and a successful means for educational advancement. Families must weigh the full breadth of clinical data, both positive and negative, as well as the cultural effects of the device to arrive at the choice that most enhances their children’s lives. Yale Center for British Art coalescing around a strong central government in the near future.) People living in cities like Mogadishu, Hargeissa, and Kismayo will be able to work, go to school, and build some wealth as these places become nodes of economic activity, although on a relatively small scale. They will remain fiercely independent of one another. Bandits, warlords, and Islamist militants will have significant power in the vast spaces between the cities and still operate inside some urban areas. Unity may not be necessary for stability. But I don’t see how Somalia will ever build the infrastructure it needs or get the respect it deserves if the country remains divided. Lawrence Alma-Tadema: Study for Thermaie Antoniniane, 1899 dren in this study are a selected group, not representative of all those who receive implants; they had to have high baseline cognitive and motor skills before implantation and thus were most likely to have a positive outcome. From this favorable starting point, many children, especially those who once had hearing and lost it, had excellent results three years later, but many others did not, falling far below their hearing peers in speech and comprehension. Furthermore, assessment of the children’s speech and comprehension occurred in a laboratory setting with standardized tests, in keeping with the observation in my review that most clinical data on cochlear implants come from such controlled environments rather than the larger world. To their credit, the authors of the study highlight a major limitation of their work: there is no comparative control group of hearing-impaired children without cochlear implants. They emphasize that the absence of such matched controls “preclude[s] causal conclusions” about the net benefits of the implants. Olson and Golub’s second reference, the study by Svirsky et al., includes data on seventy children collected over thirty months. These researchers found that while on average the implant slowed language delay, These average results conceal a large amount of individual variability. . . . Some children’s language abilities remain severely delayed even after more than two years of experience with their cochlear implant. . . . However, some children displayed expressive language abilities that were very close to the average values shown by their normalhearing peers. A graph (figure 4) in the article clearly displays the wide range of these outcomes. While some children with the implant at 2–2.5 years approached estimated mean normal language proficiency, many fell 95 percent or more below the mean. Olson and Golub call the device “amazing,” and for some children and families it certainly is. But for others, as Shea observes in The Language of Light and the results in these two studies show, cochlear implants fall far short of expectations. As I wrote, cochlear implants have “mainstreamed” most hearing-impaired 1 Paul Dolan and Daniel Kahneman, “Interpretations of Utility and Their Implications for the Valuation of Health,” The Economic Journal, January 2008. 2 Bradford Terry, Rachel E. Kelt, and Anita Jeyakumar, “Delayed Complications After Cochlear Implantation,” JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery, November 2015. Letters to the Editor: email@example.com. All other correspondence: The New York Review of Books, 435 Hudson Street, Suite 300, New York, NY 10014-3994; firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a mailing address with all correspondence. We accept no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts. 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Sell your property in the NYRB February 8, 2018 WZLWWHUFRP1<5FODVVLÀHGV 43 new from unc press FREDERICK DOUGLASS America’s Prophet MAY WE FOREVER STAND CHOCOLATE CITY Nominee, 49th NAACP Image Awards, Outstanding Literary Work —Nonﬁction THE PRESIDENT’S KITCHEN CABINET D. H. Dilbeck “An original and often moving account of a complex but endlessly interesting ﬁgure, a giant in his time who still speaks to Americans today. Dilbeck has treated Douglass's religious faith and prophetic character more carefully than any previous scholar.” —George C. Rable, author of God's Almost Chosen Peoples A History of the Black National Anthem A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital Imani Perry “In Imani Perry's hands, the biography of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ becomes the history of African Americans over the span of more than one hundred years—a brilliant and wonderfully executed book.” —Heather A. 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