The Art of Witness by James Wood [The New Yorker] How Primo Levi survived.
“Primo Levi [wiki] did not consider it heroic to have survived eleven months in Auschwitz. Like other witnesses of the concentration camps, he lamented that the best had perished and the worst had survived. But we who have survived relatively little find it hard to believe him. How could it be anything but heroic to have entered Hell and not been swallowed up? To have witnessed it with such delicate lucidity, such reserves of irony and even equanimity? Our incomprehension and our admiration combine to simplify the writer into a needily sincere amalgam: hero, saint, witness, redeemer.”[more inside]
As Peter Singer's new book is released, the Boston Review hosts a forum on "The Logic of Effective Altruism." [more inside]
Wounded Women by Jessa Crispin [Boston Review] The assumption of female vulnerability threatens to invigorate the sexist evils it aims to combat.
Joseph Roth and the End of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
No standard biography of Roth exists in English, but this collection of his letters, superbly translated and judiciously edited by long-time Roth advocate Michael Hofmann, provides a more intimate portrait than any biography could. Roth’s letters are a study in authorial candor: in vino veritas, at least in part, for some of them were composed while he was drunk, getting that way, or hungover—the grim trinity that dominated his life more and more until he died of it, plus weltschmerz, in Paris in 1939. He was just short of 45 and had come a long way to die so young. He left behind one masterpiece, The Radetzky March, in which, in a series of vivid set-pieces, he evokes the reality of life high and low during the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s long decline, a vast theme encapsulated in the Trotta family, who ascend to nobility and imperial favor from provincial origins on the obscure fringes of the realm.[more inside]
"In my experience, the reminder that the sexual fantasy isn’t real, that the women who perform availability aren’t ACTUALLY available, that we aren’t ACTUALLY clamouring to be sexualized by men, that we control when the fantasy starts and stops, and that our performance is just that, a performance that requires compensation… well, some men find that hard to swallow." [more inside]
Political Hatred in Argentina: An Interview with Uki Goñi
Two days before I met with Uki Goñi, his analysis of president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and the crisis in Argentina was the top article on the Guardian website. Goñi is a correspondent for British newspapers, covering events in Argentina, but his professional experiences before this are enough for a number of lives. He arrived in the city in his early twenties and began work as a journalist at the Buenos Aires Herald, an English language daily and the city’s only newspaper reporting on missing people during the dictatorship. Over the next decade he focused on his band Los Helicópteros, and then wrote three books: El Infiltrado. La verdadera historia de Alfredo Astiz, on the activities of the ESMA, an illegal detention center during the country's National Reorganization Process (1976-1983) responsible for disappearances, tortures, and illegal executions; Perón y los Alemanes, on Perón's involvement with Nazi spies in the country; and The Real Odessa, on Nazi criminals' escapes to Argentina.
Before Greed: Americans Didn't Aways Yearn For Riches. A response: An Embarassement Of Riches: Literature And The Ethics Of Wealth In The Gilded Age. Both from Boston Review. [more inside]
"Like his legendary Hogg, The Mad Man, and the million-seller Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany’s major new novel Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders—explicit, poetic, philosophical, and, yes, shocking—propels readers into a gay sexual culture unknown to most urban gay men and women, a network of rural gay relations—with the twist that this one is supported by the homophile Kyle Foundation, started in the early 1980s by a black multi-millionaire, Robert Kyle III, to improve the lives of black gay men." [more inside]
Western dominance, Islamist terror, and the Arab imagination, by Sadik J. Al-Azm, emeritus professor at the University of Damascus. (via Aldaily)
Dominance and Its Dilemmas Noam Chomsky.What more be said? Those on the Left: Appaud. On the Right: sneer. If you are brither than a 15 watt bulb : read and then decide.