The revolts sweeping North Africa and the Middle East have labeled as what they’re not, namely unprecedented. Instead, the so-called “Arab Spring” is rooted in the countless “color” revolutions that first hit post-Communist states in waves and then moved into Central Asia and China.
Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek believes we’ve reached the end of time. Entitlement and social iniquities are rampant. The environment is a mess. Soon, the planet may have to reckon with shortfalls of food and water. His solution? To acknowledge that the system is bankrupt, and mourn it, and create a new one in which the left slips toward to middle to co-opt the rise of the rampant right.
A Tunisian Arab, Kahled Abdul-Wahab intervened to save Jewish lives following the introduction of anti-Semitic laws during the Nazi occupation. Now he's the only Arab in line for Israel's “Righteous among the Nations” status. In an interview, his daughter Faïza recalls a man who just did what he thought was right.
If mutual mistrust is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, one young Israeli has picked literature to help bridge the gap. A fervent backer of the Palestinian cause but disenchanted with politics, Yael Lerer founded Al-Andalus, a publishing house dedicated to translating and distributing Arabic-language prose.
Zaporizhia, in the heart of Russian coal country, was long a bastion for Cossack culture. But the proud Cossacks were little more than a footnote under the strangling rule of the Soviet Union. But two decades later, their rich and complex culture is making a comeback on the banks of Dnieper River.
This year's Nobel laureates produced a wave of controversy, with skeptics insisting they were politically tinged. President Barack Obama's Peace Prize was prominently cited, as was Herta Müller's literature award. But those who don't know about Müller fail to fathom her effectiveness not only as a writer but also as longtime defender of personal freedom and the right to free expression.
After each territorial partition in the Balkans something always remains either unhinged or incomplete. Divisions produce both errors and bad strategy while the "truths" offered by Serbians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Croatians, Albanians, Muslims, Catholics and the Orthodox are usually relative. Thus everything about the Balkans has become a matter of skewed opinion, leading to infinite misunderstanding and confusion
Serbian writer Danilo Kis once wrote of the Balkan people: "We're exotic, politically scandalous ... [but] who on earth can ever find literature here?" Yet the region's literature is thriving, with new writers always cropping up. More pertinent than wondering whether literature exists is weighing what matters more, memories of bloody war, ethnic fracture and national dispossession, or producing tales that supersede ethnicity and conflict, substituting globalization for nostalgia. Different authors have strongly different viewpoints.
The European Union and its integration process face two central dilemmas: How to enhance its own legitimacy and ensure that the new member states match older ones when it comes to the application of democracy and rule of law. At the same time, it faces 'outside' pressure, from the development of American policy, Russia’s ambitions, and the emergence of China. Taken together, transformation within the EU becomes both urgent and essential.
Writer Graham Greene once labeled Riga as Parisian and "an aristocratic Brighton in the throes of debauchery." But the Latvian capital, home to some of the most remarkable Art Nouveau buildings in Europe, shows off more markedly Germanic influences. The Soviet presence has all but disappeared.
After a decade-long boom, Warsaw is dealing with a construction slowdown. Meanwhile, local political gridlock has gotten in the way of deciding the fate of the Soviet-era Palace of Culture and Science. Sometimes the Polish capital can't seem to decide what it wants to do with its Communist architectural legacy. Meanwhile, citizens await the new Swiss-designed Museum of Modern Art.
Between December 1943 and August 1944, Italian Fascist authorities worked with Nazi officials to detain and deport thousands of Jews. Trains hauled them from the Fossoli internment camp near Verona to near-certain death in Germany and Poland. Among the deportees was famed Italian novelist Primo Levi. When he reached Auschwitz, he wrote, “The dawn seemed a betrayal…” A new book recalls Fossoli’s painful history.