Rulfo: Immortal Scribe of the Dead

Against the grain of the baroque, overwrought style that had seemed to define Latin American literature, each word of Juan Rulfo’s fiction emerges as if extracted from the soil, leaving readers to apprehend what is held back, to divine the vast unspoken world of extinction, the final silence that awaits us all. Without Rulfo’s groundbreaking work, which blended the regional realism and social critique then in vogue with high-modernist experimentation, it is hard to imagine that Gabriel García Márquez could have composed One Hundred Years of Solitude.

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In the Cauldron at Midnight

Can a woman be a muse and an artist? In theory, yes. In practice, the roles seldom overlap comfortably. “All that means is you’re someone else’s object,” as Leonora Carrington put it. Although her early self-portrait, The Inn of the Dawn Horse, conveys an exhilarating self-confidence through both the central figure and the animal surrogates around her, especially the galloping white horse, her Portrait of Max Ernst, which depicts the German Surrealist as his alter ego, Loplop, the Bird Superior, bears a mixed message: he carries a tiny horse trapped in a lantern, and the white horse behind him is frozen stiff.

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A Modern Greek Tragedy

Did Greece have any way of breaking out of Germany’s grip? The common criticism of Yanis Varoufakis’s period in office is that he was an intellectual who took the knife of logic to a political gunfight. He was ill equipped from the start. His memoir, Adults in the Room: My Battle with the European and American Deep Establishment, is at pains to show that this interpretation is mistaken.

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‘Black Panther’: Choose Your Weapons

Movies often flatten real African cultures into two-dimensional imagery—stereotypes in stereo, a quilt of clichés. But Wakanda, as everyone keeps reminding us, doesn’t exist. This gave Ryan Coogler free rein to create a country in the subjunctive mode: what if…? Given a blank canvas, he chose to sculpt and embroider various materials, genres, and tones. Black Panther is Shakespeare meets Shaka Zulu, Too $hort in Timbuktu.

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Words to Live By

From the moment of my diagnosis, I pondered the nature of love: Had I left my sons enough of it? Does love endure? Is love bankable? I stumble upon the answer courtesy of an illness that forced me to look back on a childhood marked by loss and love’s absence. In an orphan’s life such as my own, I only now see that if you’re parentless and live on your wits, you look out for love, take it if you find it, look out for more. But you don’t bank the love; you live off reserves, and do not accrue funds. My sons, by contrast, are emotionally entitled; they default to a state of happiness whose roots reach deep, deep into the constancy of love.

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Luther vs. Erasmus: When Populism First Eclipsed the Liberal Elite

Erasmus was an internationalist who sought to establish a borderless Christian union; Luther was a nationalist who appealed to the patriotism of the German people. Where Erasmus wrote exclusively in Latin, Luther often used the vernacular, the better to reach the common man. Erasmus wanted to educate a learned caste; Luther, to evangelize the masses. For years, they waged a battle of ideas, with each seeking to win over Europe to his side. But in a turbulent and polarized age, Erasmus became an increasingly marginal figure: the archetypal reasonable liberal.

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Congo for the Congolese

Beneath Congo’s soil lies an estimated $24 trillion in natural resources, but this wealth is also the source of untold suffering. Today, more Congolese are displaced from their homes than Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis, or Rohingyas, yet their miseries are all but invisible, in part because the identities and aims of Congo’s myriad combatants are mystified by layers of rumor and misinformation, which serve the interests of those who profit from the mayhem. But pieces of the puzzle sometimes emerge.

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Roth Agonistes

During his early writing years in Chicago, Philip Roth began each morning by shouting at the young face peering out from the mirror at him: “Attack! Attack!” The force of Roth’s attack, sustained for more than a half-century, is what made his retirement so startling. It is also the quality that, more than anything, sustains his Why Write?: Collected Nonfiction 1960–2013.

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‘The Twilight Zone,’ from A to Z

The Twilight Zone‘s most prevalent themes are probably best distilled as “you are not what you took yourself to be,” “you are not where you thought you were,” and “beneath the façade of mundane American society lurks a cavalcade of monsters, clones, and robots.” Rod Serling had served as a paratrooper in the Philippines in 1945 and returned with PTSD; he and his eventual audience were indeed caught between the familiar past and an unknown future. They stood dazed in a no-longer-recognizable world, flooded with strange new technologies, vastly expansionist corporate or federal jurisdictions, and once-unfathomable ideologies.

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Hell of a Fiesta

In the spring of 2017, and all through the year, social media feeds in Venezuela were filled with images of deprivation and despair: long lines of people hoping to purchase food; women fighting over a stick of butter; mothers who could not find milk to buy; children picking through garbage in search of something to eat; empty shelves in pharmacies and stores; hospitals without stretchers, drugs, or minimum levels of hygiene; doctors operating on a patient by the light of a cell phone; women giving birth outside of hospitals. This is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions.

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