Fatal Genes

Diagnosis of a disease before the onset of symptoms can benefit patients in many ways. It can circumvent an exhausting investigative odyssey; it can inform reproductive decisions; it can help a patient to plan; it can allow him or her to connect with others with the same condition, which is not only reassuring for the patient but also helpful to research scientists. But it can also cause despair. To what extent is information about an unpreventable genetic disease that has not yet caused any symptoms a gift and to what extent is it a burden?


Leave Novelists Out of Fiction

Very likely, the war years did offer Samuel Beckett images and experiences that, stripped of context, he would make universally powerful, but speculatively reconstructing the context to then color it with the melodrama Beckett assiduously pared away hardly seems a helpful exercise. It is the reductio ad absurdum of this strange form of fiction that would have us consume our literary heroes in a conveniently palatable sauce. We should read our great authors, not mythologize them.


Uncovering Indonesia’s Act of Killing

This declassification comes at a moment when politics in Indonesia have become sharply polarized. A reckoning over 1965 is very much a part of today’s political struggle. Although there is an appetite, especially among young people, to know more about what happened in 1965, there has also been a fierce backlash from army generals and Islamist politicians who warn that any talk of reconciliation or apology is a plot to revive communism.


Blade Runner’s Immaterial Girls

This belatedness of the sequel’s future changes the genre of Denis Villeneuve’s new film, Blade Runner 2049. This is not a work of prophetic science fiction. It is an alternative history—tracing out the implications of another timeline. This is perhaps why the layered repetitions in Villeneuve’s film do not build toward a new world, or multiply possibilities forward, but rather double them back, trapping them in an infinite regression of stereotype and allusion.


What Are We Doing Here?

I have been reading lately about the rise of humanism in Europe. The old scholars often described themselves as “ravished” by one of the books newly made available to them by the press, perhaps also by translation. Their lives were usually short, never comfortable. I think about what it would have been like to read by the light of an oil lamp, to write with a goose quill. It used to seem to me that an unimaginable self-discipline must account for their meticulous learnedness. I assumed that the rigors and austerities of their early training had made their discomforts too familiar to be noticed. Now increasingly I think they were held to their work by a degree of fascination, of sober delight, that we can no longer imagine.


ISIS After the Caliphate

Our research team has been working on the front lines of the fight with ISIS since the beginning of 2015 to enhance policymakers’ access to field-based social science. We found that although ISIS has lost control of almost all majority-Sunni territory in Iraq, the group has imbued a generation of young Sunni Arabs with a strict belief in Sharia law as the only way to govern society; and this is a value they are willing to fight and die for. The people we interviewed and tested almost invariably associated democracy with human weakness and perfidy.


The Master of Eglfing-Haar

If we didn’t know much about Eugen Gabritschevsky the person, and limited ourselves to the reproductions of his work in the show’s valuable and handsome accompanying catalog—it presents many more pictures than were in the museum’s exhibition—we might not at first assume that their author was a schizophrenic patient living in a psychiatric hospital. We might, rather, wonder whether we were encountering a newly discovered modern master, a kind of Paul Klee, say, whose each small-size picture feels like its own self-contained world.


If Heaven Ain’t a Lot Like Disney

The Florida Project is a snapshot of chaos, focused on a heedlessly dissolute young mother and her rambunctious six-year-old daughter. Each wonderfully inventive in her way, the two are living week to week during summer vacation in a shabby $38-a-night motel on a strip just beyond the perimeter of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The film is not hallucinatory but, for almost its entirety, Disney World can only be sensed as something that has irradiated the local landscape.