Hawa, a Hindi word for wind or air, carries a subtler meaning in Indian politics. A politician’s hawa is the tailwind that propels him to victory; it is the superior momentum that comes with being on a roll. For the past five years in the world’s biggest democracy, one man, one party, and one ideological current have pretty much cornered all the hawa. A puffing guardian spirit tangibly energizes Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister; despite his modest stature, the bearded sixty-seven-year-old can fill a room with a swirling air of quiet purpose or, some would say, menace. All across the country hawa can be felt ruffling the ubiquitous orange flags of his Bharatiya Janata, or Indian People’s Party (BJP), and stirring the long-suppressed ambitions of the Sangh Parivar, the “family” of Hindu nationalist groups that is the party’s ideological home.
All men are created equal—but in what sense equal? Obviously not in the sense of being endowed with the same attributes, abilities, wants, or needs: some people are smarter, kinder, and funnier than others; some want to climb mountains while others want to watch TV; and some require physical or emotional support to do things that others can do on their own. And presumably they are not “equal” in the sense of demanding identical treatment: a father can give aspirin to his sick child and not his healthy one without disrespecting the equality of his children. Rather, all humans are said to be equal in what philosophers call the “basic,” “abstract,” “deep,” or “moral” sense of equality. We are all, in some fundamental sense, and despite our various differences, of equal worth, demanding, in Ronald Dworkin’s famous phrase, “equal concern and respect.”
To the Editors: To some readers, my criticism of a single paragraph in an otherwise interesting, three-page review may seem a quibble. But to me, the typically misogynist and inaccurate description of Oscar Wilde’s mother, (Lady) Jane Francesca Elgee Wilde, as “admirable if slightly preposterous,” screams out for correction.
To the Editors: For a study of the Reverend E.A. Washburn (1819–1881), Episcopalian clergyman and theologian, and rector of Calvary Church in New York City, I would be grateful for any information or documents regarding his career and family life.
To the Editors: As Isaac Babel’s Benya Krik says to a grieving mother after his gang has accidentally bumped off her son, “Everyone makes mistakes, even God.” Translators certainly make their share, as do reviewers. I want to point out a couple of mistakes made by Gary Saul Morson in his survey of several recent Babel translations, including my own.
To the Editors: Aryeh Neier’s “A Glimmer of Justice” [NYR, March 8] about the International Criminal Court contains a number of errors stemming from a regrettable but unfortunately all too common misunderstanding of the post–cold war history of Africa’s Great Lakes region.
Is there no merit or sense in the flashback as a literary device? Didn’t Joyce use it? And Faulkner? Or David Lodge, for that matter? Or John Updike? Or going back before Austen, Laurence Sterne? In which case, can there really be, as Colm Tóibín appears to suggest, an association between the flashback and “our unhappy age”?
Fahad couldn’t stop ISIS burning books and libraries, but he dreamed that once the war ended, he could do something to bring books back to his city. Through them, he dreamed of creating a place where people could discover and share ideas that would change Mosul’s future. Today, that dream has become a reality. Down the road from Mosul University on Majmou’a Street, in a busy East Mosul shopping district, is the Book Forum. Part library, part café, it is a space where people can sit and share coffee and conversation at communal tables, or curl up alone with a book.
After spending decades as a pariah state, feared or at best ignored by even its near neighbors because of its reputation as one of the most repressive and closed nations in the world, Uzbekistan is slowly emerging from the shadows. Along with other Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan is worried about the expansion of the Taliban and ISIS into Afghanistan—and, under a new president, is for the first time taking the lead on making peace in the region.
There are few operatic works so cheerfully indifferent to morals as Così fan tutte, and it was largely deplored and rarely performed through most of the nineteenth century. Mozart’s librettist, Lorenzo Da Ponte, Jewish by birth, became a Catholic priest and then caused scandal by his libertine love affairs before leaving the priesthood; he was having an affair with the soprano who created the role of Fiordiligi. As for Mozart, he was the man who knew all about the serial courtship of sisters, since he first fell in love with Aloysia Weber and then married her younger sister Constanze.