A Trip to Dark Mofo, a Novel Account of the Bosnian War, and How Walmart Helps Art Travel
It has taken 15 years to translate and publish the first book of former Bosnian soldier and writer Faruk Šehić into English. Under Pressure, Michael Tate writes, is a “breathtaking” work from one of Europe’s most original voices.
Michael Connor attends the predictably controversial Dark Mofo festival in Hobart, Australia, where “international hipsters” think dangerous thoughts while dressed in red and black.
Joseph Bottum reviews Duncan White’s Cold Warriors: “When he fled Spain in the summer of 1937, one step ahead of the secret police, George Orwell lost his personal copy of a pamphlet by Stalin with the ominous title Defects in Party Work and Measures for Liquidating Trotskyite and Other Double Dealers. Agents of the Spanish Loyalist government (by this point, wholly under the thumb of the Soviets) suspected the Englishman of being a Trotskyite. Which naturally meant they needed to liquidate him. What else is one to do with double dealers? So they raided his wife Eileen’s room in Barcelona, confiscating Orwell’s diaries, photographs, and books, which oddly included both a French translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and an English translation of Stalin’s work. Fortunately Eileen Blair’s room did not contain Orwell himself.”
How a Walmart heir is helping art travel across America: “Arts Bridges is an incubator. It’s doing a show called ‘Cross Pollination’ with the Thomas Cole National Historical Site and Olana, Frederic Church’s house, both in upstate New York. They’re two of my favorite places. The Cole site — his home and studio — has just been restored. Olana, one of the great Hudson River houses, has a brilliant new curator. Art Bridges is helping these two superb but offbeat places to develop a new show connecting Martin Johnson Heade’s gemlike paintings of hummingbirds and work by Cole and Church with art and science today. It’s going to Crystal Bridges, Olana, the Cummer in Jacksonville, Fla., and Reynolda House in Winston-Salem, N.C.”
A visit to a restored 1790 Creole home along Bayou Chenal near Baton Rouge: “Its wide-open rooms and its size, much larger than typical homes in the area, hint that it might once have been part of a 1700s fort at Pointe Coupee. A pair of lizards two-step through the grass as Pat approaches LaCour. Beneath an expansive hipped roof, bousillage, an early building material of dried earth and moss, fills the timber framing.”
Donald Rayfield reviews Orlando Figes’s “broad canvas” book The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture: “Economic and technological developments were of course important factors in the emergence of a new cosmopolitan culture. But one misses in this study any insight into less tangible factors (for instance, the decline of religion or advances in medical knowledge) in forming a pan-European outlook. Nor does Figes explore in any depth Turgenev’s genius as a writer. We learn a lot about his income (or penury, because of his ineptitude and generosity) . . . We learn where Turgenev went and whom he met, and we hear about his periods of creativity and barrenness, his charm and eccentricities, but Figes is less interested in what made his work so powerful. No other Russian writer has conveyed so convincingly the ability of erotic attraction to overwhelm a perfectly decent person’s life; no other Russian writer was able to look at radicals to the left and conservatives to the right and either show the good in both sides (as in Fathers and Sons) or pronounce a pox on both their houses (as in Smoke). Like Chekhov after him, Turgenev could distill in twenty pages what Dostoevsky or Tolstoy took two hundred to say, and he did so in prose as refined and musical as Flaubert’s.”
Essay of the Day:
In First Things, Matthew Rose writes about the man who predicted Donald Trump’s rise 20 years before it happened. Who was he?
“‘I want to read something to you. I want you to really listen to this.’ Rush Limbaugh opened his radio show on January 20, 2016, in the tone he normally reserves for breaking Clinton scandals. But his topic that afternoon was less sensational, and he would spend the next thirty minutes reading passages from a five-thousand-word magazine essay. It warned of globalist ‘elites’ who ‘manage the delegitimization of our own culture, and the dispossession of our people.’ It complained of leaders who ‘drag the country into conflicts’ and ‘preside over the economic pastoralization of the United States.’ It encouraged Republicans to campaign on limiting immigration, saving blue-collar jobs, and restoring Middle Americans to their central place in the nation’s life.
The essay was titled ‘Principalities & Powers,’ and Limbaugh hailed it as the Trumpist manifesto that no one, including the candidate, had been able to formulate. It described a voting base, misunderstood and exploited for decades, that more resembled a ‘proletariat’ than a propertied middle class. ‘Nationalism and populism,’ as Limbaugh put it, not free-market orthodoxy, represented the Republican party’s best way forward. Yet the essay, despite anticipating the presidential inauguration exactly one year later, had not been written by an observer of the 2016 primary season. It had been published in 1996, and its author was not available for interview, because he had been dead for more than a decade.
“When he died in 2005, Samuel Francis was nobody’s idea of the most prescient observer of American politics. He had arrived in Washington twenty-eight years earlier, one of many young conservative thinkers and activists drawn to the capital by the election of Ronald Reagan. But he had been constantly and irritatingly out of step: arguing against free trade in the heyday of globalism, defending entitlements in an era of tax cuts, protesting foreign wars in the face of bipartisan agreement, and questioning Christian influence at the apogee of the religious right. His career began promisingly, with early positions at the Heritage Foundation and on Capitol Hill, followed by years as a columnist at the Washington Times. But Francis could not conceal his growing contempt for a movement that he believed failed to understand, let alone challenge, the institutional power of American liberalism. He considered First Things and its founder among the organs of the collaborationist American right.
“Francis was a pathologist of American conservatism, a movement he considered terminally ill even during its years of seeming health. As Republicans won five of seven presidential elections and took control of Congress for the first time in four decades, Francis saw a movement being assimilated slowly into the structures of power it professed to reject. His contrarianism won him admirers on the paleoconservative right, who read his essays in small-circulation journals and applauded his attacks on globalism and his defenses of those he called, without irony, ‘real Americans.’ But he won almost no access to major conservative outlets, where his views were denounced, with varying degrees of accuracy, as racist, chauvinist, and unpatriotic. Francis spent his last decade as an editor of far-right newsletters, having been fired by the Washington Times in 1995 for defending the morality of slavery. At the end of his life, his defenders included Patrick Buchanan, whose presidential campaigns he advised, and Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who eulogized Francis as the ‘premier philosopher of white racial consciousness.’
“Purged and marginalized in life, Francis has attained extraordinary prominence since his death. Journalists seeking the elusive source code of Trumpism have looked to his books and essays for insight. This new interest will not issue in his redemption—his views on race and religion seem to ensure lasting condemnation—but his work, including the massive Leviathan and Its Enemies, a manuscript discovered only recently, can help us better understand our populist moment and its political logic. Francis points to a conservatism no longer devoted to lower taxes at home and democracy promotion abroad. He envisions a revolutionary politics, one in which the liberal elite and its conservative lackeys are overthrown by members of the historic core of the nation. More ominously, his investment in racial biopolitics demonstrates the cruel incoherence of a populism based on human differences rather than shared loves. ‘The real masters of the house,’ vowed Francis, ‘are ready to repossess it and drive out the usurpers.’”
Photo: Lake Misurina
Poem: Paul Mariani, “Mitzvah”
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