Migration and Post-War Europe, Andy Warhol’s Religious Art, and Richard Wilbur’s Poetry
Good morning. From the French desk, Andrew Anthony reviews Philippe Lançon’s memoir on surviving the Charlie Hebdo attacks: “The book is remarkably free of anger at either the Kouachis or the ideology that inspired them. Without resorting to polemic, it’s an argument in favour of the intellectual life, of ideas as beautiful abstractions, weaponised only as satire, never as terror. It feels reassuringly rarefied, like an old-fashioned French talking-heads movie. But its weakness is that there is little sense of a world beyond the whitewashed hospital rooms in which he’s treated or the book-lined ones from which he was so horrifically torn.”
Also: Jean-Paul Dubois wins the Goncourt Prize: “Jean-Paul Dubois won the Goncourt Prize, France’s most prestigious literary award, in a ceremony on Monday at the Paris restaurant Drouant. Published in August, Mr. Dubois’s novel Tous les hommes n’habitent pas le monde de la même façon (All Men Do Not Live in the Same Way) is a story narrated by a man languishing in a Canadian prison for an unknown crime. The Agence France-Presse news agency called it ‘an affecting and nostalgic novel of lost happiness.’ The French magazine L’Obs called it ‘basically perfect.’ Philippe Claudel, one of the jurors, called the novel a masterpiece, ‘full of humanity, melancholy, irony.’ . . . A former newspaper reporter, Mr. Dubois has told interviewers that he writes fiction only during the month of March. Only one of Mr. Dubois’s 21 books, French Life, has been translated into English. The prize comes with an award of only 10 euros, about $11, but winners generally experience enormous increases in sales and prestige.”
Andy Warhol’s religious art: “That Andy Warhol was a lifelong practicing Byzantine (i.e. Eastern) Catholic is not a secret. At least one book is devoted to his religious concerns. His biographers and some critics note that most of the women and men in the Factory were lapsed believers. And he made paintings, especially late in life, with explicit Christian concerns. But because the contemporary art world has, at least recently, been a secular place, there hasn’t been much attention given to Warhol-the-Catholic. Andy Warhol: Revelation at the Warhol Museum opens with Sunset (1969), a 33-minute film intended for a never-realized project, organized by Dominique and John de Menil, at the Vatican pavilion at the 1968 World’s Fair in San Antonio, Texas . . . Some of the work in this show has not been much seen before, or even published.”
Carlos Eire reviews Robert Louis Wilken’s Liberty in the Things of God: The Christian Origins of Religious Freedom. “Among secularists, Christianity is associated with intolerance, largely because its attitudes toward sex do not square with the progressive status quo. But Christianity’s reputation for intolerance can be traced back to the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, and to public intellectuals such as Voltaire, who cultivated an incandescent hatred for the Christian faith, denouncing its bigotry as the ultimate evil. The Enlightenment’s hostility to Christianity became embedded in the Whig view of history, according to which progress entailed ever-expanding intellectual and political freedom. In this reading of Western history, the Christian past is a dark age marked by fear of freedom of thought. The heroes are the enlightened thinkers of the early modern age, who invented religious toleration, championed it, and rescued civilization from Christian closed-mindedness. Robert Louis Wilken’s Liberty in the Things of God is a revisionist challenge to this view.
Reality and artifice in Richard Wilbur’s poetry: “In his essay ‘Poetry and Happiness,’ Richard Wilbur asserts that poets cannot achieve artistic fulfillment until their ‘vision fuses with the view from the window’ (136). Wilbur’s examination of the tension between imaginative vision and concrete reality stands central to his writing.”
Essay of the Day:
In Spiked, Helen Guldberg explains how mass migration has changed post-war Europe:
“Peter Gatrell’s The Unsettling of Europe: The Great Migration, 1945 to the Present is a tour de force, bringing together personal accounts of the fears, suffering and hopes of those on the move across postwar Europe. It also provides an incisive analysis of the factors that drove mass migration to and within Europe.
“‘Every major development in postwar Europe is connected to migration’, Gatrell writes. ‘Think of the recovery and reconstruction of the continent in the aftermath of world war, the closer alignment of states that formed the economic community and then the European Union; the creation of a rival political bloc in Eastern Europe; the shedding of Europe’s overseas empires and the legacy of colonial rule; the collapse of communism and the redrawing of the map of Europe.’”
Photo: Oodi Library
Poem: Nicholas Friedman, “Owls”
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