Geert Wilders’s victory in the Dutch election seems to have shocked the establishment in Brussels and London. With 23.5 percent of the vote, the right-wing populist People’s Party (PVV) more than doubled its parliamentary representation and became the Netherlands’ largest party. The day after the result, a Times editorial warned that ‘mainstream parties across Europe should take note.’ Clearly they didn’t have a pen and paper handy when Marine Le Pen came within 10 per cent of the French presidency in 2022, or when Giorgia Meloni became prime minister of Italy, or when the Sweden Democrats were ushered into a confidence and supply arrangement, or when Vox almost entered government in Spain. ‘Will Britain soon get its own Geert Wilders?’ Allison Pearson asked in the Telegraph. Britain already has several, and they have been running the government for years.
After being elected president of Argentina, and before declaring that he would indeed abolish the central bank, the ‘paleo-capitalist libertarian’ Javier Milei announced a visit to Tel Aviv, thereby breaking ranks with Bolivia, Colombia, Chile and, most important, Brazil. While Montevideo – where the new right is also in power – may be a stop on his pre-inaugural victory lap (along with Washington, of course), Brasília will not.
More than half of Romanians haven’t read a book in the past year, according to the National Statistics Institute. There are about 25 million Romanian speakers in the world, compared to ten million Hungarians, but the average print run for a Hungarian novel is three thousand, while for a Romanian novel it’s less than half that. Why don’t Romanians read more?
On a Friday evening in late July, I attended a Pride service at the Marienkirche, just off Alexanderplatz in central Berlin. The programme included blessings and hymns from Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions, and as we filed in we were given white wristbands stamped with ‘Liebe tut der Seele gut’ (‘love is good for the soul’) in gold letters. I sat on a pew at the side with three Berliners: a Black American and two white Germans. They told me they weren’t believers but were there because it was the last service of the church superintendent Bertold Höcker, who had done a lot for the queer community, and they wanted to show their gratitude before he retired.
In the early 1990s I worked at Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. Not long after the Oslo Accords were signed we moved from offices on Gordon Street in Tel Aviv to larger premises on Allenby Street, not far from the Great Synagogue. Walking home from work one day, I noticed a small plaque near the synagogue’s entrance. Written in Hebrew and English, it says: ‘The Lehi used the basement and attic of this synagogue as a secret arms cache. It was discovered by the British during the “great curfew” imposed in July 1946, and the weapons were confiscated.’
‘Thanks to the internet,’ the Bluesky user Bobby Bungus (formerly Twitter’s @internethippo) wrote last month, ‘I don’t need to wait for the evening news to learn about recent events. I can read 2000 posts from the most deranged people on earth and make up my own mind.’ In the year since Elon Musk bought Twitter and renamed it X – at, well, deranged cost to himself, financial and reputational – it has largely dispersed as a useable medium and as a quasi-community.