May 2012


31 May 2012

At the V&A

Fatema Ahmed

Last month Seth Siegelaub gave a tour of The Stuff that Matters, an exhibition at the Raven Row gallery devoted to his collection of rare books about textiles and some rare fabrics too. ‘The history of textiles,’ he said as we looked at his Renaissance damasks and silks laid flat in display cases, ‘is the history of the wealthy... and the history of those objects which are the least used.’


31 May 2012

Living without Your Name

Neve Gordon

My friend’s wife was accepted to a PhD program at McGill University in Montreal. They decided to move to Canada with their two children at about the same time that I was offered a fellowship at Princeton and decided to move with my family to New Jersey for a year. Hoping to rent out our apartments while we're away, we both posted ads on the most popular website in Israel. I received about five calls a day and found a tenant within a couple of weeks. My friend received only three calls in four weeks, and none of the people who called came to look at his flat. A few days ago he removed his ad from the website and posted a new one, only this time he changed his name from Hussein to Rami. Rami is an ethnically indeterminate name – it can be either Jewish or Palestinian – but there are no Jews called Hussein.


30 May 2012

Where was Brian Souter?

Peter Geoghegan · 'Yes Scotland'

‘Go on, Dougie,’ the man beside me shouted. His silver and blue lapel pin twinkled in the wan light of Screen 7 at Cineworld in Edinburgh. To my left, a woman beat her foot as Dougie MacLean shuffled with his guitar across the makeshift stage at the launch of Yes Scotland last Friday. In the front row, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister sang along to ‘Caledonia’; Alex Salmond grew lachrymose, or at least appeared to in the footage broadcast on the evening news.


29 May 2012

In Cannes

Jonathan Romney

On Sunday night, the Cannes competition jury got it right. It can’t have been a hard decision: the competition this year was filled with acceptable rather than outstanding films, and one work that was so clearly a great achievement that it would have been perverse to award the Palme d’Or to anything else. In recent years, I’ve grown slightly weary of the august, knowingly assured maestria of Michael Haneke. But in Amour, he has not only revealed an unsuspected tenderness, but also broken a significant cinematic taboo: old age.


26 May 2012

Two Faces of the Old Order

Adam Shatz

They called him the 'spare tyre', but he may become the next president of Egypt – the first president of the post-Mubarak order. Mohamed Morsi, the candidate for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, is a charmless man, doctrinaire in disposition and impatient with the reform-minded currents in his party. He became its candidate only after its more appealing first choice, Khairat El-Shater, was disqualified from running by the Presidential Election Commission; hence the nickname. (The commission cited a Mubarak-era rule that those who have been in prison in the last six years are ineligible to run; El-Shater was released only in March 2011.) Yet Morsi had behind him the electoral machine of the Muslim Brotherhood, still the country's most significant political movement.


25 May 2012

Razing Kashgar

Nick Holdstock

Ürümqi may be the capital of Xinjiang, but in most respects Kashgar is the province’s first city. Until the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, Ürümqi was a small garrison town. Kashgar, which was part of the Silk Route, has been at the centre of the region’s trade, and at the heart of Uighur culture and tradition, for more than a thousand years.


24 May 2012

Elections v. Democracy

Edward Pearce

When politicians talk about ‘democracy’, what they mostly mean is elections, though they do their best to avoid ones they are likely to lose.


23 May 2012

Not Demolition, ‘Research’

Gillian Darley

They are pulling down the 19th-century Lermontov House in Gudiashvili Square in Tbilisi. The historical association Tiflis Hamqari have been protesting against the demolition since Sunday, sounding off with whistles and horns and holding placards – ‘If you destroy this building you destroy us’ – while the process of stripping out fretwork balconies and roof timbers, smashing stair banisters and ripping out floorboards goes on behind them. The work is being carried out on behalf of the Georgian office of an Austro-German developer, Magnat, whose head office is in Frankfurt.


22 May 2012

In Kolonaki Square

David Patrikarakos

On 6 May, I went with my father to vote at our local polling station in Maroussi in north Athens. The anger in the queue was palpable. It was unsurprising that the centre-left Pasok had its parliamentary majority wiped out, coming third with 13 per cent of the vote and winning a mere 41 seats out of 300. Pasok’s former coalition partner, the centre-right New Democracy, came top, but with less than 19 per cent of the vote and only 108 seats, couldn’t form a government. The left-wing anti-austerity party, Syriza, came second, with just over 16 per cent of the vote and 52 seats (taken together, the various far-left parties won about a third of the vote). And the overtly fascist Golden Dawn received nearly 7 per cent of the vote, gaining 21 seats. The result may have been unclear, but the message was not: a total rejection of the EU, ECB and IMF’s bailout plan, and of austerity.


21 May 2012

Spoofistry

Glen Newey

Facebook’s $106 billion flotation last week offered a punt at $38 a share on a firm that databases consumer identities. Nobody knows, and some doubt, whether Facebook can convert that into dividends. But Google’s tussles with pseudonymous users like Identity Woman and BotGirl Questi show that ‘identity’ is big business both as cognomen and bundles of individuating data.


18 May 2012

A Moment of Clarity

Peter Geoghegan

On Wednesday afternoon, excerpts from a speech by the Irish finance minister Michael Noonan to the Bloomberg Ireland Economic Summit in Dublin, purportedly copied from the Irish Times website, appeared on PoliticalWorld.org. The contributor, PaddyJoe, accused the newspaper of removing a paragraph from an earlier version of the story, in which Noonan, speaking about the Irish government’s ability to secure a ‘Yes’ vote in the upcoming referendum on the European fiscal compact, was apparently quoted as saying:


18 May 2012

Portraits from the Occupation

Alex Abramovich · Occupy Oakland

Earlier this year, Lucy Raven and I were commissioned by the Oakland Museum of California to make a series of short video portraits of people involved in, opposed to, or otherwise affected by Occupy Oakland. After Occupy Wall Street, OO has been the most visible American Occupy. It has also been the most militant, and following Oakland's efforts to clear the physical encampments at City Hall Plaza – which involved mass arrests, and the wounding of ex-Marine peacenik Scott Olsen – OO became a constant presence in the news cycle, and a pilot light for the whole Occupy movement.


17 May 2012

Blockupy Frankfurt

Nick Holdstock

Though there have been few large demonstrations in Germany against the austerity measures introduced by the European Union, it was inevitable that Frankfurt, the home of the European Central Bank, would become a target. Blockupy Frankfurt called for a series of protests and actions ‘against the austerity dictatorship’ from 16 to 19 May, culminating on Saturday in a march to the ECB. I spoke to Thomas Seibert, a philosopher and member of Blockupy Frankfurt, at the Subversive Forum in Zagreb. ‘We wanted to say there is a choice,’ he said. ‘We don’t have to stick to the German government. We wanted to say, in the Occupy sense, we are the 99 per cent.’


16 May 2012

Auden at No.7

Jim Holt

Last week a new musical featuring W.H. Auden as a central character began previews at New York's Public Theater. Entitled February House, the musical concerns an improbable ménage that occupied a picturesque but shabby little row-house in Brooklyn Heights during the early years of the Second World War. Besides Auden, who lived on the top floor, the tenants were Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, and – most improbably of all – Gypsy Rose Lee, who at the time was busy writing a mystery called The G-String Murders. Other occasional residents included Paul and Jane Bowles, Louis MacNeice, Richard Wright (who lived with his wife and child in the basement), and Golo Mann (who holed up in the attic). It was Anaïs Nin, a frequent visitor, who named it 'February House', because so many of the residents, including Auden, had birthdays in February. The address of the house, which was subsequently torn down to make room for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, was Middagh Street, number 7.


15 May 2012

'Sostiene Pereira'

Thomas Jones

The late Antonio Tabucchi's novel Sostiene Pereira is set in Lisbon in the summer of 1938. The protagonist, Pereira, is a journalist, a veteran reporter on a national daily who now edits the culture page of Lisboa. The paper describes itself as 'apolitical' (which means it doesn't cover the Spanish Civil War) and 'independent' (it prints what the Salazar regime would like it to without having to be asked). Pereira is a widower; his closest confidant is the portrait of his wife that hangs in his hallway. He's overweight, and has a heart condition, not helped by his fondness for omelettes and sugary lemonade. His semi-retired routine is disturbed when he hires a young man, Monteiro Rossi, to prepare obituaries of famous writers. Rossi's pieces – either attacking Fascist writers or praising left-wing ones – are all unpublishable. But Pereira pays Rossi for them anyway and puts them away in a folder. Eventually he gets drawn into helping hide Rossi's cousin, who's in Portugal recruiting for the Republican cause in Spain, and as one thing leads to another Pereira soon finds himself in serious trouble with the authorities.


14 May 2012

Tweeting Leveson

Jenny Diski

A day at the Leveson Inquiry, as tweeted by @Diski Although I have an old-lady crush on Lord Leveson I do think he should say 'good morning' to start the day. 'Unspoken understanding = science fiction' Actually science fiction is a human being who doesn't know about unspoken understandings #leveson How to spend my day? Watch the #leveson inquiry or read Mrs George Osborne's new novel: Park Lane 'One address, two very different worlds' Now that's a novel concept. Where do you get your ideas from, Mrs Osborne? Especially adore Leveson because one can get so much private thinking done while he chooses each precise phrase with glacial lack of hurry. And his Lordship is so considerate to the help. Where can I apply to be his shorthand writer so he can give me a break? #gratefulforanycrumb Will sign off all communications in future with DOLL: Dote On Lord Leveson


14 May 2012

Rise of the Pirates

Geoff Roberts

The first European Pirate Party emerged in Sweden in 2006, when a group calling itself the Piratpartiet was formed to campaign for the right to download everything. The German Pirates were first elected to the Berlin Landtag last September. Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein followed, and now they have been elected to the assembly in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state. The Pirates have won support at the expense of all the other parties, and there is talk of their joining a coalition government after the federal election in September 2013.


11 May 2012

Incite!

Stephanie Burt

Timothy Alborn is the dean of arts and humanities and a professor of history at Lehman College of the City University of New York, and a scholar of Victorian business history. From 1989 to 1998 he ran Harriet Records, which released singles and CDs by never or not-yet famous pop groups such as the Scarlet Drops, Twig and Wimp Factor XIV. From 1985 to 1998 he also published Incite!, a fanzine with perhaps as many as several hundred readers, fans of obscure pop and rock bands from Boston to Dusseldorf to Melbourne. (During the 1990s Alborn taught at Harvard, where I met him and became a fan of his work.)


11 May 2012

Frank Assessment

The Editors

Barney Frank's statement on J.P. Morgan's $2 billion loss:


11 May 2012

Know Your Guns

Tim Johnson

A vast Tube poster for Anthony Quinn's Half of the Human Race follows the same format for First World War lit as Birdsong, Early One Morning and War Horse; a poignant image of a solitary soldier, somehow not engulfed in a hail of gun fire despite being silhouetted on top of a trench. But the scramble to promote Quinn's book after its endorsement from Channel 4’s TV Book Club perhaps led the publishers to paste in haste from the image library.


10 May 2012

When the Wild Things Are

The Editors · Maurice Sendak

The LRB on the late Maurice Sendak:


9 May 2012

At the Lighthouse

John Perry · The Bay of Pigs

Beyond the Frame, an exhibition of Cuban paintings and photographs in aid of the campaign to release the Miami Five, is at the Lighthouse in Glasgow until Sunday (at the end of April it was at Gallery 27 in London). Many of the works are apolitical but some are inspired by the various attempts by US governments to destabilise Castro’s Cuba.


8 May 2012

Atomic Guitars

Nick Richardson

Two canary yellow stratocasters, mounted on stands to face each other and wired into squat black amps, buzz with a tentative open string drone. Next to the guitars hangs the shell of a radiation-proof suit. The stage is set for a band that never arrives: Fuyuki Yamakawa’s Atomic Guitars – recently on display at the Tokyo Art Fair – are played by decaying atoms.


8 May 2012

Scènes de la vie électorale V

Jeremy Harding · Mitterrand Redux

In round one of the French presidentials the argument was about the new, dirty style of global capitalism. Could you talk to it or propitiate it or were governments now defenceless creatures in the wild, whose only option was to stay on the run? Once the fringe candidates who wanted France to turn and face it were eliminated, the debate should have moved on to France’s debt. Instead, Sarkozy and Hollande fought about the moral tone of Sarkozy’s presidency (money, friends, influence), ‘Republican values’, nuclear energy, immigration, identity and the ritual preparation of meat. With Hollande’s investiture next week, we’ll be back to the debt. We’re there already.


7 May 2012

Beauty Contests

Ross McKibbin on the local elections

In last week’s local elections only 32 per cent of the registered electorate voted – a striking measure of how unimportant local government is to most people and a reasonable judgment on the authority of municipal government. The powers of the local state have been inexorably weakened over the last century: a process only speeded up in the 1980s. Despite the importance of local government to the Lib Dems the present government has further accelerated it. Furthermore, 32 per cent is a small and unreliable sample on which to make judgements about national politics. But here goes.


7 May 2012

Scènes de la vie électorale IV

Jeremy Harding · Hollande's Victory

Sunday: by noon on voting day, the national turn-out promised to be even higher than it was in the first round. But it looked much slacker at the two polling stations I visited in Bordeaux, side by side, in separate classrooms at an elementary school in a modest part of town. At 7 p.m. there were still a few stragglers. By eight, when the clock stopped, there were only the officials and the volunteers for the count. One of them was keen to be in on the kill. She’d waited five years, she said with a broad smile. For what? To be heard, she said.


5 May 2012

Scènes de la vie électorale III

Jeremy Harding · Le Pen's rural voters

Provincial life begins where Paris ends. Beyond the provincial town is the green belt and beyond that the deeper countryside. The nation’s ailing villages, hundreds of them, stipple the hinterlands. I live in a sparsely populated rural area sustained by a firm that produces industrial valves and pumps (for ships, waste, petroleum, nuclear reactors and desalination plants). It has four branches in China. There are goats on the hillside just above the company premises, cattle in the meadows below.


5 May 2012

Livingstone's Last Election

Fatema Ahmed

I stayed up until about 3 a.m. on Thursday night, listlessly watching the BBC coverage of the local elections in England and Wales (the graphics get more elaborate every year; the presenters more desperate in their pretence that they’re broadcasting to anyone but politicians and insomniac election nuts). But, parochially, there’s only one race I’ve been following: the London mayoral election. Ken Livingstone may be unlikeable in some people’s eyes – ‘Vote Reptilian Stalinist!’ was a rallying cry going round, only half-jokingly, on Twitter recently – but he’s been the most, some would say the only, recognisable figure in London politics for a generation. There wasn’t much going on in my life in 1986 when the Greater London Council was abolished, and since it was what the politically obsessed adults around me were talking about, it seemed worth writing down in my Hello Kitty notebook.


4 May 2012

How do they find us?

Deborah Friedell

Some recent Google searches that brought people to the LRB, with links to the pages they went to: Making money where does mark thatcher live frotteurism


3 May 2012

Scènes de la vie électorale II

Jeremy Harding · Sarkozy v. Hollande

Wednesday, early p.m.: New emails arrive from the UMP, asking for support. (I’ve been on various party mailing lists for a while.) Here’s one just in from Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Sarkozy’s spokesperson, a note about the rally in Paris on May Day. ‘It was a great, a beautiful day, thanks to you all.’ Now she wants us to tweet the televised debate – Hollande v. Sarkozy – which starts at 9 p.m. She signs off: ‘I’m counting on you.’


2 May 2012

Scènes de la vie électorale

Jeremy Harding

The Front National use May Day to commemorate Joan of Arc, a zealous patriot. In Paris they like to lay a wreath at the foot of a gilt bronze statue of the Maid on horseback in the place des Pyramides. For French politicians it pays to have Joan in your church and the FN were especially touchy this year about Sarkozy’s attempt to drag her away from the Le Pen ‘clan’ in January. I arrived in Paris moments too late for the wreath-laying yesterday. Not that it mattered: anyone who wants to see a far-right politician laying a wreath in honour of Joan can watch propaganda footage of Pétain in the bombed city of Rouen – hit by British and American ‘terrorist raids’ – a few weeks before D-Day.


1 May 2012

Free speech requires censorship

Eliot Weinberger

In 2010, the Israeli novelist Nir Baram caused a small scandal at the International Writers’ Festival in Jerusalem by daring to point out that 'we are witness to the systematic violation of the rights of non-Jews in the State of Israel and the Occupied Territories.' Festival director Tal Kremer told Haaretz that 'in the end, his speech did no harm,' and she frequently cites it to persuade pro-Palestinian writers to attend. 'I don't think my job is to put up barriers and engage in censorship,' she said. However, 'in light of what happened with Nir Baram' – which she calls 'a production error on our part' – 'we asked this year's authors to give us the text of their speeches' in advance.


1 May 2012

The Miracle of Wörgl

Peter Geoghegan · Local Currencies

‘Death to the Euro.’ The handmade sign was pinned to the wall of a community centre in San Luis, a gentrified neighbourhood just inside the boundaries of Seville’s old city. It was a balmy Friday evening, but inside a crowd of around a hundred people were listening to a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation on puma, a new local currency for San Luis launched last month. Puma is the third local currency to be introduced in the Andalusian capital this year. Pepa and jara already circulate in Macarena, a working-class district on the other side of Seville’s city walls.