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A Swap for Zanzibar

Neal Ascherson: The Unusual History of Heligoland, 17 August 2017

Heligoland: Britain, Germany, and the Struggle for the North Sea 
by Jan Rüger.
Oxford, 370 pp., £25, January 2017, 978 0 19 967246 2
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... F.W. Murnau shot Nosferatu there – the place became a favourite film location – and young Leni Riefenstahl arrived to act in Arnold Fanck’s Holy Mountain. In 1928, Hitler came on a pilgrimage to see this potential bastion against England, accompanied by Goebbels and his doomed niece Geli Raubal. Meanwhile, money poured into the island, and rich ...

Half-Finished People

Thomas Meaney: Germany Imagines Hellas, 11 October 2012

The Tyranny of Greece over Germany 
by E.M. Butler.
Cambridge, 351 pp., £23.99, March 2012, 978 1 107 69764 5
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... was of Doric buildings and Spartan bodies, whose forms he expected Germans would soon approximate. Leni Riefenstahl, when she discovered that the first runner in the torch relay at the 1936 Berlin Olympics was the olive-skinned Konstantinos Kondylis, replaced him with a more suitable Nordic specimen in Olympia. (In an attempt to lend the Games ancient ...

Human Spanner

Stuart Jeffries: Kant Come Alive, 17 June 2021

Correspondence 1923-66: Theodor W. Adorno and Siegfried Kracauer 
edited by Wolfgang Schopf, translated by Susan Reynolds and Michael Winkler.
Polity, 537 pp., £35, November 2020, 978 0 7456 4923 8
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Kracauer: A Biography 
by Jörg Später, translated by Daniel Steuer.
Polity, 584 pp., £35, September 2020, 978 1 5095 3301 5
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... solved the problem by applying proto-Taylorian Mancunian production techniques. Everyone from Leni Riefenstahl and Busby Berkeley to today’s Japanese precision walkers treads the path established by the Tiller Girls. In 1923, the Hungarian artist and Bauhaus teacher László Moholy-Nagy made a collage called Slide in which Tiller-like dancers ...

Cleaning Up

Tom Nairn, 3 October 1996

The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79 
by Ben Kiernan.
Yale, 477 pp., £25, April 1996, 0 300 06113 7
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... a version of the ‘triumph of the will’, via Mao, but ultimately stemming from Schopenhauer and Leni Riefenstahl rather than Lenin. Before they learnt better, British troops in the world wars used to think each one of them was worth three Germans – or occasionally, stretching it a bit, five. Pol Pot popularised the demented idea that any true Khmer ...

Infisal! Infisal! Infisal!

Jonathan Littell: A Journey in South Sudan, 30 June 2011

... flesh out the myth – which is then taken to a new level, as erotic as political, by photography, Leni Riefenstahl among the Nuba and the increasing popularity of National Geographic. In the postcolonial era, and especially with the second civil war, aid workers, almost all of them white, take over, courageously letting themselves be dropped off in some ...

A Young Woman Who Was Meant to Kill Herself

Jeremy Harding: Charlotte Salomon, 8 March 2018

Life? Or Theatre? 
by Charlotte Salomon.
Duckworth, 840 pp., £125, September 2017, 978 1 715 65247 0
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by David Foenkinos, translated by Sam Taylor.
Canongate, 224 pp., £8.99, January 2018, 978 1 78211 796 4
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Charlotte Salomon and the Theatre of Memory 
by Griselda Pollock.
Yale, 542 pp., £45, March 2018, 978 0 300 10072 3
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Charlotte Salomon: ‘Life? Or Theatre?’ A Selection of 450 Gouaches 
by Judith Belinfante and Evelyn Benesch.
Taschen, 599 pp., £30, November 2017, 978 3 8365 7077 0
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... of it: with the writings of Walter Benjamin above all; with European cinema, from Murnau through Leni Riefenstahl to Michael Haneke; with Freud’s Moses and Monotheism; with mid to late Derrida; with Barthes, the decoder of the close-up face in cinema and the figure in the still photograph. She shows us the swaying edifice of Weimar as it goes ...

Loafing with the Sissies

Colm Tóibín: The Trials of Andy Warhol, 10 September 2020

Warhol: A Life as Art 
by Blake Gopnik.
Allen Lane, 931 pp., £35, March, 978 0 241 00338 1
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... with potential interviewees with potential buyers of portraits or art’. Guests included Leni Riefenstahl, who may have helped strengthen Warhol’s stomach as he set out to woo the shah of Iran and his family. ‘The empress paid almost $200,000 for a dozen portraits of herself,’ Gopnik reports. But working with dictators and their wives ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides, 24 October 2019

Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... Fascism’, Sontag’s dismantling of the cult, canonisation and revisionist whitewashing of Leni Riefenstahl, struck like lightning when it first appeared in the New York Review with its bravura last sentence – ‘The colour is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy ...

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