‘Island nations tend to be complacent about border problems, seeing them as things that happen to someone else. But then you have Brexit and Northern Ireland, and it suddenly becomes clear that no one is safe.
Russia is fighting Ukraine about borders. This means that, as well as dodging bombs and getting used to living in the dark, residents of the border zone have to decide if they are “really” Russian or “really” Ukrainian.
Some will no doubt be keeping the non-chosen identity in a trunk in the attic, to be retrieved in case of future need. But the logic of war is stern: those who choose to be Ukrainians are also opting to hate Russians as the enemy invader, while those in Ukraine who choose to be Russians are contemplating the possibility of having to move east.
Wherever the border ultimately settles, there will be fortifications and troops stationed on either side and a series of tightly controlled crossing points. Villages and families will be divided and the normal commerce of economic and social life disrupted. Schools will teach in the language of the victor. Roads that used to lead somewhere will end abruptly.’
The Curtain and the Wall: A Modern Journey along Europe’s Cold War Borderby Timothy Phillips
On the Edge: Life along the Russia-China Border by Franck Billé and Caroline Humphrey
From acclaimed cultural and film historian James Curtis—a major biography, the first in more than two decades, of the legendary comedian and filmmaker who elevated physical comedy to the highest of arts and whose ingenious films remain as startling, innovative, modern—and irresistible—today as they were when they beguiled audiences almost a century ago.
The Drunken Boat: Selected Writings by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Mark Polizzotti
Poet, prodigy, precursor, punk: the short, precocious, uncompromisingly rebellious career of the poet Arthur Rimbaud is one of the legends of modern literature. By the time he was twenty, Rimbaud had written a series of poems that are not only masterpieces in themselves but that forever transformed the idea of what poetry is. Without him, surrealism is inconceivable, and his influence is palpable in artists as diverse as Henry Miller, John Ashbery, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith.
The first issue of LRB volume 45 is now online, featuring Alan Bennett’s diary for 2022, @_jamesmeek on flooding, Anne Enright on Toni Morrison, Jenny Turner @neepmail on Colette, @xlorentzen on Cormac McCarthy and a cover by @Jon_McN.
London Review of Books (LRB) – December 9, 2022: Among the Ancients, with Emily Wilson and Thomas Jones, which we’ll be re-running from January next year. With a new episode each month, Among the Ancients will consider some of the greatest works of Ancient Greek and Roman literature, from Homer to Horace. In this sample Emily and Tom discuss the Iliad.
Dating to the ninth century B.C., Homer’s timeless poem still vividly conveys the horror and heroism of men and gods wrestling with towering emotions and battling amidst devastation and destruction, as it moves inexorably to the wrenching, tragic conclusion of the Trojan War. Renowned classicist Bernard Knox observes in his superb introduction that although the violence of the Iliad is grim and relentless, it coexists with both images of civilized life and a poignant yearning for peace.
The primary product sold by all management consultants – both software developers and strategic organisers – is the theology of capital. This holds that workers are expendable. They can be replaced by machines, or by harder-working employees grateful they weren’t let go in the last round of redundancies. Managers are necessary to the functioning of corporations – or universities, or non-profit organisations – and the more of them the better.
There is no way to offset the fact that a gigantic dose of hydrocarbon wealth is being used to stage an immensely carbon-intensive spectacle, in a place that is already getting hotter faster than almost anywhere else on the planet. In the narrowing window of opportunity that remains, can we justify burning this much of our carbon budget on international football?
Act of Oblivion, the title of Robert Harris’s novel, refers to the Act of Free and General Pardon, Indemnity and Oblivion, introduced to the Convention Parliament in May 1660 and given royal assent on 29 August.
While there are many different sorts of Anthozoa, their basic unit is a polyp: an individual soft flower-animal similar to an anemone. While anemones are solitary, in corals these polyps band together to form colonies. As they grow, they build a skeleton of limestone around themselves, drawing calcium and carbon molecules from the seawater. They also draw in carbon dioxide to feed their resident algae. Over time these skeletons accumulate upwards and outwards. Corals build on their predecessors, leaving their own legacy behind them for the next generation. Reefs are, in part, the frozen exuberant bouquets of the past.
Charles Glass – Although World War Three had come perilously close, Martin Indyk absolves Henry Kissinger: Soviet actions were ‘yet again characterised by an ultimate timidity in the face of American resolve’. ‘Resolve’ is one way of describing the risk of nuclear Armageddon. Another is ‘recklessness’.
Susan Pedersen – The problem with individual conscientious objection is that we are mutually dependent whether we acknowledge it or not. You may refuse to get vaccinated on grounds of conscience but will benefit from herd immunity if others do; you may refuse to pay taxes but will still get your rubbish collected; you may refuse to take up arms in war but will be protected from harm if others serve.
James Meek – If an innocuous merchant ship passing through the Baltic or the North Sea had a handful of ordinary, secretly armed trucks lashed to its deck, would any Nato country notice? Would the drones be detected or intercepted? If they were launched and hit their targets, could it ever be proven where they originated? As a threat to Europe, this is creative licence. But using swarms of Shahed-136s and other forms of missile to destroy a country’s energy system, on the eve of winter, is exactly what Russia is doing to Ukraine.
Our new issue is finally online, ft Mahmood Mandani on leaving Uganda, Tony Wood on Russia’s energy crisis, @MJCarter10 at Westminster Abbey, @danielsoar on Ian McEwan, @amiasrinivasan on Andrea Dworkin, T.J. Clark on painting & poetry & a @Jon_McN cover.