From Evelyn Waugh, “Men at Arms”

They performed an exercise of "company in the attack," became entirely intermixed, extricated themselves and bivouacked under the stars. A warm night, smelling of dry furze. Guy made a round of the sentries and then lay awake. Dawn came quickly, bringing momentary beauty even to that sorry countryside. They fell in and marched back to camp. Rather light-headed after his sleepless night Guy marched in front beside de Souza. From behind them came the songs: "Roll out the barrel"; "There are rats, … [Read more...]

“Material Madchen”: I read “The Artificial Silk Girl”

at AmCon: I picked up Irmgard Keun’s 1932 novel The Artificial Silk Girl at the Neue Galerie in New York, basically on a whim. It promised to be a dizzying tour of Weimar Berlin, last call before Hell and all that, from the perspective of a young, single woman whom the introduction compares to Madonna’s “Material Girl.”Certainly our heroine, Doris, is materialistic in a certain sense. She pays her bills by dating men. Her closest relationship is with her stolen fur coat. (The letter she writ … [Read more...]

From Irmgard Keun, “The Artificial Silk Girl”

tr. Kathie von Ankum: At the table next to me was a wonderful lady with really expensive shoulders and with a back--it was straight all by itself, and such a wonderful dress, it makes me cry--the dress was so beautiful, because she doesn't have to think about where she's getting it from. You could tell by looking at the dress. And I was standing next to her in the restroom, and both of us were looking in the mirror--she had such light white hands with elegantly curved fingers and an assertive … [Read more...]

From Vasily Grossman, “Life and Fate”

tr. Robert Chandler: Viktor's hat fell to the ground. People were probably looking at them."Yes, yes, we have no right," he repeated.He kissed her hands. As he held her small cold fingers, he felt that the unshakeable strength of her resolve went hand in hand with weakness, submissiveness, helplessness.... … [Read more...]

“Sorry for (Communist) Partying”: I review “After the Revolution”

at AmCon: The engine which runs “After the Revolution,” a play by Amy Herzog that will show at Theater J (the theater of Washington’s Jewish Community Center) through October 6, is a generations-old betrayal: A fledgling leftist activist from a family of Communist Jews learns that her much-honored grandfather spied for the Soviet Union during World War II and then perjured himself in front of HUAC denying it.The revelation shatters Emma Joseph’s trust in her family and in her own righteo … [Read more...]

“Crime History”: Ronald Reagan as Com-Symp, Then As Liberal

(then as farce? I kid, I kid): On this day, June 20, in 1958, FBI headquarters learned of actor Ronald Reagan’s desire to star in the film “The FBI Story,” but the bureau rejected the idea because of Reagan’s association with alleged Communist front organizations in the 1940s. more--and Reagan played a dashing Cold War liberal in real life, as recounted in Red Star Over Hollywood. My review of that book isn't online any longer, unfortunately, so I will just tell you a) it was really good, much … [Read more...]

Dead Simple

Just finished watching The Devil's Backbone, a powerful film which may have left me unsatisfied because I was expecting it to be something it didn't want to be. The movie, by Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth), is set during the Spanish Civil War at an orphanage run by Communists. A young boy, Carlos, is brought to the orphanage. He's beset by the local bully, and also begins to see a ghost, "the one who whispers," a young boy like himself. The rest of the film plays out the mystery of the … [Read more...]


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