The Guilty Party: A Double Novel of Czech Complicity and Canadian Frivolity

Joseph Skvorecky's Two Murders in My Double Life basically does what it says on the tin. It's two intertwined stories in two different genres, one per country. There's a college satire set in Canada, full of bed-hopping and lady sleuths; and then there's a dark, sad, realistic story of the aftermath of totalitarianism, in which a Czech newspaper publishes a list of those who informed during the Communist years. Hingeing the two tales together is an emigre professor whose students get mixed up in … [Read more...]

“Hideous Strength”: I review “Degenerate Art” at the Neue Galerie

for AmCon: Leave it to the Nazis to make charity posters into advertisements for power-worship.In the late 1930s the Nazi regime created a traveling exhibition which contrasted Fuhrer-approved artworks with “degenerate” works produced by modernists, New Objectivists, and other riffraff. The exhibition was a bizarre contrast to the book-burning and art-destroying we might expect from a totalitarian regime. Instead of preventing people from seeing the art at all, the Nazis encouraged them to v … [Read more...]

From “Priests Among Men,” by Emmanuel Celestin Cdl Suhard

a reader notes that MacIntyre may have been paraphrasing or quoting this guy: To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist. from here with some rough historical context … [Read more...]

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...]


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