“Weak expression Poor artistry” reads the fictional note in red pencil on Constantine Cavafy’s sheaf of poems sent to the poet Jean Moréas in the novel, What’s Left of the Night by Ersi Sotiropoulos and translated by Karen Emmerich. The line haunts Cavafy in the last three days of a stop in Paris with his brother John in 1897 at the end of what seems to be a European tour.
Asking to whom a country belongs, let alone considering whether the descendants of former colonists have a right to call a former colony home, feels profane. Yet, to not acknowledge the memories of groups like the pieds-noirs in Algeria is an act of erasure–albeit one that swims through the murky waters of colonial history.
Silence is a characteristic that is often expected of women. It makes women into whatever someone else wants them to be—a particular kind of pliability that is often required of women who wish to survive. Lilliet Berne, the orphan turned courtesan turned opera star living in late nineteenth century France, who serves as the protagonist of Alexander Chee’s novel The Queen of the Night, embodies the complicated interchange of power and weakness that accompanies silent women...
In his time, Stefan Zweig was one of the most prolific and popular writers in not only his home country of Austria, but also much of Europe, with his novels, plays, poems, and biographies ultimately translated into thirty-six languages; he was envied by many of his contemporaries. By 1933, however, at the apex of Adolf Hitler’s rise, Zweig’s books were so popular as to be banned and burned, and this persecution led to Zweig’s decision to quickly leave Austria...
Michel Houellebecq has always been a provocative writer and in fact considers himself to be a real provocateur, someone who “says things he doesn’t think, just to shock,” and who leans into that shock when he has a sense that people will hate it.
“Kaddish,” Ginsberg’s ode to his mother after her death, is streaked with references to Judaism and to the funerary prayer recited by a male mourner for the passing of a parent or relative. Like the prayer, Ginsberg’s poem is a celebration of his mother, but it also delves into—and, indeed, dwells on—the darker side of her life.
Writers squeeze writing in between their full-time work, even if they don’t talk about it. Journalist and TV anchor Jake Tapper did just that in writing his political thriller, The Hellfire Club, which he wrote sometimes in intervals of only fifteen minutes at a time.
You don’t have to get on a ferry from Athens to get a taste of Greece’s legendary whitewashed houses and winding, narrow streets. You can experience the picturesque sites of the Mediterranean—and fit in a leisurely hike—right in the country’s capital.
In the center of Athens, the enchanting neighborhood of Anafiotika rises like a mirage above the city’s modern apartment buildings and just below the slopes of the famous Acropolis. The simple, whitewashed houses and outlined steps of Anafiotika...
Self-made men, easy French women and debonair dandies mingle on the streets of Istanbul in the 1870s. At least that's Ahmed Midhat Efendi would have you think, in his late 19th-century novel, Felâtun Bey and Râkim Efendi (Syracuse University Press, Trans. Melih Levi and Monica M. Ringer), a comic operetta that deals heavily with unexpected Oriental tropes, in the decades before the advent of the Turkish republic.
One of the best things about crossing the Greek-Turkish border by train before February 2011 was the grid-iron bridge that spanned the Maritsa or Meriç River. On each support beam, Turkey’s white star and crescent on a panel of red flashed red and white until, suddenly, a stripe of red appeared next to the blue on the central beam, and then a monarchy-era Greek flag with a single white cross on blue flashed by blue and white.
A year and a half after I moved back to the US after living abroad, and close to two years after the 2016 coup attempt, I returned to Turkey for the first time. On the surface, not much has changed. If I was simply a tourist, I would in fact think that nothing had really changed at all: In Sultanahmet, one of the city’s oldest and most touristic districts, the streets are packed with people, the shops are full, and the restaurant callers are still calling out to pull you into their establishm...
From the start, I knew that I wouldn’t find what I was looking for: my great uncle’s baklava shop. A large office building rises where his shop used to be, right around the corner from the dome of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Astoria, Queens. But I still couldn’t help looking up the address.
Eleven years ago, months after the Virginia Tech shooting, David Foster Wallace wrote a plea we can trot out at every mass shooting:
Are some things still worth dying for? Is the American idea one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”?