Berfrois

December 2011

Cosima was Wagner’s wife, the one word Jessa Crispin hadn’t searched for…

Cosima was Wagner’s wife, the one word Jessa Crispin hadn’t searched for…

Cosima Wagner From The Smart Set: “Find Madame Wagner, and you will find yourself,” the man told me. It wasn’t quite the spiritual quest I had been expecting as I sat waiting for the U-Bahn to arrive. One second I was enjoying my book; the next, a man was...

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What Makes Laws Law

What Makes Laws Law

Moses and the Tablets of the Law, Claude Vignon by Walter Kendall III Legality, by Scott Shapiro, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 472 pp Scott Shapiro’s new book Legality has re-ignited many of the jurisprudential debates initially kindled by H. L. A. Hart’s The Concept of Law in 1961. For instance,...

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The Stranger

The Stranger

Djerba, photograph by Judah Passow, 1986 by Nomi Stone On an island off the coast of Tunisia, on the periphery of the Jewish village of the Hara Kebira, three Jewish teenage girls in bathrobes and slippers pass through a gauzy curtain to visit Nisreen, a, the Muslim hairdresser. The...

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Blanked

Blanked

Facing a blank canvas or blank page is a moment of pure potential, one that can be enervating or paralyzing. It causes a pause, a hesitation, in anticipation of the moment of inception—even of one that never comes.

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Aquinas and Kierkegaard

Aquinas and Kierkegaard

Sacrifice of Isaac, Rembrant, 1635 From Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews: One of the most valuable aspects of Mulder’s book is the reflection it promotes on the possible conversation between Kierkegaard and St. Thomas Aquinas. In chapter 2, for example, in a discussion of Fear and Trembling, Mulder argues that...

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Magdalena Slyk: Congrats Tomas!

Magdalena Slyk: Congrats Tomas!

Tomas Tranströmer by Magdalena Slyk After I had been studying Swedish for three years, and had begun to read an increasing amount of Swedish literature, I encountered the poetry of Tomas Tranströmer. At first, I found that it was not easy to read and understand all the different images...

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Admiring Tolkien

Admiring Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien From The New Yorker: At Oxford in the nineteen-forties, Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was generally considered the most boring lecturer around, teaching the most boring subject known to man, Anglo-Saxon philology and literature, in the most boring way imaginable. “Incoherent and often inaudible” was...

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Hedge Tip

Hedge Tip

John Bedford Lloyd playing the character Bill Clark (based on Henry Paulson), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, 20th Century Fox, 2010 From Bloomberg: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stepped off the elevator into the Third Avenue offices of hedge fund Eton Park Capital Management LP in Manhattan. It was July...

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A Practice of Freedom

A Practice of Freedom

We do not ordinarily associate political theology or Carl Schmitt with freedom. Indeed, we are more likely to think that liberal political theory focuses on freedom, while political theology focuses on the authority of sectarian beliefs.

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‘Gitmo in the present millennium is no departure at all’

‘Gitmo in the present millennium is no departure at all’

Etching of the first American soldiers to land on Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American War, c.1898 From The Nation: With every year, the US naval base at Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay becomes less of a place and more of a concept, one that seems to have sprung from a vacuum...

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Nicholas Rombes on Olena Kalytiak Davis

Nicholas Rombes on Olena Kalytiak Davis

Olena Kalytiak Davis, photograph by Gerard Malanga by Nicholas Rombes What I said at the end last time, about how my friend K. never showed up at the bar, wasn’t exactly true. He did show up, disheveled and unshaven, his black hair long and a little greasy and almost...

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Extracted

Extracted

The cluster of ideas, meanings, and implications associated with Web 2.0 has been amalgamating for the better part of a decade, steadily consolidating to the point where few would deny its cultural significance.

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Fantastika is, in fact, the spectrum itself…

Fantastika is, in fact, the spectrum itself…

From cover of The Fourth Circle, by Zoran Živković, 2005 edition From World Literature Today: Michael Morrison: You have allied your fiction with the literary tradition of Middle-European “fantastika.” How do you define this tradition? Which of its authors have influenced your work? Zoran Živković: The literary and geographical...

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John Budd: Work

John Budd: Work

The Sinews of Old England, George Edgar Hicks,1857. The power of ideas about work are reflected in numerous ways, such as this Victorian-era painting’s promotion of the masculine breadwinner engaged in noble manual labor outside the home and the feminine stay-at-home caregiver. by John W. Budd What is work?...

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“They’re spoiling the market for the rest of us”

“They’re spoiling the market for the rest of us”

Béatrice, a Franco-Belgian expatriate, lives in the gated community of Stanley Knoll, named after the explorer Henry Morton Stanley, in a house that overlooks Hong Kong Bay.

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Cold Wise Man

Cold Wise Man

George Kennan From The New Yorker: Kennan thought that Americans were shallow, materialistic, and self-centered—he had the attitude of a typical mid-century European—and the more he saw of them the less fond of them he grew. “You have despaired of yourself,” he wrote in his diary after a visit...

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How could the Kremlin have made such a mistake?

How could the Kremlin have made such a mistake?

Vladimir Putin believes he will be able to hold on to his power and avoid a repeat of Brezhnevite political and social stagnation. His critics are afraid that the future consequences of such a belief will be dramatic (photo: premier.gov.ru) by Daniil Kotsyubinsky The catcalls that greeted Vladimir Putin...

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Days of Our Years

Days of Our Years

Ten or twelve years ago, when I was visiting Berlin, Stan Persky took me to see Cranach the Elder’s painting of the Fountain of Youth at the Gemäldegalerie. It is a medium-sized canvas that depicts, in excruciating detail, a rectangular swimming pool seen in perspective full of happily cavorting...

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