All posts filed under: Europe

Olga Tokarczuk: Poland’s “Patriots” Struggle To Accept The Nobel Prize

For a few minutes on Thursday afternoon, after Olga Tokarczuk’s Nobel Prize in Literature had been announced by the Nobel Committee, Polish public television did not mention her name. Her picture appeared on the screen of TVP Info, the public news channel, along with the headline: “A Pole Awarded the Nobel Prize.” But her name was conspicuously omitted. I had rushed to turn on our TV at the Warsaw editorial offices of Gazeta Wyborcza, a liberal newspaper, to see how public television would handle the news. Previous Polish Nobel Laureates—from Marie Curie to Wisława Szymborska—have been sources of great national pride in Poland. But Tokarczuk is on the Polish Ministry of Culture’s informal “black list,” and it may well be that in the minutes following the announcement of her award, the TVP Info editors simply did not dare mention her name. So, ironically, a writer who has been consistently denounced as unpatriotic by the ruling national-conservative establishment, was simply described as a Pole.  This weekend, a week before the parliamentary elections next Sunday (October 13), the charismatic …

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity—A Review

A review of The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray, Bloomsbury, 280 pages (September, 2019). Elias Canetti was awarded the 1981 Nobel Prize in Literature for his fiction. But the Bulgarian-born German-language novelist also was noted for his non-fiction work about mob violence, religion and tyranny. In the opening paragraphs of his 1960 book on the subject, Crowds and Power, he observed: The crowd, suddenly there where there was nothing before, is a mysterious and universal phenomenon. A few people may have been standing together—five, ten or twelve, not more; nothing has been announced, nothing is expected. Suddenly everywhere is black with people and more come streaming from all sides as though streets had only one direction. Most of them do not know what has happened and, if questioned, have no answer; but they hurry to be there where most other people are. Douglas Murray, an Associate Editor of Britain’s Spectator magazine, has become fascinated by these same themes. In two recently published books, Murray has described (and criticized) this same …

Michel Houellebecq: Populism’s Prophet

In the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, more newspaper op-eds and opinion pieces in magazines catering to the “well-informed public” have been written about the populist phenomenon than any other topic. Populism has been unpacked, dissected, defined, and analysed, and the results have all been discouraging. Identifying the cause or causes of populism is no simple matter. Does populism stem from dissatisfaction with the economy, immigration, or some combination of issues? When surveys are taken of populist voters, these broad categories are used to determine the reason for a voter’s decision. Lost in these statistical analyses of populism, however, is any real understanding of the lives and motivations of the individuals who end up making political decisions. In an age of ubiquitous scientific polling and surveying, of commentary and opinion, it is curious that perhaps the most powerful and accurate examination of the forces behind the modern populist groundswell should come from a French novelist. In the press, Michel Houellebecq has held the distinction of being France’s literary, right-wing enfant terrible. …

Europe’s Virtues Will Be Its Undoing

Terrible is the temptation to be good. ~Bertolt Brecht We often forget that contemporary Europe was not born, as the United States was, in the euphoria of new beginnings, but in a sinking sense of its own abjection. The crimes of the Nazis affected the entire Old World, like a cancer that had long been growing inside it. Thus, the European victors over the Third Reich were contaminated by the enemy they had helped defeat, in contrast to the Americans and Soviets, who emerged from the conflict crowned in glory. Ever since, all of Europe—the East as well as the West—has carried the burden of Nazi guilt, as others would have us bear the guilt of North American slavery and Jim Crow. It has left us sullied to the very depths of our culture. Isn’t this what the Martinique poet Aimé Césaire contends when he de-Germanizes Hitler and makes him the very metaphor of the white man in general? In 1955, in his Discours sur le Colonialisme, Césaire points to: [The] very distinguished, very humanist, …

Greece: Tensions Rise Again As Migrant Crisis Escalates

For debt-stricken Greece, the migrant crisis is hardly over. The new center-right government is grappling with a surge in migration and deteriorating conditions in the country’s asylum centers. Migration in the Mediterranean has increased in recent weeks to the highest level since the EU-Turkey deal in March, 2016, and Greece is back to being the main entry point for hopeful migrants. So far this year, some 36,000 people have entered the country through its sea and land borders, already surpassing last year’s influx of roughly 32,000. By contrast, the other two European frontline countries, Spain and Italy—both economically and politically less fragile than Greece—have received a total of 26,000 migrants together in 2019. The situation could escalate even further; Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatens to re-open the route for migrants into Europe, if he does not receive adequate international support for his plan to resettle one million asylum seekers from Turkey to northern Syria. (Turkey has nearly 4 million Syrians, by far the biggest group of refugees.) Meanwhile, conditions are worsening at Greek asylum centers. …

The Return to Archaic Forms of Power—An Interview with Marianne Stidsen

The #MeToo movement has had an exceptionally deep impact in the Scandinavian countries, says Marianne Stidsen, associate professor of literature at the University of Copenhagen and a member of the Danish Academy. Quillette’s Paulina Neuding spoke to her about her recent book The Nordic MeToo Revolution 2018 – And Its Negative Impact (U Press Denmark, 2019). Paulina Neuding: The Nordics are often regarded as hallmarks of gender equality – known, historically at least, for low levels of violence, progressive views on sexuality, and generous welfare provisions. Do you think that the egalitarian Nordics might have provided particularly fertile ground for a movement like #MeToo? Marianne Stidsen: The #MeToo movement has had an exceptionally deep impact in the Nordic countries – just think of the cancellation last year of the Nobel Prize in literature, one of Sweden’s most esteemed institutions. But I actually don’t think that the explanation lies simply in Scandinavian gender equality. It is like any other historic revolutionary movement – many factors have to coincide to cause this sudden social and political upheaval …

Keynes Has Left the Building: Remembering the 1976 Speech That Changed Modern Britain

The summer of 1976 was famously hot. Temperatures across the UK began to rise in late May and did not break until September. In the south and south-east, average rainfall was the lowest since 1910. In Yorkshire and parts of East Anglia, the reservoirs were emptied and, to preserve available supplies, standpipes were introduced. A Minister for the Drought, Denis Howell, was appointed and invited by the Prime Minister to perform a public rain dance. With summer drawing to a close and the drought gone, the new political year began, with the party conference season, which, for Labour, was being held in a rain-swept Blackpool. In his September 28 keynote address, James Callaghan, Labour’s leader and Prime Minister, lectured delegates at the conference and a wider audience beyond on the UK’s economic crisis and the need to reduce public spending, borrowing and inflation. Sounding to his critics on the left of the party like a mixture between the new Leader of the Opposition, Margaret Thatcher, and the hated Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour leader who, in …

Eastern Europe’s Emigration Crisis

In recent years, most of the debate around the global migration of people has focused on the movement into developed countries and the political battles that ensue. Most famously, Trump has overturned the wisdom of the American political establishment by saying the unsayable on immigration. Politicians from Riga to Rome have won votes (and office) by exploiting similar anxieties. But we seldom talk about the places which, year after year, see more people leave than arrive, and the consequences of countries saying goodbye to some of their best and brightest—often for good. Nowhere is this concern more pressing than in Eastern Europe. According to the UN, of all the countries that are expected to shrink the most in the coming decades, the top 10 are all in the eastern half of the continent, and seven of those are in the European Union. One cause for concern among many of these countries is the EU’s freedom of movement, one of the four “fundamental freedoms” of goods, capital, services, and people that bind the 28. Although most …

The Impressive Record of Theresa May

It’s usually difficult to describe the lasting legacy of a British Prime Minister in one word. For many, Theresa May (2016­­–19) seems to be the exception: failure. She inherited a small Conservative Party majority in the House of Commons and was under no political or constitutional pressure to hold a general election until 2020, but she called one nevertheless in 2017 and ended up losing that majority, forcing her to govern in coalition with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party for the remaining two years of her premiership. Her first attempt to get the House of Commons to approve the Withdrawal Agreement her Government had negotiated with the European Union was rejected by 432 MPs, the largest defeat of any British government in history. She attempted twice more to get the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed and failed on both occasions, thus making her the self-styled “Brexit Prime Minister” who failed to deliver Brexit. Notwithstanding all this, she was a Prime Minister who presided over several successes which shouldn’t be overlooked. The Economy Just a month …

It’s Time for Sweden to Admit Explosions Are a National Emergency

The bomb exploded shortly after 9 a.m. Friday in a blast that ripped through two apartment buildings and could be heard for miles. Twenty-five people suffered cuts and bruises and 250 apartments were damaged. A nearby kindergarten was evacuated. Hospitals jumped into disaster mode. Photos from the scene show rows of demolished balconies and shattered windows. It was ”absolutely incredible” that no one was severely injured, a police spokesperson said. It is the kind of news we usually associate with war zones, but this bombing took place in Linköping, a peaceful university town in southern Sweden. Remarkably, it was not the only explosion in the country that day; another, seemingly unrelated, blast was reported in a parking lot in the city of Gothenburg earlier in the morning. Three explosions have been reported in Malmö since Tuesday morning. As of this writing, no arrests have been made. Sweden has experienced a sharp rise in explosions in recent years, predominantly related to conflicts between warring criminal gangs. The use of explosives in the Nordic country is now …