Humanities

Do You Know China?

Patrick Modiano— At what point in my life did I meet Henri Marignan? Oh, I couldn’t have been twenty at the time. I think of him often. Sometimes he seems to have been one of my father’s multiple incarnations. I don’t know what became of him. Our first meeting? It

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Dead at Last

Máirtín Ó Cadhain— It was a ratty voice on the other end of the telephone, her sister calling from his house. ‘Aren’t you ashamed of yourself gallivanting around, and your wife just dead.’ ‘She is dead,’ N. said. ‘Yes.’ It was as much as he could think of saying. With

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What Is Literature?

Terry Eagleton— One of the things we mean by calling a piece of writing ‘literary’ is that it is not tied to a specific context. It is true that all literary works arise from particular conditions. Jane Austen’s novels spring from the world of the English landed gentry of the

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Religion of Radical Love

Omid Safi— Our modern word chemistry comes from the Arabic for alchemy, which is not a pseudoscience or primitive science but rather a recognition that all of the cosmos shares in the same ultimate substance. Alchemists knew that each of us have something in us that is base like lead;

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The Jubilee Year of the Six-Day War

Micah Goodman— On the eve of the Six-Day War, Israel formed a national unity government (a broad coalition of all major parties) for the first time in its history. Faced with an acute military threat from the United Arab Republic (a union of Egypt and Syria), not only was Israel’s

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Josephus and Jesus: The Early Christian Movement

Paula Fredriksen— Priest, Pharisee, prophet, military leader, war captive, historian: Josephus. Josephus aids us, in crucial ways, in our quest for the assembly of Jesus’ earliest followers in Jerusalem. Indeed, for almost three decades, in this holy city, he and they would have been neighbors. Yosef ben Mattityahu was born

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Winter Nights

Francis Spufford— Here comes the winter night. If we were our oldest ancestors, tucked into draughty recesses of caves with blue hands hugged around us as we slept, we’d be dreaming of summer: we’d be using our human freedom to step away from circumstances to wish that all mornings were

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Materialism and the Senses

Terry Eagleton— The early Marx is engaged on an arrestingly original project. No other critic of the system under which he lived had taken it to task for what it does to the human senses. There had been no such phenomenology of capitalism before. In Marx’s view, the capitalist mode

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The Etiquette of Hell

David Bentley Hart— There is, it seems, a very strict etiquette of hell. I don’t mean the manners and mores proper to the establishment itself; I expect those are pretty dreadful, if you’re the fastidious sort. Rather, I mean a set of unwritten rules one is supposed to observe when

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Why Munch Painted

Karl Ove Knausgaard— I knew why Munch painted, I knew it so well that I could articulate it with a single sentence. And it resembles the sentence spoken by the author with his sweater tucked into his trousers. I write because I am going to die.  I paint because I

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