Emmanuel Macron, leader of France’s En Marche! and candidate for the country’s presidency, seems too good to be true. Intelligent, impeccably educated, charismatic, he is very different to François Fillon, who is officially ‘embattled’ – and certainly looks jaded – after the emergence of a financial scandal regarding the unorthodox (and state subsidised) employment of his wife.
And Macron is nothing at all like the far-right leader of the Front National, Marine Le Pen. Continue reading →
The election of Donald Trump as US president was a big moment. His victory in November reflected a steep change in the way the United States is run and the way it perceives other countries.
Trump has little good to say about many international norms that underpin the liberal world order. He disdains NATO. He has no intention of supporting America’s allies among the Syrian opposition. Trump is notably well-disposed towards Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. Continue reading →
The brutality of the war in Syria is known: its cadences well-established. Regime barrel bombs and chemical weapon attacks, Russian air strikes, and the many outrages committed by the Islamic State (Isis/Daesh) – all of these combine together in the mind.
This cruelty occurs in the open. But worse – if that were possible – is that which is hidden away in regime prisons, locked away with the prisoners. Occasionally, news escapes the confines of these places of suffering. Continue reading →
Jonathan Spence’s book The Death of Woman Wang is an entrancing assessment of provincial China. It weaves together the stories of individuals, some of high rank, some freshly rescued from obscurity, with those of myth and legend, creating an absorbing, enriching portrait of a nation and of an era. In The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, Spence takes a slightly different tack. Again his subject is China, but this time, rather than attempting only to look at the country from within, he incorporates the perspective of those who came from without. The eponymous subject of this work was a Jesuit priest from Italy, a keen proselytiser, and one of the pioneering Western missionaries sent to China to spread Christianity among its vast population. Continue reading →