Category Archives: Society

North Korea and Literature

North Korea is in part fascinating because it is mysterious. Cut off from viewing eyes not by geographical remoteness but by political design, the state and the lives within it seem strange and bizarre to observers. The mystery of the hermit state is part of its myth, which is cultivated by North Korea’s leadership, as well as a by-product of its peculiar circumstances. Outsiders can enter only irregularly. Western journalists cannot report on North Korea as they might any other country. Outside analysts can only guess at the bare facts of its economy, its politics and its culture. Continue reading

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Fake News and the Two Sides of the ‘Digital Caliphate’

Despite ground losses in Iraq’s Mosul and Syr­ia’s Raqqa, the Islamic State (ISIS) continues to have a presence that incites or inspires online. Continue reading

Prosecuting Blair Over Iraq Would Be a Victory for Dictators

Once again, Tony Blair is in the news. A merry-go-round of stories swirls around the former British prime minister. Many of them are luridly drawn, some nonsensical. A new story concerns the perpetual question of Blair being prosecuted for the Iraq war. Continue reading

Two American Presidents Have Now Undermined Syria’s Revolution

America’s allies in Syria cannot count on their friends. That’s the message sent by the White House.

It emerged last week that the United States will shutter a CIA programme to equip vetted rebel groups. These groups were America’s allies and assets on the ground in Syria. Continue reading

The Ground Beneath Our Feet

Review – Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is one of the most imaginative works of twentieth century fiction. The book is a dream, a vision, literally so. It depicts, as a framing narrative, a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, the great figure at the head of the Mongol Empire. The two of them exist in a dream state, caught in a suspended moment. They discuss wonders and marvels, the result of Polo’s travelling. These are the cities of the title. Continue reading

Emmanuel Macron Saved France from the Far Right. But His Success Will Be Hard to Copy

Emmanuel Macron’s achievement is immense. His rise to the French presidency was remarkable to watch, transforming from an unknown former economy minister into Europe’s youngest head of state, and the youngest French leader since Napoleon. Continue reading

Living in an Age of Extremity

We used to live in uninteresting times, as much as that can ever be said.

Things did not seem to happen. And if they did happen, they happened to other people. The rest of life and the business of living passed easily, dreamily, and the world was always at arm’s length. Continue reading