Archive for the ‘miscellaneous’ Category


Today is AWAV’s 10th anniversary (inaugural post here). To mark the occasion I offer a cute cat post, of our two-year old kitty, Yasmine. It’s the second cute cat post in AWAV’s history, the first one on the blog’s 2nd anniversary, of our beloved Mimi, whose life was cut short the following year. I didn’t think we’d have another cat after Mimi but then three years ago, my daughter, who was back home with us, announced that she was going to get a kitten, from a family in a nearby banlieue whose cat had had a litter, which she would take with her when she eventually moved to her own place (in Paris, which happened). So her cat, Kiara, who was an absolute delight, was with us for several months. When we learned that the family’s mother cat had had another litter, my wife declared that she wanted a kitten. I was hesitant, thinking that at our age, the cat might outlive us, but agreed. And I can’t say I regret it. Not to downgrade the other cats I’ve had in my life but Yasmine is simply the friendliest, most affectionate, and all-around most adorable I’ve known, and not just with us but anyone who comes into the house (except for our cleaning lady, who, as it happens, has a dog, and a German Shepherd at that; cats sense these things).

One thing Yasmine likes to do is jump on my shoulders and perch herself there, as I sit or walk around the apartment.

This one taken today
When she was a kitten

Yasmine’s “big sister” Kiara—one year older, same mother cat and sire—has been back with us a couple of times, when our daughter and her companion have gone on vacation or have housesat for us when we’ve been away. The two cats get along fine after a few days of adjusting. Their personalities and physical gestures are very similar (and both are great lap cats); interesting to see that in cats with the same genetic patrimony.

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Renée Levine, R.I.P.

This is a remembrance of my friend Renée Levine, who passed away on November 2nd, at age 95, in a retirement home in Asheville, North Carolina. I met Renée in 2002 here in Paris, at the first meeting I attended of a newly formed University of Chicago alumni reading group (still going strong), of which she became a pillar, though she was not a U of C graduate herself, that distinction going to her beloved (second) husband, Harold, who survives her. Renée was born in Berlin in 1925, where she lived until her parents sent her and her brother to England following Hitler’s accession to power in 1933, though the parents stayed behind (the photo above is of Renée on her first day of school, in 1931). She visited her parents in Germany for the last time in 1936—part of her family perished in the Holocaust—and was sent from England to the United States in 1941, where she lived until moving to France in the mid 1990s with Harold, after his retirement from a career in the mathematics department at Brandeis University and hers in the administration of the Boston public school system.

Renée self-published her memoir, One-Way Tickets, which she wrote over a number of years and for her American grandchildren, so they would understand their German-Jewish grandmother and her world. Its first print run in 2007 was limited—she wasn’t interested in royalties or glory—but as it sold like hotcakes at the Anglophone bookstores in Paris—notably The Red Wheelbarrow, then in the Marais, where Renée volunteered her time—more copies were printed (The Red Wheelbarrow’s reopening last year, across from the Jardin du Luxembourg, was partly funded by Renée). It’s a marvelous book. The description on the back cover reads:

The author, born in 1925, in Berlin of German-Jewish professional parents, writes the story of three generations who left home never to return, It is the story of a time when loss of family and the transplanting of lives was commonplace. Her own one-way tickets took her from Berlin to Munich to Breslau, the North Sea coast, to London, to Los Angeles, to Boston, to arrive finally in Paris.

The description of each of these displacements is accompanied by photographs taken at the time.

There was a final one-way ticket, when Renée and Harold moved to Asheville in 2010, to be close to her three daughters (from her first marriage), two of whom lived in North Carolina. I saw her once after that, when they came back to Paris for a visit, but otherwise stayed in touch via email and an annual phone call when in the US.

A few things about Renée. She was without doubt the most avid reader—primarily of fiction—I’ve ever known. As I wrote in a post about her in 2011, in AWAV’s first week of existence, she certainly read more books—highbrow, obviously—than anyone I am likely to meet. I was permanently in awe of this. Though I only met her when she was in her mid 70s, I know that she was active in the good causes of the 1960s and ’70s (civil rights, Vietnam, women’s movement). Politically we were on the same page pretty much across the board. She and Harold were also world travelers and into their 80s, seeing more countries than I ever will at this point; e.g. they took a trip to Uzbekistan in the mid ’00s, just the two of them. No package tour or anything. This was par for the course for them (à propos, I am grateful for Renée’s having recommended to me this maison d’hôtes in the Tangiers Kasbah, where my wife and I went for our 20th wedding anniversary). I remember her talking of how she and Harold, in decades past, hopped a freighter in East Asia somewhere, taking it across the Pacific to the United States. I fantasized in my own decades past about doing such a thing, a fantasy that alas will never be realized.

Renée became an American in her teens and, sabbatical years excepted, lived in the United States her entire adult life to age 70, but she didn’t take to the US or American society, so she conveyed to me. She remained profoundly European and attached to German culture, and despite the Nazis and the Holocaust. When she and Harold arrived in France in the mid ’90s—they owned a house in a village on the Loire, near Orléans, and rented an apartment in Paris (11th arr.)—they knew few people, but within a few years had built up a social network (joining reading groups and other such activities). E.g. in 2004 or thereabouts, Renée invited me and my wife to a social gathering at their place, where there were some 15-20 guests, almost all French retirees (of their educational-cultural level), whose acquaintance they had made over the preceding years. I was impressed that they had been able to meet so many people in a city they were relatively new to and not being in the working world.

Renée kept an occasional blog. Here is her final post, titled “Making Choices: Election Day,” which she sent to me and others on October 22nd. It is well worth the read:

Last month I wrote about Labor Day. Today I’m writing about elections and Choice. The big election for the president of the country is ahead of us. The candidate of your choice is waiting for your vote.

Making choices is really what living is about. We try to get our choice in every task of living from that very first yell when we accept the contract to live with a cry that escapes with our first breath. You elect to live. Our lives are made to a large extent, by our own choices. We make choices from the very start when we cry for milk or yell because we do not want it.

I have now arrived at the place where we are making our last choices. I live in an old age home which I chose for valid reasons. My husband suffers from dementia and here we can live under one roof but in separate quarters. When we moved in, we were given a pamphlet called “Last Wishes” which offers the residents end of life choices in case we are not always competent to exercise these choices at the end.

But of course, choosing has been going on since the very beginning. By your choices you write your life, you make yourself, you invent the person you become. You write the story, you color the themes, you choose the cover, you select your role. You live with that image and you are seen as you present yourself.

This resembles planning for a trip. You start designing your life’s journey when you are very small: you plan for the unexpected and you organize the stopping places to be able to take in those sights upon which you wish to linger. You find the company that will help and enhance the experience. You hope the maps are adequate, you hope the intellectual preparations were sufficient so that you were able to appreciate both the company and the sites.

I have arrived at the last stop on my travel/life itinerary. The planning part of the journey is finished. I am looking over those choices, those that were actually my own. I did not choose to be the child of people who chose to separate just when I needed them. I did not vote for fascism just when my country plunged deeply into a vile dictatorship. I did not choose to leave behind my language, my friends or my parents at age 6. However, inside these major changes, I began to form a character, to make habits, smiling and crying, being kind and being critical. I learned to be afraid of the dark. I did not smile easily. I learned to be on my guard, not to trust easily. I began to shape myself into this woman who is now trying to understand her need to be left alone, but who also longs for company, to be clear about what she wants, how she thinks and whom and how she loves.

My choices were not always well informed. I was too inexperienced, I had not done my homework, I had not known enough about how to be a wife and a mother and remain a person I could admire. It is easier to plan a trip, to do the research, pack a well-planned suitcase, speak the necessary languages and carry a good map. Physical travel is voluntary, life choices are not so open. You cannot choose the outer circumstances. But you can choose how you address them unless they are too big for your canvas.

The climate, the virus, the political background, those test your character, they offer you a world with which you need to whet your character and learn to make your choices.

~Renée Levine

An obituary is here.

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I was going to post this on Friday. When I learned of his death in the early hours that morning, via this TDB article posted on Twitter, I let out a loud “What?! Oh my god!” I was genuinely shocked and deeply saddened by the news, as were numerous people I know—friends and persons with whom I am friendly, all Anglophone journalists who live or have lived in Paris. It was so sudden, apparently a heart attack; he was 68, which is too young to go, and in full form. I had seen him, as it were, only a few hours earlier on social media. Chris Dickey was the dean of the American press corps in Paris, the longtime grand reporter of Newsweek, then world editor of The Daily Beast, and with frequent appearances on MSNBC and the English service of France 24. He was an excellent reporter, a sharp political analyst—and with an impeccable political outlook—and so well-spoken. I only met him once, in 1994, at the Ritz Bar on the Place Vendôme, where he invited me for drinks, no doubt to talk about Algeria, though we communicated off and on over the years, via telephone, email, and Facebook—and in more recent years, on Twitter, where we followed one another and periodically commented on one another’s tweets. He was present almost daily on Twitter, commenting on the news of the day, regularly posting articles of interest with a simple “Read this,” with me dutifully clicking on the link, and offering his professional-quality photos of Paris.

To get an idea of how devastated people who knew him are, here are a few of the reactions from some of those whom I know, posted on social media:

Leela Jacinto (France 24):

RIP Christopher Dickey. The loss, for me and a whole generation of journalists, is immeasurable. I still can’t believe it even though, over the past few months, I had a heightened awareness of just how much of a treasure, a beloved living icon he was to me, and that this gift I had of his time – of being able to call him & always get a prompt response, superb feedback & so much support – was finite. But his legacy lives on and I’m richer, like so many others, for having known him. Sympathies to his beloved wife, Carol, son, James & the grand-kids.

Vivienne Walt (Time magazine):

Utterly gutted at the loss of Christopher Dickey and I know so many feel the same right now. My thoughts are with all of them. He was my friend, colleague, fellow TV panelist, fellow Overseas Press Club board member, my travel mate in the Iraq War, Egypt revolution, and so many other major stories, my fellow Parisian, and the greatest drink companion after our TV nights. And above that he was the most fantastic, brilliant, insightful journalist one ever could find. All that came from being a great human being. Deep condolences to Carol, his family, the grandkids he adored, and friends and colleagues across the world.

RIP dear Chris. You are irreplaceable. The world is a less sparkly, fun, intelligent place without you.

Craig Pyes:

I’ve just heard the stunning news that my friend and colleague, Christopher Dickey, died suddenly of a heart attack in Paris, where he lived. Chris was a brilliant foreign correspondent, a facile writer, and a superb editor. His father was the poet James Dickey (Deliverance). We initially met in El Salvador in 1982 covering the war, and we remained in touch ever since. In Salvador we bonded over what we called “Garch” (as in Oligarch) jokes, dark humor about the death squads. When I moved to Paris, we saw each other often. And we remained in touch over FB. Life is short, folks. Live it!

Claire Berlinski:

I’m so shocked. I fully expected more lunches with him, more wine, more gossip, more stories. When I last saw him he was as healthy and vibrant as could be. I’m weeping.

Mira Kamdar (formerly of The New York Times):

Shocking. A real loss for journalism and for we Paris anglophone writers. Thanks @csdickey for your curiosity, passion, integrity. Also, I’ll miss your random photos of Paris, a city you so loved.

The NYT obituary is here and from The Washington Post here. And here’s a 4-minute tribute by Brian Williams on MSNBC.

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The tyke with a toque

Various people today have been wishing me a happy Thanksgiving, though here in France it’s just another day. Thanksgiving is every American’s favorite holiday, though if one is not in America—with family and/or friends, the turkey dinner in the afternoon, and football game (Dallas Cowboys vs. whoever) on in the background—it loses context, so no point in celebrating.

As Thanksgiving is principally about food, I will use the occasion to post a wonderful article in the current issue (November 25th) of The New Yorker by my dear friend Adam Shatz, “The tyke with a toque,” on his life as a child chef, from middle school years through high school, in western Massachusetts—and which took him to France. I’ve known Adam for almost twenty years but he only started to tell me in the last couple about this episode of his early life. He was on track to become a great chef but decided to take the intellectual route instead. I’ve had occasion to taste his cooking and it is indeed that of a gourmet fine gueule. If you read just one article today—or want a break from politics, climate change, and other malheurs—make it this one.

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Karl Marx + 200

Yesterday was the bicentennial of his birth, as everyone no doubt knows. I was aware it was coming up, in view of all the articles on Marx that started to appear on my social media news feeds—and I did remember that he was born in 1818—but only learned that it was yesterday while listening to an interview with Pierre Laurent, the PCF’s no. 1, on France Inter, who was asked the inevitable question about Marx and his legacy (positive, bien évidemment). As I was a Marxist—or called myself one—in my late teens to mid 20s—and with Marxism permanently influencing my way of thinking—I should probably say something about him. But as it’s been a very long time since I’ve read Marx, I won’t, except to say that I was more drawn to his writings on current events than economics, with The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte being one of the more brilliant works of political sociology I read in my intellectually formative years. Marx indeed made his mark as a journalist, as James Ledbetter reminds us in Jacobin. As for the economics stuff, I tried to read volume 1 of Capital in my freshman year of college—in a poorly taught course that I should not have taken (and that should not have been offered in the first place)—but couldn’t get through it or really understand what I was reading. And I did not have the occasion to go back to it. Tant pis pour moi.

As for the interpretive works on Marx, of which I read lots (hasn’t everyone?), Shlomo Avineri’s The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx stands out.

On the occasion of the bicentennial, Arthur Goldhammer posted on social media a nice essay he wrote in November 2016 in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Marx as educator.” There are obviously countless articles that have been published on the subject in the past week but I will cite just two—that I’ve actually read—both on the Dissent magazine website. One is by historian Andrew Hartman, “Marx at 200: Just getting started.” The lede: “In our fully globalized world, Marx’s ideas still conform to a deeply felt sense about what capital does to our labor.” The other, by political scientist Sheri Berman, is entitled “Marxism’s fatal flaw.” The lede: “Marx’s social-democratic critics recognized a fundamental point that the great economist missed: that a better world was not inevitable, but achievable, and that their job was to bring that world into being through politics.”

And then there’s the movie, The Young Karl Marx, by the Haitian director Raoul Peck—who co-wrote the screenplay (with Pascal Bonitzer)—which I saw soon after it came out last fall. It’s very well done and with a first-rate cast, August Diehl, Stefan Konarske, Vicky Krieps—who play Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Jenny Marx, respectively—all speaking back-and-forth the three languages of the film: German, English, and French.  Peck is a great director—his film on Patrice Lumumba is one of the best biopics I’ve seen—and probably only he could have pulled this one off, as it took a sophisticated knowledge of history and of Marx himself to make it—and which Peck possesses, having, entre autres, closely read Capital (and in the original) during his studies in economics at Berlin’s Humboldt University. No Hollywood director or screenwriter, it almost goes without saying, could have done so. My friend Guillaume Duval, editor-in-chief of Alternatives Économiques, had this spot-on reaction to the film, posted on Facebook last October

[J]’ai beaucoup aimé : on s’y croit vraiment et on comprend bien l’époque et en particulier le formidable internationalisme qui prévalait alors bien qu’il n’y ait ni téléphone ni internet, ainsi que la dynamique qui a lié Marx et Engels pour la vie. Les personnages de Marx et d’Engels, bien sûr, mais aussi ceux de Jenny et de Mary, la femme d’Engels, ont beaucoup d’épaisseur.

Et qu’est-ce que cet hymne à la révolte contre l’ordre établi et l’injustice fait comme bien en ces temps où Guizot-Macron nous saoule de nouveau sur le thème “enrichissez-vous”…

The New Statesman’s Suzanne Moore got it right in her review of the pic, “The Young Karl Marx is a sparky retelling of the build up to The Communist Manifesto.” Trailer is here.

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On neoliberalism

[update below]

Everyone is against neoliberalism. If there is anyone with the slightest politically progressive inclination who is not, I would like to know his or her name. If one is for neoliberalism, that makes one ipso facto not progressive. On the other side of the barricade. De l’autre bord. The term is tossed around a lot, though—a little too much, in fact—and particularly the further left on the spectrum one travels. It lacks precision. Gauchistes will censoriously label as “neoliberal” the most modest, tentative reform of a totally Étatiste economy. This is not right IMHO. Now Dani Rodrik, who requires no identification for AWAV readers, has a terrific “long read” essay in The Guardian, dated November 14th, that clears up the matter, “The fatal flaw of neoliberalism: it’s bad economics.” The lede: “Neoliberalism and its usual prescriptions—always more markets, always less government—are in fact a perversion of mainstream economics.”

Voilà, c’est tout.

UPDATE: Kemal Derviş has a typically smart piece (Nov. 14th) in Project Syndicate, “Democracy beyond the nation state,” that takes off from Dani Rodrik’s latest book, Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy.

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With the Olympics Games underway, those watching will be hearing numerous national anthems. Having followed the games myself over the decades, plus other international sporting events (World Cup, etc), I’ve heard a lot of anthems. Most make no impression on me but a few are really nice, even beautiful. So on the occasion of the Olympics here’s my personal Top 10, with the best renditions I found on the Internet. I can see why patriotic sentiments are stirred in nationals of the listed countries when hearing their anthem. Even I’m moved by most of them. Voilà:

10. SPAIN: Marcha Real


9. ITALY: Il Canto degli Italiani


8: NETHERLANDS: Het Wilhelmus


7. ISRAEL: Hatikva


6: UNITED KINGDOM: God Save the Queen


5. INDIA: Jana Gana Mana


4: RUSSIA: Gosudarstvenný gimn Rossijskoj Federací


3. SOUTH AFRICA: Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika—Die Stem van Suid-Afrika


2. GERMANY: Deutschlandlied


1. FRANCE: La Marseillaise


I’ve said it countless times and will say it again: La Marseillaise is the greatest national anthem in the world. The version linked to above—with the first three stanzas, sung at the end of last month’s Bastille Day parade, at the Place de la Concorde—may be the best I’ve ever heard (and with accompanying video). Here’s another version, which people will be familiar with. N.B. The version of the German anthem linked to includes the now taboo first stanza (only the third is officially sung), but the video is great. As for the Indian anthem, one will almost never hear it at an international sporting event—cricket and field hockey excepted—which is too bad, as it’s beautiful. The great Russian anthem: the video I linked to is a tad kitschy, as one will note. The South African: this one really moves me (the first part at least).

If the European Union were a nation, its anthem, Ode to Joy, would definitely make the Top 10.

Likewise with L’Internationale, which, if it were the anthem of a nation, would also be near the top.

Algeria’s Kassaman: the score and cadence are too martial for my taste.

And The Star-Spangled Banner? It’s okay. Doesn’t particularly move me, though. I am not filled with frissons patriotiques when I hear it. It would probably make my Top 20 but definitely doesn’t the Top 10.

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[update below] [2nd update below]

He died on Monday, at age 63, after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was the longtime executive director (1986-2013) of the Washington/Takoma Park-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service, whose singular issue is the fight against nuclear power—and for which he received a lifetime achievement award from fourteen environmental and anti-nuclear organizations. But that’s not why I am paying tribute to him. Michael was one of my closest friends in college—Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio—and since my freshman year in 1975. We spent a lot of time hanging out together during those years, not only on campus but also as housemates on internships (co-op jobs, they were called at Antioch), in Washington and Berkeley. He was always good-natured and always had a smile on his face when he saw me, as if he was always happy to see me. One doesn’t forget things like that. And he was a loyal friend in addition to being a good one. After graduation he moved to Washington (his hometown), where I saw him regularly through the 1980s and into the ’90s. His home was always open to me, with him and his first wife, Lynn—also a longtime activist in environmental issues—accommodating me no problem when I was passing through town or needed a place to stay while looking for my own.

Politically, Michael was naturally on the left but had no use for the Marxism—and its Leninist variants—that was in vogue among leftists during our college days—and to which I adhered for a brief period. He was allergic to ideologically driven activism, to anything that reeked of dogmatism, and to hair-splitting polemics over fine points of doctrine. Michael was the eternal soixante-huitard, whose gauchisme was festive and libertaire—and always pragmatic when it came to working within the “system”: electoral politics, supporting Democratic Party candidates, lobbying legislators, working the media, and the like. In his political world-view—and also sunny personality—he bore a striking resemblance to Daniel Cohn-Bendit. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they indeed met, on one of Michael’s anti-nuke organizing campaigns in Europe (mainly in former communist countries; he’s the one person I know who managed to visit Chernobyl).

Michael’s big passion apart from his anti-nuclear activism was music, specifically 1960s-70s (hard) rock. On this, our tastes overlapped though did not always coincide. In the late ’70s he and friends of his founded a punk rock/new wave band, Tru Fax & the Insaniacs, which did weekend gigs, mainly in and around DC (Michael having to give it up after he fell ill). I saw them once, in their very early years. They were a hoot. Michael proudly told me at the time that a local paper had proclaimed Tru Fax to be “the worst band in the Washington metropolitan area” (which Michael thought was hilarious, and with the band using the line in its promotional material). Michael was indeed known to famous musicians for his anti-nuke work, e.g. see this tribute to him from Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Graham Nash. He would have been more than thrilled had he also received one from Patti Smith—whom he turned me on to back in ’76—and the Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick, who was one of his favorites (and we did see her in concert that same year, at the Capital Centre in Landover MD). With that, I will leave Michael with this cool Arabic rendition of ‘White Rabbit’, by the Lebanese singer Mayssa Karaa.

For anyone in the DC area who knew Michael, there will be a party to celebrate his life tomorrow, May 19th, at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville MD, from 4 to 8 PM.

UPDATE: The Washington Post and New York Times have obituaries of Michael here and here.

2nd UPDATE: The Progressive magazine has a tribute in Michael’s memory here.

Tru Fax & the Insaniacs (circa 1979)

Tru Fax & the Insaniacs (circa 1979)

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Leila Alaoui, R.I.P.

Leila Alaoui

I didn’t know of her until last Friday, when I learned via social media that she had been one of the victims of the Al-Qaida terrorist attack in Ouagadougou. She was in front of the café facing the hotel that was the terrorists’ target, that they raked with machine gun fire, just as the ISIS terrorists did at the cafés and restaurants in Paris’ 10th and 11th arrondissements last November 13th. Massacring people because they happened to be there. It was reported that Leila had survived, been rushed to a hospital in the city, and was out of danger. But yesterday it was announced that she had died. She was 33-years-old, Franco-Moroccan, and an accomplished professional photographer (see here and her website here). She was in Burkina Faso to do photography for Amnesty International. At least five friends and persons with whom I am friendly knew her personally—were friends of hers—and there are no doubt more. This has been all over my social media news feed today. People are shattered by her death and, though I didn’t know her myself, I am quite affected by it myself. What a loss. And a crime. I was already affected by the Ouagadougou attack before learning about Leila—as a terrorist outrage of this nature hits close to home for me—and am now that much more so. And with my sentiments—shared by countless others—reinforced that ISIS, Al-Qaida in all its forms, and others of the ilk (Boko Haram, Somali Al-Shabaab, etc, etc) need to be exterminated. Eradicated from the face of the earth. The New York Times has an obituary of Leila here. Thanks to Ammar Abd Rabbo for the photo of Leila below.

UPDATE: Le Monde’s obituary has more information on Leila, who lived between Paris, Marrakesh, and Beirut. The Amnesty International project that she was in Burkina Faso for was a documentary on violence against women. As fate would have it, she was in Paris last November 13th and in New York City on 9/11. She could have possibly survived had she been tended to in a more advanced medical facility than exists in Burkina Faso.


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Susanne Hoeber Rudolph & Lloyd I. Rudolph

Susanne Hoeber Rudolph & Lloyd I. Rudolph

[update below]

It is with sadness that I learned of the death, on December 23rd, of Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, professor emerita of political science at the University of Chicago, one of my main professors there as a graduate student, and a member of my dissertation committee. Susanne and her husband Lloyd—who survives her—were a pillar of the U. of Chicago’s political science department, where they taught for almost forty years before retiring early in the last decade. They were major political scientists—Susanne was a past president of APSA and the Association for Asian Studies—and among the world’s leading academic specialists of India (politics, history, civilization, everything). Their 1967 The Modernity of Tradition: Political Development in India is one of the most important books in political science published on that country. They knew India better than anyone one will meet in the academy, spending every fourth year there—Jaipur was their base—throughout their careers.

I speak of Susanne and Lloyd together and in the plural by reflex, as they were lifelong partners in scholarship, as in just about everything else (and they looked, at least by others, to be the perfect married couple); to know one was to know the other and equally. Almost all of their numerous books and countless articles were authored together (one that was widely read outside the academic world was their March 22nd 1993 essay in The New Republic, “Modern Hate: How Ancient Animosities Get Invented,” written at the height of the civil war in the ex-Yugoslavia). Their personalities were different, as were their professorial styles—they did not co-teach courses—but were complementary (and obviously perfectly compatible). And they were such nice people, and so appreciated by their students, colleagues, and everyone else who knew them. And so cultivated; intellectuals of their breadth, depth, and caliber are rare in my generation, not to mention the younger ones.

The last book the Rudolphs published, in 2014, Destination India: From London Overland to India, is one that will interest those who are not specialists of India or inclined to read a book about it. They tell the story of their 1956 overland trip to India in a Land Rover (she was 26, he 29), starting in Germany and driving through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Paved roads ended soon after crossing the Bosphorus and did not resume until the Grand Trunk Road east of Kabul. Now I have not yet read the book but heard the story in detail from them one evening at their second home in Bernard, Vermont, where I visited them with my wife in 1993. It sounded like an amazing trip indeed.

Jenny Rudolph has a tribute to her mother on the website of the Indian weekly magazine Outlook and Ananya Vajpeyi, of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, has authored the obituary of Susanne in The Hindu.

UPDATE: On January 16th—twenty-four days after Susanne’s death—Lloyd Rudolph passed away. Here’s his obituary in UChicago News.


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bobby womack

I listened to him as a kid and teen, in the late ’60s-early ’70s. His best song—and there is likely a consensus on this—was “Across 110th Street”—which got a second life in Quentin Tarantino’s great ‘Jackie Brown’, in one of the greatest ever opening movie scenes (watch here).

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Thip Samai, Bangkok

Thip Samai, Bangkok

I just spent several days in Bangkok, an exceptional city that anyone with the inclination to travel should visit at least once in his/her life. For those who do plan a trip there, here are just a couple of recommendations. First, in terms of food, Bangkok may well be the greatest city in the world, as (a) Thai cuisine is arguably *the* world’s greatest and (b) there is no point in recommending restaurants, as the eating experience on the street—at the countless food carts and hole-in-the-wall open-air restaurants, where the food is prepared in front of you—is such that a comparable eating experience will likely be found nowhere else in this world. Bangkok is a daily eating festival. But let me recommend just one restaurant, which, in the estimation of Bangkok Thais—and this has been confirmed—, makes the best Pad Thai in the city. Pad Thai is its specialty. That’s all the restaurant does. The name and address: Thip Samai, 313 Thanon Mahachai, Samranrat, Phra Nakorn (open from 5PM to late). It’s centrally located—not far from the Wat Phra Keao and Khao San Road—but not in an area that tourists are likely to stay, so one will have to take a taxi (a meter taxi, and insist on the meter; don’t bother with tuk-tuks, which are a rip-off; copy-and-paste and hand the taxi driver this: 313 ถ.มหาไชย สำราษราษฎร์ พระนคร กทม). When I arrived at the restaurant last Saturday around 9:30PM, I had to wait in line for almost half an hour to get a table. And I was the only non-Thai, signifying that (a) locals really like it, meaning that it’s definitely a good restaurant and (b) it has, for some curious reason, not made it into the guide books. Fortunately the menu was translated into English. So was it worth it? Yes. Absolutely. Here’s a video (it’s exactly like this).

While I’m at it, I also recommend the riverside restaurants at the Tha Phra Chan pier, just north of the Wat Phra Keao (otherwise, take the ferry from Wang Lang, the nº10 stop on the Chao Phraya river express).

And I will give some free publicity to my hotel, the New Siam Guest House II, which is ideally situated and can’t be beat in terms of value for money.

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My namesake


I won’t be posting much over the next couple of weeks—and likely not at all on politics or current events—and I am far away from the banks of the Marne and not following the news comme d’habitude or spending too much time on the Internet. I am presently in the city in which this edifice—that carries my name—is a landmark (the pic is not mine, though I’ve taken a few of my own). As my readers are cosmopolitan and well-traveled in their great majority, most will immediately know where I am 😉

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I came across this excellent, must read piece on FB yesterday from the blog of King’s College London political economy professor Alexandre Afonso, in which he discusses and documents how the academic profession—in the US and Europe (and to which one may add US academic institutions in Europe)—is increasingly coming to resemble a drug gang in its structure. Money quote:

So what you have is an increasing number of brilliant PhD graduates arriving every year into the market hoping to secure a permanent position as a professor and enjoying freedom and high salaries, a bit like the rank-and-file drug dealer hoping to become a drug lord. To achieve that, they are ready to forego the income and security that they could have in other areas of employment by accepting insecure working conditions in the hope of securing jobs that are not expanding at the same rate.

The trend is structural, increasingly linked to the insider-outsider, winner-take-all evolution of advanced capitalist societies. Which does not mean, however, that it is a fatality and there’s nothing to be done. Unionization is one response, and which is becoming a trend in American higher education (stateside friends of mine who work with the unions and bemoan their decline may look in this direction for promising growth potential).

In addition to Afonso’s blog post, one may read anthropologist Sarah Kendzior’s AJE tribune from last year on “The closing of American academia,” in which she examines how “the plight of adjunct professors highlights the end of higher education as a means to prosperity.” When undergraduate students speak to me about applying to doctoral programs, I advise them not to consider going for a Ph.D. unless they are fully funded (and with generous living stipend) and get into a top school. If not, forget it. Bad investment.

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On nationalism

I think about nationalism a lot. I hate nationalism. Nationalism—called “patriotism” in America—is a scourge of the modern era. As for nationalists—whatever their nationality—, discussion with them is futile, when not impossible. On the perversity of nationalism, I particularly like this passage by Erich Fromm, from his book The Sane Society (New York: Rinehart & Company, 1955), pp. 57-60.

[W]e find, in the European development, the persistence of…the fixation to blood and soil. Man—freed from the traditional bonds of the medieval community, afraid of the new freedom which transformed him into an isolated atom—escaped into a new idolatry of blood and soil, of which nationalism and racism are the two most evident expressions. (…)

(…) Nationalism, originally a progressive movement, replaced the bonds of feudalism and absolutism. The average man today obtains his sense of identity from his belonging to a nation, rather from his being a “son of man.” His objectivity, that is, his reason is warped by this fixation. He judges the “stranger” with different criteria than the members of his own clan. His feelings toward the stranger are equally warped. Those who are not “familiar” by bonds of blood and soil (expressed by common language, customs, food, songs, etc.) are looked upon with suspicion, and paranoid delusions about them can spring up at the slightest provocation. The incestuous fixation not only poisons the relationship of the individual to the stranger, but to the members of his own clan and to himself. The person who has not freed himself from the ties to blood and soil is not yet fully born as a human being; his capacity for love and reason are crippled; he does not experience himself nor his fellow man in their—and his own—human reality.

Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. “Patriotism” is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by “patriotism” I mean that attitude which puts the own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving interest in one’s own nation, which is the concern with the nation’s spiritual as much as with its material welfare—never with its power over other nations. Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one’s country which is not part of love for one’s humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.

The idolatrous character of national feeling can be seen in the reaction to the violations of clan symbols, a reaction which is very different from that to the violation of religious or moral symbols. Let us picture a man who takes the flag of his country to a street of one of the cities of the Western world, and tramples on it in view of other people. He would be lucky not to be lynched. Almost everybody would feel a sense of furious indignation, which hardly permits of any objective thought. The man who desecrated the flag would have done something unspeakable; he would have committed a crime which is not one crime among others, but the crime, the one unforgivable and unpardonable. Not quite as drastic, but nevertheless qualitatively the same would be the reaction to a man who says, “I do not love my country,” or, in the case of war, “I do not care for my country’s victory.” Such a sentence is a real sacrilege, and a man saying it becomes a monster, an outlaw in the feelings of his fellow men.

(…) Even if a man should speak disparagingly of God, he would hardly arouse the same feeling of indignation as against the crime, against the sacrilege which is the violation of the symbols of the country. (…)

After the great European Revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries failed to transform “freedom from” into “freedom to,” nationalism and state worship became the symptoms of a regression to incestuous fixation. Only when man succeeds in developing his reason further than he has done so far, only when he can build a world based on human solidarity and justice, only when he can feel rooted in the experience of universal brotherliness, will he have transformed his world into a truly human home.

Brilliant. I have the passage in French translation as well, which I’ll put up at some point.


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Taking it easy


I’m presently on vacation here, on the lower right side of the photo (which should be instantly recognizable to those who know their geography), so won’t be posting much over the next couple of weeks, even though there are a number of issues I need to write about (e.g. the headline story in Monday’s Le Monde, on the idiotic, asinine proposal by an organism of the French state to ban the wearing of Islamic headscarfs in universities). Later this month, inshallah.

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Multicultural wordle

I want to give some publicity to this fine new blog on the public square, the tagline of which is ‘Working site on citizenship and multiculturalism issues’. The blog’s animateur is Andrew Griffith, who, in addition to being a personal friend, is a former Canadian civil servant and diplomat, and, most recently in his career, the Director General of the Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Andrew has worked on these issues for many years and has a book coming out this fall on the subject, and that I will certainly write about.

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Nice commentary by Gary Gutting, philosophy professor at Notre Dame, on the NYT opinion page.

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This is the title of a great post by freelance journalist Siddhartha Mitter on a fine blog I just discovered the other day, “Africa Is a Country.” Mitter’s post is a demolition of an absurd piece last week on The Washington Post website, “A fascinating map of the world’s most and least racially tolerant countries,” by WaPo foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher, which uncritically reported on a paper by two Swedish economists, itself based on something called the World Values Survey. I took one look at the map and pronounced it bullshit—on FB and using that precise term—, asserting that any “study” that ranked France as less racially tolerant than Russia—however one wants to define “race,” a term devoid of scientific value—had serious methodological problems, and that France, despite well-known problems of discrimination, was one of the most tolerant societies in Europe. Then I saw Mitter’s post, which used precisely my language, though explained in detail—and with greater sophistication than I would be capable of—why Max Fisher’s piece was full of B.S. Read Fisher’s piece here and then Mitter’s takedown here.

BTW, I was somewhat dismayed at the number of FB friends who uncritically posted the WaPo piece, including some who should have known better. And it uncritically made the rounds in France as well. Even my 19 year-old daughter repeated it to me today. I told her not to believe everything she reads on the Internet.

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[update below]

It is with sadness that I learned of the death yesterday of Aristide Zolberg, emeritus professor of political science at the New School. He was my professor and mentor during my first two years of graduate school at the University of Chicago, until he took up his appointment at the New School in 1983. He was a brilliant social scientist and whose presence at Chicago was one of the reasons I chose to pursue my graduate studies there. I was greatly influenced by his macrohistorical approach to comparative politics and shared his main academic interests, in European—and particularly French—politics and history, in ethnicity and ethnic conflict, and in the field of immigration (history, sociology, politics, and policy) and international migration, of which he was one of the leading social science authorities from the 1970s on. We stayed in touch over the years and saw one another off and on, in New York and during his many visits to Paris. We were very much on the same wavelength intellectually and politically. And I liked him personally. Here’s the announcement of his passing on the New School’s website

New School professor Aristide R. Zolberg, one of the world’s leading voices on the politics, history, and ethics of immigration, has died at the age of 81. Zolberg served as Walter A. Eberstadt Professor of Politics and University in Exile Professor Emeritus at The New School for Social Research. A distinguished political scientist and a preeminent scholar of comparative politics, the history of international migration, nationalism and ethnicity, and immigration policy in North America and Western Europe, he served for many years as the founding director of the International Center for Migration, Ethnicity and Citizenship at The New School.

Early in life, Zolberg experienced first-hand the perils of war, ethnic hatred, displacement, and exile. A Polish Jew, Ary was born shortly before the Nazis rose to power, and survived World War II under an assumed Catholic identity in Belgium. After the war he became a refugee in the United States, and earned his doctorate in political science at the University of Chicago.

Zolberg mentored and inspired several generations of colleagues and students at The New School, where he was first appointed as Distinguished Professor of Political Science in 1983, as well as at the University of Chicago and many other institutions where he held academic appointments. Zolberg’s book, A Nation by Design, remains one of the most authoritative accounts of immigration history in the United States and a compelling story of how immigration shaped this country. His humanity and erudition will be missed by countless colleagues, students, and readers.

Yes, he will be missed. There are few political scientists like Ari Zolberg left (in America at least), who have his erudition and intellectual and academic interests and range. Nowadays if one is not a mathematician, or prepared to become one, there’s no point pursing a doctorate in political science.

UPDATE: The website Deliberately Considered has tributes to Ari Zolberg by Jeffrey Goldfarb, Kenneth Prewitt, Michael Cohen, and Riva Kastoryano. (April 26)

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