Omul lor din Havana

How Russia Recruited Ernest Hemingway By Nicholas Reynolds

One day in New York, in the winter of 1940-1941, a Soviet spy named Jacob Golos recruited Ernest Hemingway “for our work.” Golos was a colorful old Bolshevik, a lifelong revolutionary who had escaped from czarist banishment by walking from Siberia to China. Golos eventually settled on the lower east side of Manhattan, where he became one of the founders of the Communist Party of the USA and a linchpin for Soviet espionage on the east coast. On the day that he pitched Hemingway, he was acting on behalf of the NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB during the Cold War and of the SVR today. After the meeting, Golos reported to Moscow that he was “sure that he [Hemingway] will cooperate with us and … do everything he can” to help the NKVD.

Why did Soviets focus on Hemingway? He first caught their attention in 1935 by writing for the far left American journal New Masses. His article was an angry denunciation of the U.S. establishment for leaving a large group of veterans, at work on government relief, to die in the path of a hurricane that struck the Florida Keys that year. Then, during the Spanish civil war, he came into contact with Comintern agents, Soviet spies, and communist guerrillas. They intrigued and captivated him, all the more so because they were fighting for a cause that had ignited his passion: anti-fascism. That passion drove the plot of For Whom The Bell Tolls—and not incidentally disposed him to agree to Golos’s pitch when it came a few months after Scribner’s released the great political novel.

Cu atentie

The Art of Paying Attention Why we need critics to think about power and how it works. By Michelle Dean

Not too long ago I saw, on the internet, a photograph of a very small baby raccoon sitting on a road. And the caption read: “when u realize u dont want 2 be responsible for anything anymore & u just want 2 nap and be small.”

I have deliberately arranged my life so that I see pictures of cute animals on the internet every day. But I’m not usually seized by them the way I was by this one. The desire to abdicate, to give up: for me, that’s primal. Like anyone else alive right now, I spend a lot of days fighting off a flight response. Every day brings fresh fear and fresh outrage. And though we have all these tiny little outlets of action in our lives, the internet posts and the petitions and the marches, no single one of them can fix this. The world is on the verge of something, and one way to look at it is that we are climbing up the arc of the moral universe. But from our present vantage, it’s very hard to see if it’s bending towards justice the way Martin Luther King said.

De la clasici

Making Athens Great Again By Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

What happens when a society, once a model for enlightened progress, threatens to backslide into intolerance and irrationality—with the complicity of many of its own citizens? How should that society’s stunned and disoriented members respond? Do they engage in kind, resist, withdraw, even depart? It’s a dilemma as old as democracy itself.

Twenty-four centuries ago, Athens was upended by the outcome of a vote that is worth revisiting today. A war-weary citizenry, raised on democratic exceptionalism but disillusioned by its leaders, wanted to feel great again—a recipe for unease and raw vindictiveness, then as now. The populace had no strongman to turn to, ready with promises that the polis would soon be winning, winning like never before. But hanging around the agora, volubly engaging residents of every rank, was someone to turn on: Socrates, whose provocative questioning of the city-state’s sense of moral superiority no longer seemed as entertaining as it had in more secure times. Athenians were in no mood to have their views shaken up. They had lost patience with the lively, discomfiting debates sparked by the old man. In 399 b.c., accused of impiety and corrupting the young, Socrates stood trial before a jury of his peers—one of the great pillars of Athenian democracy. That spring day, the 501 citizen-jurors did not do the institution proud. More of them voted that Socrates should die than voted him guilty in the first place.

Scriitorul angajat

What Are the Pitfalls for the Politically Engaged Writer?

Does someone want to silence us? Are we at war? Nothing is more exhilarating for a writer than to feel that simply putting pen to paper is an act of courage and a bid for freedom. Remember this novel?

“The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by 25 years in a forced-labor camp. Winston . . . dipped the pen into the ink and then faltered for just a second. A tremor had gone through his bowels. To mark the paper was the decisive act. In small clumsy letters he wrote: April 4th 1984.”

And nothing is more galvanizing for readers than to feel that they are collaborators in this bookish heroism, that reading itself is a revolutionary act. I remember in my early teens unwrapping a Christmas present from my evangelical parents to find a copy of “God’s Smuggler,” by Brother Andrew, an account of a Dutch Christian’s adventures smuggling Bibles into the Soviet bloc. It was 1967. The idea my parents no doubt wanted to get across was that our own daily Bible reading was a brave act of subversion in a heathen world. And I must say I enjoyed “God’s Smuggler” rather more than the Bible. I enjoyed Brother Andrew’s miraculous escapes from brutal soldiers, and at 13 I believed in the power of prayer that blinded the eyes of his persecutors. Very soon, though, to read Sade’s “Justine,” I took the precaution of hiding the book under the bedclothes. My mother was not so easily bamboozled as those Soviet soldiers. And though she never actually confiscated anything, she would burst into tears whenever I was found to be “siding with the Devil.” In the years to come Lawrence, Beckett, Genet and Sartre were all best kept out of sight.