The Quintessence of the Balkans
A brave and admirable attempt to explain the history of a little known part of an often misunderstood region is rendered problematic by the sheer complexity of the subject matter, with its multiple identities, contending occupying forces, obscure motivations and often complex loyalties.
Sport may change over time, and individual sports come and go, but the essential remains, for this mundane activity also offers us a brief snatch at transendence, the moment arising out of chaos when all your teammates occupy ideal positions, when the universe seems to be arranged by a meaningful will that is not yours.
The Tick of Reason
Voltaire offended the Calvinists of Geneva, ‘the Protestant Rome’, by criticising its austere lifestyle and setting up a theatre on its outskirts. A new book argues that the city eventually gave birth to a ‘reasonable Calvinism’ but we should be careful to remember the limits of any such apparent thaw in biblical fundamentalism.
Who Fears to Speak of ’99?
What would have happened if General Cornwallis had been sent to Ireland a year earlier? Certainly repression would have been less, though perhaps the revolution would have happened anyway, though somewhat later, and while it would probably also have failed then it might have done so in interesting ways.
An academic discipline based on idealised economic systems which permit the application of a great deal of theoretical sophistication has produced cohorts of graduates with little knowledge of history or the real world. These idiot savants can manipulate mathematical models but have little to contribute to actual business practice or economic management.
The People’s Music
The British folk music scene began to thrive through its extensive club circuit in the 1950s and gave a platform to many Irish singers. It was seldom without tension, however, between purists like Ewan MacColl and others who put greater stress on enjoyment.
The Modernist Moment
Brazil, in the mid-twentieth century, saw a spectacular flourishing of architecture and town planning, associated with names like Niemeyer and Costa. But since then chaos and venality have returned, with builders rather than architects in the driving seat and recent hopes that the World Cup could be a game-changer disappointed.