The meaning of the Eurovision Song Contest.
A baby born in New Jersey grows and takes on the characteristics of a headstrong Russian woman.
"She was her parent’s second child; the first was Glenn, a boisterous seven year old obsessed, as his father had planned, with football. In fact, it was Glenn who first noticed the peculiarity of his little sister. As he stared into her crib one morning making faces at the baby, he noticed that she had swaddled herself in her soft, pink knitted baby blanket. She looked at him with a focus that seemed preternatural for an infant. She drooled, but she held the blanket tight around her face, like a little babushka."
A man encounters the boundaries of knowledge while investigating his father's murder.
"This is maybe still too big for him to know right now, the image too hard for him to see, but eight days ago his father Gerald was found dead in Greenland. He hasn’t talked to his father in three weeks even though his apartment is a mile away, and Rob has no idea what he’d possibly be doing in Greenland. He has no idea why anybody would go to Greenland. Ever."
A Parisan eccentric and his friend analytically consider a horrific crime in this classic detective story.
"At the first dawn of the morning we closed all the massy shutters of our old building; lighted a couple of tapers which, strongly perfumed, threw out only the ghastliest and feeblest of rays. By the aid of these we then busied our souls in dreams—reading, writing, or conversing, until warned by the clock of the advent of the true Darkness. Then we sallied forth into the streets, arm and arm, continuing the topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking, amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation can afford."
An essay on Jimmy Savile, British television and child sexual abuse.
Working within Andalusia’s impoverished farming communities, a ragtag pair of longtime union leaders have been leading raids on local supermarkets.
Welcome to Plasenzuela, whose 500 inhabitants enjoyed no-show jobs, spent millions on phantom projects and defrauded Social Security.
The frenzied few days before the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer.
Police and scientists investigate an outbreak.
The sewer hunters, or “toshers,” of 19th century London.
Knowing where to find the most valuable pieces of detritus was vital, and most toshers worked in gangs of three or four, led by a veteran who was frequently somewhere between 60 and 80 years old. These men knew the secret locations of the cracks that lay submerged beneath the surface of the sewer-waters, and it was there that cash frequently lodged.
An American mystery writer and an Italian journalist join forces to identify a serial killer that targeted couples having sex in cars in the rolling hills above Florence.
On Jenny Craig’s European expansion and how dieting differs in France and the States.
An undercover cop infiltrates a group of British activists, befriending and then betraying them.
Office culture in Paris held that it was each person's responsibility, upon arrival, to visit other people's desks and wish them good morning, and often kiss each person once on each cheek, depending on the parties' personal relationship, genders, and respective positions in the corporate hierarchy. Then you moved on to the next desk. Not everyone did it, but those who did not were noticed and remarked upon.
An anonymous essay on time spent in “protective custody” at a Nazi camp.
On Abbey Road studios, the Beatles, and modern record production.
A report from the trial of Ivan Demjanjuk—a.k.a. “The Last Nazi”—who died on March 17.
Why Greece has really failed.
The profile of a crime syndicate which dominates the European cocaine trade.
A Romanian-German novelist on being pursued by Ceaucescu’s secret police.
Gentrification and its discontents in Paris, throughout the centuries.
On the Balkan musical genre Turbo-Folk, its ties to Serbian ultranationalism, and the strongman nightclub owner who brought it to Croatia.
The explosion of publishing created a much more democratic and permanent network of public communication than had ever existed before. The mass proliferation of newspapers and magazines, and a new-found fascination with the boundaries of the private and the public, combined to produce the first age of sexual celebrity.
On the Italian island Lampedusa— “politically Europe, but geographically Africa”—as a wave of African immigrants is due to arrive from Libya by boat, ruining the tourist season.
Ethnicity and primary education in Bosnia & Herzegovina.Part of Guernica's 'Writer's Bloc' series.
A woman's investigations of closed-off places become quiet expressions of nationalistic outrage.
"She went through a summer or two of exploring empty listed buildings. The English countryside was full of them, just standing there, vast, abandoned, too big to develop but architecturally and historically too important to destroy. "
The perceptions of an Italian mule, pressed into military service on the long WWII onslaught on Stalingrad.
"Everything had become habitual and therefore right. Everything had joined together to form a life that was right and natural: hard labour, the asphalt, drinking troughs, the smell of axle grease, the thunder of the stinking, long-barrelled guns, the smell of tobacco and leather from the driver’s fingers, the evening bucket of maize, the bundle of prickly hay."
Creating an identity that’s no longer tied to the past.
Monsters occasionally assume a completely unexpected appearance. All of a sudden, Adolf Hitler is standing onstage wearing an Adidas tracksuit and flip-flops, and his name isn't Hitler; it's Oliver Polak. And the monster isn't really Adolf Hitler, either; it's the audience's laughter. It starts with a sputter, like something trying to break free from its restraints. But then it bursts out as if suddenly liberated.
Tracking down 40-odd members of the British band.
It's a Tuesday morning in December, and I'm ringing people called Brown in Rotherham. "Hello," I begin again. "I'm trying to trace Jonnie Brown who used to play in the Fall. He came from Rotherham and I wondered if you might be a relative." "The Who?" asks the latest Mr Brown. "No. The Fall - the band from Salford. He played bass for three weeks in 1978." "Is this some kind of joke?"
Two weeks spent walking across Provence.
There is something about entering an ancient town on foot that's radically different from entering the same place by car. Keep in mind that these old French towns were all designed by people on foot for people on foot. So when you walk in, you're approaching the place as it was intended to be approached—slowly and naturally, the way Dorothy came upon Oz (spires rising in the distance, a sense of mounting mystery: What kind of city will this be?).
How an Italian thug looted MGM, brought Credit Lyonnais to its knees, and made the Pope cry.
Excerpted from the author’s biography of mathematician Simon Phillips Norton.
The making of a lost generation:
According to the Unicef report, which measured 40 indicators of quality of life – including the strength of relationships with friends and family, educational achievements and personal aspirations, and exposure to drinking, drug taking and other risky behavior – British children have the most miserable upbringing in the developed world. American children come next, second from the bottom.
As Europe, led by Greece and Ireland and followed by Portugal and Spain, tumbles towards economic catastrophe, only one nation can save the continent from financial ruin: a highly reluctant Germany.
"Hi," she said on the telephone, a week after the announcement. "This is Toni, your Nobelette. Are you ready for Stockholm?" Well, since she asked, why not? I left town for Greek light, German sausage, Russian soul, French sauce, Spanish bull, Zen jokes, the Heart of Darkness and the Blood of the Lamb. Toni Morrison's butter cakes and baby ghosts, her blade of blackbirds and her graveyard loves, her Not Doctor Street and No Mercy Hospital and all those maple syrup men "with the long-distance eyes" are a whole lot more transfiguring. Where else but Stockholm, even if she does seem to have been promiscuous with her invitations. I mean, she asked Bill Clinton, too, whose inaugural she had attended, and with whom she was intimate at a White House dinner party in March. (He told Toni's agent, Amanda "Binky" Urban, that he really wanted to go but... they wouldn't let him.) Salman Rushdie might also have gone except that the Swedish Academy declined officially to endorse him in his martyrdom, after which gutlessness three of the obligatory eighteen academicians resigned in protest, and can't be replaced, because you must die in your Stockholm saddle.
A visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships.
Olinka and Drazen are artists, and after some time passed, they did what artists often do: they put their feelings on display. They became investigators into the plane wreck of love, bagging and tagging individual pieces of evidence. Their collection of breakup mementos was accepted into a local art festival. It was a smash hit. Soon they were putting up installations in Berlin, San Francisco, and Istanbul, showing the concept to the world. Everywhere they went, from Bloomington to Belgrade, people packed the halls and delivered their own relics of extinguished love: “The Silver Watch” with the pin pulled out at the moment he first said, “I love you.” The wood-handled “Ex Axe” that a woman used to chop her cheating lover’s furniture into tiny bits. Trinkets that had meaning to only two souls found resonance with a worldwide audience that seemed to recognize the same heartache all too well.
On Silvio Berlusconi’s hedonism.
Berlusconi is Italy’s waning Hugh Hefner, alternately reviled and admired for his loyalty to his own appetites—except that he’s supposed to be running the country.
A look at the brave new world of privatized postal services, “optimized to deliver the maximum amount of unwanted mail at the minimum cost to businesses.”
We ate in our own restaurants, stayed in our own hotels, and hired our own guides. We moved through a parallel Paris—and a parallel Rome, Milan, and so on.
The reporter takes a whirlwind guided bus tour of a Europe with a group of Chinese tourists.
How France’s public schools became the battleground in a culture war.
Who would poison the vines of La Romanée-Conti, the tiny, centuries-old vineyard that produces what most agree is Burgundy’s ﬁnest, rarest, and most expensive wine?
A suitcase was smuggled from Spain to Mexico during the Spanish Civil War containing negatives from three photographers would later become legends and all die in war zones. The suitcase disappeared.
In 2006, seven men stole £53m. Six were caught, but more than half the money remains at large. On modern money laundering best practices.
How a nation went bankrupt. “Ireland’s regress is especially unsettling because of the questions it raises about Ireland’s former progress: even now no one is quite sure why the Irish suddenly did so well for themselves in the first place.”
A trip to Râmnicu Vâlcea, a town of 120,000 where the primary (and lucrative) industry is Internet scams.
On the illusion of the inevitable and the revolutions that ended the Eastern Bloc.
Arnold Weiss escaped Germany as a kid in 1938, leaving his family behind. He returned seven years later, now a U.S. intelligence officer tasked with tracking down fugitive Nazis. The ultimate revenge story.
“Most cities spread like inkblots; a few, such as Manhattan, grew in linear increments. Paris expanded in concentric rings, approximately shown by the spiral numeration of its arrondissements.”
A Stockholm prostitute is found hacked apart in a dumpster, her head is never found. Two accomplished doctors, confirmed creeps, are arrested. Uncertainty endures.
The story that certified Gehry as a genius and the Guggenheim Bilbao as the building of the late 20th century.
The macabre, ultra-violent plays put on at the Grand Guignol defined an era in Paris, attracting foreign tourists, aristocrats, and celebrities. Goering and Patton saw plays there in the same year. But the carnage of WWII ultimately undermined the shock of Guignol’s brutality, and audiences disappeared.
When ‘Ceca’, the Madonna of the Balkans, met Arkan, bank robber turned paramilitary leader and war criminal, and how it all came to a tragic end in the lobby of the Belgrade Intercontinental.
A group of childhood friends, two of whom had already climbed Everest, finds tragedy on Mont Blanc.
A behind-the-scenes account of the tense negotiations, involving Gorbachev, Kohl, Bush, and Thatcher, that led from the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall to a reunified Germany. (Translated from German.)
Riots in Athens, the shadowy Vatopaidi monastery, and a quarter million dollars in debt for every citizen. Welcome to Greece.
In the British sport of “ferret legging,” underwear-less competitors tie their trousers at the ankles, stuff a pair of the carnivores down there, and hold on for as long as possible. Reg Mellor is the world’s best.
Inside Rebecca West’s vast Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, an eerily timeless travelogue of the Balkans written on the eve of WWI.
The bloody, often surreal, fight for Kosovo’s independence was led by a man moonlighting as a roofer in Switzerland.
How sex scandals have made Silvio Berlusconi even more powerful in Italy.
Dozens of young adults in rural Wales are hanging themselves, feeding an epidemic of copycat suicides that experts are have been unable to contain.
The story of the most secret underground society in Paris.
A Dutch traffic engineer showed that streets without signs are safer than those cluttered with arrows, painted lines, and lights.
How $100 million in diamonds, gold and jewelry disappeared from Antwerp Diamond Center’s supersecure vault.
Job Cohen, the current mayor of Amsterdam, is leading the Dutch race for Prime Minister on a platform of racial integration that could transform the relationship between European politics and immigration.
In the chaotic days before the Berlin Wall fell, the East German secret police shredded 45 million pages. Fifteen years later, a team of computer scientists figured out how to put it all back together.
Kevin Fulton, a spy planted in the IRA, thought he was dead when he faced interrogation by a notorious IRA enforcer. But, it turned out, the enforcer was also an agent. How British intelligence undermined the IRA.
Helg Sgarbi had perfected the art of seducing, swindling, and blackmailing ultra-rich women across Europe. Fleecing a billionaire BMW heiress should have been the crowning achievement of his career.