The Washington Post Column

The Literary Divide

Feeling dazed after an eventful day this week, I stumbled home and switched on my television. I’d just won an extremely grand book prize, and wanted — pathetically — to see whether one of those electronic tickers might be running the news.

A Man of Letters

“Good evening, I’m Alistair Cooke, and this is ‘Masterpiece Theater.’ ” It was a Sunday evening in the mid-1970s. In Britain there were miners’ strikes, blackouts, and weeks without garbage collection. Sterling had collapsed, or was about to. Punk rock was in its early adolescence. The nation was gripped by post-imperial depression, and obsessed with …

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Western Unity Takes a Hit

Do the Spanish elections matter? Even stating that question is, in an American political context, absurd: Of course they don’t. Spain is far away. The Spanish voters’ decision to throw out their government can’t possibly affect the U.S. elections.

Russian Lesson

The campaigns are winding down; the polling booths are being readied for voters. The Russian authorities are engaged in a massive get-out-the-vote effort. By this time next week Russia will have a new president, or a reelected one. All seems to be well in Russia’s new democracy.

Pseudo-History Sells

Why has “The Passion of the Christ,” a film that has already set box office records, caused so much fuss in this country? By the standards of Hollywood, the film should have sparked no reaction at all.

‘I Am Victim’

Sometimes in the course of a great American debate there comes a moment when the big battle guns fall silent, the pundits run out of breath, and — unexpectedly — the long, bitter argument suddenly turns into farce.

The Next Plague

It isn’t in the news. It doesn’t have any impact, at the moment, on anyone’s daily life. It isn’t the kind of thing that the president talks about in State of the Union speeches, or that the Democratic candidates talk about on the stump. And it might also prove to be the greatest threat to …

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Auschwitz Under Our Noses

Nearly 60 years ago last week, Auschwitz was liberated. On Jan. 27, 1945, four Russian soldiers rode into the camp. They seemed “wonderfully concrete and real,” remembered Primo Levi, one of the prisoners, “perched on their enormous horses, between the gray of the snow and the gray of the sky.”

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