The World on A Page

By Varadarajan, Tunku | Newsweek, February 6, 2012 | Go to article overview
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The World on A Page


Varadarajan, Tunku, Newsweek


Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

Shrinking Britain, genocidal generals, a socialist Bard--and Putin's favorite books.

'I DID IT MY WAY': Fidel Castro sat bolt upright on his embalming table to pour scorn on the Republican primary race in the U.S., describing it as "the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance there has ever been." The merits of his observation aside, the best way to ensure that a problem of this sort never rears its head in Cuba is to do as Fidel has done: disallow competition altogether.

JUST DESERTS: There can scarcely be a person on earth who does not believe that there is a special place in Xibalba--the Mayan version of hell--for Efrain Rios Montt. The dictator, whose rule from 1982 to '83 saw the most brutal period of the Guatemalan civil war, will go on trial for crimes against humanity and the genocide of Mayan Indians. (The general has always maintained he was restoring "order.")

MUSTAPHA BAUDELAIRE? Francois Hollande, the socialist frontrunner in France's presidential elections, got all fancy at a recent rally, invoking "Shakespeare" to slap down the ruling right: "They failed because they did not start with a dream." As befuddled hacks rushed to check this unfamiliar quotation, they found that Hollande's Shakespeare wasn't the Bard but a living descendant, Nicholas, who reviews books for London's Daily Telegraph. Will a careless speechwriter be out of a job? Or is Nicholas Shakespeare, in fact, more read among French leftists than we realize?

THE PUTIN CANON: Russia's prime minister, exasperated by the philistinism of his fellow citizens, has mandated a list of 100 books that would be compulsory reading for Russia's students. His aim: to "preserve the dominance of Russian culture." Zamyatin's We, the first Russian novel to portray life in a dictatorship, would be a good place to start, though one suspects Mr.

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