Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Red Famine, by Anne Applebaum (Doubleday). In the early nineteen-thirties, at least five million people died of hunger in the Soviet Union. Some eighty per cent of the deaths occurred in Ukraine, and Applebaum draws on new archival research to show that food scarcity was not simply a tragic consequence of misguided state planning but, rather, a state-orchestrated program "specifically targeted at Ukraine and Ukrainians." The Soviet leadership, driven by "paranoia about the counter-revolutionary potential of Ukraine," ordered the confiscation of food from homes and imposed severe restrictions on travel and trade, while also carrying out a purge of scholars, writers, artists, and others. The Holodomor, as the result came to be known, was a "political famine."

Kierkegaard's Muse, by Joakim Garff, translated from the Danish by Alastair Hannay (Princeton). Garff, the author of a masterly Kierkegaard biography, here narrates the mysterious love affair that shaped the writer's later life. Not much is known about Regine Olsen, who was engaged to Kierkegaard for a year before he broke it off and she married someone else. He often wrote of her in his journals, and left everything to her in his will. For more than a decade after their break, he scheduled his daily walks to coincide with hers, yet they spoke only once in that time. Working from previously unseen letters provided by Olsen's family, Garff fleshes out the sensitive, pragmatic Regine, illuminating her perspective on the affair and her influence on Kierkegaard's work. …

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