Saturday, 05 March 2016 10:23

Good Reads - From Serbian war criminals to our obsession with beyond the wall

Written by Sam Volpe
Nordic Landscape
Photo: Clarence (Flickr); Licence: CC BY 2.0 

Our editor Sam Volpe points you in the direction of a few essays and articles guaranteed to make you ponder. Read about the lengths the European community has gone to in the name of justice, the stunning work being done by volunteers on Lesvos, and the way in which European myth and history has influenced modern fantasy.

Sam, Diaphragm editor and Project Manager


One of Europe's longest manhunts

A few months ago, former E&M editor Frances Jackson recommended reading Julian Borger's writing about the anniversary of the Srebenica massacre. In January, Borger was at it again, with a fascinating account of the hunt for Bosnian Serb war criminal Ratko Mladic. Borger's writing on the Balkans is rapidly becoming unmissable, and is a fantastic advert for the routinely excellent Guardian Long Read column.

Mladic is one of the more two-dimensionally hideous characters of recent history, and this account of his eventual capture is both nail-biting and bathetic. Dive in to read of the increasingly paranoid manner in which Mladic spent his final days of freedom, and to remember some of the groundbreaking work done by the International Criminal Court.

Natural horrors and the mythical North

Nature is capable of horror, too, and this essay from Quartz writer Svati Kirsten Narula is a great example of that. The earthquake which devastated Everest Base Camp two years ago was terrifying enough seen from a distance, but this eyewitness account comes highly recommended, not least because its retelling of the mental struggles attendant in surviving such trauma is piercing. Understanding disaster, understanding the way the Everest industry, and understanding PTSD can all be difficult things, Narula's piece helps a reader with all of this.

The Himalayas are of course but one of the places on Earth to have a mythical allure, and as a literature buff, this essay from the fantastic Aeon.com that examines how primarily Northern, icy locales hold such a grip on our collective cultural consciousness piqued my interest. The enduring appeal of the icy north, in varied media from the great Icelandic Völsunga Saga to Game of Thrones, is a fascinating subject, and this piece by Pennsylvania based academic E.R. Truitt gets to the heart of why snow-bound wastelands so fire our imaginations, and what that has to do with the past in Northern Europe.

Fantasy is in vogue, and Truitt's unravelling of this cultural trope is timely and instructive whether your own personal mythic north is Svalbard or somewhere in Westeros.

The refugee crisis in practice and in theory

Sometimes at E+M, we are lucky enough to host some fantastic journalism, and I'd like to take this chance to point everyone in the direction of Rosa Vroom's terrific piece of photo-reportage from the island of Lesvos. Some of her photographs are frankly heartbreaking, but these are things we ought to see, and it's humbling to have been able to publish them alongside her writing on this site.

The ongoing refugee crisis across Europe is something that will undoubtedly come to be seen as a defining event of the early 21st century, and something that is only likely to get worse over the coming months. As such, reading Rosa's piece is essential. Contextualising the agonising journeys being taken by so many, it's also a small remainder of the human decency of the volunteers— our author included— who have given up time to help in places like Lesvos.

Read it, please.

On a similar note, amidst Brexit talk, and the EU's continual struggle to solve the refugee crisis, this article from the BBC's Magazine site is a good primer on the so-called Visegrad Four. With the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia all beginning to flex their muscles on the eastern flank of the EU, Nick Forbes quickly and informatively explains why the actions of these nations might just be central to the future shape of the Union.


Umberto Eco
Photo: Domenico(Flickr); Licence: CC BY-ND 2.0 


Finally, last Saturday saw the death of the great Italian author and academic Umberto Eco. Amidst the tributes and the likely nostalgia-tinged revival of The Name of the Rose, why not have a look at this interview from The Paris Review's renowned 'The Art of Fiction' series. In it, Eco lets us inside his mind and his world, and reminds us of his genius which will be much missed.

He opines on everything from the non-existence of Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown to growing up under fascism, and the piece perfectly illustrates why Eco was such a well-respected public figure and intellectual.

Last modified on Saturday, 05 March 2016 19:21

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