World Cup 2018: How Belgium Became Cool

Laurent Dubois

Belgian player Christian Benteke at a press conference before the final selection for the World Cup squad, Tubize, Belgium, May 24, 2018

National team managers of earlier generations made sure to have a balance of Walloon and Flemish players on the squad. Fans of today’s more diverse team find workarounds to the basic French-Flemish linguistic problem by chanting in English or just humming the tune of Verdi’s “Triumphal March.” The Belgium it embodies embodies is youthful and global; at its best, it is promising, cohesive, and joyous.

Will Turkey’s Voters Give Erdoğan the Imperial Presidency He Seeks?

Kaya Genç

Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waving flags in Istanbul's Taksim Square, July 18, 2016

President Erdoğan has proved extremely effective in the past at turning out his base, especially with the army on the move against Kurdish militias in southeast Turkey and northern Syria. All the same, cracks in his “New Turkey” have re-emerged. Especially since 2016, dissent has been suppressed, the rule of law has deteriorated, and a human rights crisis has escalated; meanwhile, opposition to Erdoğan’s rule has gained cohesion.

World Cup 2018: Senegal’s Art of the Unforeseen

Oumar Ba

Senegalese fans parading before their team’s match against Poland in Moscow, Russia, June 19, 2018

In 2002, in Seoul, France entered the game as the defending world champion, whereas Senegal, captained by Aliou Cissé, was playing its first ever game in a World Cup championship. The whole world was watching as Bouba Diop scored. After that famous win over the former colonizer, crowds flooded the streets of Senegal’s capital, Dakar. This week, Senegal returned to the World Cup with another chance to enchant the world. Against Poland, Cissé’s team played with discipline and verve, and won 2-1—a win that signaled another possible wild ride for the “Lions.”

Stanley Cavell, 1926–2018

Christopher Benfey

Stanley Cavell, 2017

He didn’t prepare a syllabus. He didn’t order books for his courses. He was casual with student papers. According to the awful assessment measures of our awful times, he was probably a lousy teacher, and yet he was the most exciting classroom presence I’ve ever experienced. He brought an extraordinary range of passions—for jazz and Shakespeare, for American film comedies, for “ordinary language” philosophy, for the unexpected philosophical richness of Thoreau and Emerson—to everything he had to say. And we hung on every word.

World Cup 2018: Argentine Dread

Gabriel Pasquini

Lionel Messi, Argentina’s captain, preparing for a penalty kick against Iceland at Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, June 16, 2018

After a visit in the 1960s, the French writer and culture minister André Malraux was reported to observe, shrewdly, that “Buenos Aires is the capital to an empire that never happened.” Accordingly, Argentina is divided between warring factions that hark back to the nineteenth century, and we’re always expecting a providential man or woman to save us. We pour a distillation of this tense brew into our national sports, the games bequeathed us by our golden age. We look to our players for the chance to recover what we’ve lost, the triumph denied.

Tales from the Gulag

Varlam Shalamov

Gignoux: The Siberian Gulag, 1931

Hunger made our envy as dull and feeble as all our other feelings. We had no strength left for feelings, to search for easier work, to walk, to ask, to beg. We envied only those we knew, with whom we had come into this world, if they had managed to get work in the office, the hospital, or the stables, where there were no long hours of heavy physical work, which was glorified on the arches over all the gates as a matter for valor and heroism. In a word, we envied only Shestakov.

World Cup 2018: Peru’s Permission to Dream

Elda Cantú

Danish players congratulating each other and Peru’s star forward Paolo Guerrero covering his face with his shirt as Peru lost 0-1 to Denmark in Saransk, Russia, June 16, 2018

The last time this country had cheered for la Blanquirroja, as the national side is known, in a World Cup was in 1982. One third of Peruvians had not even been born then, but they all remember that the last time had been a catastrophe. “The Peruvian defeat hurts again because, once more, the syndromes that disconcert and plague us appear: it seems that the Peruvian players have no soul, no testicles or blood,” wrote the sociologist and writer Abelardo Sánchez León at the time. “We can’t continue accepting that this way of playing football corresponds to the idiosyncrasy of our people.”

‘Ruling Through Ritual’: An Interview with Guo Yuhua

Ian Johnson

Guo Yuhua with a villager in Ji, northern Shanxi, China, 2005

Ian Johnson: When did you start commenting on daily life?
Guo Yuhua: In about 2010. In this society, everything that seems impossible or completely weird actually does happen, so how can you not comment on it? It’s intolerable. You feel you can’t help people who are suffering in another way, so at least you can try to publicize it and get a public reaction. In fact, you aren’t really helping them, but you feel you have to speak.

World Cup 2018: The Yob-Swagger of Inger-Land

Geoff Dyer

Fans clashing at an England vs. Russia match when France hosted the UEFA Euro 2016 championship

Good old England, good old Yob-land. Even if the Russians are better-prepared, fitter, and, not for the first time in their history, fighting on home soil, I still have faith in our hooligans to show their mettle and do us proud. We want England to be non-racist, non-homophobic, non-misogynistic and all that, but, God knows, however much we hate yobs, we don’t ever want England to be yob-free. No one will ever put it better than D.H. Lawrence of Nottingham Forest FC who considered himself “English in the teeth of all the world, even in the teeth of England.”

Jazz and the Images that Hold Us Captive

Adam Shatz

Julius Eastman, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 1969

The photographer and journalist Val Wilmer grasped that there is a struggle that precedes all others: the matrix in which other struggles are inscribed, which is simply the human struggle to go through life, to endure, and to make one’s mark, whatever that may be. One needn’t embrace a spurious universalism blind to race and gender, or to other forms of discrimination, to see that this struggle is our common one, even if we experience it in very different ways inflected by our backgrounds and experiences.