Meir Shalev on a capital at the mercy of an army of ghosts.
I have spent most of my life in Jerusalem, and I can confirm that it is an interesting and worthwhile city to visit, but it’s hard to live there. The city has so much importance and holiness that it has lost respect for its own residents. When I am asked about Jerusalem, I often quote Mark Twain’s derisive observations from The Innocents Abroad. But I am even more taken by an assessment by Herman Melville, who visited Jerusalem in 1857: “The city [is] besieged by army of the dead,” he wrote in his journal, “cemeteries all round.
Sayed Kashua on sadness and sin in the Holy Land.
“How can you live in that city?” my friends, both Jews and Arabs, ask me. They’re right. Jerusalem has always been tough, and it’s been getting more and more religious, extremist, and racist over the years.As I wrote these words in May, I asked myself the same question. It was the morning of Jerusalem Day, when Israel celebrates its completion of the city’s occupation: the annexation of the Old City and East Jerusalem. The radio newscaster talks of large-scale police deployment throughout the city and right-wing Knesset members planning to visit the Temple Mount.
Paul Muldoon reflects on the steamy and colorful land of Björk.
The first Icelander I met was a poet and playwright who was visiting my home city, Belfast, in the early 1970s. He told me how, when he was a boy, Saturday night was invariably bath night. He also told me how, week in and week out, his mother would stand at the bottom of the stairs and call up to him, “Please be careful not to use all the cold water.”One of the delights of Iceland, and of Reykjavik in particular, is the ongoing catalog of incongruity, beginning with the sense that this very laid-back country and city are both perched on top of a pretty lively steam vent.
Anne Panning charts the evolution of an earnest Midwestern metropolis.
In 1984, when I left my corn-and-soybean hometown for college, the Minneapolis skyline glittered before me like an icy-blue crystalline mecca. The all-window IDS tower sparkled against the wide Midwestern sky; to its right, the squat white Metrodome sat staid and stalwart like a sad dumpling. I would eventually come to occupy what’s called the “West Bank” area of the city, or Cedar-Riverside, a hippie-bohemian neighborhood near the University of Minnesota and the Mississippi River.
Patricia Hampl on a gray streetscape that one day burst into color.
The weather those two weeks couldn’t have been as relentlessly dismal, as sunless as I remember. May 1975, my first Prague visit, my train rattled in from Cheb, a border town out of a B spy movie outfitted with guard tower, barbed-wire fence, and a border-patrol officer who looked impassively from my blue American passport to my let’s-be-friends American face. I was an earnest young traveler, seeking my roots, as they say. My grandparents, pre–World War I immigrants to the Czech enclave in St.
Elif Shafak discovers creativity just off Authoritarian Street.
“The best thing about Ankara is returning to Istanbul.” Harsh as it may sound, that expression, attributed in one form or another to prominent Turkish poet Yahya Kemal, resonates with many Turkish artists and writers. It also suggests the discrepancy, if not the conflict, between the country’s two major urban settlements. Turkey’s contemporary history, including its transition from the multiethnic Ottoman Empire to a modern, secularist nation-state, is, in its core, a tale of two cities.
"Cities each have a kind of light," August Kleinzahler once wrote. Here, great authors evoke the light—and darkness—they find in the world’s cities.
Forget Cabo San Lucas and head to Todos Santos for some of the most exciting art, music and beaches in Mexico.
Leave it to Dubai to host a New Year's Eve that was cooler than yours. Watch the sky around the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, explode with splendor.
Many WWII veterans felt lost after returning home. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Dale Maharidge on what happened to them.