"It is a Russian who has directed it, two Southerns who have written its book, two Jewish boys who have composed its lyrics and music and a stage full of negros who sing and act it to perfection. The result is one of the far famed wonders of the melting pot; the most American opera that has yet been seen or heard." —John Mason Brown; New York Evening Post, 1935
A great read on geography and ideas. Starts with a review of two new books on geography as a primal force in history, goes on the criticize that argument with counterexamples, and continues with a great distillation of the recent historiography around Eastern Europe and the Holocaust, and rounds itself out with a discussion of the U S of A.
Another version of space history is available these days, though. This might be called the cartographic turn, and is characterized by the argument that, while geography matters, it is visible only through the maps that we make of it. Where borders fall is as much a matter of how things are seenas how they really are. We can know the shape of the planet only through maps—maps in the ordinary glove-compartment sense, maps in a broader metaphoric one—and those maps are made by minds attuned to the relations of power. All nations are shaped by belligerence and slaughter.
The Meyer de Haan is a self-portrait by a minor artist most people have never heard of. It is worth only a fraction of what the other paintings are worth. Jop Ubbens, the general director of Christie's in Amsterdam told The Guardian that the de Haan "might have been stolen by mistake." The Guardian's art critic, Jonathan Jones, thinks "any idea that a tasteful collector commissioned this theft is undermined by the inclusion of Meyer de Haan's “Self-Portrait”. No offence, but this comparatively minor Dutch artist does not really belong in the company of the others whose works have been stolen." True. But suppose for a moment that it wasn't a mistake. Suppose that whoever masterminded this robbery actually did want the Meyer de Haan. Why? What does the painting by Meyer de Haan tell us? What might that self-portrait have to do with all the other, more famous paintings that were stolen? There is a mystery here, perhaps, that only needs the right key for unlocking, the right set of questions. And the first, most obvious question is staring us right in the face.
Who is Meyer de Haan?