My Novel (Accidentally) Predicted Trump

It’s terrifying when your dystopian nightmares begin to come true. Donald Trump is consolidating a circle of extremist advisers. Hardline restrictions on immigration are going up, regulations on Wall Street are tumbling down, and ordinary Americans can no longer agree on simple truths, let alone politics. Abroad, Europe may be splintering, too, Asia looks volatile, and wars continue to rage in...
read more

The Art of Detente

On a wall in Boston, artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo is taking a quiet but historic step forward in U.S.-Iranian relations. His fanciful mural on an air intake structure in Boston’s Dewey Square represents a first. Ghadyanloo, who has completed more than a hundred surrealistic murals in downtown Tehran, is the first Iranian artist to do work commissioned by municipal authorities in both Iran...
read more

Iran: The Calligraphic Challenge

Mehdi Saeedi turns words into art. The Iranian graphic artist has transformed Farsi script into posters, paintings, and other works. He has taken a traditional form, calligraphy, and made something even more startling and beautiful from it. In Saeedi’s posters, a line of script turns into a bird, with an olive branch in its beak. Don Quixote rides a horse of words, a reminder that the...
read more

The Music of Hopelessness

If foreign policy had a soundtrack, it would be the opposite of easy listening. Really, could anyone listen to a symphony of war and peace all the way through? In the first movement — devoted to death and destruction and played presto and fortissimo — the electric guitarists step to the front of the orchestra to strum power chords, scream hate-filled lyrics, and deliver cacophony instead of...
read more

Iraq’s Artifacts of Exile

In the initial aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, looters swept through the National Museum in Baghdad and carted off 15,000 items of incalculable value. Some of these items were destroyed in the attempt to spirit them away. Some disappeared into the vortex of the underground art market. Only half of the items were eventually recovered. In February 2015, after a dozen years in limbo,...
read more

The Art of Dissidence and Diplomacy

The position of the body is the same. The figure is prone on the beach, near the water’s edge. The head is face down in the sand, and the face is just visible. One arm is close to the body, palm upward. The knees are bent, the feet together. This is not Alan Kurdi (initially misreported as Aylan), the three-year-old Syrian child whose body washed up on shore in Turkey. It is the Chinese artist...
read more