Icons of Devastation

Celan’s work has prompted an often reverential critical response. But his poetry is always difficult and sometimes agonizing; reading it provides no easy pleasures.

The Arab Had a Name

Narrated by the nameless victim's brother, Kamal Daoud's novel asks: Did Camus intend to use the Algerian murder victim in 'The Stranger' as a disposable prop?

The Barefoot Lawyer

Chen Guangcheng's condemnation of the Chinese state is told through his story of legal activism, resulting torture, trial, house arrest, and an escape to the U.S.

Reading Left to Right

Biographer Randy Boyagoda paints Richard John Neuhaus as an unusually ambitious and politically engaged priest as public intellectual—but is his narrative too tidy?

Bookmarks | How Racism Speaks

Claudia Rankine’s 'Citizen' and Jeffery Renard Allen’s 'Song of the Shank' both take up the issue of race in America in jagged and beautiful poetry and prose.

The Wisdom of the Beguines

Swan’s book does a good job of explaining both the beguines’ spiritual practices in the context of their own times and how their continuing legacy affects us today.

Commonweal Interviews

Featuring the best of our interviews—including Woody Allen, Jorge Luis Borges, Mary Gordon, (Sister) Elizabeth McAlister, Christian Wiman, and Mario Cuomo...

Harper Lee Leaves the Club

Even if her new novel gives us pleasure, shouldn't we be able to remember Harper Lee as a member of one of the most unusual groupings in literary history?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Anne Enright's new novel suggests something simple—family, for good or ill, keeps forming us even when we try to escape it—but her prose constantly surprises.

An Unlikely Union

Paul Moses's history of Irish-Italian relations in 19th century New York delves into the causes for "race war" between the immigrant groups and how they overcame it.

'James Merrill: Life and Art'

Langdon Hammer's biography of poet and writer James Merrill is "wholly definitive" in scope, and threaded throughout with Merrill’s brilliant, always enlivening wit.

Runyon's Way

If you ask me, being a writer is a little like falling in love. No matter how uncomplicated it seems at the start, it is always complicated. The trick is to persist.
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