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Cecily Cecily

Writing Worth Reading

Covering The Islamic State

Sensible practice note for writers and editors on how to cover the Islamic State without giving militants the blood-curdling publicity they evidently crave. Rule of thumb: Tell, don’t show. Don’t republish beheading videos, do make use of the information they contain. Preserve the dignity of the victim. “We do not broadcast staged scenes of violence”. Is that censorship? No. People can find the images easily elsewhere (1,880 words)

Their Methods Were Not Gentle

Diary of a visit to Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, a French invention racked for the past year by ethnic and religious civil war. “In the deserted VIP lounge perched above Bangui M’Poko International Airport’s lone runway, the clock is dead at twenty past two, the bottles are covered in dust, there’s no one present but me and my travel companion and a man behind the bar who stirs up Nescafe” (1,580 words)

How Gangs Took Over Prisons Pick of the day

Jaw-dropping throughout. The political economy of American prison gangs, explained with the help of sociologist David Skarbek, who is rightly described here as “a treasury of horrifying anecdotes about human depravity and ingenuity”. The gangs “impose responsibility on everyone”. They discipline their members. They keep one another in check. “There’s like 30 knives out there right now. Hidden up their rectums” (5,190 words)

The Writer And The Valet

Beautifully written, thrilling account of the publication of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Pasternak gave a manuscript to Isaiah Berlin. Did Berlin smuggle it out of Russia himself — or give it to the British ambassador for the diplomatic bag? The latter would explain “how the Foreign Office was able to copy the typescript and hand it over to MI6, which delivered it to the CIA, with dreadful consequences for Pasternak” (5,940 words)

Translating A Novel Of Sadism

Alain Robbe-Grillet’s last work, A Sentimental Novel, was a catalogue of “sadistic fantasies” about “the sexual initiation of a fourteen-year-old girl”, so unusually shocking that for five years it failed to find an English translator and an American publisher. The eventual translator used the pseudonym “D.E. Moore”. But why translate such a thing at all? In this short interview “Moore” mounts a surprisingly strong defence (1,670 words)

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