Marking an historical moment, and some links

June 22, 2021

It's June 22nd.  Eighty years ago today, Nazi Germany and its allies invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, inaugurating what would be--if it were considered its own conflict--among the three or four bloodiest wars in human history.  Somewhere around forty million people died in it, among them at least ten million children.  The political geography of the world was modified by it, and the economic and demographic geography of the USSR was modified as well.  The psychological cost is still being reckoned, as the desperation of the war still marks everything that Vladimir Putin does in geopolitics.  

If you don't know about the war, I recommend Chris Bellamy's Absolute Warwhich is horrific but comprehensive and readable.  For vivid literary representations, I recommend Vasily Grossman's Life and Fate, and also Curzio Malaparte's Kaputt.  There are much more, but that should be enough to get going.


Along with that, here are some links:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is in an online fracas right now about friendship, ally ship, and what are the acceptable bounds of difference and disagreement.  As usual, on social media no one is at their best.  The essay is pretty astounding, too.


How much do you know about the infrastructure of the Internet?  Or even more basically: what is the internet?  This piece makes me want to think more about this totally essential, totally opaque (to me) infrastructure of our everyday lives.  I suppose I’ll begin with Andrew Blum’s Tubes from 2012.


So some of this is maddening, and the author gets very upset at stuff that probably shouldn’t provoke him as much has it does, and he seems to confuse Tom Nagel with Bernard Williams, or so I think; but there’s a lot here, in the over-heated and at times obscure fury of this prose, to think with.


Good life advice for academics here, and maybe parts of it are generalizable beyond academics.


Very cool: a collection of Old Assyrian letters, by women, mostly to their husbands or male relatives acting as their commercial agents.  As the author says, Assyrians had relatively high literacy rates, so many of these letters could have been actually written—not just dictated—by their authoresses. 


Interesting conceptualization of current geopolitics: “What makes Biden’s job complex is the fact that our era of competition is fundamentally different from the Cold War, thanks to the high level of interdependence between democracies and autocracies, especially China.”


Nice interview with Cville’s own (and UVA’s own) Jamelle Bouie.


Be well, everyone.