Ara H. Merjian

  • culture June 13, 2016

    On Pier Paolo Pasolini's "The Long Road of Sand"

    Setting out in his Fiat 1100 from the Ligurian coast in June of 1959, Pier Paolo Pasolini spent the next couple months wending his way around Italy’s seemingly endless shoreline. His spirited travelogue was illustrated with shots by the photographer Paolo di Paolo of chaises longues and beachside cafés, the holiday jet-set and throngs of teenagers clad in swimwear. A notoriously heretical Marxist and sworn enemy of modernity, Pasolini calls to mind anything but the bourgeois trappings of “success.” Yet here, just as the country’s post-war “economic miracle” picks up steam, we find him reveling in those countless pockets of dialect and regional culture that still marked the peninsula’s coast

    Setting out in his Fiat 1100 from the Ligurian coast in June of 1959, Pier Paolo Pasolini spent the next couple months wending his way around Italy’s seemingly endless shoreline, arriving—at summer’s end—in the northeastern seaport of Trieste, not far from the Slovenian border. Commissioned by the magazine Successo, Pasolini’s spirited travelogue appeared in successive issues, illustrated with shots by the photographer Paolo di Paolo of chaises longues and beachside cafés, the holiday jet-set and throngs of teenagers clad in swimwear. Expertly translated by Stephen Sartarelli (whose renderings

  • culture December 24, 2013

    Inferno by Dan Brown

    In his latest thriller, Dan Brown’s use of Dante amounts to a pleasurable and intelligent narrative device, one that sheds less on the original Inferno than on our own projections onto its millennial verse. But what Brown loses in literary innovation here, he gains in contemporary relevance.

    Dan Brown’s new thriller takes its title from the first book of Dante’s Divine Comedy. While that epic poem and its author’s native Florence provide the novel with its geographic, aesthetic, and literary backdrop, a less-celebrated work bears equally upon the narrative’s thread. Brown might just as well have titled his book The Principle of Population, in homage to early-nineteenth-century demographer Thomas Robert Malthus, whose polemical theories on world population spur the machinations of Brown’s bad guy, Bertrand Zobrist. A kind of mad genetic scientist, Zobrist is hell-bent (quite literally)

  • culture April 20, 2012

    Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History by Robert Hughes

    Robert Hughes brings an impressive erudition to bear upon his biography of Rome, tracing the city’s rise from a patchwork foundation of local tribes to the site of La Dolce Vita. Sprawling subjects are Hughes’s specialty: His reputation as a prominent art and cultural critic rests on a series of expansive tomes, from American Visions: Epic History of Art in America to The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding, and Rome itself is subdivided into prodigious chunks on the Augustan age and the later Empire to the Grand Tour and Fascism. From mythical origins to caput mundi, from a