Ratik Asokan

  • Complex Messiah

    Heinrich von Kleist died by his own hand at the age of thirty-four. For a man whose life was plagued by failure, his suicide was a remarkable success. On November 20, 1811, two months after turning his eighth play over to the Prussian censors, Kleist and his friend Henriette Vogel retired to an inn outside Berlin, where for one night and one day they sang and prayed, composed final letters, and downed bottles of rum and wine (as well as, the London Times later reported, sixteen cups of coffee) before making their way to the banks of the Kleiner Wannsee. In these idyllic surroundings, as per

  • Borderline Cases

    “I’d been here three days already, and was tired of selling newspapers . . . and so yesterday I took the plunge.” This is Roberto, a Dominican migrant in Mexico, and he’s not speaking metaphorically. Roberto plunged into the Rio Grande (out of hope? boredom?). He even made it across. But he saw police lights at the US border, reports Óscar Martínez in The Beast (2013), his chronicle of Mexico’s migrant trail. So Roberto jumped back in the river. “I was too tired then and I almost drowned.” If his survival seems remarkable, his trip itself is not. Every year, per the Center for Border Studies

  • culture May 27, 2016

    God Is Round by Juan Villoro

    In “The Cartridge Family,” an old Simpsons episode, there’s a joke about the seeming impossibility of soccer ever becoming popular in the US. We are at an American soccer stadium, and a foreign commentator is off his seat, announcing the match with near-manic enthusiasm. All you see on the field, however, are three players drably passing the ball back and forth at the halfway line. The contrast was meant to evoke the average American’s bewilderment at this “new” sport (of course, many European teams date back to the nineteenth century). But it also touched on a deeper and more widely held

  • culture March 21, 2016

    Something Will Happen, You’ll See by Christos Ikonomou

    In “Go Out and Burn Them,” one of the standout stories in Greek writer Christos Ikonomou’s Something Will Happen, You’ll See, a bereaved widower is found climbing into a public trash bin. “Any man who lets his wife die like that,” he tells the passerby who stops him, “deserves to go out with the trash. They can pick me up and recycle me, maybe I’ll come out a more useful man.” It’s a striking expression of guilt, but also a rather absurd one—there was nothing that the widower, Sofronis babra-Tasos, could have done to save his wife. She had a form of cancer that no doctor in Greece could treat.