Longform’s Picks of the Week

Longform’s Picks of the Week

Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.

The Smartest Girls in the Room
Bernard Lagan • The Global Mail

How an obscure Australian judge and a hard-charging lawyer put the S&P on trial for the global financial collapse.

These are two very different women — on different sides of the law. One is a reserved, bookish judge, the other an elegant, dogged lawyer. And when Banton took her second case involving the sale of complex investments – this time the work of the Dutch investment banking behemoth ABN Amro — to court in Sydney late last year, Justice Jagot drew the case.

The hearing would take 13 weeks, involve 40,000 documents, 17 different parties and a brace of lawyers in Jagot’s muffled, faux wood-panelled court room above Queen Square in Sydney. She would eventually write a judgment longer than the 587,287 words of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Its effect would be as profound within the shrouded world of the international financial-ratings agencies as Tolstoy’s work was on literature.


Supreme Being
Samanth Subramanian • The Caravan

On Samir Jain, the draconian publisher who created India’s modern newspaper industry.

Samir Jain evokes, from those who have known him, a bewildering assortment of reactions. Some cannot be critical enough, either of him as or of his stewardship of his newspapers. One former editor started out talking about Jain civilly enough, but he rediscovered so many buried grievances over the next 90 minutes that he became, by the end of our conversation, a spluttering Roman candle of invective. (Not surprisingly, he too asked to remain anonymous: “I don’t want all the legal weight of the fucking Times of India jumping on me.”) Others swear affection to him, saying that Jain is unfairly maligned; they recount stories of his generosity and his razor-keen intelligence. Still others stud their narratives with caveats and assertions and counter-assertions and sentences that begin: “He’s a very difficult man to know, but…” The complexity of these responses is to be expected, because it matches the complexity of the turmoil he has sown, single-handed, in Indian journalism. “The entire newspaper industry in this country since the 1990s,” Chandan Mitra, editor of The Pioneer, told me, “is essentially the creation of Samir Jain.”

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Waiting for the Rain
Peter Chilson • Foreign Policy

Since Islamist rebels overthrew the Malian government in March, the Dogon people in the country’s highlands have been waiting in worry, hoping that the war won’t reach them.

Yet Mali was not yet a campaign issue on May 8 when I drove into Bandiagara in late afternoon with Isaac Sagara, a Dogon friend who grew up in a Christian family in a village just below the plateau. Isaac was guiding me on a trip along the edge of Mali’s northern zone, a strange new borderland that no one has quite figured out how to draw on a map. Some news agency maps show Mali cut in half along a razor-straight line that runs from west to east, while others show a wavier division, with the new border sloping off to the northeast roughly parallel to the Bandiagara cliffs. In any case, Mali, shaped like a top-heavy hourglass, is today divided at the narrow middle. Bandiagara sits square on the border between what remains of Mali’s tattered government in the south and jihadi control in the north.

OLLO HIEN/AFP/Getty Images

Basketball Diaries, Afghanistan
Peretz Partensky • n+1

Even a regional basketball tournament can bring out nationalist infighting in a country still deeply divided.

Kandahar is a southern Pashtun stronghold, and its players did not look particularly ready. They were either very fat or very thin. They carried themselves with the air of grownups wearing shorts for the first time. One of the players refused to shake my hand. The captain, who spoke broken English, explained politely, “He thinks you are a foreign infidel.”

The team from the western province of Herat, near Afghanistan’s border with Iran, actually looked like a basketball team. They were tall, athletic, healthy, and walked with the cocky swagger of the jocks in my high school. With a hint of resentment in his voice, Najib told me that they were Farsiwans, ethnically similar to the Persians of eastern Iran. They were the only team with corporate sponsorship.


Oscar Niemeyer, Architect Who Gave Brasilia Its Flair, Dies at 104
Nicolai Ouroussoff • New York Times

On the life and times of the influential Modernist architect.

“Brazil lost today one of its geniuses,” Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, said in a statement issued Wednesday night. “Few dreamed so intensely, and accomplished so much, as he did.” Allied with the far left for most of his life, he suffered career setbacks during the rule of Brazil’s right-wing military dictatorships of the 1960s and ’70s, and he was barred from working in the United States during much of the cold war. As Modernism later came under attack for its sometimes dogmatic approach to history, his works were marginalized.