Longform’s Picks of the Week
The best stories from around the world.
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.
Michael Paterniti • GQ
In 2011, just before Christmas, a tiny Spanish town won 120 million Euros in the lottery. A trip to the new Sodeto.
The first blinding glare of fortune is like a truth serum. Everyone is stripped and stunned by the honesty of the moment. Luck is childhood again, in the garden naked and innocent. How could this be? And then, arm in arm, hugging: Santos cojones, how many tickets did you have?
Seven. One. Five. He has twelve. She, fifteen. She’s worth 2 million; he, 600,000; she, 100,000.
The Housewives, it turns out, sold tickets totaling 120 million euros in winnings, manna from heaven.
Costis arrives, just out of bed, head shaved, in glasses, filming with his camera.
How many? they yell at him, delirious. How many? And he doesn’t understand the question at first. He doesn’t really understand any of it, the enormity of it. He doesn’t play the lottery. And so, great, you won 1,000 euros. Isn’t this dancing-in-the-streets overreaching a little?
Tickets, Costis, how many tickets do you have?
Why would I have any tickets? he says.
DANI POZO/AFP/Getty Images
Philippe Sands • The Financial Times
Horst von Wächter confronts-and rationalizes-a difficult family legacy.
The last time Horst saw his father was in 1948, around Christmas. He remembered a man with a moustache who visited at night, but recalled no conversation, or any real connection. This made his desire to rehabilitate Otto even more incomprehensible.
“My whole life is dominated by him,” Horst offered. After the war the family was ostracised even in Salzburg, and this caused a great feeling of insecurity and led to a recurring question: “Was my father really a criminal?” In the face of overwhelming evidence he was unable to confront the reality.
It was plain that Horst had developed various techniques to sanitise the facts. There was a distinction between Wächter and the system, between the individual and the group. “I know that the whole system was criminal,” Horst says, “and that he was part of it, but I don’t think he was a criminal. He didn’t act like a criminal.”
Dexter Filkins • The New Yorker
Inside the White House debate over Syria.
With the rebels mounting attacks throughout the country, the President’s professed objective has been unchanged: a negotiated settlement that removes Assad from office. The Administration is providing nonlethal aid, like food and medical supplies, to the rebels, and substantial assistance to the Syrian political opposition. Contrary to its own rhetoric, it is also secretly providing limited military support. According to American and Middle Eastern officials, C.I.A. operatives are training small numbers of Syrians to train other rebels, and are passing on time-sensitive intelligence that the rebels can use to attack Assad’s forces. For months, the President has hoped that this strategy would break the stalemate on the ground and force the regime to negotiate. Now, with growing pressure on Obama to react to reports of chemical weapons, his aides say that they are considering providing greater support, including military hardware. “We are on an upward trajectory,” the senior White House official told me.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Eve Fairbanks • Moment
Why the integration of a South African university didn’t last.
Racing alongside the group, Ramahlele wasn’t truly worried until he rounded the corner and saw, under the starlight, a line of white boys at least as long as his line of black students, standing shoulder-to-shoulder. “It looked like an army flank,” he remembered. The whites were also holding cricket bats, cocked on their shoulders like rifles. Unlike his students, they were eerily silent-until, all as one, they opened their mouths and began to sing. The song was Die Stem, the old apartheid-era national anthem.
Ramahlele’s heart sank. He felt as though he might cry. “The history,” he explained, “is if they’re singing that, somebody is going to die.”
STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images
Christian Caryl • Foreign Policy
In an excerpt from his new book, Caryl takes us back to China in 1979 and the birth of an economic miracle.
As the Cultural Revolution played out, the overwhelming majority of students stayed where they were assigned, which usually meant wasting their best years tilling the land in remote agricultural communes. Rong did not. Sent out to the countryside in 1969, he snuck away as soon as he had the chance. He spent the next decade dodging the police and living from odd jobs, such as drawing and tutoring. He lived with friends, moving from place to place. In December 1978, back in Guangzhou but still on the run, he heard a radio broadcast publicizing the results of the historic Third Plenum in Beijing, the meeting that sealed the triumph of Deng’s pragmatic course of economic reform. Like millions of other Chinese, Rong understood that something fundamentally transformative was under way — and that included an opening for entrepreneurship. “I knew this policy would last because Chinese people would want to get rich,” as he later put it. In January 1979, he decided that he would be one of the first to take a chance.