Longform’s Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

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624767_120831_spetersburg1.jpg

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.

Shattered Genius
Brett Forrest • Playboy

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 Longforms new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.

Shattered Genius
Brett Forrest • Playboy

Grigori Perelman solved a mathematical problem that others had said was impossible, and then disappeared into obscurity in St. Petersburg.

“Perelman had truly suffered, acutely. He withstood a claim—since refutedon his Poincaré proof from a rival Chinese mathematician. He turned down the Fields Medal, believing that acceptance would be, as Rukshin explained, fundamentally dishonest. Perelman once rebuffed a TV crew from Russia’s Channel One when they barged through his apartment door, pushing aside his mother. He withstood the procrastination of the Clay Mathematics Institute, which took its sweet timefive yearsto offer him the $1 million it had committed to the person who solved the Poincaré. ‘Grisha is tortured by the imperfection of humanity,’ Rukshin said.”

Harry Engels/Getty Images

Magical Thinking
Nellie Bowles • Foreign Policy

A rare look inside Swaziland’s mysterious annual kingship ceremony and brewing protest movement.

“‘The rest of the world keeps saying we should have democracy, and we agree,’ Vusie Majola, who runs a nonprofit, said. ‘But what they don’t understand is that the king, he can point a stick at you and you die. We are dealing with someone whose power the world can’t understand.'”

WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images

In Search of the Living, Purring, Singing Heart of the Online Cat-Industrial Complex
Gideon Lewis-Kraus • Wired

Exploring the bizarre relationship between cats and the Internet in Japan.

“Marx and I watch a few new cat videos, some of the up-and-comers, those challenging or exceeding Maru’s pageviews. ‘An interesting thing, here in Japan, is that it’s not just the cat partners who post cat stuff. It’s everybody.’ Soezimax, for example, is an action-film maker, one of the most popular partners in Japan, with millions of views. But some of his most popular videos are the ones he posts of the fights he has with his girlfriend’s vicious cat, Sashimi-san, who regularly puts Soezimax to rout. He’s the anti-Maru, the standard-bearer of uncute Internet cat aggression. The videos are slightly alarming, especially when we’re all so used to anodyne felinity. Then Marx brings up Japan’s most popular Internet comedian, who used to post regular videos of himself in a cat café. (In Japan, they have cafés where you go to pet cats.)

‘It’s like,’ Marx says, ‘no matter how successful you are here on the Internet on your own terms, it’s de rigueur that you still have to do something with a cat.’ In a culture of Internet anonymity, bred of island claustrophobia and immobility, the Japanese Internet cat has become a crucial proxy: People who feel inhibited to do what they want online are expressing themselves, cagily, via the animal that only ever does what it wants.

Junko Kimura/Getty Images

Tracing Back Syria’s Chemical Weapons Stockpile to the Gulf War
Ronen Bergman • Al-Monitor

Taking an inventory of Assad’s chemical weapons.

“Anyone who tries to just approach Al-Safir will encounter, many kilometers away from the site, the first checkpoint, which is just an introduction to a string of checkpoints and thorough checks that anyone seeking to enter the site will undergo. The area is heavily guarded by elite ground forces that belong to the Air Force and are considered the most loyal to the regime and to the president. To this day, they have experienced very few defections.”

MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images

Voice of the New Global Elite
Aram Bakashian, Jr. • The National Interest

How the Economist has outlived the British Empire to become the “premiere world wide newsweekly for the new global elite.”

“[I]t has never tried to be anything other than itself: a literate, informed (and occasionally smug) publication aimed at a literate, informed (and occasionally smug) readership. First published in 1843, which makes it eighty years older than Time and ninety years older than Newsweek, the Economist remains true to the statement of purpose printed in its first issue, still proudly run each week at the foot of its contents page: a pledge of commitment to the ‘severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.'”

PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Have a favorite piece that we missed? Leave the link in the comments or tweet it to @longform. For more great writing, check out Longforms complete archive.

J. Dana Stuster is a policy analyst at the National Security Network. Twitter: @jdanastuster

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