Longform’s Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

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623918_120921_Cuba1.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.

Where Is Cuba Going? by John Jeremiah Sullivan, the New York Times. 

A nation's uncertain future.

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.

Where Is Cuba Going? by John Jeremiah Sullivan, the New York Times. 

A nation’s uncertain future.

Ten years ago the only Asian faces you might have seen were in Chinatown — there is one in Havana, Barrio Chino, several square blocks of ostensibly Chinese restaurants and faded signs with lanterns and pagodas on them, a neighborhood left behind by thousands of Chinese agricultural workers who arrived in the 19th century, and where very occasionally you might still see Asian features. These guys — all men, I saw no women — seemed dressed as inconspicuously as possible, loosefitting light-blue jeans and generic polo shirts and sunglasses. The bartender told me that they were here to do business. China was doing “bastante de negocios” in Cuba these days, including in oil, he said. At that moment a Chinese-made exploratory rig sat about 30 miles off the northern coast. We would be able to see it, he said, driving along the main highway.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus by Ariel Sabar, Smithsonian.

A 1,600-year-old fragment of a Coptic gospel suggests that Jesus, long believed to be celibate, was a married man.

“What this shows,” she continued, “is that there were early Christians for whom that was simply not the case, who could understand indeed that sexual union in marriage could be an imitation of God’s creativity and generativity and it could be spiritually proper and appropriate.”

In her paper, King speculates that the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” may have been tossed on the garbage heap not because the papyrus was worn or damaged, but “because the ideas it contained flowed so strongly against the ascetic currents of the tides in which Christian practices and understandings of marriage and sexual intercourse were surging.”

MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

Long Walk From Freedom: Mandela’s Grandchildren and a New South Africa by Douglas Foster, The Atlantic.

As the country still struggles to attain the ideals pursued in a revolution nearly 20 years past, Mandla Mandela returns to his grandfather’s rural home village and its traditionalist values.

“This whole friction is erupting out of modernity,” Mandela explained, in a rather vague reference to arguments he had had with his wife on the subject. It seemed to me that this was an updated version of the trouble many people had in reconciling the ways of the village with the ways of the city. Mandla Mandela, like Jacob Zuma, regularly shuttled between upcountry spots, where traditional authority held sway, and the most cosmopolitan settings in the country, where identity was mutable and diffuse. If you traveled frequently between villages like Nkandla and Mvezo to cities like Durban, Cape Town, and Johannesburg, it was hard to believe that Chief Mandela wasn’t merely keening for the idea of a village already lost and longing for a way of life that had never been.

RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images

‘Moral’ Robots by Don Troop, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The debate over the ethics of autonomous lethal drones.

If there is any point of agreement between Mr. Arkin and his critics, it is this: Lethal autonomous systems are already inching their way into the battle space, and the time to discuss them is now. The difference is that while Mr. Arkin wants such conversations to result in a plan for research and governance of these weapons, his most ardent opponents want them banned outright, before they contribute to what one calls “the juggernaut of developing more and more advanced weaponry.”

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Among the Alawites by Nir Rosen, London Review of Books.

The Alawite minority in Syria, to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs, is growing more concerned about the sectarian dimension of the civil war, and what will follow.

Historically, Alawites stood so far at the margins of Islam that Assad the elder had to ‘Islamise’ them in order to be accepted as the ruler of Syria by its Sunni majority. Alawites regard themselves as more ‘liberal’ and secular than mainstream Muslims. They point to their use of alcohol, the Western dress codes of Alawite women and their freer interaction with men. Sometimes they disparage the more conservative Sunnis. They remember the Muslim Brotherhood uprising of the 1980s as a time of sectarian violence in which the regime crushed terrorists; Sunnis think of it as a time of regime brutality during which they were collectively targeted. These days it’s hard to find a Sunni member of the opposition who didn’t lose an uncle or have a father or grandfather imprisoned in the crackdown that followed.

ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images

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