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.


A burned building is seen after a recent forest fire on May 1, 2015 in Lubyanka, a village in the Chernobyl zone. Firefighters nearly extinguished a forest fire near Chernobyl plant, which came within about 20 kilometres (12 miles) of Chernobyl after breaking out on April 28, 2015, but officials said it posed no danger to the plant and radiation levels in the zone remained unchanged. AFP PHOTO / ANATOLII STEPANOV (Photo credit should read ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images)

“On Chernobyl” by Svetlana Alexievich, n+1

An oral history of the disaster.

But my real child is the museum: the Chernobyl Museum. [He is silent.] Sometimes I think that we’ll have a funeral parlor here, not a museum. I serve on the funeral committee. This morning I haven’t even taken off my coat when a woman comes in, she’s crying, not even crying but yelling: “Take his medals and his certificates! Take all the benefits! Give me my husband!” She yelled a long time. And left his medals, his certificates. Well, they’ll be in the museum, on display. People can look at them. But her cry, no one heard her cry but me, and when I put these certificates on display I’ll remember it.

London, UNITED KINGDOM: Broadcaster and historian David Starkey holds a pair of rusted iron "castratori" during the launch of a new exhibition at Handel House Museum in London 28 March 2006. The scissor-like instruments were used to castrate boys as young as eight in the mid-16th-century to preserve their voices. The exhibition Handel and the Castrati tells the stories of the castrati singers who worked for Handel, how they were chosen at an early age, their intensive training, celebrated performances and adulation with which they were received. AFP PHOTO ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

“Ravishing” by Colm Tóibín, London Review of Books

On the sex lives of the castrati.

This means, of course, that castrating a boy, in the years when it began, didn’t have the same implications as it did, say, in the 18th and 19th centuries. ‘Castrating a boy before puberty,’ Freitas writes, ‘did not throw his sex, in the modern sense, into question. It merely froze him within the middle ground of the sexual hierarchy.’ From this middle ground he could have a great deal of fun and wield a good deal of influence. It is also important to remember, in this context, that same-sex relations did not have the same meaning as they would later come to have. Feldman stresses the fact that ‘evidence gathered by early modern historians makes it look more and more as if same-sex relations among men were almost as prevalent in early modern Italy as what James Davidson … calls “inter-sex relations”.’

Buffalo, UNITED STATES: View of the holding cell 14 November 2006 of his newly painted Dallas County jail with the color scheme of pink with blue teddy bear accents in Buffalo, Missouri. The Dallas County Detention Center is being repainted a soft shade of pink in an effort to better manage sometimes volatile detainees. Sheriff Mike Rackley said he decided to update the look as part of extensive repairs necessary after inmates set a fire and vandalized the interior in an escape attempt 08 October 2006. AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

Online Dating Made This Woman a Pawn in a Global Crime Plot” by Brendan I. Koerner, Wired

Audrey Elrod thought she had found the man of her dreams. Today she is in a West Virginia prison. She’s broke. And the court has ordered her to pay more than $400,000 to victims of the same man who conned her.

Elrod and McGregor were soon chatting online for more than 12 hours a day. McGregor often talked about the agony of losing his wife, Susan, who he said had died in a car accident in Edinburgh in 2003. But he’d refused to let that tragedy destroy his joie de vivre, as evidenced by the many photographs he shared with Elrod: When he wasn’t working on North Sea oil rigs, he enjoyed reading classic novels, playing with his tiger-striped tabby cat, and strumming a heart-shaped guitar.

BATH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: A Bentley car is parked in front of property in the historic Royal Crescent on January 16, 2015 in Bath, England. Although house prices are among the highest in the UK the average earnings, are in contrast, among the lowest in England and with the average house price now rising to £300,000, it means that house prices are on average ten times annual incomes. Along with health and the economy, perceived inequalities in wealth are likely to be a key election issue. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

“How Two Guys Lost God and Found $40 Million” by Zeke Faux, Businessweek

They were raised Hasidic in Brooklyn. Now Abe Zeines and Meir Hurwitz live a decadent, booze-filled life in Puerto Rico. They are in their early 30s and rich enough to retire, while Wall Street is busy adopting the shady loan scheme they pioneered.

For Zeines and Hurwitz, their time in the promised land has turned out to be a little disappointing. Given the things they’ve seen, life’s long since lost the ability to surprise. With a pound of lox as a housewarming gift, I’ve come to their tax-haven sex mansion to hear their improbable story—how two sons of an ultrareligious Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn witnessed the birth of a new kind of lending, made a fortune, and then saw it all come to an end. Not in the form of an FBI raid, but with Wall Street bankers paying millions to take over the action.


“The Men Who Pretend to Be Syrian Refugees” by Susannah George, Foreign Policy

People washing ashore on the Greek island of Lesbos are trying to pass themselves off as Syrian to win a new life in Europe — and overworked officials are struggling to determine who’s telling the truth.

“Are you originally from Iraq, maybe?” the officer asked. After some whispered words with his wife and brother, the man explained that, yes, his family is Iraqi, but they had lived in Syria for many years.

At a registration center that processes more than 1,000 people a day, there is at most a single Arabic speaker present. In the afternoon, after Frontex agents and NGO workers head home at 2 p.m., there are none. The vast majority of the processing is handled by local policemen and civil servants who have been pulled away from their desk jobs at local municipalities and who are ill-equipped to judge whether a new arrival is actually from where they say they are.

Photo credits: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images; ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images; JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images; Matt Cardy/Getty Images; ACHILLEAS ZAVALLIS/AFP/Getty Images


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