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.
“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.
“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”.’
“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.
“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