The curious career of Maximilian Schell ended last month when he died at the age of 83. Maximilian Schell was most famous for playing Nazis. But he spent the other half of his career playing Jews. After the Second World War, there was no shortage of film and television roles for German-speaking actors. An actor could play, for instance, the classic psychopathic wartime Nazi; the quiet concealed postwar Nazi; the subversive Nazi; the sympathetic confused Nazi; the hilarious bumbling Nazi. The world could not satisfy its hunger for watching Nazis onscreen. We wanted to see them cross-examined, punished, caught in the act. We wanted to bear witness to them, see them doing anything at all — shine their shoes, perform the most unexceptional tasks. We wanted to see the Jews too — brave, downtrodden and then, in later years, compromised, lost. Maximilian Schell had everything the roles required — he… More…

When we think of Louis-Ferdinand Céline, the first thing that comes to mind is his masterful Journey to the End of the Night. After that, we maybe remember he was a frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Semite.

Hunger by Knut Hamsun. 240 pages. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $16.

Ernst Jünger, the German writer, remembered in his journal the typical conversation to be had with Céline: “He said how surprised he was that, as soldiers, we do not shoot, we do not hang, we do not exterminate the Jews — he is astonished that someone in possession of a bayonet does not make unlimited use of it.”

It wasn’t just his charming conversation — as recounted in Alan Riding’s And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris, Céline also wrote propaganda pamphlets, dedicated one of his books to the hangman’s noose used… More…

“If you were going to be in the country another day I’d have arranged a press conference,” said the Information Minister. We were to depart the next morning — anyone not from Sudan was advised to leave by then. “After that,” an Australian minesweeper told us, “you are on your own.” Perhaps he was trying to scare me, but I had noticed that our hotel, full of drunken ex-pats only the night before, was steadily clearing out.

 

We sat side-by-side on leather couches in the VIP room of the Juba Airport, as Riek Machar, vice president of the government of South Sudan, confessed that translating Nuer poetry into English had been a dream of his. Now he was accepting a book of Nuer poetry given to him by my companion, the American poet and novelist Terese Svoboda. She had… More…

I have never known my husband without his beard, a fact that disturbed me in the early years of our relationship. What was he hiding: a weak chin, a saber scar, a slothful nature, a psychological need for a barrier between himself and the world? But as time passed, I no longer felt the need to ask these questions. I now know my husband, and the beard is part of who he is. This seems to me to relate to the question that the anthropologist Gregory Bateson raised about the old man with the cane: Where does the one end and the other begin? Impossible to say, Bateson concluded, since the two cannot be functionally separated. A beard may seem less functional than a cane, but the choice to grow a beard has a function, though it may not be singular or simply articulated.