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Welcome to the June/July issue: Editor’s Letter

Welcome to the June/July issue

June/July 2016

There are two ways of seeing, and writing about, the world: one is to focus on the shape of the wood, and the other to look at individual trees. The Economist, our sister publication, mostly does the first. It views the world essentially in terms of big issues – the great forces of technology and economics that determine how we live. 1843 is more interested in the trees – the individuals who affect those forces, either because their jobs, wealth or ideas enable them to do so, or because they are prepared to put themselves on the line.

In this issue we feature three such people. The most extraordinary is Petr Pavlensky, the Russian artist pictured on the cover. He’s unusual first in that he continues to protest against Vladimir Putin’s abuse of human rights in Russia when most have given up; secondly, in that his medium is not paint or metal or video, but his own body. He wounds himself publicly, on one occasion nailing his scrotum to Red Square, on another cutting part of his ear off – doing worse things to himself than the state can do – in what he regards as the ultimate expression of individual power. He was imprisoned in a mental asylum and then in jail, whence he corresponded with Noah Sneider, who has written about him in a way that is at once painful and funny. Pavlensky confounds the state: whatever it does to him, he is bound to win, for his desire to be punished makes it impossible to punish him.

It is hard to imagine a life more different from Petr Pavlensky’s than Eva Longoria’s. She is rich, successful and adored by the film industry and the public. What she has in common with Pavlensky is a passionate determination to bring about political change. Brought up comfortable and protected in south Texas, she learned slowly about the powerful effect race can have on American lives, and, as David Rennie discovered when he spent time with her in Los Angeles (it wasn’t his worst assignment ever), she is determined that her fellow Hispanics’ voices should be heard in the upcoming presidential election. Since Hispanics are much less inclined to vote than either blacks or whites, getting them to the polls is a challenge – which Longoria is taking on energetically.

Who is Boris Johnson? One answer is that he is the politician who is leading the campaign to pull Britain out of the European Union; another is that he is the current front-runner to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister; a third is that he is a bumbling, funny politician whose improbable popularity – he is an Etonian in a class-conscious country that tolerates but does not much like the posh people who currently run it – arises from his reliable tendency to say outrageous things and put his foot in it. Boris seems to have an authenticity that others lack. But is he really an authentic politician? Jeremy Cliffe suspects that he is playing an exaggerated version of himself – he is “Boris” rather than Boris – and that the audience knows it and indulges in its complicity.

I hope you enjoy these insights and the many other delights we are bringing to you in our second issue of 1843: the best fish sauce in the world (from Vietnam), Belle-Île-en-Mer (the nicest place to holiday in France), an architect with an unusual take on modern mosques (in Istanbul), the rise of female comedians, the best car interiors, the disappointing performance of smartwatches, and much more – including Adrian Wooldridge, who always has the last word, and is very cross about the class war being waged in the world’s airport lounges.

Emma Duncan

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