From the ed­i­tor

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents -

IT’S a great priv­i­lege to re­turn to Re­view as ed­i­tor. As ever, this is­sue is brim­ming over with stim­u­lat­ing read­ing, from our cover story — Ge­ordie Wil­liamson’s cry in the wilder­ness for our lost lit­er­ary master­pieces — to Lyn­den Bar­ber’s jour­ney into the shaky world of hand-held cin­e­matog­ra­phy, from Camille Paglia’s thought­pro­vok­ing essay on the state of the visual arts to Iain Shed­den’s in­ter­view with Amer­i­can singer­song­writer Beck. The arts, it is clear, are just as lively as when I de­parted this role in 2009 to move to the Mid­dle East. In two years liv­ing and trav­el­ling in that re­gion, I gained un­ex­pected and ex­hil­a­rat­ing in­sights into life in the Arab world. I was sur­prised, for in­stance, by the en­ergy and ex­cite­ment of its con­tem­po­rary cul­ture, par­tic­u­larly in the visual arts and among writ­ers, film­mak­ers and stand-up co­me­di­ans. I also wit­nessed first­hand the hope­ful­ness and tragedy of the Arab Spring. Luck­ily, it was still pos­si­ble to travel widely in Syria, to visit its great cities Da­m­as­cus and Aleppo, and an­cient sites such as Palmyra. The loss of life there is an af­front to hu­man­ity and I wept when I watched the re­cent footage of Aleppo’s vi­brant 17th-cen­tury souk go­ing up in flames, saw pic­tures of its dam­aged ci­tadel and read an ac­count of Syr­ian tanks parked in the Ro­man colon­nade at Apamea. We can­not be re­minded too of­ten how for­tu­nate we are to live in a peace­ful democ­racy where ideas can be freely de­bated, books pub­lished, films screened, con­ver­sa­tion en­joyed. When I vis­ited Bahrain last month, friends were al­ways look­ing over their shoul­der to see who else might be lis­ten­ing. I see Re­view’s role as en­gag­ing read­ers in a cel­e­bra­tion of the arts, books and ideas in all their forms — and our free­dom to en­joy them.

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