Subscribe to The Atlantic and get 2 free issues

Danse Macabre

A history of politics and betrayal at Russia's Bolshoi Ballet—and an investigation into the acid attack on Bolshoi artistic director Sergei Filin:

"The liquid was sulfuric acid—the “oil of vitriol,” as medieval alchemists called it. Depending on the concentration, it can lay waste to human skin as quickly as in a horror movie. Scientists working with sulfuric acid wear protective goggles; even a small amount in the eyes can destroy the cornea and cause permanent blindness.

"Filin was in agony. The burning was immediate and severe. His vision turned to black. He could feel the scalding of his face and scalp, the pain intensifying all the time.

"'In those first seconds, all I could think was, How can I relieve the pain?' Filin told me later. 'The burning was so awful. I tried to move. I fell face first into the snow. I started grabbing handfuls of snow and rubbing it into my face and eyes. I felt some small relief from the snow. I thought of how to get home. I was pretty close to my door. There’s an electronic code and a metal door, but I couldn’t punch in the numbers of the code. I couldn’t see them. When I understood that I couldn’t get into the building, I started shouting, "Help! Help! I need help!" But no one was around.'"
PUBLISHED: March 11, 2013
LENGTH: 43 minutes (10917 words)

The Party Faithful

In Israel, people like Naftali Bennett are leading a move to the right:

"More broadly, the story of the election is the implosion of the center-left and the vivid and growing strength of the radical right. What Bennett’s rise, in particular, represents is the attempt of the settlers to cement the occupation and to establish themselves as a vanguard party, the ideological and spiritual core of the entire country. Just as a small coterie of socialist kibbutzniks dominated the ethos and the public institutions of Israel in the first decades of the state’s existence, the religious nationalists, led by the settlers, intend to do so now and in the years ahead. In the liberal tribune Haaretz, the columnist Ari Shavit wrote, 'What is now happening is impossible to view as anything but the takeover by a colonial province of its mother country.'"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 14, 2013
LENGTH: 36 minutes (9047 words)

We Are Alive

A rock icon at age 62. A look inside Bruce Springsteen's life, at home and in preparation for another tour, following the losses of bandmates Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici:

"For the next hour and a half, the band plays through a set that alternates tales of economic pain with party-time escape. While the band plays the jolly opening riff of 'Waiting on a Sunny Day,' Springsteen practices striding around the stage, beckoning the imaginary hordes everywhere in the arena to sing along. There is a swagger in his stride. He is the rare man of sixty-two who is not shy about showing his ass—an ass finely sausaged into a pair of alarmingly tight black jeans—to twenty thousand paying customers. 'Go, Jakie!' he cries, and brings Jake Clemons downstage to solo. He practically has to kick him into the spotlight.

"A bunch of songs later, after a run-through of the set-ending 'Thunder Road,' Springsteen hops off the stage, drapes a towel around his neck, and sits down in the folding chair next to me.

"'The top of the show, see, is a kind of welcoming, and you are getting everyone comfortable and challenging them at the same time,' he says. 'You’re setting out your themes. You’re getting them comfortable, because, remember, people haven’t seen this band. There are absences that are hanging there. That’s what we’re about right now, the communication between the living and the gone. Those currents even run through the dream world of pop music!'"
PUBLISHED: July 23, 2012
LENGTH: 64 minutes (16157 words)

The Civil Archipelago

Putin had a kind word for Monson (“a real man”) and paid Yemelianenko the ultimate compliment of Russian masculinity, calling him a “nastoyashii Russki bogatyr”—a genuine Russian hero. As Putin spoke, and as the national audience watched, many in the crowd started to jeer and whistle. This had never happened to Putin before, not once in two four-year terms as President, not in three-plus years as Prime Minister. And yet now, having announced his intention to reassume the Presidency in March, possibly for another twelve years, he was experiencing an unmistakable tide of derision.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 19, 2011
LENGTH: 34 minutes (8674 words)

The Making and Remaking of Malcolm X

Alex Haley sat at a desk typing notes while Malcolm—tall, austere, dressed always in a dark suit, a white shirt, and a narrow dark tie—drank cup after cup of coffee, paced the room, and talked. What emerged was the hegira of Malcolm’s life as a black man in mid-century America: his transformation from Malcolm Little, born in Omaha to troubled parents whose salve against racist harassment and violence was the black-nationalist creed of Marcus Garvey; to Detroit Red, a numbers-running hustler on the streets of Boston and New York; to a convicted felon known among fellow-prisoners as Satan; to Malcolm X, a charismatic deputy to the Nation of Islam’s leader, Elijah Muhammad, and the most electrifying proponent of black nationalism alive.
PUBLISHED: April 18, 2011
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3981 words)

From 2004: In Mubarak's Egypt, Democracy Is an Idea Whose Time Has Not Yet Come

“Mubarak fears that if he widens the margins of democracy things will happen,” Essam al-Eryam, one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s most prominent middle-aged leaders, told me at the Brotherhood’s headquarters. “There will be democracy here, sooner or later. It requires patience, and we are more patient because we are, as an organization, seventy-six years old. You have already seen some countries—Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran—describe themselves as Islamic regimes. There’s a diversity of models, even among the Sunni and the Shia. Egypt can present a model that is more just and tolerant.”
PUBLISHED: July 12, 2004
LENGTH: 31 minutes (7786 words)