Editor's Note — December 12, 2013, 5:10 pm

Introducing the January 2014 Issue

Mastering the art of serving the rich, a Taliban intelligence chief’s death and resurrection, and fighting for the right to insult the French president

Harper's Magazine cover, January 2014

January marks the season-four premiere of the TV series Downton Abbey, the BBC’s latest interpretation of the relationship between neurotic, hopeless rich people and their sly, manipulative servants — a subject we in the United States seem endlessly fascinated by (cf., Upstairs, Downstairs). To give our readers a view of this world, we enrolled writer John Davidson in Denver’s Starkey International Institute for Household Management, a training ground for those who want to enter “private service.” The eight-week course promises to teach students estate management, household maintenance, proper cleaning techniques, and the care of antiques, clothing, and cars — plus the proper way to set a table, serve a formal dinner, and fold toilet paper — and promises that these skills will result in high-paying jobs. In “You Rang? Mastering the art of serving the rich,” this month’s cover story, Davidson describes for us, often comically, his training for a profession most of us associate with another time and place.

It has been more than ten years since Qari Ahmadullah, the Taliban’s last intelligence chief, was reportedly killed by American bombers, his remains supposedly buried in Gazni. a province ninety miles south of Kabul. But reporter Mujib Mashal, who grew up in Kabul, had been hearing rumors that Ahmadullah was still alive. In his report, “The Pious Spy,” Mashal attempts to determine the truth of these rumors. He travels to Gazni, where he talks with Ahmadullah’s brother, Mawlawi Naeem, who runs a madrassa, as well as to other Afghans who may have been Ahmadullah’s associates. Mashal’s story, which also recalls his life growing up under Taliban rule, will leave readers wondering what will happen in Afghanistan after the scheduled 2014 American pullout. Will we see a return of the Taliban, some of whose leaders are presumed dead but in fact may be in hiding, waiting for a chance to rule once more?

Kabir Chibber, whose last article for the magazine (“Blind Appraisal: The European Union rules against contemporary art”) appeared in the February issue, annotates a photograph taken at a rally of the far left in Paris, during which two protesters held up a sign reading “Casse toi, pov’con,” an insult that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy hurled at a voter in 2008. A video of that exchange subsequently went viral, accompanied by differing interpretations of the French phrase, all of them insulting. Since 2008, Sarkozy’s words have been thrown back at him many times, most notably by an activist for the opposition Socialist Party who was subsequently fined €30 for insulting the French president, which has been against the law since 1881. Chibber lays out the history of this “crime” since 1881 and describes the lively debate over the exact meaning of the phrase.

Also in this issue: A charming memoirlike story by Gordon Lish about stickball on the streets of New York; Lauren Groff’s reappraisal of Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s once-popular novel, The Yearling, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of its publication; a short story by Lorrie Moore; Jonathan Dee’s review of Robert Stone’s new novel; a history of ballooning by Steven Shapin, and Christine Smallwood’s debut as a bimonthly New Books columnist.

Share
Single Page

More from Ellen Rosenbush:

Editor's Note February 12, 2016, 1:57 pm

Introducing the March Issue

Marilynne Robinson, Christopher Ketcham, Rivka Galchen, Stuart Franklin, and more

Editor's Note November 12, 2015, 12:35 pm

Introducing the December Issue

Alexandra Kleeman subjects herself to a week of bed rest, Nat Segnit celebrates Waterloo’s bicentennial, Charlotte Dumas documents Japan’s endangered horses, and more

Editor's Note October 15, 2015, 10:37 am

Introducing the November Issue

Lewis H. Lapham discusses the presidential election, Barry C. Lynn reports on China’s leverage over the U.S. economy, Sallie Tisdale searches for the perfect brassiere, and more

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2016

Bird in a Cage

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Hidden Rivers of Brooklyn

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Save Our Public Universities

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Rogue Agency

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Mad Magazines

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Killer Bunny in the Sky

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Save Our Public Universities·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Whether and how we educate people is still a direct reflection of the degree of freedom we expect them to have, or want them to have.”
Photograph (crop) by Thomas Allen
Article
New Movies·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Force Awakens criticizes American imperialism while also celebrating the revolutionary spirit that founded this country. When the movie needs to bridge the two points of view, it shifts to aerial combat, a default setting that mirrors the war on terror all too well.”
Still © Lucasfilm
Article
Isn’t It Romantic?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He had paid for much of her schooling, something he cannot help but mention, since the aftermath of any failed relationship brings an ungenerous and impossible impulse to claw back one’s misspent resources.”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
The Trouble with Iowa·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It seems to defy reason that this anachronistic farm state — a demographic outlier, with no major cities and just 3 million people, nine out of ten of them white — should play such an outsized role in American politics.”
Photograph (detail) © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Article
Rule, Britannica·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“This is the strange magic of an arrangement of all the world’s knowledge in alphabetical order: any search for anything passes through things that have nothing in common with it but an initial letter.”
Artwork by Brian Dettmer. Courtesy the artist and P.P.O.W., New York City.

Number of people who attended the World Grits Festival, held in St. George, South Carolina, last spring:

60,000

The brown bears of Greece continued chewing through telephone poles.

In Peru, a 51-year-old activist became the first former sex worker to run for the national legislature. “I’m going to put order,” she said, “in that big brothel which is Congress.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Two Christmas Mornings of the Great War

By

Civilization masks us with a screen, from ourselves and from one another, with thin depth of unreality. We habitually live — do we not? — in a world self-created, half established, of false values arbitrarily upheld, largely inspired by misconception, misapprehension, wrong perspective, and defective proportion, misapplication.

Subscribe Today