“In the United States, the country with the world’s highest prison population rate (followed closely by Russia), prisoners work for between 93 cents and $5 a day, if they’re paid at all … But the Gulag is an image firmly imprinted on our American brains. It’s easy to imagine—exciting, even, especially since it’s so far away.” A short history of the show trial, with unforgettable digressions, by Daily regular Sophie Pinkham. —Lorin Stein
In 1989, historian Arlette Farge published Le goût de l’archive, her account of immersing herself in the ancient records of the archives of the Bastille. While a virtual love letter to historiography may sound less than riveting, this is an engaging and strangely moving evocation of the pleasures of scholarship. Now out in a new translation (The Allure of the Archives) from Yale University Press. —Sadie O. Stein
Initially, David Ballantyne’s Sydney Bridge Upside Down seems like the perfect summer read: light in conflict, filled with the typical summer escapades that teenagers get into when there’s nothing better to do but get in trouble. However, Ballantyne’s an expert poker player, and a prime example of New Zealand literature (“slaughterhouse fiction”), in which the pastoral paradise initially imagined by Britain as a South Pacific Eden instead morphed from an economy of industrialized violence into casual societal violence. (See the recent Jane Campion miniseries Top of the Lake, for example.) No one leaves this novel unscathed, characters or reader. You’ve been warned. —Justin Alvarez
A few nights ago I watched Max Ophüls’s La Ronde. At the beginning of the movie and between each vignette in it, the omnipresent narrator delivers a little sing-song bit about the inevitable turn, turn, turn of romantic affairs while cranking a carousel round and round. And what a magnificent carousel it is—by far my favorite part of the movie. A turn-of-the-century model (La Ronde was filmed in France 1950 but set in fin-de-siècle Vienna), it has a wooden horse or two, but also a bicycle, a step-stool, a swing, an armchair. Oil lamps hang from the interior of its scalloped canopy. When looking for information about the provenance of this particular carousel, I came across images of two astounding modern carousels at the annual Christmas market in Brussels. This article gives the story behind them. —Clare Fentress
New Directions has put out the most beautiful set of postcards, featuring the book cover that the legendary Alvin Lustig designed between 1941 and 1953. Almost too pretty to use. —S.O.S.