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Articles tagged "Oil"

Abdelrahman Munif and the Uses of Oil

“The most fabulous geological event since the explosion of Krakatoa surely was the discovery of oceans of petroleum beneath the dark and backward Muslim realms of the Persian Gulf.”  This portentous judgment of natural history and politics (and religion, and more, the more you reread it) came not from an evangelical pulpit or a Tory backbencher’s stemwinder. It was the opening sentence of John Updike’s review of Saudi dissident Abdelrahman Munif’s...

The Beginning and End of the Oil Curse?

Why does oil wealth so often become a curse for developing states?  In the developing world, oil-producing states are fifty percent more likely to be ruled by autocrats, and more than twice as likely to have civil wars, as non-oil states. They are also more secretive, more financially volatile, and provide women with fewer economic and political opportunities.  For the last thirty years, good geology has led to bad politics. Not all states with oil are susceptible to the...

Petroleum Venus

“Vanya, why are you sitting in the dark?” “I’m looking at the picture,” came the imperturbable reply. “What picture?” What new fantasy had come into his mind? I walked up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. A picture frame he had brought in off the street was propped against our pot-bellied fridge. It had a picture in it. I flicked the switch and warm light flowed down from our tumblerlike lampshades. A naked blonde, her...

We Have

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We have nations that we don't want.


Karl Walter Block was the only son of Irmgard Block (née Mucek) and Heinrich Maria Block. Heinrich had been a captain during the war and worked in an important secret office in Berlin until, for reasons no one ever discovered, he was dishonorably discharged, on Hitler’s own orders, and sent back to Upper Austria, where there was nothing left for him but to toil away from morning till night for the rest of his life on the farm he had inherited from his parents. This fate...

from “Morti di Sonno”

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If one of those things explodes, the city’ll blow up too.

Pulse beyond the Horizon

After the water, there was nothing. And if you looked long enough at the horizon, you could make out a stillness that transformed when the waves crashed against the rig's legs and the rusted steel platform began to sway. The drill ate through layers of limestone into the earth's interior, it probed deep beneath the seabed while the reel on the drill floor rotated ceaselessly, and we, in twelve-hour shifts, stood by at the ready to connect more tubing to the well. The Gulf of...

When Can We Be Sane?

We reel shamelessly in joyful shrillness For the gloomy glimmer of blinking lights Nursing our failing consciences In the cold slab of childish ego   I remember Coleridge’s sea  Without a healthy drop to drink:   We have them here. Otovwodo gas plant, The biggest gas reserve in Sub-Saharan Africa   We have them here. Erhioke Oil Field in Kokori-Orogun A precious oil meadow that churns out Bent and...

from “Passage of Tears”

[Translators’ note: This excerpt, taken almost entirely from the first chapter, presents one voice in a polyphonic novel. The other main voice is that of this narrator’s twin brother, a fanatic Islamist imprisoned with his “venerable Master” in a cell on an island off the coast of Djibouti. Still another voice appears in palimpsest as the Islamist takes dictation from his Master: it tells the life of Walter Benjamin. Excerpts from an earlier version of that section...

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