Doing Business in Iran Is Risky. Exhibit A: The Carmaker Peugeot

For foreign companies, investing in Iran can be unpredictable. To understand the ups and downs of doing business in the country, look no further than Peugeot. The French carmaker has had to maneuver international sanctions and politics over the past three decades.

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Overlooked No More: Margarita Xirgu, Theater Radical Who Staged Lorca’s Plays

By the 1930s she was one of the most revered Catalan actresses in history, playing long-suffering characters like Salomé, Joan of Arc and Medea onstage.

She also gained notoriety for playing the Virgin Mary in Rafael Alberti’s “Fermín Galán,” a 1931 leftist and Republican production in which she delivered the line “¡Abajo la monarquía!” (“Down with the monarchy!”).

By then the authoritarian regime of Miguel Primo de Rivera had fallen, in 1930, and a window of freedom had opened briefly under the Second Republic, as it was known, giving women the right to work, vote, divorce and obtain an abortion. During this time the country was led by a chaotic coalition government of leftists who opposed the rigid Catholicism of the Spanish ruling classes. Then the pendulum swung right, then left again in February 1936, when the Popular Front came to power. Five months later, the Spanish Civil War erupted, when fascist forces led by General Franco revolted against the democratically elected Republican government.

Xirgu was in Latin America when the war broke out, acting in and producing Lorca’s plays. He planned to join her in Mexico, but he was in the middle of writing “La Casa de Bernarda Alba,” his tragic masterwork, and he was pining over his lover Rafael Rodríguez Rapún. So he decided to stay in Spain. That month, Franco’s soldiers found him in Granada, dragged him into a field and shot him to death.

Xirgu learned of Lorca’s death before a staging of “Yerma” (“Barren”), his play about a woman who is so desperate to have children that she kills her husband in anger. Grief-stricken, Xirgu changed the woman’s lament from “I myself have killed my son” to “They have murdered my son.”

Xirgu was living in Argentina when Franco took power in 1939. As a leftist and a lesbian, she could not return home and expect to survive the dictatorship. While in exile, she created theater companies in Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.

“She left everything in Spain and forged a different life where she had political agency,” said Maria Delgado, a theater and film scholar in London.

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In India, Facebook’s WhatsApp Plays Central Role in Elections

Unlike Facebook and Instagram, WhatsApp has received little attention for its influence on voters. But in one Indian state, the messaging service became a prime election tool.

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Trump Greets Freed North Korea Prisoners

President Trump and Melania Trump met the three Americans at an air base in Maryland.

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The Candidate Who’s Too Trump-Like Even for Trump

Republicans in Washington, including President Trump, are encouraging West Virginians not to vote for Don Blankenship, a popular Senate candidate with a complicated past.

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Dr. Joel Kovel, a Founder of Ecosocialism, Is Dead at 81

Dr. Kovel metamorphosed from a conventional therapist into a Marxist who abandoned the medical profession as too corporate and commercial. He became a fierce critic of the Vietnam War, imperialists, Zionists and gas guzzlers, together with neoliberals and environmentalists who were insufficiently anticapitalist.

Dr. Kovel was an intellectual father of ecosocialism. A Brooklyn-born son of Jewish immigrants, he also experienced in his later years what he called a Christian spiritual conversion.

When he published his autobiography last year, after so many metaphysical meanderings, he titled it “The Lost Traveller’s Dream,” a nod to the poet William Blake’s reference to wanderers in the wilderness seeking to distinguish between good and evil.

Dr. Kovel rarely defined his positions in shades of gray.

He renounced psychiatry because, he said, he was fed up with “the pernicious system of diagnosis” dictated by professional associations and their manuals, and by insurance companies driven by statistics and reflexive prescriptions.”


Dr. Kovel speaking at an anti-nuclear rally in New York in 1982. Credit Dith Pran/The New York Times

Whenever he launched an ideological crusade, he did so zealously — even if, as in the case of ecosocialism, its very definition and the collateral demand for an appealing alternative to capitalism were not self-evident.

Under ecosocialist theory, income would be guaranteed, most property and means of production would be commonly owned, and the abolition of capitalism, globalism and imperialism would unleash environmentalists to vastly curtail industrialization and development whose pollution would otherwise cause catastrophic global warming.

“Capitalist production, in its endless search for profit, seeks to turn everything into a commodity,” Dr. Kovel wrote in 2007 on the socialist website Climate and Capitalism. “It is plain that production will have to shift from being dominated by exchange — the path of the commodity — to that which is for use, that is for the direct meeting of human needs.”

Joel Stephen Kovel was born on Aug. 27, 1936, in Brooklyn to Louis and Rose Farber Kovel. His father was an accountant and the namesake of the Kovel Rule, a legal doctrine that extended the lawyer-client confidentiality privilege to other professionals and experts. It arose when a federal appeals court voided the elder Mr. Kovel’s one-year sentence for contempt after he had refused to answer questions about a client in a case.

After graduating from Baldwin High School in Baldwin, N.Y., Joel received a bachelor’s from Yale in 1957 and a medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. While in medical school, he was first exposed to extreme poverty during field study in Suriname. He trained at Downstate Psychoanalytic Institute in Brooklyn.

In addition to his wife, a filmmaker, Mr. Kovel is survived by two children, Jonathan Kovel and Erin Fitzsimmons, from his marriage to Virginia Ryan, which ended in divorce; a daughter, Molly Kovel, from his marriage to Ms. Halleck; her sons, Ezra, Peter and Tovey Halleck, from an earlier marriage; his brother, Alex; and nine grandchildren.

Dr. Kovel was director of resident training in psychiatry at Albert Einstein Medical School in the Bronx from 1977 to 1983, when he left to teach courses in Marx and Freud at the New School in Manhattan. He taught at Bard College from 1988 to 2009.

He was also editor emeritus of the journal Capitalism, Nature, Socialism; wrote for The New York Times Book Review; and, with Michel Lowy, drafted the Ecosocialist Manifesto in 2001, on which the movement was founded.

Among his other books is “A Complete Guide to Therapy” (1976), which, a Times reviewer wrote, “can be recommended to everyone — from people looking for help with emotional problems to those with serious questions about the entire business of emotional help.” Another is “Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine” (2007).

Dr. Kovel was the Green Party candidate for the United States Senate from New York in 1998. (He finished fourth, with about 15,000 votes; Chuck Schumer won, with about 2.4 million.)

He unsuccessfully challenged Ralph Nader for the Green Party’s presidential nomination in 2000. Mr. Nader was nominated at a convention with 295 votes. Two other candidates were tied for second place with 10 each. Dr. Kovel came in last with three.

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Nonfiction: What Trained Bears Can Teach Us About Formerly Authoritarian Countries

Although I assume the subtitle issue has been resolved, the double-layered sticker situation nicely reflects the structure of this utterly original book, split into two parts. In the first, Witold Szablowski, a Polish journalist frequently compared to the late, more pre-eminent Pole, the writer Ryszard Kapuscinski, describes how after the fall of communism, “dancing” bears kept in captivity by the Roma people in Bulgaria were taken away by well-meaning if righteous animal-rights NGOs and put into special reservations that simulate the wild.

This narrative would have made for a lovely little book in its own right. Szablowski makes you feel for the Roma families who are losing their livelihood (they earned money by making the bears dance and act out comedy sketches as street entertainment), yet he never flinches from detailing the cruel conditions these same people imposed on the animals. A bear’s most sensitive body part is its nose, and their owners inserted metal rings through them so they could force the bears to dance with little tugs, torturing them physically while breaking their will by giving them alcohol to drink. Szablowski divides the bears’ journey to semi-freedom, or more civilized captivity, into nine chapter headings, from the “Love” the Roma claim to feel for their prisoners, through the bears’ rediscovery of their “Instincts.” One great victory occurs when the bears learn “Hibernation,” after never having done so before. But the transition is far from perfect: Because the bears would not be able to look after cubs, they are neutered. Unable to reproduce, with no obvious future, they start to repeat behaviors they were forced to perform before being “rescued.” To the horror of the animal-rights community, the “liberated” bears rise up on their hind legs and dance.

In the second half of his book, Szablowski repeats the same nine chapter headings, but this time he describes daily life in countries from the former Soviet bloc to Cuba at various stages between communism and democracy. At the start of every chapter, Szablowski inserts a quote from the corresponding chapter about the bears. The chapter on Estonia quotes the chapter from Part 1 on instincts, recalling the testimony of zoology experts who bring the bears out of captivity: “We sit in our observatory and watch how they behave, and we work it out — how much aggression we can allow them, whether they’ve already crossed the boundary or whether we can still give them a while to cool down.” What ensues is an account of the fraught, often near-violent, relationship between ethnic Estonians and the ethnic Russian minority within that country.

The book offers not so much a single, continuous narrative as it does two narratives placed opposite each other, bouncing meanings back and forth. As I read the country chapters I was always flicking back to the related sections about the bears. Sometimes the connections come relatively easily, as with instinct and Estonia. Other times they are less obvious: Like some works of conceptual art, they seemed designed to tease and pleasantly infuriate. The “Hibernation” chapter in Part 2 is about a Polish village where the locals dress up like Tolkien characters to earn a pittance from visiting tourists. Is this a case of a passive populace honing its entrepreneurial instincts? Or, rather, the pseudo-activity of a free-market model, which keeps people soporific?

In the final chapter, I assumed Szablowski would take us to contemporary Hungary or Poland, countries deemed to have successfully completed the shift from the Warsaw Pact to the European Union, but where authoritarian tendencies are now prevalent. Instead, he pivots to Greece, which was governed by a right-wing dictatorship until 1974. During mass anti-E.U. protests in Athens, the language of “transition” is reversed: The protesters see the E.U. as the prison and want to “sweep capitalism away.” Are they yearning for the certitudes of tyranny? Still instinctively fighting a long-gone authoritarianism? Or is so-called capitalism being revealed as a false freedom?

Throughout “Dancing Bears,” Szablowski challenges not only the conventions of linear storytelling, but also the linear logic of a simple political progression from unfree to free. But he doesn’t merely replace one imposed narrative with another. Instead, he provokes a far-reaching and unresolved conversation about what freedom might really mean. A reader yearning for an all-explaining style of storytelling will be frustrated. Maybe that, too, is a kind of nostalgia for tyranny.

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