This week: French fiction, Spanish painting & more.

El Greco, Purification of the Temple, ca. 1600, Oil on canvas, The Frick Collection


“On Joseph Conrad,” with Maya Jasanoff at the 92nd Street Y (December 10): Why have Joseph Conrad’s works survived not only the test of time, but also the test of controversy? Beyond the engaging prose, one reason, perhaps, argues Maya Jasanoff in her new book The Dawn Watch, may be the idea that Conrad was a “prophet of globalization.” Though of course the term didn’t exist at the end of the nineteenth century, Conrad both witnessed and wrote about the sudden rapidity with which the web of global connectedness was suddenly being spun at that time. Today, we’re still tangled in that same gossamer. As Jasanoff puts it: “Conrad’s world shimmers beneath the surface of our own. Today Internet cables run along the seafloor beside the old telegraph wires. Conrad’s characters whisper in the ears of new generations of antiglobalization protesters and champions of free trade, liberal interventionists and radical terrorists, social justice activists and xenophobic nativists.” Jasanoff will be at the 92nd Street Y on Sunday to discuss how she traces Conrad’s travels around the globe, while interweaving his four most famous works: The Secret Agent, Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness, and Nostromo, in her new work. Look out for Carl Rollyson’s review of The Dawn Watch in our January 2018 issue. —RH


Albertine Prize Launch Party, Albertine Books (December 6): This Wednesday, Albertine Books is launching the selection process for the 2018 Albertine Prize, an annual readers’ choice award for the year’s “best French fiction in English.” The prize is co-presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the luxury jewelry company Van Cleef & Arpels. At Wednesday’s launch party, which takes place on the Upper East Side at the Albertine bookstore in Stanford White’s Payne Whitney Mansion, attendees will discover the five contemporary novels shortlisted for the prize. Actors will read excerpts from the shortlisted novels, and a cocktail party will conclude what will surely be a festive evening. The event is free, open to the public, and will be conducted in English. —AS


El Greco, St. Jerome, 1590–1600, Oil on canvas, The Frick Collection

“Spanish Paintings at the Frick: El Greco,” with Xavier Salomon (December 10): The Frick’s collection of Spanish painting, while not overlarge, is of exceptional quality. From Velázquez’s magisterial portrait of King Philip IV to Goya’s striking rendition of Vulcan in the guise of a laborer in his Forge, the Frick’s Spanish collection counts most of the major masters and includes superlative examples of their work. Perhaps best represented is El Greco, whose St. Jerome, portrait of Vincenzo Anastagi, and Purification of the Temple represent various facets of a remarkable talent. Join the Frick’s Chief Curator, Xavier Salomon—also responsible for the Collection’s outstanding Murillo exhibition, reviewed in TNC’s December issue by our own Andrew Shea—this Sunday for a discussion of El Greco’s works. —BR


Jeremy Denk at the 92nd Street Y (December 9): Jeremy Denk has got to be among the greatest intellects on the concert circuit. Whenever he performs, he offers program notes of deep insight, and he has penned a number of book reviews and reflections on music in leading publications. He brings that intellect as a pianist, too, giving rich, thoughtful interpretations of a wide repertoire. This Saturday at the 92nd Street Y, he performs a recital of Mozart, Prokofiev, and Schumann, highlighted by Beethoven’s pensive Sonata No. 30. ECS

From the archive: “The hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky” by Keith Windschuttle (May 2003). On the American linguist’s radical philosophy.

From the current issue:“Highland time” by Benjamin Riley. A review of Highland Retreats: The Architecture and Interiors of Scotland’s Romantic North by Mary Miers.

Broadcast: “The Future of Permanence in an Age of Ephemera”: A symposium on museums.

Click here for a full archive of past Critic’s Notebooks.