The world is immeasurably poorer for the death last week of Sylvia Kristel, the Dutch actress who enlivened the libidinal imagination of an entire generation of adolescent males. Like the late Maria Schneider, who starred with Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris, Kristel was forever defined by her role in Emmanuelle, which made her electrifyingly famous but also pigeonholed her as a performer of soft-core erotica. While Tango may have (arguably) been a better film, Emmanuelle was for a generation of boys coming of age in the 1970s a first introduction to sensuality—assuming they actually had the nerve to go see it. After her success, she moved to Hollywood and capsized into a life of drink and drugs. In her last years, back in the Netherlands, she contracted cancer. Fittingly, and not without a certain poetry, she breathed her last in her bed.
Kinship in Kinshasa?
What better place to take froideur to great new heights than the summit of the International Organization of La Francophonie, a jamboree at which heads of state of French-speaking nations gather from time to time to—reasonably enough—speak French to each other. This year, the leaders gathered in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the first part of whose appellation is, in the view of French President François Hollande, a bit of a joke. At the summit, Hollande pointedly refused to applaud the address of President Joseph Kabila, his undemocratic Congolese host, and the handshake they exchanged before the event began was perfunctory, at best. (Madame Kabila, too, got the briefest handshake, and none of the extravagant hand-kissing that Frenchmen reserve for ladies they wish to flatter.) Hollande also made it a point to visit Etienne Tshisekedi, the 80-year-old opposition leader widely thought to have won the elections in December 2011, a man to whom the press were denied access for the duration of the summit. After their meeting, a forthright Hollande told reporters, “Speaking French also means speaking about human rights, because the rights of man were written in French.”
As if a relentless decline in the value of the national currency weren’t appalling enough for Iran’s citizens, three European companies that print banknotes for Tehran have announced that they will no longer do so, leaving hapless Iranians to face the prospect of a daily-dwindling supply of rials. (One is inclined, here, to offer a variation on an old Jewish joke: such bad money, and so little of it.) And yet, could a scarcity of banknotes be a blessing in disguise for the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Could an artificially induced drying up of currency help to arrest Iran’s hyperinflation? In a conversation with Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins and a major inflation guru, this columnist learned that in the great hyperinflation in Yugoslavia in early 1994—when monthly inflation rates peaked at 313,000,000 percent—Belgrade was running the currency presses 24 hours a day, re-denominating banknotes with additional zeroes. And then the presses simply seized up physically; no more notes could be printed, and ... the hyperinflation came to an abrupt halt. “So,” the good Professor Hanke mused, “if you cut off the paper supply, maybe this would solve the biggest problem in Iran, which is inflation ... Especially as a significant proportion of Iran’s money supply is made up of notes and coins, not plastic.”
Star of Bengal
Forty-one years after it fought a bloody war of independence to rid itself of Pakistani domination, Bangladesh will honor 140 “foreign friends” who stood by its brave, battered people in their darkest times. The honorees are a mix of the living and the posthumous, and as Dean Nelson, the London Telegraph’s sprightly South Asia editor reports, include Bob Dylan and George Harrison, both of whom performed at the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh in New York. Joan Baez is on the list, too, as is Ravi Shankar, to round off the roster of those who sang and strummed for the Bengalis. The rest of the honor roll comprises a sprinkling of generals, Mother Teresa, and a large dollop of politicians, most of whom are Indian or British. The most prominent nonmusical American? Teddy Kennedy. Henry Kissinger—no surprise—is not on the list.
With Luke Darby and Jane Teeling