The Monocle Minute

The week ahead, opportunities and observations
Saturday 26 August 2017

Retail

Image: Alamy

Page turner

Despite Iran’s strict censorship laws, its capital has opened its doors to literature.

The world’s largest bookshop opened in Tehran this summer, claiming the title from New York’s Fifth Avenue outpost of Barnes & Noble. The Book Garden, designed to enhance the Iranian capital’s cultural infrastructure, is almost five times as big. The elongated two-storey structure is home to bookshops, galleries, lounges, amphitheatres, cafés and more than 12km of shelves. More than 400,000 titles can be found here and bibliophiles will be especially fond of the rooftop garden, which overlooks the city and makes for a cosy reading spot. It’s good to see that instead of cinema multiplexes there’s still money in good old-fashioned bookshops – even if this one is a bit oversized. It’s also refreshing to see Iran give national and international literature such a stately platform. The question is just how long it will keep up its strict censorship policies.

Music

Winning the war

After getting lost in a dream The War on Drugs are back – and with a deeper understanding than ever before.

Adam Granduciel’s Philadelphia-based sextet The War on Drugs broke through with 2014’s ‘Lost in the Dream’, which supported a worldwide tour followed by a cooling-off period. After heading to the the studios of New York and Los Angeles the group is back with a new offering. The sound? Fans will be overjoyed that the band’s now-trademark take on stadium rock is alive and well in ‘A Deeper Understanding’. For the uninitiated, it’s as if the most poppy parts of Dire Straits and Bruce Springsteen have been commandeered to reinterpret the songbooks of Bob Dylan and Neil Young (and Minnie Riperton at one point). Major chord gusto, major-league talent.

Architecture

Image: Getty Images

Hole in the wall

Germany’s contribution to next year’s Venice Biennale will be particularly on point.

Berlin-based architecture firm Graft, whose contemporary style has graced many retail and residential projects, is now teaming up with German politician Marianne Birthler to curate the country’s pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale. The subject? ‘Unbuilding Walls’. In a year when figurative walls have risen across the world and Trump is threatening to shut down the US government over his wall, the topic couldn’t be more relevant. Birthler in particular knows a thing or two about bridging divisions having been present at the fall of the Berlin Wall. There's also a second dimension to the theme, which relates to the controversial German Pavilion that was restored in 1938 as a prime example of Nazi architecture – a fascinating juxtaposition between art and its milieu.

Books

Short sharp shocks

Author Dorthe Nors’ latest works might be small but they certainly pack a punch.

Jutland-based writer Dorthe Nors has achieved many things, from being the first Danish fiction writer to be published in The New Yorker to a recent and deserved nomination for the Man Booker International prize. And despite their minute size, her latest pair of novellas to be published in English by Pushkin Press haven’t fallen short of these high standards. The slim re-editions, adorned with colourful abstracts by British illustrator Aaron Munday, are proof that brevity is often best. Minna Needs Rehearsal Space expresses a jarring jumble of emotions from rejection to escape through an excoriating tale that hangs on failed relationships. Karate Chop is more observational: a collection of short tales flash like lightning but echo like thunder on the themes of mundanity and madness. The reader is saved from abject despair by Nors’ wit, wisdom and the fast clip with which her tales cover the charming and chilling details of everyday life.

From Monocle 24

Music, art and more music

Music writer Laura Snapes and curator Francesca Gavin join Robert Bound to discuss the album releases and art shows that should be on your radar over the next month. Plus, we get South American music picks from Cascabel Studio and we go down under for this week’s Global Countdown.

From Monocle Films

Turkey's California

We travel to the Aegean Coast in Turkey, where tourism may be falling but its beach clubs are buoyed by a homegrown crowd escaping city life and political upheaval.

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