Breaking the ice - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 4/12/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

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We’re wrapping up warm this week for a visit to a weekly newspaper in Nuuk, Greenland (as well as details on our own winter periodical) before skipping to Australia for a chinwag with award-winning director Granaz Moussavi and Monaco for a sale of the late Karl Lagerfeld’s possessions. Plus: a new Taj Mahal. Andrew Tuck starts us off.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Heart of the matter

We’re perhaps a little late to the party but this week we’ve been watching Impeachment: American Crime Story. It’s a 10-part drama about the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair, and you get to see it from everyone’s angle: President Clinton, Hillary, Linda Tripp (notorious at the time for taping her conversations with naïve colleague Lewinsky), Paula Jones (who had accused the president of sexual harassment), Juanita Broaddrick (who alleges that Clinton raped her) and, of course, Lewinsky.

Back in 1998 the tale of Lewinsky, the young White House intern who became involved with the president, dominated the news and threatened to end Clinton’s tenure. In the end both he and Hillary seemed to walk away relatively unscathed, while the women with whom he had been involved were trashed.

While this is just a version of events, and a drama, it does something unsettling: it makes you look back on a long-running story and reflect on your role as a TV viewer, or newspaper reader, in it. The push to impeach Clinton was undoubtedly partisan (and, meanwhile, he was doing genuinely good things at the time, such as helping secure a peace deal in Northern Ireland), so many people kind of wished the matter would just go away. And the infamous cigar story and semen-stained-dress were also a bit too sordid for you to drum up much empathy for anyone involved. But looking back now you wonder how we stood by, as commentators, comedians and writers stepped up to destroy Lewinsky and shield the Clintons. You even feel for Linda Tripp, who is judged by the media as much on her weight and looks as she is on her failings as a friend to Lewinsky.

Back in 1999, I went to a friend’s birthday party and Monica Lewinsky was there. It was a packed room and I couldn’t think of anything to say and so I never got to meet her. I wish I had.

We have a new Americas editor and as you read this he’s sitting on a flight in-bound to Los Angeles (hopefully not snoozing but rather writing a list of all the stories he’s going to report for me). He’s called Chris Lord and you may recognise the name as he used to work for us before, both in London and as our bureau chief in Istanbul.

He was stationed in the city in July 2016 during the failed coup attempt but had gone away for the weekend to stay on the Princes Islands in the Bosphorus. He had to hitch a ride back into Istanbul on a boat belonging to a supporter of President Erdogan and arrived to the roar of a renegade fighter jet buzzing low over the city. For some reason, he decided to come back to London and later left Monocle for a four-year stint as a news producer for BBC Radio 4 (as well as finally finishing a book with the photographer Jon Tonks – see our culture picks below). But I have now lured him back again.

The US remains our biggest market for magazine sales and radio listeners, so it will be great having him on the ground and expanding our US coverage. And Chris also has the stamina to follow long-twisting news narratives and the ability to step back to see where the real story is. He would have been a good addition to the team on Impeachment. You can contact Chris with story ideas (and even LA restaurant recommendations) at

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

Another story we need to step back from is Omicron. The whole world is on an epic call-hold while we wait for scientists to come back to us with some clear evidence about this coronavirus variant’s transmissibility and whether it is a greater threat – or not – to our health than previous variants. At the moment we just don’t know. But it has certainly not deterred any British politicians from handing out head-spinningly contradictory advice.

For now, however, it’s going to be down to us as individuals to navigate our own paths across the coming days; to do what we feel comfortable with while always taking care to be attuned to what those around us need too. This week I ended up in a bar until way beyond my usual bedtime, went to several events (taking lateral flow tests before rocking up), travelled on the Tube (in my mask) and all was just fine, thank you. Of course, there are risks but I am triple-jabbed and certainly do not need ministers telling me who I should kiss (it’s a rather short list of options) or whether I should have a drink in a bar. My behaviour will change with the science.

The Look / ‘Black Ivy’

Smart casual

Thinking of wearing that chunky cable-knit rollneck this weekend but worried that it’s a bit square? Don’t be. It might be difficult to see the Ivy look – with its crew cuts, cardigans and loafers – as countercultural; it was, after all, defined in more staid times by students at America’s most prestigious universities. But according to Jason Jules, a fashion insider and author, that’s not the whole story. His latest project Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style is a suave coffee-table book, which will be published on Tuesday by Reel Art Press, that details the black writers, musicians, politicians and actors who redefined a look that was once the preserve of a privileged elite.

Image: Art Kane

Over 224 pages designed by art director Graham Marsh, we see Sidney Poitier nonchalantly cycling in a jacket with elbow patches and postbox pockets, and James Baldwin as the epitome of cool in a full-length shearling coat. This was a time when radical politicians such as Malcolm X wore conservative clothes. It is the look of Blue Note-era jazz, when the leading figures in their field dressed so as to let their music do the talking; on the cover is Miles Davis wearing that most simple and iconic of Ivy garments, the oxford button-down. Birth of the cool, indeed.

Where the original movement was one of stuffy conformity – think the repp ties that often denoted a sporting club – Black Ivy is the story of a generation challenging the status quo. More than replicating the look on college campuses, Benny Golson, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk (pictured, from left) and their ilk made Ivy style subversive and edgy. So pair that cable-knit rollneck with a heavy wool jacket in Prince of Wales check and find timeless style inspiration in this sumptuous book; you’ll simultaneously be the warmest person in the room and the coolest.

House News / Winter Paper

Cold comfort

Hot off the presses for our readers in chillier climes is The Winter Newspaper Special. Hitting the newsstands of cities and ski resorts across Europe – and also available to buy here – this snappy 52-page publication delivers a swathe of news and opinion, covering current affairs, business, culture and design, delving into the art of gifts (if you’re a diplomat), the business of postage and sharing the best reads for the holiday season.

There’s also a round-up of smartly designed items that should be finding their way onto Christmas lists everywhere, from Båge & Söner alarm clocks to throw rugs by Danish brand Menu. As for the best place to read it? We’d suggest tucking in while curled up by a fire, with a hot chocolate (or eggnog) in hand.

How We Live / Replica Taj Mahal

Relationship building

Of all the world’s tourist traps, the – almost literally – blindingly brilliant Taj Mahal is one that’s undeniably worthy of the hype (writes Lewis Huxley). My visit to Agra involved a pre-dawn wake up before six of us piled into a hatchback barely bigger than a tuk-tuk only to get out again a few minutes later to change a flat tyre. No sooner had we sped up to 80km/h than we were dodging another deflated driver who had decided to repair his own puncture while his stationary car straddled two of the motorway’s four lanes. Such is the joyously confounding nature of India. And I was reminded of its bewildering unpredictability when I read this week that Anand Prakash Chouksey, a 52-year-old businessman from Burhanpur, had built a replica of the Taj Mahal for his wife to live in.

Of course, the original Taj Mahal was constructed for a similar reason: Mughal emperor Shah Jahan designed the mausoleum as a tribute to his queen, who died while giving birth to their 14th child (no, that’s not a typo). At 20m rupees (€236,000), Chouksey’s “monument to love” is a little less expensive than Shah Jahan’s magnum opus, which is estimated to have cost what would be about 70bn rupees (€826m) today, and – with all due respect to his feelings for his wife, Manjusha – is considerably less lovable. Nonetheless, the new building is already attracting visitors. Some have even begun to hold pre-wedding photo shoots there, presumably unaware that anyone with a basic grasp of image-editing software could easily plonk a snap of a happy couple in their finery in front of the actual Taj Mahal.

The Choukseys visited Agra time and again to study the 17th-century building but decided that its interiors didn’t quite fit the bill. It is, after all, a tomb and the most likely outcome of erecting such a structure for your spouse is your own death. Instead, the new build contains four bedrooms and various soft furnishings that were hardly de rigueur in Mughal India. Our recommendation? Leave the Choukseys to enjoy their home and make your way to the real thing. It is worth it – no matter how hairy the journey.

Interrogator / Granaz Moussavi

Director’s cut

Born in Tehran with parents who worked in the film industry, award-winning director and screenwriter Granaz Moussavi was always going to end up behind the camera (writes Nyasha Oliver). After relocating to Australia in 1997, she rose to prominence in 2009 with her debut feature My Tehran for Sale. Her latest effort, When Pomegranates Howl, is Australia’s official submission for the best international feature film category at next year’s Academy Awards. Here she tells us about bookshops in Kabul, Palestinian short films and Persian new year.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to start your day?
I have coffee and tea but I prefer coffee.

What tunes are playing?
I usually like blues and jazz. But in these very hectic times I’ve also been listening to classical music because it calms me down.

Magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
I love Australian film periodical Metro magazine, which tells me what’s happening in the art world and about current galleries and fine arts.

A favourite bookshop?
The Pol e Sorkh Cultural Centre in Kabul. It’s the remaining hangout spot for poets, writers and young enthusiasts who are into culture; unfortunately it’s in danger of shutting down at the moment.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched on TV recently?
I watched a Palestinian short film called Al Hadiya (The Present). It’s on Netflix and it’s fabulous. I would recommend it to everyone; it really impressed me.

A favourite film?
My favourite film changes. Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Abbas Kiarostami, whose directing style is a little more obscure, have directed some of my favourite films.

And what’s your movie genre of choice?
I’m not really a genre person because I like to be surprised by the style and narrative of a film. I like cinema with an edge and genre tends to give you the framework of what you’ll see beforehand.

Who’s your cultural obsession?
It changes. Now it's Woody Allen.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news?
I’ll tune into SBS or ABC.

A favourite holiday tradition?
I’m kind of lucky that my family celebrates Christmas, New Year and Nowruz. Nowruz (Persian New Year) is cherished by the majority of Iranians, Afghans, Tajiks and Parsis. It’s usually celebrated for 13 days, where we eat herb rice with fish on the first day and over the two weeks see friends and family who you don’t often see throughout the year.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
I find myself browsing through Youtube and Soundcloud, finding some really good but random tracks.

Culture / Listen / Watch / Read

Sweet success

‘Candy Racer’, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of her debut album, Japanese pop icon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has released a fresh new record. On this fifth full-length effort, she demonstrates why she still deserves the title of “Harajuku’s pop princess”. The album shifts from bubblegum pop to electronica with songs such as “Kamaitachi” and the title track. But there are examples of the singer going beyond her usual kawaii style too: “Natsuiro Flower” shows a captivating and more mature sound.

‘The Summit of the Gods’, Patrick Imbert. Were George Mallory and Andrew Irvine the first men to scale Mount Everest in 1924, decades before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s attempt in 1953? That is the question that drives The Summit of the Gods, an anime feature by French director Patrick Imbert based on the manga by Jiro Taniguchi and Baku Yumemakura. The mountaineers were last seen about 100 metres away from the summit; 70 years later, a camera in the hands of outcast climber Habu Jôji might hold the answer to whether they ever made it to the top. Japanese reporter Fukamachi Makoto is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery in this elegant ode to alpinism.

‘The Men Who Would be King’, Jon Tonks and Chris Lord. Monocle’s own Americas editor has spent years looking into a Pacific Islands phenomenon: the curious stories of the men who travelled to the archipelago of Vanuatu in the hope of being welcomed as deities. This colonially tinged fantasy has centuries-deep roots and features many extraordinary characters. Lord’s words accompany photographer Jon Tonks’s beautifully shot – and equally offbeat – images.

Outpost News / ‘Sermitsiaq AG’, Greenland

Breaking the ice

On the southwest coast of Greenland, bordering the Labrador Sea, is the city of Nuuk. Sitting at a latitude a few kilometres further north than Reykjavík, its population of almost 19,000 can lay claim to being residents of the world’s northernmost capital. Keeping them informed is Sermitsiaq, the country’s oldest newspaper, which is published every Friday. Editor Christian Schultz-Lorenzen tells us about the city’s Christmas traditions and Greenland’s latest literary treasure.

Image: Getty Images

Tell us what you like about Nuuk.
It’s a very special town because it’s not just the capital in Greenland but, in my opinion, it’s the capital of the Arctic too. It’s steadily growing and becoming a very busy city. There’s a lot of culture, politics, sport and all kinds of work with people from all over the world living here.

What’s the big story this week?
Niviaq Korneliussen, a Greenlandic writer, recently won the Nordic Council Literature Prize, which is given to a work of fiction written in one of the Nordic languages. Her novel Naasuliardarpi is about youth suicide, which is a big concern here. There was also another power failure in the city and no one has been able to use their credit cards at the shops this week.

Any forthcoming events that you’ll cover?
Since we’re in the middle of winter, there are lots of heavy storms that get out of control, so there aren’t many events planned.

Any New Year or Christmas traditions in Nuuk?
Christmas is very big here. When there isn’t a storm, we usually have a big Christmas tree that is first lit in a ceremony on 1 December. A special Greenlandic tradition is to put orange coloured stars and electric lights in the windows.

What Am I Bid? / Karl Lagerfeld estate

Sale of the sensory

What do an ornate, golden art deco wall light, a set of Konstantin Grcic tables and a white cardboard cat scratching post all have in common (writes Stella Roos)? They all pleased the eye of Karl Lagerfeld, the aesthete who was the creative director of Chanel, Fendi and his namesake brand until his death in 2019. And in the first phase of Sotheby’s sale of Lagerfeld’s estate, all three pieces (lots 10, 364 and 414, respectively), plus about 400 more, are up for grabs in Monaco in an auction that began last night and continues throughout the weekend.

Image: Sotheby’s / ArtDigital Studio

Mixed in with iconic artworks and furniture spanning the past 300 years is a healthy stock of personalised Lagerfeld memorabilia. These include a custom-tailored Saint Laurent suit jacket in sequined black velvet, which is expected to fetch more than €4,000, and pairs of the designer’s trademark fingerless leather gloves, which have already exceeded €2,000 (both pictured). “People want to buy into the dream called Karl Lagerfeld,” says Pierre Mothes, vice-president of Sotheby’s France. “He died with the status of a rockstar.”

It’s an aura that clearly extends to his feline companion Choupette: her scratching post was initially tipped to go for just €50 but crossed the €100 mark on the first day of pre-bidding, which took place online in advance of the in-person auction. Expect many more of the items to experience similar jumps in price as the gavel hits the block in Monte Carlo.


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