The Top Global Stories of 2012

More

The year in review.

One of the best movies to have gotten an American distribution this year is Hungarian director Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse, a psychologically punishing depiction of subsistence farming in the 19th century. For over two battering hours, an old man and his daughter fetch water from a quickly-depleting well, eat simple meals of boiled potatoes, fail in coaxing their possibly-dying workhorse out of his barn, and mumble Bible verses as the wind accelerates from a soft whistle to an apocalyptic howl. And that's pretty much it. That's the movie.

Atlantic writers survey the biggest stories and ideas on their beats. See full coverage

Supposedly, it was the vicious beating of a horse by a cab driver in the northern Italian city of Turin that drove the philosopher Fredric Nietzsche into a permanent state of syphilitic insanity. But the film only hints at such world-historical matters, and the title slyly pans away from the great events and personalities of history. Instead, the movie is an examination of the quotidian and anonymous nature of the greater part of lived experience. It's a poetic and sometimes bleak -- although sometimes inspiring -- inquiry into the strength needed to face a daily existence that is fundamentally precarious.

In a way, this has been a year of great events and personalities, dominated by the likes of Bashar al Assad, Mohammed Morsi, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Our list is similarly punctuated with headline-grabbing events, wars and crises that occupied the attention and anxieties of some of the more consequential nations and individuals on earth. Yet as Tarr's film suggests, one could look elsewhere for the true substance of world events. This year, it might be found in the refugee camps of Turkey and Jordan, in the slums of Cairo, or in the fading prospects of millions of unemployed Spanish and Greek youth. World affairs can take on an abstract and schematic quality when viewed at an extreme distance, and the events listed below are no exception. But they aren't abstract or schematic for the people that are living through them, right now, even as you read this. And most of these stories aren't over yet. They'll ripple and ramify for years to come, in ways that are destined to both shock and gratify us.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Armin Rosen is a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Global channel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

Just In