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10/04/2007

Magazine Roundup

Magazine Roundup, which appears every Tuesday at 12 p.m., is originally published by Perlentaucher.

Vanity Fair | Outlook India | The New York Review of Books | Le Nouvel Observateur | Letras Libres | DU | Al Ahram Weekly | Le point | The Times Literary Supplement | Nepszabadsag | The New York Times


Vanity Fair 01.05.2007 (USA)

What! Now Vanity Fair has gone all gooey over Knut, Germany's cutest export, and has him vying for attention on the front cover with Leonardo DiCaprio. Photographed by Annie Leibovitz! (more darling photos here)

The magazine's "green edition" contains an article by Robert Kennedy Jr. on the environmental policy of the Bush administration. "The verdict of history sometimes takes centuries. The verdict on George W. Bush as the nation's environmental steward has already been written in stone. No president has mounted a more sustained and deliberate assault on the nation's environment. No president has acted with more solicitude toward polluting industries. Assaulting the environment across a broad front, the Bush administration has promoted and implemented more than 400 measures that eviscerate 30 years of environmental policy. After years of denial, the president recently acknowledged the potentially catastrophic threat of global warming, but the words have no more meaning than the promise to rebuild New Orleans 'better than ever'."

Also available is William Langewiesche's reportage on the fight of a number of Equadorians against the oil company Chevron. Chevron subsidiary Texaco has contaminated a 1,700 sqare kilometre patch of rain forest for decades. Environmental organisations say it is one of the worst contaminated industrial areas in the world.


Outlook India 16.04.2007 (India)

According to the magazine, Khushwant Singh is India's most famous writer, at least inside the country. His column "With Malice Towards One and All" (read the only examples we could track down on Google) is printed in several Indian newspapers in all possible languages. At 92 he is more active than ever, writes Sheela Reddy in an extensive portrait. "He has something else no other writer can boast of: a dedicated readership among the less erudite. One evening, for instance, on a rare visit to Khan Market, Khushwant strayed into a butcher's shop out of curiosity. Butchers rose, awe-struck, knives paused over wooden blocks, as India's oldest - and best-known - celebrity writer entered to peer at the Quranic verses on the tiled walls. 'We read you every week in the Urdu papers,' one of them ventured to say."'

Outlook India also reviews Gita Aravamundam's book on the ever growing practice of aborting female embryos: "Disappearing Daughters – The Tragedy of Female Foeticide."

The New York Review of Books 26.04.2007 (USA)

Michelangelo
, Titian and Raphael are widely accepted as the best artists of the 16th century. An exhibition in the Prado however has prompted Andrew Butterfield to ask whether Tintoretto might not be the superior artist. "Tintoretto used the brush with a degree of spontaneity and boldness never seen before. Painting at great speed, and with large brushes, he would apply the highlights in long and rapid strokes. These shoot with astonishing force across the surface of the canvas, giving form and creating life as they go. Contemporary observers compared Tintoretto's brushwork to flashes of lightning and it is easy to see why, so great is the display of energy. Recording the impetus of the painter's hand, the brushwork looks dynamic, as if even now it were in motion and might never come to rest."

Further articles: Four hundred years later, Edmund S. and Marie Morgan look back at the beginnings of the USA in Jamestown, Virginia. There is a review of Joan Didion's latest book "Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live" in which Didion writes about her great-great-great grandparents, who trekked from Missouri to California, and of Jonathan Lear's book "Radical Hope."


Le Nouvel Observateur 05.04.2007 (France)

Under the title "Homo Putinus", Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin (website) who was brutally attacked by a group of young Putin followers, portrays his country, whose violence and agitation he nevertheless finds inspiring. "In Russia, everyone from taxi drivers to functionaries and politicians to intellectuals are literary figures. Russians don't differentiate between literature and life. For a writer, this country is an Eldorado. In France, novel writers have to dig deep to find characters. In Russia, they are on the surface. Our writers from Tolstoy to Pasternak are treated as gods. Which is why in 'Goluboe Salo' (Blue Fat, or Blue Lard) I so enjoyed thinking up clones for Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky and Platonov for the year 2068. This is my way of fighting the Russian deification of literature. In literature, unlike life, I can allow myself anything. "


Letras Libres 07.04.2007 (Spain / Mexico)

Cuban writer Jose Antonio Ponte, one of the protagonists of the documentary film which has just opened in German cinemas, "Havanna – The New Art of Building Ruins", has watched Florian Henckel von Donnersmark's film "The Life of Others". "Imprecise, simplistic, poorly directed – the film is incapable of credibly portraying a political system and an epoch. Yet it seems a good way (perhaps because of its imprecise and simplistic approach) to explain to a wide audience a particular modus operandi which certainly did not end with the fall of the Berlin Wall, even if it disappeared in Germany. Unlike most Oscar winners, Florian von Donnersmark's debut will be hard to see in Cuban cinemas. Instead it will circulate underground in Cuba, passed from hand to hand, offering the Cuban secret police, pupils and heirs of the Stasi, an added impetus to practise vigilance."


DU 01.04.2007 (Switzerland)

The focus of DU magazine is old age. Lothar Müller finds it all well and good that so many older people are so vital today, but he doesn't want to see this turning into a "terrorist imperative." "Stay fit, whatever your age! Get wise to anti-aging! Swim every day! A marathon at seventy? No problem! Don't forget your anti-dementia training!" Anyone approaching the wrong side of fragile is written off as "special case: justification required" or worse: as good as dead! "It's no coincidence that among the public faces of old age, level 3 care cases who harass their carers are pitted against bouncing pensioners in rainbow tracksuits. The figure of fragility, which has traditionally manifested itself in all number of forms and grades of severity, has now been relegated to zones of the barely alive, hardly worth living. It is no longer thought of as a part of life, but as a harbinger of death, so insistently have the desire and the ability to live attached themselves to the pole of vitality. This tendency to put fragility on a par with death is the horrifying propaganda of the new age."


Al Ahram Weekly 05.04.2007 (Egypt)

In an article putting responsibility for the situation in Palestine squarely on the shoulders of Israeli colonialism, Ramzy Baroud also describes the less-known problem of Palestinian refugees in Iraq: "In Iraq the plight of the Palestinians is deteriorating to the extent that it is now like a horror story. Saddam, though he treated Palestinians well, blocked their attempts to own property so that they wouldn't settle and thus concede their right to return to their homeland. The result was that the moment his statue came down, Iraqi landlords moved to evict thousands of Palestinian families. To date over 500 Palestinians have been murdered in Iraq, thousands more have been wounded and many of the rest are living in tent cities in various parts of Iraq and near the Jordanian border."

And Jill Kamel warns of the dangers posed to the Pharaohs' graves in Luxor by rampant tourism.


Le point 05.04.2007 (France)

Historian Madeleine Ferrieres, who made a name for herself with her history of fears about food, has now published a study on the history of "Nourritures canailles" The book - literally translated as "rabble's fare" - deals with the cooking and nutrition of the underclasses, who never read cookbooks or respected the culinary codes of classic elite French cuisine. Yet at the same time their dishes have done much to enrich French cooking. In an interview, she talks about the emergence and early forms of fast food: "People talk today of the 'McDonaldisation' of our conventions, but in fact we could just as well speak of a return to the past. The working day of yesteryear was often punctuated by pauses when people stopped for a bite to eat. That also goes for the workers who went down to the corner for a bite of tripe at 11 am. In the cities of the ancien regime there was a remarkable array of takeaway food on offer. Tavern owners had a knack for adapting to the tastes of their clientele. And we have them to thank for wine dishes, casseroles and fish ragouts."


The Times Literary Supplement 06.04.2007 (USA)

Zoologist Robert May, former scientific advisor to the British government, believes that there have always been temperature fluctuations on the earth. He notes, however that for the last 8,000 years the CO2 concentration has been constant at 280 ppm. This relatively uniform climate allowed such successful developments as the birth of farming. Now the CO2 concentration is 380, and in 2050 it will be 500 ppm. "It is worth noting that the last time our planet settled to greenhouse gas levels as high as 500 ppm was some 20–40 million years ago, when sea levels were around 300 ft higher than today. The Dutch Nobel Prizewinner Paul Crutzen has suggested that we recognize our entry into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, which began around 1780, with James Watt’s development of the steam engine, when industrialization began to change the geochemical history of our planet."

Further articles: Karl Miller is enthralled with Ian McEwan's new novel "On Chesil Beach," in his view a masterly masterpiece. A. E. Harvey presents Richard Bauckham's New Testament research that explains concordances between the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke in that all give prevalence to eyewitness accounts. Ali Smith praises Jan Bondeson's "The Cat Orchestra and the Elephant Butler," a strange history about amazing animals.

Nepszabadsag 06.04.2007 (Hungary)

According to a new survey, the majority of Hungarian respondents regard Hungarian culture as only partially linked to Europe's cultural heritage. Judit N. Kosa comments: "Could this shocking result not be because we ourselves are unsure of what we understand by Hungarian culture? Since the fall of communism politicians have been fighting a bitter battle of cultures, politics is omnipresent in all areas of cultural education and Hungarian culture is being segregated. People choose books, films and music according to which political party an artist belongs to. As in the times of the dictatorship, theatre directors are chosen according to their party allegiance; plays are shown for political reasons; we look for the political message first in sculptures, instead of just letting them work on us visually. If you want to shut people with other opinions out of the Hungarian cultural heritage, you will hardly identify with the European idea of mutual tolerance."


The New York Times 08.04.2007 (USA)

In The New York Times Magazine, Russell Shorto describes Pope Benedict XVI as a sort of intellectual siren, who plays up to leftist theologians like Hans Küng, secular professors like Jürgen Habermas or Senator Pera, or protestants like German chancellor Angela Merkel. All of them look askance at secularism as an anti-religious current, and favour the Pope's attempt to unify reason and belief. Yet Pope Benedict's greatest problem, according to Shorto, is himself. Because as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzniger for years defended the unassailability of the Catholic church, which many believers see as outmoded and dishonest. "The paradox may be that for all his stylistic softening as pope, Joseph Ratzinger’s own labors through the decades, applying his life experience with such rigor to protecting and preserving the church, are precisely what prevent Europeans from reconnecting with their roots. 'Think of the silencing of theologians in recent decades,' said Father Reese, the former editor of the Jesuit journal America. 'The suppression of discussion and debate. How certain issues become litmus tests for orthodoxy and loyalty. All of these make it very difficult to do the very thing Benedict wants. I wish him well. I want him to succeed. But it seems everything he has done in the past makes it much more difficult to do it.'"

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