On the Death of Siegfried Lenz ? ?You have to justify your life?

Siegfried Lenz, one of the great writers of German post-war literature is dead. He died on 7 October 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.... more more

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19/06/2007

Magazine Roundup

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

The New Yorker | London Review of Books | Tygodnik Powszechny | Il Foglio | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Guardian | Elet es Irodalom | Le point | The Nation | The New Statesman | Le Nouvel Observateur | Asharq al-Awsat | The New Criterion | Die Weltwoche


The New Yorker
25.06.2007 (USA)

Seymour M. Hersh, who exposed the torture scandal in the Iraqi jail Abu Ghraib in 2004, now describes how the American general Antonio M. Taguba, having presented his report on the jail, was shunned by his military colleagues and made a victim of the scandal. Hersh's report also asks what Rumsfeld and the Pentagon knew and what they kept under tabs. "'They always shoot the messenger,' Taguba told me. 'To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal—that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do.' Taguba went on, 'There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff'—the explicit images—'was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this.... I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention.'"


London Review of Books 21.06.2007 (UK)

Neal Ascherson found Frederick Taylor's history of The Berlin Wall very interesting. In places, he missed the author's courage to express his own opinion, but he found many of the passages fascinating. "
Taylor is at his best when he's telling stories. He makes compulsive reading, for instance when he traces the process by which the first spontaneous and idealistic Fluchthelfer ('escape helper') groups formed in 1961 became slowly entangled in all kinds of moral and practical dilemmas. Should they carry guns and shoot back when fired on? They began to do so, but lost much Western sympathy when GDR border guards were killed. Should they raise money for expensive tunnels by striking coverage deals with American TV networks or Axel Springer's right-wing press empire? They eventually did, but getting into bed with journalists sometimes compromised their security as well as their public image."


Tygodnik Powszechny 17.06.2007 (Poland)

Things are in a huge muddle in Minsk - Alexander Lukashenko is releasing political prisoners and organising concerts "For an independent Belarus." The Kremlin for its part finances the opposition – so that Russian economic interests don't create problems. "The West was duped by the pro-Russian opposition. Its only goal was to marginalise the new movement of the former presidential candidate Alaksandar Milinkievic. The regime opponents, who are difficult to recognise in society, split into two camps: pro-Russian and pro-European. These will now fight for the upper hand – more precisely, for who gets to participate in talks, in the event of a political break-through in the future," write Malgorzata Nocun and Andrzej Brzeziecki from Minsk.

Film director Andrzej Wajda has a new project: in Krakau, Stanislav Wyspianski's glass windows, which were never realised, should be reconstructed on the basis of sketches and exhibited in a pavilion in the city centre. "When I saw the original windows in the Franciscan church 67 years ago, I wrote the only poem of my life. Thankfully it was lost. The reconstructed glass windows and the existing ones are united in theological unity, that tells of death and re-birth in artistic creation," the director tells the magazine.

The project of a new museum for contemporary art in the heart of Warsaw was off to a great start – multi-party support, a recognised jury of experts - before falling apart a few weeks later. The winning design by Christian Kerez was called a "barrack", then the experts starting fighting among themselves. "Now the politicians have to solve problems that belong in the experts' domain. The new advisory board will decide about the project's status. At the beginning, the institution will have neither a good network nor much money. What remains are interesting ideas and credibility. But that requires consensus," says Piotr Kosiewski.


Il Foglio
16.06.2007 (Italy)

At the Venice Biennale, Sandro Fusina's heart has been won here and here by the (not by choice) minimalists from Romania. "They solved the problem of particpation in the 52nd International Art exhibition in Venice with a few thousand euros. They already had a pavillion, it was quite large, right next to the gardens. To erect it, they put a few cement sacks against the wall, that were probably already full of holes when they were bought, a wobbly table with a buffet pull-out, possibly from Ceaucescu's days, a porcelain dog with a broken ear and lots more junk that no garage sale would want. A monitor from an era long gone shows a fuzzy video. There are traces of white on the pavilion's linoleum floors – a clue that either covers or cleaning products were spared during the construction. Even the hostess was the least attractive of the entire Biennale."

Inspired by Elena Kostioukovitch's book "Perche agli Italiani piace parlare del cibo" (Why Italians like to talk about food), Fabiana Giacomotti takes a look at the connection between language and food. "The Italian language smells of oven and cupboard. It pushes bread between its teeth, chews, swallows and digests, while the English contents itself with disliking a particularly weak cup of tea. 'It's not my cup of tea.' Italian is a maccaroni-variation of Latin, as the cavalier and great meister of the baroque Marino school confirmed."


Gazeta Wyborcza 16.06.2007 (Poland)

"This is not a personal homage," says artist Piotr Uklanski, who had three thousand soldiers stand in the Gdansk port to form the "Solidarity" logo. "I'm looking for symbols whose meaning have disappeared, as though they were in abeyance. (..) I don't believe in art's good intentions. You can do art for the wrong reasons, for example for money, and make just as good if not better art than someone who is doing it for the right reasons."


The Guardian
16.06.2007 (UK)

Christopher Hitchens is full of admiration for the journalist Karl Marx. In his review of a volume containing early texts by Marx, he emphasizes that John F. Kennedy – who said the world would have been spared a great deal if Karl Marx had remained a journalist – missed the irony: "Yet the point that JFK missed - and that almost everyone else has gone on to miss - is that much of this journalism was devoted to upholding and defending the ideas not of the coming Russian and Chinese or (as Kennedy failed to appreciate at the time) Cuban revolutions, but of the earlier American one."


Elet es Irodalom 15.06.2007 (Hungary)

Hungarians' view of history is tarnished by self-pity, the myth of victimisation and a lack of historical knowledge, writes sociologist Maria Vasarhelyi. After World War I, two thirds of the country's territory fell to neighbouring countries. This is still one of the key concerns of right-wing conservatives in the region, and continues to influence Hungary's relations with its neighbours today. A study carried out by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences shows that the historical understanding of the population regarding the reasons for this enormous loss of territory is largely based on myth and legend. "Hungarians are still looking for individuals or groups they can cast as scapegoats. Extraordinarily complex historical contexts are dismissed with simple explanations, and in this way the nation avoids having to face up to its past. Absurd explanations abound: Hungary lost out after World War I because the French are traditionally sympathetic to Romania and take an ill view of Hungary; or because Clemenceau, French president at the time, purportedly hated his Hungarian daughter in law; or because the Hungarian communists betrayed their homeland. People still dish up the old legend that Romanian politicians bribed the representatives of the victorious forces with prostitutes so they would decide against Hungarian interests."


Le point 14.06.2007 (France)

In his "notebook" column, Bernard-Henri Levy doggedly refuses to let go of the topic of Darfur, and points the finger at French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner: "This former member of Doctors Without Borders, now a couch geo-strategist, went to great pains in last week's Journal du Dimanche to explain to those in favour of putting pressure on Khartoum, and so on Khartoum's Chinese backers, that Darfur is about the Sudanese killing other Sudanese, and that Peking has 'nothing to do' with these inner-Sudanese massacres. That means dismissing as unimportant all of the Security Council resolutions blocked by China through abstentions or vetoes. And it means once more singing the dirty little melody of tribal, regional and racial wars, this alibi for inactivity that purportedly leaves the West with no alternative but to wash its hands and assert its innocence."


The Nation 02.07.2007 (USA)

Lakshmi Chaudhry wonders whether as a candidate for the US presidency, Hillary Clinton could run afoul of her leftist female voters, many of whom would now prefer to see a truly progressive male as president. "Yet most feminists recognize that the chance of a true-blue lefty becoming the first female president is about as likely as that proverbial snowball's. Much as we like to bemoan our nation's backward ways in matters of female leadership, the kind of women who actually make it to the top in other parts of the world--leaving aside Chile's Michelle Bachelet--are cut from the same cloth as their male counterparts. Susan Douglas may accuse her of epitomizing 'the Genghis Khan principle of American politics,' but Hillary Clinton is not a patch on dear old Maggie Thatcher or Indira Gandhi, and she's definitely left of Germany's Angela Merkel."


The New Statesman 14.06.2007 (UK)

The madness has begun, comments Andrew Stephen in view of the avalanche of recycled Hillary Clinton biographies: "Why all this unprecedented hysteria over an election that won't even be held until 4 November next year? The answer, I am convinced, is that the leading candidate so far is a woman who is trying to break a 218-year male stranglehold on the most powerful job in the world. That, in turn, has unleashed vast tides of subconscious sexism from America's political commentators, the vast majority of whom are male. A woman seeking the power and masculine majesty of the US presidency? How dare a petty little Machiavellian ogress like her have such audacity!"


Le Nouvel Observateur 14.06.2007 (France)

American writer Rick Moody ("The Ice Storm") contributes an essay dealing among other things with religion in Europe and America: "American literature is rife with guilt about America's typical overlap of politics and religion. Nowadays Europe seems so secular that it can play down the role of Christianity in its history. But America hasn't been able to do that. We live in a sort of softer theocracy. And the customary puritans on whom the country grounded itself reappear on a regular basis. That's why American writers have a hard time freeing themselves from this legacy. I had an episcopalian education, and that's worse than if I'd grown up a Catholic! In America, religion isn't particularly joyous, aside from the black churches, that is."


Asharq al-Awsat 13.06.2007 (Egypt)

An interview with Al-Sayed Yassin, an Egyptian journalist and long-time employee of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, gives a thrilling insight into the biographies of the postwar generation of Egyptian intellectuals. Like many other personalities, Yassin, who describes himself as an independent intellectual, was once very close to the Muslim Brotherhood. Yassin joined the movement in 1950 as a student in Alexandria, and remained a member for four years: "Back then social problems struck me as particularly grave. The gap between rich and poor increased from day to day. Class differences intensified in such a way that society was divided into two separate worlds, and it was as if one had nothing to do with the other. I was interested in the secret behind these class differences, the secret behind the shameless richness of the one and poverty of the other. This search for the origins of social inequality was what moved me to join the Muslim Brotherhood. And it was what ultimately led me to leave them." The religious obligation to pay alms to the needy, as stipulated by the Muslim Brotherhood, seemed increasingly unpersuasive to Yassin: "Alms and charitable acts can complement state measures, but they're no replacement."


The New Criterion 01.06.2007 (USA)

A suitable answer to Documenta? Roger Kimball visited the "Wrestle" exhibition at Bard College, which presents modern art from the Marieluise Hessel collection, and was so repelled that he gave his article the title "Why the art world is a disaster." In his view the blame lies with Marcel Duchamp, whose Dada-inspired gestures have been repeated ad nauseam: "The sex, the violence, the tedium, the presentation of everyday objects as works of art. The difference is that Duchamp was in earnest: 'I threw the bottle rack and the urinal into to their faces as a challenge,' Duchamp noted contemptuously, 'and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty.' No wonder he gave up on art for chess. Duchamp mounted a campaign against art and aesthetic delectation. In one sense, he succeeded brilliantly. Only the campaign backfired. Once the aloof and brittle irony of Duchamp institutionalized itself and became the coin of the realm, it descended from irony to a new form of sentimentality."


Die Weltwoche 14.06.2007 (Switzerland)

Interesting women in this issue. Peer Teuwsen offers a portrait of the behavioural economist Iris Bohnet, who teaches at the Kennedy School at Harvard: "The woman who wanted to change the world as a girl, stands in a lecture hall at Harvard. Opposite her, squished into ten plastic chairs, sit ten ministers from the United Arab Emirates. She talks to them about the roll of trust in social life, tells them of field work, theory and praxis. (...) Iris Bohnet, a blonde woman with a very open face, tries to understand Sharia, Islamic law, knows from her trips to the Gulf region about social structures based on clan-thinking and 'trust through relations' and that strangers are not readily trusted. The powerful ministers, on the other hand, know that they have a problem. Because foreigners have such a hard time penetrating the Islamic social structures, their investments remain minimal. And those who want to offer a long-term perspective to the region, which is growing quickly thanks to the vast wealth of the Sheiks, have to talk to people like Bohnet."

And Thomas Widmer offers a portrait of the philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand (more), who died in 1982: a liberal anarchist, critic and polemicist.

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