?From the great beyond into the present? ? an interview with Jo Lendle

Hanser publisher Jo Lendle talks about gentle adjustments of languages and marketing strategies.... more more

GoetheInstitute

26/06/2007

Magazine Roundup

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

Lettre International | Outlook India | Przekroj | Nueva Sociedad | Al Hayat | Literaturen | Trouw | The Times Literary Supplement | Il Foglio | The Economist | The Spectator | Elet es Irodalom | Al Ahram Weekly | The New Yorker | Die Weltwoche | The New York Times


Lettre International 01.07.2007 (Germany)

The Romanian writer Mircea Cartarescu tells in "Sex and Nabokov" of his "first woman," Irina. "I was a philology student, crazy about the written word, totally flipped out, a poet through and through (at least that's how I saw myself) and nevertheless pale as a ghost, small and desperately weak, so that the only part of humanity that interested me, girls that is, looked through me liked glass. I lived in ghastly solitude." Until in 1979, when at 23 he travelled to Cluj for his first Eminescu conference. There he met Irina. "She'd studied English and Romanian, she was ugly, frowsy, and when she walked she seemed to trip over her own feet. Everything she wore looked like it'd been thrown at her with a pitchfork. Right from the start we were like kindred spirits, two crazies, two dreamers. I spouted quotes from my favourite authors, she spoke ironically and in parables."

Haideh Daragahi portrays Fatemeh Baraghani, "the first woman in the Islamic world to removed her veil in public, more than 50 years ago. She believed that riches were theft, she wrote poems and scientific treatises.... Her life circumstances were recorded by the French diplomat Comte de Gobineau, the British Orientalist Edward Brown and many other visitors to Iran at the time. One can only assume the fact that she's nonetheless unknown to Western feminism can be put down to Eurocentric provincialism, and an inability to imagine that a woman like her could grow up in a place like that."


Outlook India 02.07.2007 (India)

Ram Sharan Joshi recommends that anyone wanting to understand Hindu press read Sevanti Ninan's study "Headlines from the Heartland" but warns that not enough attention is paid to some Indian particularities. "The application of Habermass concept of public sphere in India’s diversified and unevenly developed society has limitations. India’s agrarian society, having passed through colonial rule, is fundamentally different from a liberal, developed society in the West. The basic class character of the Hindi press’s ownership has been mercantile-capitalistic. The changeover from mercantile capitalism to industrial capitalism, and switching over to digital printing technology, do not necessarily cause a shift in the social and professional behaviour of Hindi press barons and mufassil proprietors. Also, the century-old caste character of the Hindi press is fairly intact. Still a caste Hindu-dominated press, proprietors, editors, bureau chiefs and chief reporters invariably come from Vaishya, Brahmin, Kayasth and other upper caste backgrounds. This affects the democratic functioning of the Hindi press."


Przekroj 25.06.2007 (Poland)

There are some original politicians in Poland. After computer scientist Lukasz Foltyn had earned enough fast money with his Messenger Gadu-Gadu to devote his life to things that matter, he established a "real social democracy" to ensure a just distribution of the monies of the wealthy (including his own). In an interview with the weekly, he explains why he feels particularly suited to this role. "In a neo-liberal system, a poor person with my approach would be considered a nobody, someone only interested in stealing money from the rich. But I'm credible. I don't need socialism to improve my life with social assistance because I can afford everything (...) I don't yet know if my party will enter the elections or try to influence society in another way. It's not about power and it's definitely not about money – I'm proof of that."


Nueva Sociedad 01.06.2007 (Argentina)

Free trade treaty - with the USA - or regional economic integration? Emir Sader, executive secretary of the Organisation of Latin American Social Scientists (CLACSO), compares the two development models currently available to the states south of the US border. Mexico's experience of the first has proved to be "greatly disappointing. After a brief surge in development along the American border – which brought mainly work for women and children in low-wage factories and without any union protection – the invested capital stopped flowing and was diverted to Asia as soon as China began offering better perspectives." It should function differently between the members of the Alternativa Bolivariana para las Americas, which is being pushed forward by Venezuela in particular. "Fair trade, as is suggested by the world social forum; every country gives what it can and gets what it needs." The big winners at the moment would be "Bolivia, Haiti, Ecuador and Nicaragua".


Al Hayat 24.06.2007 (Lebanon)

Considering the events in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon, Syrian human rights activist Akram al-Bunni warns against giving up on demands for democratic change. "Was the democratic option not an old need, an old medicine, long before the illness of corruption, the backwardness and violence that we are now suffering from, appeared?! Wasn't the demand for democracy already present before the West brought it in with its projects of political development and reform? For many, it was a political goal unto itself to strengthen society against the challenges and threats from the outside world." With the West turning back to the old policies and pushing political stability rather than democracy, the current situation has become a test of local democratic forces.

Dalal al-Bizri describes the atmosphere of victory that prevails among Islamists on the 40th anniversary of the Arab defeat in the June (six day) war. 1967 stands mainly for the defeat of secular Arab-nationalist thinking. Bizri is especially appalled by the joy with which a female Islamic commentator recently reported on the gender separation and number of veils on Egyptian beaches. For Bizri,"the holy war against the secular enemy 'inside'" has now reached Alexandria's beaches.


Literaturen 01.07.2007 (Germany)

In an essay (alas not online) in the large summer double-issue, the Zagreb-based writer Miljenko Jergovic reports on the situation in the Balkans, as illustrated by his own family – Uncle Mladen, for example. "He was born in Usora, a hamlet in Central Bosnia, where his father – my grandfather – was a train station attendant. He grew up on the rails that crossed the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy and was used to changing friends and landscapes; he learned Slovenian from his father and Croatian from his mother but before those two languages, he spoke German."


Trouw 23.06.2007 (The Netherlands)

Humanity as an Achilles heel: in his essay "Heavenly reward," Protestant minister Sam Jense cooly dissects the tactics of Islamic martyrs. "In terms of weaponry, the Dutch troops in Uruzgan are way ahead of the Taliban militias, but we mustn't underestimate them. Their best weapon is their contempt of death (or better: contempt of life) and they use it by the dozen, by the hundred. Like a swarm of insects. What do they care? In our world, on the other hand, the death of every Dutch soldier hurts. After the death of Corporal Cor Strik (more), there was a heated discussion about whether to pull out our troops. Seen from a human and cultural perspective, this debate is worthy, from a strategic one, laughable and dangerous. In the meantime, three Dutsch soldiers have been killed in the war. When it reaches ten, the discussion of withdrawal will certainly resume in the Hague. And if a hundred die, I'll bet a month's wages that we will end the mission. That's our weak spot - and the Taliban knows it well."


The Times Literary Supplement 20.06.2007 (UK)

Having read a whole bunch of obviously very depressing books on the situation in Russia, Charles King sees black for the people and country. "If current trends continue, at some point in the next century Russia will become a Muslim-plurality, perhaps even Muslim-majority, society, a fact that Russian intellectuals, policy-makers, and the Orthodox Church have yet to comprehend. So far, the Russian approach has been to fall back on the policies that defined engagement with its Islamic South in the Imperial period: to keep the Muslim periphery inside Russia but outside Russian consciousness. Today, the peoples of the Caucasus – especially Muslims – are routinely denigrated as thievish and inherently rebellious, blanketed with collective responsibility for everything from organized crime to terrorism, and portrayed as the chief threat to Russia’s internal security and stability. That fear, not just of terrorists but of all Southerners, has played no small role in Putin’s consolidation of power, and the growing chauvinism of Russian society."


Il Foglio 23.06.2007 (Italy)

All the figures and calculations about the 2001 renovation of the Tower of Pisa have been published, and Gabriella Mecucci assures us the tower will survive. Less scientific but more fun are the stories about why it leans so much in the first place. "Other people say it's the fault of Guglielmo von Innsbruck, the builder who worked together with the controversial architect Bonanno Pisano. The Austrian was hunchbacked, and to revenge himself for his deformity he made sure the tower would also be deformed. And then there's the eschatological explanation, that the lean is God's will. He wanted a leaning tower, one that's always in danger but never falls down. A tower that remains standing as if through a miracle, to the eternal glory of the divine power."

And Fabiana Giacomotti portrays the musician Peggy Gilbert, who carved out a career for herself in the male-dominated world of jazz in the 1930s.


The Economist 22.06.2007 (UK)

The magazine reviews two new books on India's post-colonial history, casting a note of disbelief at the optimism voiced by Martha C. Nussbaum in "The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future": "Indeed, the extreme unevenness of India's current enrichment is creating new splits. Amartya Sen, an economist and a more recent Nobel-prize winner, has given warning that the country's west and south may come to look like California while the north and east is more like sub-Saharan Africa. To develop a unity that is not based on race or religion, Ms Nussbaum argues for the 'public poetry' advocated by Tagore. That would be lovely but, as an ugly consumerism lays hold in India, almost unimaginable."

Flags were burned in the Middle East in view of the knighthood for Salman Rushdie - but Muslims in the United Kingdom seem to be reacting rather diffidently: "It is hard to know who speaks for the British Muslim on the street. But the Muslim on the internet seems relaxed. 'What the hell has it got to do with Pakistan or any other country who we give knighthoods to?', reads one comment on the BBC Asian Network's message boards."


The Spectator 22.06.2007 (UK)

Generally speaking, Rod Liddle is skeptical about the aristocracy but he fully supports the knighthood of Salman Rushdie. "But if we are to have the honours, I find it difficult to think of anyone more deserving of a knighthood than Sir Salman Rushdie. While the rest of us were still worrying about the Cold War, Rushdie was warning us about the war yet to come. He addressed the Islamic revolution with sophistication, philosophical elegance and great literary inventiveness. And he did so with enormous courage and candour. He is perhaps Britain’s only writer who has successfully examined the soul of Islam and, in so doing, examined the soul of the West too. Despite the misery of his peripatetic incarceration he has produced at least five first-class novels or collections of stories (which is four more than Will Self has managed — and I’m being kind)."


Elet es Irodalom 22.06.2007 (Hungary)

A week ago, fifty journalists from Central and Eastern Europe met in Prague to discuss the European public sphere at a summit organised by signandsight.com. Janos Szeky, one participant, meditates on the topic. "Fifty years ago, when 'Europe' unfortunately only meant Western Europe, the European public sphere was not a subject of discussion," he writes, as everyone spoke the same language. "The irritation only began when the attractive and self-assured Western Europe had to get to know the sleasy Eastern Europe. For a while the latter only showed the former what it could understand without difficulty: common roots, Kafka and Budapest's legendary black humour, the classical architecture of its opera houses and sociologists who didn't dare come up with ideas of their own but quickly reacted to Western European trends. Yet Central Europe is not only comprised of countries that copy the West. It is also made up of entirely new states, which have not yet come to terms intellectually with their new status. To understand them, Western Europe would have to learn about their languages and cultures, instead of forcing their models on the newcomers. This Europe has never existed, it must be invented anew."


Al Ahram Weekly 21.06.2007 (Egypt)

The Egyptian blogger scene is blooming, and the Goethe Institute in Cairo has invited Internet commentators to talk with young filmmakers. The event was almost a success, notes Sarah Carr. "During one of the Q & A sessions with the director, one member of the audience urged filmmakers in the Middle East to carry on making films such as these in order to present the richness of Arab culture to the West and highlight all the good things the region has to offer. This prompted another member of the audience to comment that actually, he was at a loss to which good things she meant because he felt as if this country is 'clobbering us around the head with shoes on a daily basis.' He then promptly took his leave -- followed by the woman who made the original comment -- and their voices were audible still arguing the point outside as the organisers explained that they hoped this event would be the first of many unifying and strengthening the independent cultural sector."


The New Yorker 02.07.2007 (USA)

Ken Auletta writes about the attempts of the British media mogul Rupert Murdoch to get control of The Wall Street Journal, asking what would become of the renowned newspaper if he did. "What Murdoch didn’t volunteer is other reasons he has for wanting to own the Journal. Whatever his commercial successes, he has never produced a great newspaper, and he seems to value even a trophy property like The Times of London less for its prestige than for its influence—its power to help sway elections, to promote his political ideas, and to protect his corporate interests."


Die Weltwoche 21.06.2007 (Switzerland)

The severest criticism of the Documenta 12 exhibition of contemporary art and its curators Roger M. Buergel and Ruth Noack comes from Switzerland. Claudia Spinelli finds the collection haphazard at best. "One seldom encounters truly multilayered or enlightening metaphors in d12. Most of it seems either at pains to express anything at all, or simply inconsequential. When it focusses on formal analogies between the cultural production from the most different regions - Japanese miniatures and Western minimalist drawings - what it shows is neither good nor particularly interesting. But one thing is clear: visitors should have a firm academic grounding, want nothing better than to educate themselves and be deadly serious to boot. Even such visitors, however, would be hard put to understand the intellectual connections, or even get a remote feel for the curators' aim. This is part of an elite game one could also call totalitarian."


The New York Times 25.06.2007 (USA)

Inca ceramics from Machu Picchu may be inelegant, but that doesn't stop Peru from wanting them back - from the Yale Peabody Museum. The questions that arise are basic, writes Arthur Lubow in the cover story of The New York Times Magazine. "Other countries as well as Peru are demanding the recovery of cultural treasures removed by more powerful nations many years ago. The Greeks want the Parthenon marbles returned to Athens from the British Museum; the Egyptians want the same museum to surrender the Rosetta Stone and, on top of that, seek to spirit away the bust of Nefertiti from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. Where might it all end? One clue comes in a sweeping request from China. As a way of combating plunder of the present as well as the past, the Chinese government has asked the United States to ban the import of all Chinese art objects made before 1911. The State Department has been reviewing the Chinese request for more than two years."

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