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02/10/2007

Magazine Roundup

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

L'Espresso | Folio | The Economist | Prospect | Telerama | Elet es Irodalom | The New York Review of Books | Literaturen | Al Hayat | London Review of Books | Al Ahram Weekly| The Times Literary Supplement | The New York Times | Lettre International | Merkur | ResetDoc


L'Espresso 28.09.2007 (Italy)

Cabaret artist Beppe Grillo makes successful use of the Internet to stage his version of extra-parliamentary opposition, calling for a kiss-my-ass-day on his blog, as well as virtual demonstrations against politicians with criminal records. Protest then spilled over onto the streets, with demonstrations in several cities. Now the "Grillinis" even want to present candidates in municipal elections. Alarm is growing among the established parties, giving Alessandro Gilioli cause to investigate Grillo's political agenda and the democratic potential of the Web. "Putting it simply, he sees the Internet as the sole information channel of the future ('You journalists are dead ducks!') and announces that his future battles will all be waged on the terrain of the mass media. (…) 'If you dish up fairy tales on the Internet, within 24 hours you'll have 2,000 commentaries calling you a jerk,' he says. 'You can't cover it up, and that's democracy. There's no one to contradict you on television or in the papers. But there is on the Web'."


Folio 01.10.2007 (Switzerland)

This issue is dedicated to the Germans' favourite child, the car. The majority of articles point to its becoming more ecologically friendly. Bernard Imhasly, however, reports on the planned 2,000-dollar car by Tata Motors, which could set off a wave of motorisation and put a corresponding damper on global ecological endeavours. "Asked about the ideal customer profile for the new car, Debasis Roy, spokesperson for Tata Motors in Bombay, opens the morning paper without a word and points to a photo of a young family on a motor scooter. The wife sits behind her husband, and the young girl stands between his knees. It's monsoon season and water splashes from the muddy streets. The three are soaking wet, and hold their heads stiff in the lashing rain. 'Those are our customers,' says Roy. 'Doesn't this family have the right to be dry when they drive? Is it right when the girl must sit through school with wet clothes?'"

Further articles: Andreas Hirstein proclaims gasoline-electric hybrid cars the green car of the future. There is one bug, however: the explosive nature of their lithium-ion batteries. Hirstein also gives an insight into the engines currently available. The Californian electro-sports car Tesla is fitted with a lithium-ion battery, however its safety cooling system accounts for a third of its weight, as Peter Haffner reports. Business analyst Helmut Becker puts the secret of the success of Toyota, the world's largest car manufacturer, down to the respect, conscientiousness, frugality and diligence of the company's workers. And Daniel Goeudevert, former head of Volkswagen, prophesies in an interview that in the future, being mobile will be more important than owning one's own car.


The Economist 28.09.2007 (UK)

Liberals in Turkey are worried about a possible Islamisation of the country. Exaggerated fears, writes the magazine. Nevertheless, "even liberal intellectuals now sound nervous. Yesim Arat, a political scientist at Bosporus University who dislikes the headscarf ban, laments the use of the new constitution to repeal it. The headscarf is worn in keeping with Islam. 'By inserting it into the constitution you are forming law based on religious dictates,' Ms Arat says. 'This is very problematic.'

Further articles deal with the uneasy situation of newspaper publishers in the age of the Internet, the leftist movement MoveOn.org (website), which has hit the headlines because of an knock-down priced advertisement in The New York Times, and the influence of the "Israel Lobby" on current US politics. Books reviewed include Sophie Gee's historical novel "The Scandal of the Season" and Greg Behrman's history of the Marshall Plan.


Prospect 01.10.2007 (UK)

Three months ago Gordon Brown cited in a policy statement (here right at the end, starting with point 212) the need for establishing common British values. The magazine has asked fifty well-known figures for their opinion, among them historian Timothy Garton Ash, who voices scepticism, along with the majority of respondents. "My conclusion: less would be more. A statement, in plain English, of the rights and duties of British citizens is what we need. Lawyers should combine with poets to write it. Rather than entering the swamp of defining values, or the jungle of national identity, it would suffice to introduce this statement with a paragraph saying that British citizens have long prided themselves on living together peacefully in freedom. This peaceful freedom, rare in the world, has been buttressed by habits such as tolerance, common decency, respect for the law, an instinct for fair play, good-neighbourliness, a tendency to support the underdog, a love of sport, much shared complaining about the weather and, last but not least, a highly developed national sense of humour." Other respondents include Brian Eno, Eric Hobsbawm, Josef Joffe and Ziauddin Sardar.


Telerama 01.10.2007 (France)

Belgian intellectuals and artists of all stripes are observing with astonishment the crisis in their country. Some express their views on the conflicts and the threat of a divided Belgium in the magazine, among them the singer Arno, the comic artist Francois Schuiten and the director Marion Hänsel. Artist, theatre director and choreographer Jan Fabre, who in his own words has been blacklisted by extremist Flemish groups for the last 20 years, says: "I like the street slang, and am also very proud of the cultural heritage of Antwerp, especially its painters Van Dyck and Rubens. But love for a language or a culture is worlds apart from Flemish nationalism. (…) Regardless of how far things have come, I still have a hope: I hope that this country will stay together, that the Flemish can remember how they were supported by the Walloons from the 1940s to the 60s, and above all that the extreme Right doesn't sweep the others along with them. I really don't care who rules Belgium: socialists, liberals or Catholics… anyone but the extreme Right!"


Elet es Irodalom
27.09.2007 (Hungary)

Andras Palyi analyses the role of Radio Maryja, the station of the Polish Redemptorist Priest and media entrepreneur Tadeusz Rydzyk (news story), in the current election campaign. "Radio Mryja and the television broadcaster Trwam – whose name means something like 'I'll persevere, I won't give up' – fulfil a double mission: their programmes, filled with sentimental, naive piety, are supposed to have an 'apostolic' influence on their audiences. Broadcasts 'about society,' by contrast, serve the radical Right. These two missions complement each other. Polish religiosity is unique in Europe, so it's not surprising that poorly educated people enjoy the unpretentious, maudlin religious programmes as much as they believe the illusionism of the political broadcasts. Radio Maryja brings saintly language to the second target group, those interested in the anti-Semitic, homophobic and xenophobic programmes."

Another interesting article deals with the recent rise in racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia in Hungary. Conservative politicians are working together with the extreme Right and making anti-democratic marginal groups socially acceptable, writes media studies expert Maria Vasarhelyi. "Racism becomes a real threat when economic crisis and racist prejudices are causally linked. In recent years, influential groups in the media and politics have seen to it that so-called hate speech has become part of everyday life. They list, sometimes openly, sometimes obliquely, anti-Semitic and racist explanations for society's key problems, blaming minorities for the crisis.... With the exception of one newspaper, the Heti Valasz, there is quite simply nothing to differentiate the tone of the conservative and extreme Right press.


The New York Review of Books 11.10.2007 (USA)

With an eye on the Mahdi millitia which has much of Iraq under its power, Peter W. Galbraith asks whether Iran, its main backer, is the victor in the war. "In establishing the border between the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire in 1639, the Treaty of Qasr-i-Shirin demarcated the boundary between Sunni-ruled lands and Shiite-ruled lands. For eight years of brutal warfare in the 1980s, Iran tried to breach that line but could not. (At the time, the Reagan administration supported Saddam Hussein precisely because it feared the strategic consequences of an Iraq dominated by Iran's allies.) The 2003 US invasion of Iraq accomplished what Khomeini's army could not. Today, the Shiite-controlled lands extend to the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain, a Persian Gulf kingdom with a Shiite majority and a Sunni monarch, is most affected by these developments; but so is Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, which is home to most of the kingdom's Shiites. (They may even be a majority in the province but this is unknown as Saudi Arabia has not dared to conduct a census.) The US Navy has its most important Persian Gulf base in Bahrain while most of Saudi Arabia's oil is under the Eastern Province."

Further articles: Brian Urquhart asks if we really need diplomats. Bill McKibben finds out how and whether climate change can be stopped in its tracks. Caroline Moorehead explores the trade in women and girls in South East Europe. And there are reviews of the "Dutch Portraits" exhibition in Mauritshuis in Den Haag and of Henry James' collected letters.


Literaturen 01.10.2007 (Germany)

The front page features a photo of Martin Mosebach, this year's winner of the prestigious German literary award, the Georg Büchner prize. But in the online cover story Sigrid Löffler has no intention of singing his praises. In fact she outlines how the zeitgeisty longing for the past has adopted the gentleman reactionary Mosebach as a brother in arms. "His admirers (in the feuilletons) see his anti-modern affect as the agreeable presentation of what they believe to be the bourgeois values of yesteryear. Moreover they see in his prose a literary confirmation of themselves and the educational residues of their good schooling. It is true, the diagnosis - reached by his enemies with regret and his supporters with satisfaction - that the Zeitgeist has 'grown in the direction of' this author and has even caught up with him, and his tradionalist approach? The answer is not as simple as his friends and enemies insist. Yet one thing is clear: the jury opted to award the Büchner Prize for a disposition rather than a literary oeuvre." Read an excerpt in English from "The Moon and the Maiden", the book that has also been shortlisted for this year's German Book Prize.


Al Hayat 30.09.2007 (Lebanon)

Syrian journalist Yasin al-Haj Salih describes the paradox in which critics of the Syrian regime find themselves. "The situation is getting worse and worse – and the fear of yet worse to come is uniting everyone who has dealings with local government on an international, regional or local level. No one feels sympathetic towards the regime, but no one wants it to disappear. This is the single most important card in the regime's hand. Almost two years ago, the late journalist George Samaha wrote an article in the Lebanese daily al-Safir under the headline: 'The strength of the regime lies in its weakness'. In this article Samaha indicated that the regime was threatening its enemies with its own collapse."


London Review of Books, 04.10.2007 (UK)

Author Julian Barnes reviews Felix Feneon's 'Novels in Three Lines', but he uses the opportunity above all to portray the little-known writer. "In literary and artistic history he comes down to us in shards, kaleidoscopically. Luc Sante, in his introduction to 'Novels in Three Lines', describes him well as being 'invisibly famous' - and he was even more invisible to Anglophone readers until Joan Ungersma Halperin's fine study of him appeared in 1988. Art critic, art dealer, owner of the best eye in Paris as the century turned, promoter of Seurat, the only galleryist Matisse ever trusted; journalist, ghost-writer for Colette's Willy, literary adviser then chief editor of the Revue Blanche; friend of Verlaine, Huysmans and Mallarme, publisher of Laforgue, editor and organiser of Rimbaud's Les Illuminations; publisher of Joyce and translator of Northanger Abbey. He was invisible partly because he was a facilitator rather than a creator, but also because of his manner, which was elliptical, ironic, taciturn."


Al Ahram Weekly
27.09.2007 (Egypt)

Egypt is debating the sense and nonsense of the fatwa – as far as such a thing is possible in a magazine with strong links to the state. Gamal Qotb, former head of the Fatwa Committee at the Azhar University, understandably has few doubts about this traditional instrument of implementing justice. "The fatwa is an excellent instrument for the management of social crisis. However, those empowered to issue such decrees must not act independently. Indeed, they are legally bound to consult others, specifically specialists in fields relative to the problem in question, be it economic, social or political, in order to devise the best possible solution."


The Al-Ahram editor Azmi Ashour is significantly more sceptical: "In modern times, the fatwa has made a comeback, but under a different guise. Radical Islamic groups issue fatwas to attract new followers, especially among the youth, and undermine the conventional power of the state and its affiliated theological institutions. Fatwas coming from fundamentalists emerged to rival fatwas from conventional and official organs and often had a clear political message."


The Times Literary Supplement, 28.09.2007 (UK)

On the publication of a new collection of her work as "The Jewish Writings", Steven Aschheim paints Hannah Arendt as a rebel who "positively revelled in adopting stances that were at odds with formulaic Left or Right positions and with liberal pieties. Where, for instance, do we place her 1959 'Reflections on Little Rock' which, in its advocacy of States' rights, appeared to support the cause of American racial segregationists? (She argued that schools and children should not bear the burden of enforced Federal integration.) Her instinctive penchant was to oppose conventional stances, to go against the grain, to ruffle and cause discomfort, even outrage. To this day, admirers regard this as refreshing while critics view it as well-nigh demonic. Arendt, of course, was quite aware of this characteristic and the reactions it could evoke. Writing – the endlessly controversial – Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), she told Mary McCarthy, was 'morally exhilarating ... a paean of transcendence. ... You were the only reader to understand what otherwise I would never have admitted – namely that I wrote this book in a curious state of euphoria. And that ever since I did it, I feel . . . light-hearted about the matter. Don't tell anybody; is it not proof positive that I have no 'soul'?".


The New York Times, 30.09.2007

Economist and Nobel prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz gives his full approval to the theories developed by anti-globalisationist Naomi Klein in her new book "The Shock Doctrine". "Klein provides a rich description of the political machinations required to force unsavory economic policies on resisting countries, and of the human toll. She paints a disturbing portrait of hubris, not only on the part of Milton Friedman but also of those who adopted his doctrines, sometimes to pursue more corporatist objectives. It is striking to be reminded how many of the people involved in the Iraq War were involved earlier in other shameful episodes in United States foreign policy history. She draws a clear line from the torture in Latin America in the 1970s to that at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay."

Other book reviews: Travel writer Paul Theroux celebrates Tim Jeal's lengthy biography of the Africa conqueror Stanley (first chapter). And Stephen King thinks about short stories which are written for other writers, editors, publishers or teachers – anything but readers.


Lettre International, 01.10.2007

Composer Wolfgang Rihm talks in an interview about listening, which is not solely dependent on the "atavistic emotions" of the hearer. "Most emotional reactions to listening also require a cultural decision in advance. This is something the musicologist Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht talked about: When an African tribe was made to listen to Beethoven's funeral march from Eroica, they found the music amusing. This shows that we need a cultural agreement which tells us that what we are listening to is full of pathos. It has to have been labelled as such at some point. 'Warning, pathos!" Or "Pathos at last!" Without this corset such music doesn't seem to work. The listener who knows nothing about it, who is completely unprepared, doesn't exist. The musician's idea of the ideal listener, someone who is open and comes in to listen to what we tell him, is a beautiful vision. Listeners are always prepared. But not always for what they hear."

Also available online are excerpts, among other things, from an article by Swedish journalist Göran Rosenberg who, on a journey to the funeral of his aunt Bluma in Israel, thinks about the ghetto – the Polish ghetto of his forbears and the ghetto which Israel has become. Christian Linder writes on Heinrich Böll and Freeman Dyson posts visions of green technology.


Merkur, 01.10.2007

Christian Demand is utterly disparaging about the demand resounding from the feuilletons for more clarity in art. And he feels similarly about the unchanging shows in the temples of modernity: whether in the Centre Pompidou, the Tate Modern or in MoMA – Picasso hangs next to Matisse, Pollock next to Newman, Warhol next to Rauschenberg and Stella next to Beuys and Richter. "I don't find this uniformity peculiar so much as hilarious. Since Malraux, modernity's theorists have talked in a people's-pedagogical tremolo about the aesthetic state of emergency, of permanent revolution, of the absolute autonomy of the artistic individual, of provocation, no compromise, subversion, of the total break with every tradition, of the fundamental mistrust of every form of monopoly, of the ultimate farewell to every canon, of the merciless grinding down of all academies and rules systems – and what is the result? A harmlessly clear and predictable line up of unchanging works and names."

Heinrich Detering spent 52 hours listening rapt to Bob Dylan's Radio-Days-style show, "Theme Time Radio Hour". "This is the avant garde staging the past."


ResetDoc 2.10.07 (Italy)

In the elections in Morocco on September 7, the Islamic "Party for Justice and Development" defied all expectations and failed to win. Although only 37 percent of the population went to the polls. ResetDoc has prepared a dossier on the elections to address the question of whether Tayyip Erdogan's party in Turkey could be a model for other Islamic countries. Samir Mustafa doubts that this will be the case in Morocco: "The centrality of religion in the constitution and the re-establishment of a debatable but certainly interesting balance between a judicial order which is fundamentally secular and civil and the respect of Islam as a superior source, and the source of inspiration for the legislator, represents an avant-garde stance within the spectrum of countries of a Muslim majority. This with the exceptions of Tunisia and Turkey, which have chosen the path of complete separation between the sacred and the secular. This synthesis, which has produced a model of Islamic society which is pacifistic and reluctant in the face of extremist activity, has, paradoxically, become a difficult terrain for the proclamations of those parties which make reference to Islamic morality. (...) Within this context, a large part of the common people find themselves wondering why there is need for a political group of Islamic inspiration when Islam is directly protected by the Prince of the Believers Mohammed VI."

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