?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

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09/10/2007

Magazine Roundup

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

Le Nouvel Observateur | Trouw | Il Foglio |
ADN cultura | Gazeta Wyborcza | Elet es Irodalom | The New Republic | Le Figaro | The New Statesman | The New York Times | The New York Review of Books


Le Nouvel Observateur 04.10.2007 (France)

"Comment etre encore de gauche?" asks the front-page headline of the Nouvel Obs. The same question heads a pre-print from Bernard-Henri Levy's new book, "Ce grand cadavre a la renverse" (Grasset), in which he extends his definition of what it means to be left-wing. In this he voices his loathing for what he calls the "chauvinist left": "I dislike the way this part of the Left calls itself sovereignist to avoid saying anti-Europe. I don't like the way it yells 'Republic! Republic! from the edge of the field, as if someone was thinking of taking their republic away from them."

The 'chauvinist Left" promptly responds in a pro and contra which borders on polemic. Philosopher Michel Onfray, for example, rages against the "syllogistic artillery" which Levy wheels out in his book. "How could anyone still risk not thinking like BHL? What's behind this? The loathing of the left 'by the left' in the name of his leftists 'from the right'; the fetishism of a liberal Europe; a passion for America as the bearer of the true values - ah!- this sentence, glinting like the blade of a guillotine: 'Anti-Americanism is a metaphor for anti-Semitism'; (...) in other words: an ideological corpus which is snugly compatible with the liberal right of Bayrou and Sarkozy – if not with the 'left' of Segolene Royal..."

The dossier is rounded off with a discussion between Bernard-Henri Levy and philosopher Alain Finkielkraut.

Further articles: Former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has a chat with philosopher Regis Debray about the conquest and exercise of power in democratic nations. And there is a tip-off about a new magazine, the ambitious bi-monthly Revue internationale des livres & des idees.


Trouw 06.10.2007 (Netherlands)

A good seven years ago, publicist Paul Scheffer published his much-discussed essay "The Multicultural Drama" and wrenched the Dutch Left from its melting-pot dreams. His follow-up book "The Land of Arrival" has reignited the integration debate, Hans Goslinga writes approvingly in Trouw. "Scheffer is settling his scores with the prevailing myth that America, the 'nation of immigrants' has met this challenge better than Europe. He proves that this idea, one shared by countless Americans, is based on a misunderstanding, and that in reality the experiences in both continents are largely identical. There was a plethora of different ethnic conflicts and prejudices in America against immigrants – no matter whether they were Germans or Irish, or later Poles or Italians. Scheffer cites the American sociologist Vera Zolberg, who said that widespread immigration always presents a social and cultural test for a nation – which is why immigration is 'a legitimate cause for concern', rather than a 'form of paranoia'."


Il Foglio 06.10.2007 (Italy)

In 1924 when the Fascists were standing for election for the first time, Benito Mussolini received urgently needed support from a Native American, Nicola Fanon informs us. "White Hart" was a superstar in Italy at that time. Women would faint en masse, tickets for his show were sold out months in advance and the streets he walked were constantly blocked. "He was an actor, part comedian, part politician and part ethnic showman. He toured Italy for months at a stretch, after pounding the streets of Europe. In his show he presented himself as the chief of a tribe which had ruled for centuries over a vast area on the American-Canadian border. He would perform a number of acts (shooting pistols, throwing axes) and Indian dancing." On the side "White Stag" banged a drum for the Fascists. "His support should not be underestimated. At his shows he invoked a storm of modernisation and campaigned for the liberation from rules and traditions, from institutions and all types of democratic conventions."


ADN cultura 06.10.2007 (Argentina)

"Not in my name" – author Javier Marias vents his spleen about a nasty habit adopted by a number of his fellow Spanish-speaking writers of accepting prizes "in the name of Spanish literature." "And they even manage to come across as generous and modest in the process, not to mention good patriots, whereas in reality they display a worrying degree of megalomania and downright pathological insolence. The press is also to blame, because it paints every individual artistic or sporting success as a collective deed of greatness and cause for patriotic pride."

In further articles: Nazila Fathi portrays Mohsen Namjoo, the "Bob Dylan of Iran," whose CDs have until now only been available in Iran on the black market although they're played on local radio stations (see and listen here and here). Clearly unimpressed by the objections of orthodox music critics, Namjoo has long had bigger plans: "I want to delve into the music of the West and rise to meet its challenge. Here everything has been too simple for me." Interesting not just for travellers to Buenos Aires: Carmen Maria Ramos presents a large festival featuring the music of 17th and 18th century Jesuit missions, starting October 9.


Gazeta Wyborcza 06.10.2007 (Poland)

Putin, sleepless in Moscow worrying about the state of Russian democracy? "Don't make me laugh!" exclaims Russian human rights activist Ludmila Alexieva in an interview. "As long as our civil society doesn't grow up and is incapable of treating bureaucrats like equals, nothing will change in Russia. Forget democratisation from above. That's never worked anywhere. If a society lets itself be treated like dirt, any government will be only too happy to take advantage of that." Alexieva doesn't believe she will live to see a democratic Russia, but she knows: "It will be a long time before the Russians politically active. But at some point they will demand that the government treat them like humans, with dignity, and that it act in their interests."


Elet es Irodalom
05.10.2007 (Hungary)

Writer Laszlo Darvasi congratulates the novelist Magda Szabo on her ninetieth birthday: "Her novels are like frescoes, where the individual is always more clearly depicted than the crowd. Single buildings are closer to observers than entire streets, the soul dawns amidst the clangourous screeching of history. Magda Szabo's numerous wonderful novels are open works, like familiar passages. The windows and doors, the cellars and attics of these novels are open, the personal stories go in and out, the shutters creak. Her prose does not so much seduce than initiate the reader. Remembering becomes a ritual, because this prose knows its readers inside and out, down to the blurred depths of their souls. No reader may harbour secrets, desires or treasures unbeknown to this attentive raconteur. She says to us: 'My darling, isn't your story similar?'"


The New Republic 05.10.2007 (USA)

In an article that's as instructive as it is entertaining, evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker explains why we curse. Neurologically, we learn, a term like "making love" works in the neocortex of the brain, while "fucking" works directly in the limbic system. Semantically, it's hard to ascertain just what "fuck you" means ('fuck yourself', 'get fucked' or 'I will fuck you'."). Equally difficult is the question of whether "fucking" itself is an adverb: "While you can imagine the dialogue 'How brilliant was it? Very,' you would never hear the dialogue 'How brilliant was it? Fucking'." Similarly, "when used judiciously, swearing can be hilarious, poignant, and uncannily descriptive. More than any other form of language, it recruits our expressive faculties to the fullest: the combinatorial power of syntax; the evocativeness of metaphor; the pleasure of alliteration, meter, and rhyme; and the emotional charge of our attitudes, both thinkable and unthinkable. It engages the full expanse of the brain: left and right, high and low, ancient and modern. Shakespeare, no stranger to earthy language himself, had Caliban speak for the entire human race when he said, 'You taught me language, and my profit on't is, I know how to curse.'"


Le Figaro 04.10.2007 (France)

Under the headline "Two reports of the same story," German historian Ernst Nolte, initiator of the Historikerstreit in the 1980s (more), presents the memoirs of Günter Grass ("Peeling the Onion") and Joachim Fest ("Ich nicht" – more here) dealing with their early years in the Nazi era. His conclusion is surprising for a historian: "In 50 years' time, when asked how Germans (and representatives of a few other nations) stood in relation to the riddles and horrors of the 20th century, people will answer that no one may express themselves on the subject without having read the books by Günter Grass and Joachim Fest."

The magazine also features an interview with Norman Mailer. Mailer's novel "The Castle in the Forest," in which Mailer attempts to tackle the roots of evil by examining Hitler's childhood, has now been published in France.


The New Statesman 04.10.2007 (UK)

On the 40th anniversary of the death of Ernesto "Che" Geuvara, Isabel Hilton (more) glances over the meagre legacy of the professional revolutionary. For one, Alberto Korda's iconic photo of Che was manipulated before its glorious career as poster – Guevara's face was stretched by one sixth to make it less chubby. Moreover, "politically, there is no movement that could be called Guevarist. In Peru, Fidelistas and Guevarists are in opposing camps, as they are in Panama and Mexico. For contemporary intellectuals of the left, Che's legacy, with its romanticism and heroisation of the guerrilla, is problematic. For instance, Jorge Castaneda, the Mexican writer and sociologist, wrote in his biography of Che that Che's ideas had nothing to offer present generations. For Castaneda, his 'refusal of ambivalence' and his unwillingness to understand life's contradictions were relics of a damaging era in Latin America. In an age in which the absolutes of Marxism and market capitalism were judged to have failed, Che had nothing to say."


The New York Times 08.10.2007 (USA)

In English libel cases, the law puts the burden of proof on the accused. This makes it easy to put authors - and not just those who publish at home - under pressure, as a current case illustrates: " The case is fanning widespread concern that English libel law is stifling writers far beyond the borders of the United Kingdom. Today, any book bought online in England, even one published exclusively in another country, can ostensibly be subject to English libel law. As a result, publishers and booksellers are increasingly concerned about 'libel tourism': foreigners suing other foreigners in England or elsewhere, and using those judgments to intimidate authors in other countries, including the United States.

Books reviewed include the diaries of the "bow-tied liberal and Kennedy courtier" Arthur J. Schlesinger, Philip Roth's new novel "Exit Ghost," Graham Swift's novel "Tomorrow", a volume on Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan and the book by country singer and crime writer Kinky Friedman about his failed attempt to become the first Jewish governor of Texas.


The New York Review of Books
25.10.2007 (USA)

Charles Rosen presents "the best book on Mozart", a biography published in 1920 by music historian Hermann Abert titled "W.A. Mozart". It has now been translated into English where "it has turned out to be not only the most satisfactory but also the most readable and entertaining work on Mozart available in English," writes Rosen. "Abert and his generation put new life into Mozart by making him into a composer that appealed to the twentieth century. They brought out what they felt to be the demonic aspect of Mozart, the dramatic force and even the violence, and created a figure very different from the more graceful and charming but blander Mozart generally conceived by the nineteenth century.The expressionistic aesthetic, historically flawed as it is, had, as its second effect, a historical restoration of the way that Mozart was viewed by the late eighteenth century. For his contemporaries, Mozart was a difficult composer, not only hard to play but hard to listen to. Most of the more ambitious works, they felt, could only be performed by the finest professionals, or else they would make a poor impression. Not only were there too many notes, there were above all too many new ideas and new themes, all coming one after the other in a profusion that was painful to follow."

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