?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

06/11/2007

Magazine Roundup

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

The New York Review of Books | Al Ahram Weekly | Gazeta Wyborcza | Il Foglio | Plus - Minus | The Times Literary Supplement | Folio | Nepszabadsag | Le point | Asharq al-Awsat | The Spectator | Le Nouvel Observateur | The New York Times


The New York Review of Books 22.11.2007 (USA)

With no small degree of resignation, biologist, opposition politician and chairman of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, Sergei Kovalev looks into Russia's future, which he says, will continue to be dominated by Vladimir Putin (probably as prime minister). "What should be done if one cannot accept the Byzantine system of power? Retreat into the catacombs? Wait until enough energy for another revolt has been accumulated? Try to hurry along revolt, thereby posing another 'orange threat,' which Putin and his allies have used, since the 2004 Ukrainian elections, to frighten the people and themselves? Attempt to focus on the demand for honest elections? Carry on painstaking educational work, in order to gradually change citizens' views? (...) I am afraid that few of us will live to see the reinstatement of freedom and democracy in Russia. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that 'the mole of history burrows away unnoticed.'"


Al Ahram Weekly 05.11.2007 (Egypt)

Nahed Nasser quizzes members of the Egyptian literati about Doris Lessing, a near no-name in the Arab world, getting the Nobel prize. "For the younger short story writer Afaf El-Sayed - a representative of the female fiction faction of the so called Generation of the Nineties - a decision of the Swedish Academy should not in and of itself arouse suspicion. That Lessing is lesser known is due simply to the fact that she has not been translated into Arabic - a function, in turn, of popular taste: 'The most famous books are not necessarily the best.' And nowhere is this truer, says El-Sayed, than in the translation of Arabic literature into languages that would place its crop on the 'international' bookshelf. In this context many of our best writers, she adds, are systematically marginalised. This is partly to do with corruption and nepotism, partly to do with the chaotic nature of translation initiatives, with 'anyone doing anything and takeaway writers who present tabloid writing as fiction'.... Yet, for El-Sayed, inter-Arab exchange can be even more important than a fairer-minded approach to translation: of 150 Libyan authors gathered at a recent event in Tripoli, she had heard of only two; and 'the same happened in Morocco'."

Radwa Farghali's formidable study "The prostitution of minors" has Mohamed Baraka thinking about the dearth of literature on sex in Egypt. "Not so surprising, perhaps, considering the extent to which sex remains taboo in 'eastern' society, where sheer prudery is often confused with an ethical stance and systematic repression results in various forms of schizophrenia."


Gazeta Wyborcza 03.11.2007 (Poland)

The new centre-left coalition "LiD" fared disappointingly in the elections (3rd place, 13 percent) writes philosopher and political scientist Bronislaw Lagowski. And he knows why: "The historical weakness of the left in Poland is partly a result of ordinary people not having their own history. In France, the populace is conscious of being a historical subject, the Polish populace has developed a consciousness in which it has adopted the mythology of intelligence and nobility. (...) In the 19th century, farmers here were worse off than blacks in the USA, so it's no surprise that the people were ashamed of their identity. Which made it all the more appealing to take on the myths, opinions and self-assurance of the very class which oppressed them. This is an extremely weak basis for the left."


Il Foglio 03.11.2007 (Italy)

Having being black-listed by the state for decades, Latife Hanimefendi, the wife of Atatürk, is being rediscovered by Turkish women as a role model, writes Marta Ottaviani. This is all thanks to the biography "Latife Hanim" whose author Ipek Calislar stood trial a year ago for the slander of Attaturk. "Born in ancient Smirna in 1898, after leaving school in Izmir Latife was invited to stay with a family in Paris, where she studied at the Sorbonne. It is not known whether she completed her degree in law but she certainly had a much better education that most in her homeland where at that time over 95 percent of the population was illiterate. She was probably streets ahead even of Atatürk, whose education was military in nature and who, for all his immense efforts and laborious study of books, could never measure up to his wife. Educated, beautiful and urbane, Latife was fluent in English and French."

Also: Ugo Bertone is concerned about the burgeoning numbers of young Start Up billionaires in the USA who don't know what to do with all their cash. "I like lying on the beach with my girlfriend and playing with my dog. That takes up three hours of the day. Then I sleep for three. But what do you do with the other eighteen?"


Plus - Minus 03.11.2007 (Poland)

Krzysztof Klopotowski describes the latest spin-off of Kremlin state ideology: the film "1612" about the liberation of Moscow from Polish occupying forces (the state day of celebration "Day of National Unity" was chosen in remembrance of this event – replacing the anniversary of the October Revolution with the same date, November 4.) Klopotowski immediately suggests that "the new Polish government should finance a film about the Battle of Warsaw in 1920 when Poland saved Europe from Soviet Russia, just as the Kremlin financed '1612'. Let us address the European public through cinema!"

Tomasz P. Terlikowski paints a critical portrait of sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. Bauman played an active role in the establishment of the communist system in postwar Poland and has never abandoned his Marxist convictions. "His moral ideas principally address social issues. As he sees it, the solution to problems is never dependent on the activities of the individual, but on social reform, large (or small) projects, which Baumann himself terms 'Utopias'." His books, which are "reminiscent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" combined brilliant analysis of the (post)modern world with "suggestions for reform whose implementation would create institutions which would be more repressive and destructive than the existing ones Bauman is criticising," the publicist says.


The Times Literary Supplement 02.11.2007 (UK)

Bee Wilson probes the history of the coffee house, popping the Habermasian myth of 18th century benign democratic sociability along the way, and landing in the solipsistic, blinkered consumerism of today's caffeine-pushing chains. She also took in the film "Black Gold" by Marc and Nick Francis which "brings home the injustice of the entire economy of coffee with a force that makes it seem fresh. (...) We see a worker in New York idly sipping a frappuccino, which she will probably not manage to finish, so oversized is it; and we see desperately poor African farmers begging God to raise the coffee price. Because of the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement - which regulated prices until 1989 -coffee prices in Africa have reached a thirty-year low. Twenty-two cents a kilo is now the market rate for unroasted beans. 'If we could get fifty-seven cents', says one Ethiopian, 'we could soar far above the sky.' Yet it would take twice that to provide a 'good life'for the farmers - which does not mean a life with such luxuries as electricity, but merely clean water, clean clothes and the ability to send their children to school."


Folio 05.11.2007 (Switzerland)

Psychiatrist Isolde Eckle mulls over what a shoe reveals about its wearer and the difference between male and female shoe wearers. "Clearly the relationship between women and their shoes is more interesting than that between men and theirs. Men have less choice, and they can spend their lives in sports shoes if necessary. A few opt for elegant models when the dress code demands it and of course they can now don sandals and flip-flops in the summer. But men's feet are not meant to be on show. The erotic importance of men's feet is pushing zero. Why, I don't know. Perhaps they will be discovered by advertisers soon. But women's feet have been objects of desire for centuries. Ancient China is the best example for this, where the woman's foot was the centre of eroticism. The smaller it was, the more it aroused the passions of the men of Zhongguo. The French even have a word for the gap between the big and second toe – 'clivage' they call it."


Nepszabadsag
03.11.2007 (Hungary)

A few weeks ago, the Slovakian-Hungarian conceptual artist Ilona Nemeth had signs put up in Budapest's city centre, bearing questions based on Bogardus' Social Distance Scale: "Would you invite a Roma into your home?" "Would you accept a Jew as a family member?" The municipal government had the signs removed the following day. For media analyst Peter György, the reasons lie in the special nature of public art, but also in Budapest's inability to deal with work of this kind: "This sort of artist is by definition local, and this art cannot be transported, but only recreated in a new setting. Budapest has missed out on this 'recreation', making clear that the city has no democratic grasp of the essence of public art. The goal of this art form is to investigate the relationship between the public space and traumata, as well as the society which results from commonly experienced tensions. Public art requires a trade off, and mutual learning. It is the school of democratic culture, and we have just failed."


Le point 01.11.2007 (France)

Philip Roth's novel "Everyman" has just appeared in France. To mark the occasion, Roth provides French author and writer Mark Weitzmann with elaborate details about his books, their subject matter and backgrounds. Asked why he devotes such attention to trivial things like erections and masturbation - which in "Portnoy's Complaint" form a "meditation" on the most brutal and primitive aspects of family life - Roth answers: "Erection trivial? Tell that to Othello! Of course, anyone will look trivial with a hard-on. But you know as well as I do how much of both ecstasy and havoc an erect member can wreak. Where would literature be without it? Or humanity, for that matter?"


Asharq al-Awsat 31.10.2007 (UK – Saudi Arabia)

Burhan Ghalioun
, a Syrian sociologist who has lived in Paris for three decades, speaks in an interview of the need for political and cultural reform in the Arab countries. A major obstacle to social change is the widespread belief in conspiracy theories, he says. "The term conspiracy is not entirely false. The problem is, however, that that type of thinking makes us into eternal victims. It prevents us from thinking about what we could do to stop the victimisation, to become masters of our situation and develop effective and rational strategies for furthering our national and social interests. In short: the problem (of conspiracy theories) is that they prevent us from taking a responsible view of things, and make it easy for us to flee responsibility. The conspiracy theory is our enemy."


The Spectator 01.11.2007 (UK)

Mary Wakefield talks on the phone with actor Tom Hollander as he sits in front of the fire in Berlin, preparing for his role in Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie" starring Tom Cruise. Talk comes round to the annual 24-plays at the Old Vic Theatre in London, where plays are written, rehearsed and performed in a single day. "T: Well, everybody arrives at the Old Vic at 7.30 on the Saturday night — on 10 November. There are eight or so writers and 30 actors, and Kevin Spacey presiding. And all the actors have to bring a prop. M: What sort of thing? What did you bring last year? T: I brought a... M (struck by inspiration): Pineapple! I bet it was a pineapple! T: No. It was a round squash called a Little Gem. My mother grows them. You could take anything. Somebody brought a big multicoloured coat, somebody else brought a big African instrument. (…) I'll know better than to bring a gourd this year. M: Because the writers cast you as a mummy-loving vegetable? T: Exactly! Yes. I was cast as a mother-dominated homosexual. (Sighs) Again."


Le Nouvel Observateur 01.11.2007 (France)

British-Pakistani writer, filmmaker and journalist Tariq Ali talks with Dutch-Moroccan author Fouad Laroui about European immigration and how their countries deal with it. Asked whether, and how, immigration to Europe should be regulated, Ali states: "Immigration contributed to shaping the modern world. What would the US be without immigrants? A world in which the flow of capital is unchecked will necessarily have difficulties controlling the flow of labour. What recourse is left to Africans once the neo-liberal system has plunged their continent into affliction, but to leave their homes and go elsewhere in search of work? That's how things have always been. The sole solution is to improve the situation of the people in Africa through massive state intervention." Laroui disagrees: "By definition, every state must supervise its borders. To maintain the contrary amounts to demagogy. What is the opposite of 'controlling the flow of migrants'? Opening the door wide, so that anyone one who wants to can come in? I know ultra-liberals who take this stance. But I've got a hunch they themselves don't believe it. That means, the control of immigration must be transparent, and respect people's dignity."


The New York Times 04.11.2007 (USA)

Tina Rosenberg has travelled to Venezuela, where she's written a wonderful report for the Sunday Magazine in which she asks whether nationalised oil production really benefits the Venezuelan economy. Profits are now directly invested in the infrastructure and education, she states. The funds through which they are managed, however, are directly overseen by Hugo Chavez, and exceedingly difficult to control. And at the same time there is a lack of drilling rigs: "A rig has two jobs: to drill down in auspicious spots to look for oil, and to clear out working wells when they clog, like a giant Roto-Rooter. Because oil is so profitable and people are drilling madly, there is a global shortage of rigs, and the price of renting them has gone up. But Venezuela's shortage is worse than elsewhere. In testimony before the National Assembly in July, Luis Vierma, Pdvsa's vice president for production, called the rig shortage 'a significant operational emergency.' The country needs 191 this year to meet its production goals, Vierma said. But according to Baker Hughes, the Houston firm that provides the world's standard count of rigs, there are only 73 active rigs in Venezuela."

In the Book Review, Caroline Weber is much the richer after reading Graham Robb's study "Discovery of France - A Historical Geography From the Revolution to the First World War," which shows that "France is not a unified cultural monolith, but rather a vast encyclopedia of micro-civilizations." Other reviews cover a biography of Bette Davis, John Updike's essays (excerpt) reviewed by Christopher Hitchens, Alan Kramer's "important book" "Dynamic of Destruction - Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War," a "philosophy of wine" and books about George W. Bush's term in office.

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