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20/11/2007

Magazine Roundup

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

Gazeta Wyborcza | Outlook India | Bookforum | L'Express | Il Foglio | Die Weltwoche | The New York Review of Books | Elet es Irodalom | The Economist | Babelia | The New York Times | The New Statesman

Gazeta Wyborcza 17.11.2007 (Poland)

Discussions about values and morals are part of life in a democracy but compromises are not always possible, philosopher Michael Sandel tells his interviewer. "No society is capable of forging consensus on moral issues. In democracies the majority turns the balance of opinion, but in public debates the majority must take the moral or religious perspectives of others seriously. The most important thing is that the system remains open." Sandel assumes that in the abortion debate, for example, the two moral positions are irreconcilable. A number of politicians here "are attempting to convince people of their ideological neutrality instead of talking about values. To pretend that real differences and conflicts don't exist is often worse than free and open debate."

What remains of the Yugoslavian gastarbeiter? asks Dubravka Ugresic. "Nothing," she replies. "Money spent pointlessly on ostentatious gravestones, houses which were destroyed in the war and cars. These were the only things they had to comfort their bruised egos. They were servants in countries which they never accepted as their own and they were servants in former Yugoslavia where they were the first to run after nationalist ringleaders from Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia."

Further articles include a lengthy profile of journalist and writer Bruce Chatwin by Juliusz Kurkiewicz ("Who was he? Those who knew him still don't know"). Also: the debate over the cultural legacy of real socialism has moved on from architecture and into neon signs: the subject of an exhibition by Ilona Karwinska, a Polish photographer from London (some examples here) which is being shown in Warsaw's cultural palace, of all places. "The Museum of Modern Art which is currently under construction has already announced that it will be including neon advertising in its programme. The plan is to create an open-air show and commission research into the history," the Gazeta Wyborcza announces.


Outlook India 26.11.2007 (India)

A third of the suicides committed under Britain's trains take place on a short stretch of rail track in the West London district of Southall. Most of the victims are women, Punjabi Sikh women, Sanjay Sury explains. "Many such brides from Punjab find themselves on a one-way ticket to hell. Many of those who kill themselves are well-educated, and from the more well-off families of Punjab - one of the Southall women who died recently had an MBA degree. And that itself seems to become a problem. 'It is culture shock,' says Southall MP Virender Sharma. 'There are very few girls from Punjab who are not graduates. I have seen girls come here who have masters degrees in English, in economics. Their families arrange marriages with boys here who are not professional, not educated.' The kind of man the girls are married off to "is a typically basic sort of trader who sometimes earns well enough up to a point, but has more attitude than education. The favour done by bringing a bride to England has usually to be paid for by domestic slavery, sometimes lessened if she can deliver a son early enough."

Outlook's special focus this week is technology. There are articles on gadget convergence, nanotechnology and India's desperate need of a Green Revolution.


Bookforum 19.11.2007 (USA)

Irish author John Banville, who writes crime novels under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, reviews the huge anthology "The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulp". According to Banville, the importance of cheap crime fiction lies less in its literary qualities than "its search ... for a fresh moral code, one that made sense for hard times and harder people. (...) There is a rawness in the pulp stories, even those by 'literary' writers such as Chandler and Hammett, that is not due entirely to the exigencies of the marketplace. At their best, and even, perhaps, at their worst, these yarns express something of the unforgiving harshness and dauntless optimism of life in America in the decades between the wars. ...Who can wonder at such popularity, given the low, dishonest decades in which the pulps sold by the millions? The world had come out of one calamitous world war and was heading in a handcart for another, and in between there was the Great Depression to be survived."

Further articles: Colm Toibin, himself the writer of a celebrated novel on Henry James, reviews the second volume "The Mature Master" of Sheldon M. Novick's biography of the author. And Peter Brooks, another James expert, has read the first of two volumes of his letters.


L'Express 19.11.2007 (France)

Former chess champion Garry Kasparov, fierce Putin critic and co-founder of the opposition coalition the Other Russia, is to stand as its candidate in the Russian presidential elections in March 2008. In an interview he talks about his political aims, the reasons why the elites fear free elections and the problem of corruption in his country. "The question of whether or not Putin is corrupt is like asking whether Stalin could do anything about the terror, executions or the Gulags... The person at the top of the power pyramid is responsible for everything that happens beneath him. And Putin is on top of the corruption. Do you really believe he has even a trace of integrity when his closest friends and allies, who hail from St. Petersburg as he does, control most of the Russian economy? The West's list of oligarchs is desperately out of date. A certain Gennady Timchenko, head of the Geneva-based oil company Gunvor, has stolen much more than someone like Boris Berezovsky for example. He controls a third of Russia's oil exports. And he's a close friend of Putin. As are the Kovalchuk brothers, Mikhail and Yuri, who own the Rossia bank. These people have got rich at unprecedented speeds."


Il Foglio 17.11.2007 (Italy)

After many years Carlo Buldrini returns again here and here to Bangalore and is astounded by what has happened to this one-time garden of India. People are getting more demanding. "Every day three or four young women are brought into the Victoria hospital of the Bangalore Medical College with full-body burns. Many of them die. The cause of death is listed in the police files as 'explosion at the gas stove'. Social workers however are talking about 'dowry murders'. In the months I spent in Bangalore there were 81 such cases. The culture of global consumerism has taken over the city and dowry rates have gone through the roof. Men working in IT have been catapulted to the top of the list of desirable husbands thanks to their pay packets."


Die Weltwoche 15.11.2007 (Switzerland)

Susan Greenfield was the first member of her family to go to university and is now a member of the House of Lords. She abandoned her studies in English Literature, turned to brain research and now has a Chair of Pharmacology at Oxford. She talks to Peer Teuwsen about the emergence of consciousness. "It is science's greatest unanswered question. But I have a theory based on my research. Consciousness comes into being when an event, a feeling, an image releases neurons in the brain which fire through the brain at 360km a second. Then the next stimulation arrives which is able to exist simultaneously. The important thing - and this is where I don't agree with other neuroscientists - is that there are no set regions in the brain which are assigned to particular emotions. Consciousness emerges and disappears in the whole brain." And her answer to the question of free will is impressively simple. "If you think you have free will, you have free will."



The New York Review of Books 06.12.2007 (USA)

Chinese environmental activist Dai Qing tells how in the run-up to the Olympic Games, the Chinese authorities have stepped up the exploitation of the country's water resources. Although water is scarce and rationed out to the peasants, artificial lakes, hundreds of golf courses and massive fountains are being built in Peking: "To make up for the dramatic water shortage, Beijing for the moment 'mines' 80 percent of its water supply from its underground aquifer. But it is doing so at a rate faster than the aquifer can be replenished, causing the water table beneath the capital to drop precipitously and the land to subside in a two-thousand-square-kilometer 'funnel.' The balance of the city's water is being piped in from increasingly resentful neighboring provinces, such as Hebei and Shanxi. How will the city's insatiable thirst be satisfied in the future? China's new rich and the financial capital controlled by the party-state bureaucracy are expanding into the world market at an alarming rate. While they have created previously unknown wealth, it is a wealth made possible by the avaricious consumption of natural resources."

Frederick C. Crews sheds light on the latest coup of the pharmaceutical industry: the GlaxoSmithKline corporation paid football player Ricky Williams an undisclosed sum to admit on The Oprah Winfrey Show that he had "always been a shy person." His condition, we learn, is a sickness - the so-called social anxiety disorder. "To understand why this was considered a worthwhile outlay, we need to know that the drug makers earn their enormous profits from a very few market-leading products for which new applications are continually sought. If those uses don't turn up through experimentation or serendipity, they can be conjured by means of, 'condition branding' - that is, coaching the masses to believe that one of their usual if stressful states actually partakes of a disorder requiring medication."


Elet es Irodalom 16.11.2007 (Hungary)

The foundation "Opportunities for Disadvantaged Children" is suing schools and the communities behind them in a bid to end to the illegal segregation of Roma children. They are citing the well-known US civil rights trials (for example Brown versus Board of Education) as a precedent. "Trials like this are necessary," says Andras Ujlaky, president of the foundation, in an interview with Eszter Radai, "because in our view the Roma have no effective political representation in Hungary - at the level of the legislative, the executive and the local authorities. The independent judiciary remains the sole body where their interests may be represented. That's because although the state passes the laws, they are administered by the municipalities, who do just as they please." A tragedy for Ujlaky: "Statistics show that 25 percent of Hungary's children leave primary school as functional illiterates. For the most part, these are Roma children. As no other possibilities for further education are open to them, they will remain unemployed for their entire lives. This is not only a tragedy for the Roma and their children... it is also a huge burden on the economy, because we, the taxpayers, have to support the, instead of them becoming taxpayers in their own right."

"I knew Peter Marosi through Utunk magazine in Cluj. But he was also one of my father's chess partners." Philosopher Miklos Tamas Gaspar remembers the Transylvanian critic Marosi, whose past as an informer for the Romanian Securitate has recently come to light. "Has my opinion of him changed? Strangely enough, hardly at all. Who didn't know what the system was like, with its Stalinist origins, the system which still deserves our contempt today? There is no reason for leniency, forgiveness or for trying to put things in a better light with historical arguments. The system turned fallible individuals into moral corpses. And now, once more, it wipes its boots on them with our harsh judgements. In fact, it is still looming over us like a ghost. Nothing and no one should be forgiven. (...) Every fact from the time of the dictatorship must be made public. There can be no excuse for the dictatorship. Even the paltriness of today's democracy is no excuse."


The Economist 17.11.2007 (UK)

The magazine looks into the extraordinary popularity of artist Gustav Klimt in the US: "Why is Gustav Klimt, an Austrian artist who lived between 1862 and 1918, so popular? Even before its November 12th publication date in America, both the English and the German editions of the five-kilo (11lb) Klimt catalogue raisonne by Alfred Weidinger (Prestel) had sold out. And 6,000 visitors had crowded into the first week of the Klimt exhibition at New York's Neue Galerie, running from October 12th to June 30th 2008. A spokesman suggests that Klimt may be the gallery's most successful show since it opened in 2001, outstripping even Vincent van Gogh."

Further articles: Norman Mailer is given an extensive obituary. Aliza Marcus' history of the PKK, "Blood and Belief" and the third volume of John Richardson‘s Picasso biography are reviewed, as is Sean Penn‘s most recent film "Into the Wild."


Babelia 19.11.2007 (Spain)

Alexander Kluge's book "Die Lücke, die der Teufel lässt" (the holes left by the devil) has just come out in Spanish. Cecilia Dreymüller asks him "Do you believe in the devil?": "I believe that people create the devil in failing to take full responsibility for their own deeds. By partially blanking out our knowledge, we leave ourselves open to something that comes at us from the horizon, something we could call the devil. An old companion who collects the experiences of humanity in his mirror. But I also believe that you've got to show a way out. In a world as terrible as Verdun or Auschwitz, I want to understand how evil is constructed, but also how it can be deconstructed."

Literaure must learn from the culinary arts, writes Vicente Verdu. He sets down ten basic rules to assure a worthy existence for the novel in the 21st century. "Let's have done with a literature that takes readers by the collar and drags them wheezing and sleepless right through to the ultimate revelation on the last page. Any novel deserving to be called contemporary will follow the model of the Slow Food movement. It will be considerate of its readers' diverse sensibilities - and their fondness for interaction - and seduce them with the beauty of its form, and its aesthetic efficiency."


The New York Times 19.11.2007 (US)

The New York Times Magazine dedicates its title story to the "Sleep-Industrial Complex," market that has exploded in recent years: "A sleep boom, or as Forbes put it last year, a sleep racket,' is under way. Business 2.0 estimates American 'sleeponomic' to be worth 20 billion dollars a year, which includes everything from the more than 1,000 accredited sleep clinics (some of them at spas) conducting overnight tests for disorders like apnea, to countless over-the-counter and herbal sleep aids, to how-to books and sleep-encouraging gadgets and talismans. Zia Sleep Sanctuary, a first of its kind luxury sleep store that I visited in Eden Prairie, Minn., carries 'light-therapy' visors, the Zen Alarm Clock, the Mombasa Majesty mosquito net and a 600-dollar pair of noise-canceling earplugs as well as 16 varieties of mattresses and 30 different pillows. Prescription sleeping pills have been the most obvious beneficiary. Forty-nine million prescriptions were written last year, up 53 percent from five years ago."


The New Statesman 19.11.2007 (UK)

David Matthews examines the relationship of black Britons to the Conservatives. In the last election 80 percent of the Afro-Caribbean and African vote went to Labour but this could change as the black middle-class develops, writes Matthews, because "in many respects, Afro-Caribbean and African people are tailor-made for the Tory party. In 1962, my parents arrived from British Guiana (now Guyana). They were classic immigrants: hard-working, self-sufficient, homeowners. Tailor-made Tories. The diaspora is still culturally conservative. Attitudes toward child discipline, abortion and homosexuality are deeply reactionary. A few years ago, a poll showed 96 per cent of Jamaicans were opposed to legalising homosexuality. The African diocese of the Anglican Church is now so right-wing that even God feels like a guilty white liberal. But does social and cultural conservatism equal political conservatism?" Not yet, but after fifty years of voting Labour, many of the faithful will be asking: "Where are the black MPs on the Labour front bench?"

And Kira Cochrane casts an envious glance at Sweden. "The Swedes seem to slide effortlessly into first place - or thereabouts - in bloody everything worth prizing, don't they? They are healthy - they have one of the longest life expectancies in the world. They are friendly - they have just been named the best country in Europe when it comes to welcoming immigrants and helping them to settle. They are intelligent - they have the highest per capita ratio of Nobel laureates. They gave us Abba, the most karaoke-friendly pop group of all time. (...) And, if all that weren't enough, for the second year running Sweden has been named as the country that has done the most to reduce gender disparity."

And there are reviews of a new CD from Burial (audio samples) and of Thomas Schüttes sculpture in Trafalgar Square.

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