Writing against disappearance ? Sa?a Stani?i?

Sa?a Stani?i?, who grew up in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Germany, writes regional novels of an unusual kind. His novel ?Vor dem Fest? was awarded the Prize of the Leipzig Book Fair. ... more more

GoetheInstitute

27/11/2007

Magazine Roundup

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


The Boston Review
| Outlook India | Prospect | Literaturen | The New Statesman | Rue89 | Il Foglio | Nepszabadsag | Elet es Irodalom | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Economist | Al Ahram Weekly | The Spectator | Le Nouvel Observateur | The New York Times

The Boston Review 01.11.2007 (USA)

Abbas Milani, professor for Iranian Studies in Stanford, writes the ultimate profile on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the start of his monumental essay he explains why the Iranian president merits such thorough scrutiny. "Ahmadinejad must be taken seriously, however, and not just for his threats, verbal outbursts, and political provocations. Wherever he speaks and whomever he addresses, Ahmadinejad is always communicating with a domestic audience of millions of citizens in Iran, as well as with the rest of the Muslim world. He knows his audience well and, while he may convey an air of clumsy haphazardness, his discourse and demeanor express a meticulously crafted, politically astute message of pious populism. He is very much a product of recent Iranian history, and understanding his early years and rise to power provides insight into current circumstances in Iran, his own likely course of action, and the prospects for Iranian political reform."


Outlook India 03.12.2007 (India)

A new men's movement has formed in India under the auspices of the Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) which aims at hitting back at perceived exploitation and persecution at the hands of ex-wives and their greedy lawyers. Raghu Karnar is more than willing to believe that in individual cases men are falling victim to the new laws on domestic violence but he is unable to entirely shake his suspicions about the movement. "With these sweeping statements and chauvinist reactions, SIFF has fenced off the middle ground that it might have shared with the women's activists. Many of their concerns are the same: for instance, if only 2 percent of cases booked under 498A lead to convictions, it may mean that most of the people being booked are innocent, but it also means that most of the guilty are not being booked. What could have been a cooperative movement to design fair laws is now a vicious contest: you are either pro-husband or pro-wife."

Further articles: Shruti Ravindran visits actress and cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey, who recently published "The Ultimate Curry Bible" (some recipes here). The author C.P. Surendran takes on the national idol Shah Rukh Khan whose universe "revolves entirely around himself".


Prospect 01.12.2007 (UK)

The central Chinese megacity of Hefei (population: 4.7 million) has been earmarked to become China's Silicon Valley come 2020. Rob Gifford was there to survey the progress."Walking through that office in a city in central China that no one in the west has ever heard of, I was struck by the uneasy feeling you sometimes get in China. I felt for a moment that I could see the future. Here are 300 software engineers, all probably just as good as their counterparts in the US but earning perhaps 20 or 30 times less." But the main question for Gifford is this: "Is there more to it than the latest hardware? What about the software in people's heads? Can you become a player in the knowledge economy if you restrict the teaching and flow of knowledge?"


Literaturen 01.12.2007 (Germany)

Writer Daniel Kehlman reviews two new Kleist biographies: one by Jens Bisky which is the more stimulating of the two, and the other by Gerhard Schulz which is the more sound. But Kehlman's chief interest is in Kleist himself of whom, among other things, he writes: "There is one point where the deepest secrets and truths about Kleist are laid open: in his use of grammar. Nabokov's comment that the biography of a writer is the history of his style is nowhere more appropriate than with this poet. So much has been written about his prose, about the firm brackets of its form, and the quasi-judicial intricacies of his sentences whose real miraculousness lies in their power, elasticity and readability: every one an illustration of the conflict between law and freedom. ... One would expect to hear readers groaning but this never happens and this is the true, inimitable miracle of his writing. It's no coincidence that Kleist has no imitators in German, not a single emulator worth his salt."

The New Statesman 26.11.2007 (UK)

Beijing's burgeoning contemporary art scene has spawned many a next big thing not to mention the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (Ucca), but Alice O'Keeffe cannot join in the triumphant celebration. The "new cultural revolution" has not happened yet: "The rapid commercialisation of the art scene has, however, prompted soul-searching. 'Being an artist is not what it used to be,' says Dong Qiang, a professor of art at Beijing University. 'It has become about making money.' What with the speed of the change, Chinese contemporary art lacks intellectual foundations solid enough to weather the windfall, he argues. 'This is a new thing for China. People don't have the educational background to distinguish between good and bad art. Collectors think of it as decoration, and artists do what they are told.'"


Rue89 25.11.2007 (France)

Former editor-in-chief of Le Figaro, Nicolas Beytout, has just been head-hunted to run the media pool of the French firm LVHM. He will be swapping one oligarch for another, weapons maker Serge Dassault for luxury-goods billionaire Bernard Arnault. Augustin Scalbert describes Beytout's time at Le Figaro and life in an editorial office which is in the hands of a dilettantish manufacturer with strong state ties. "The editorship of the venerable paper which was founded in 1826 fears Dassault most when he's on holiday. 'He rings up every five minutes, as soon as he's finished reading a page,' says one writer at the paper. Nicolas Beytout had to convince him that two pages about parliament every day are too many – Serge being a senator there and his son Olivier, a member of parliament."


Il Foglio 24.11.2007 (Italy)

Bruno Giurato introduces Gaetano "James" Senese, the Italian "Maradona of the saxophone" who can lay claim to an afro, a website with audio samples and a biography written by Carmine Aymone. "Gaetano Senese has taken the name of his father to whom, in a sense, he also owes his career. Senese is the son of the soldier James Smith of North Carolina who came to Naples with the Fifth Army and after eighteen months moved back to America from where he never responded to a single letter. 'I knew that if my father wasn't coming back for me, it was because he couldn't. Okay? My father left me after a year a half, not right away. The fact that he didn't come back is because it was impossible for him to do so. Okay?' When James was eight years old his mother Anna brought home an empty John Coltrane record sleeve. 'See this man, he is like your father.' From that moment on James wanted to play the saxophone."


Nepszabadsag 24.11.2007 (Hungary)

In Hungary today there is a popular magic formula which people use in the face of the general crisis to try to explain away every violation of the law, every caprice, every act of corruption: "You can get away with anything here". Critic and poet Akos Szilagyi (more here) searches for an explanation for this expression and discovers that the attitude behind it is also responsible for the crisis. "On the one hand it means that the person uttering it does not identify with his country. He feels he doesn't belong here. With a sneer he writes off his country without realising that this attitude of resignation makes him the very image of his country. But the formula also means that society – for historical and structural reasons – cannot curb the expansion of a political power so intertwined with economic powers, even within the framework of parliamentary democracy. ... From this point of view, the formula "you can get away with anything here" stands for the powerlessness of civil society in the current political power struggle which will result, no matter who wins, in an all-out defeat for civil society."


Elet es Irodalom 23.11.2007 (Hungary)

Why are other economies in the region flourishing while the Hungarian economy stagnates, although Hungarian political elites are no worse than the others, asks journalist Janos Szeky. He seeks an answer in the system itself: "Nobody sought to introduce the current system. It came as an interim solution, uncontrollably, a result of compromises dictated by temporary power relations. It was a stopgap, emerging through improvisation and even mistakes. Its participants included outstanding democrats, less-outstanding careerists, bureaucrats, poets, jurists and former employees of the secret police. In contrast to the other states in our region, here the new system was already in its inception before the end of Communism. At first it was seen as a set of guidelines, meant to bridge the gap until the democratic parliament gave its blessing to the new constitution. But clinging to such out-dated guidelines is highly perilous, because this system can't be repaired. Its own rules and regulations don't allow it. It's destroying itself, as if by a construction failure."

Poet Szilard Borbely puts the crisis in Hungary down to the lack of a strong middle class: "The middle class is comprised of the employees, those that can't shake off the old reflexes they developed during their long years of dependence on the state. This strata is fundamentally servile, and traditionally lacks the freedom of the bourgeois mentality. Since socialist times, politicians have not sought to win over this group, but to discipline it. Sometimes this is achieved through laws, sometimes through economic measures. Without economic security there can be no political security - that is the lesson learned from socialism. It's said you can recognise the proletariat and potential revolutionaries by their not having anything to lose. But the proletariat in Hungary today can lose both its credits and its financial assistance. The bourgeoisie in the classic sense disappeared under Socialism. And with it, the sense of justice and the bourgeois mentality."


Gazeta Wyborcza 24.11.2007 (Poland)

Just moaning and groaning about politics is senseless, says Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater in an interview. As founder of his own political party, the Union Progreso y Democracia, he means what he says. "My whole life I've been immersed in philosophy, lectures and books. Then I said to myself: I don't just want to be a member of the audience, applauding lousy actors. In a democracy we, the audience, are also actors." Asked whether as a philosopher he sees himself in the role of the enlightened ruler, he replies: "No, no, never! Perhaps I know Plato too well. I've helped to found a party, but I keep to the sidelines as an observer."


The Economist 23.11.2007 (UK)

The magazine publishes an extensive article on the current state of affairs in Iran, touching on both domestic and foreign policy. Regarding the threat of military conflict with the USA, the magazine notes that despite their differences, unmistakable similarities exist between the countries' leaders: "In some respects, those leaders are oddly similar. George Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are both deeply religious, referring frequently to God's guiding hand. Both are idealists rather than pragmatists, and skilled at folksy populism. Both have replaced dozens of competent officials with like-minded conservatives. And both are now considered, by a large slice of their countrymen, to be bungling and dangerous. The difference is that it has taken Mr Ahmadinejad just two years in power to achieve the unpopularity Mr Bush has gained after six."

In other articles: this issue features a focus on Austria, which is profiting like no other EU country from EU's expansion to the east. Several articles deal with the reasons for this success, but also with Austrians' difficulties in dealing with their past. Nigerian authors like Chimamanda Adichie may buy books abroad, but not at home: the Nigerian book industry is in a disastrous state, we learn. A book of letters by poet Ted Hughes is reviewed, as is a Parisian exhibition with paintings by Helene Schjerbeck.


Al Ahram Weekly 22.11.2007 (Egypt)

Rania Khallaf enthuses about Moving Walls, an exhibition documenting the travels of American photographers in the Arab World. But he is even more taken with Edward Gradzda's "NY Masjid: The Mosques of New York City," showing Islamic life in New York. "An inspiring vision of New York Islam: the buildings, the faces, the sense of incredulity induced by the fact that all this is happening in the non-Muslim capital of the world. A sense of slowness belies the stereotypical image of the Big Apple, while text informs us that in this city 75 percent of whose inhabitants are immigrants, there are 100 mosques and 800,000 Muslims including African Americans and, increasingly, Latinos."

Further articles: Mona El-Nahhas covers protests by Egyptian university professors against state intervention in their work. Nehad Selaiha has harsh words for the miserable treatment of artists at the 2nd Women Directors Festival in Cairo. And Mohammed Baraka describes the pitfalls awaiting Arab writers.

The Spectator 23.11.2007 (UK)

Twenty-three year old Samina Malik from London's Southall district has written less-than-brilliant poems celebrating Osama bin Laden. Now she's going to jail for it. Rod Liddle finds that absurd: "She is an air-head. More than that, everything I've read about this 23-year-old woman from Southall suggests to me that she is an impressionable and objectionable cretin who harbours an intense dislike of the country in which she lives, allied to a sort of teenybopper fadulation, to coin a phrase, for the Islamic terrorists she has seen on videos." But Liddle is even less impressed by liberals who don't rush to Malik's aid. In its support for "mainstream" Islam, he writes, "The Guardian and most white liberals feel compelled to join in the co-ordinated state persecution of anyone who might give Islam a 'bad name'. And if that involves sending them to prison for having written a stupid poem, then so be it."


Le Nouvel Observateur 22.11.2007 (France)

Books by British sociologist Anthony Giddens, author of "The Third Modernity," will come out shortly in Britain ("Over to You Mr Brown," Polity Press) and France ("Le Nouveau Modele europeen" Hachhette Litteratures/Telos). In an interview he talks about the divided Left, France's mistakes and Blair's successor Gordon Brown, explaining his appeal for a new European social model: "According to Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida, the current model gives a key role to the state's 'guaranties of social security' and Europeans' confidence in the 'civilisational power of the state.' Yet this model is in a crisis. It has left 20 million people unemployed. This crisis is responsible for the rejection of the European constitution: French voters cast their ballots against a Europe that no longer protects them. Certain - northern European - countries have nevertheless been successful in combining growth with a high level of social security and a respect for equal rights. We shall see what Europe can learn from them."


The New York Times 25.11.2007 (USA)

Jamaa Mezuak, a small district in the Moroccan coastal city of Tetuan, produces a disproportunately high number of suicide bombers. Andrea Elliott files a long reportage for The New York Times Magazine: "If there is one outlet for the neighborhood's wellspring of male energy, it is soccer. In the summer, hundreds of boys gather on bleachers to watch as players glide across a worn, concrete pitch, some of them barefoot. Sitting around the bleachers one afternoon in July, a group of teenagers talked to me about their heroes. They said they worshipped Zinedine Zidane, the Muslim of Algerian descent who conquered the soccer world from France. They loved the Prophet Muhammad. The mere mention of Osama bin Laden elicited a sea of upturned thumbs."

There are many autobiographical reports by opponents of Stalin, but none describe particularly well the experience of people who came to terms with the regime. Orlando Figes' "extradorndinary" book "The Whisperers. Private Life in Stalin's Russia" does just this, and is the ultimate reprimand for Putin's attempt at inflicting Russia with moral amnesia, writes a delighted Joshua Rubenstein in the Book Review. Richard Lourie is far less thrilled with Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin biography: "Vanity Fair goes to Lubyanka."

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