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19/02/2008

Magazine Roundup

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

The New York Review of Books | Gazeta Wyborcza | London Review of Books | L'Espresso | The Economist | Al Ahram Weekly | Le Nouvel Observateur | Elet es Irodalom | The New York Times

The New York Review of Books 03.03.2008 (USA)

History is being made in the USA, believes writer Darryl Pinckney. He first sensed it on the evening of the Democratic primary in New Hampshire while at the hairdressers in Harlem: America is on the verge of voting for a black president. "Though Obama has been praised by some for not making race an issue in his campaign, and for not coming off as the black candidate, his race most certainly is crucial to his broad appeal. Black people can appreciate as much as white people the inclusiveness of his mixed-race heritage and that his story is in part that of an immigrant. But this is not a color-blind election. People aren't voting for Obama in spite of the fact that he is black, or because he is only half-black, they are voting for him because he is black, and this is a whole new feeling in the country and in presidential politics. Forty years ago, Robert Kennedy was sharply criticized for saying that a black man probably could be elected president of the United States in fifty years' time. 'Victory tonight,' my barber, Mr. Sherlock, said as we shook hands."

Further articles: Joseph Cirincione examines the nuclear threats to which the USA is genuinely exposed. Sanford Schwartz evaluates the cinematic oeuvre of Julian Schnabel. And there are reviews of the Lucien Freud exhibition in the New York MoMA, and Cees Nooteboom's novel "Lost Paradise" (and a very tough one it is too from J.M. Coetzee.)


Gazeta Wyborcza 16.02.2008 (Poland)

"What was taken from us with force we will have to take back with force," Serbian historian Slavenko Terzic has threatened in the Polish press (more here and here). "From the point of view of international law, it is illegal to recognise Kosovo's independence, because it breaches all UN conventions and principles. What would Europe and the rest of the world look like if every national minority were to declare independence?"

"The creation of Poland after the First World War also involved infringing the integrity of other states – international recognition followed later. The argument that a Polish state existed beforehand has no relevance here. Or should we conclude that an independent Palestine has no right to exist because it has never existed? asks Dawid Warszawski. In response to Terzic's threat he says: "We have to hope that before the Reconquista, Serbia and Kosovo become part of the EU. We should wish this for both of them."


London Review of Books 21.02.2008 (UK)

Modris Eksteins' review of Peter Gay's new book "Modernism: The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond" is friendly in tone but unrelenting in its criticism. Ekstein cannot follow, for example, how Gay arrived at his basic thesis that Modernism and liberalism are closely related. "In fact the heyday of Modernism, from roughly 1890 to 1930, corresponded to a mounting crisis of liberalism, in both social thought and politics. The two dispositions, Modernism and liberalism, were if anything adversarial. Modernism was all about destroying restraint, pushing to the edge, living life dangerously. Modernism was an extremism of the soul in an age of extremes. Gay makes little mention of the role of illness, abnormality and neurosis in the Modernist mindset."


L'Espresso 15.02.2008 (Italy)

The Turin Book Fair, which starts at the beginning of May, has invited Israel as guest country and attracted a great deal of venom. Although pacifist and regime-critical authors such as Amos Oz, David Grossman and Abraham Yehoshua are taking part, recent weeks have heard voices from the left camp demanding that Palestinian writers also be invited. For Umberto Eco this is pure calculation. "I understand very well what certain friends of the extreme left (who only need to turn 360 degrees to come dangerously close to the extreme right) are thinking when they demand such a thing: we have to direct people's attention to the ominous politics of the Israeli government, so we can kick off a scandal that will hit the headlines in all the papers. It is true that politicians and advertising companies work like this (and Berlusconi has mastered the art), but what is happening in Turin right now is a bit like the Blue Telephone trying to draw attention to the abuse of children by having some of them whipped in public."


The Economist 18.02.2008 (UK)

Nina L. Khrushcheva, great-granddaughter of the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, has written a book "Imagining Nabokov: Russia Between Art and Politics", which, the Economist writes, is as learned as it is accessible. "Ms Khrushcheva's central point is that Nabokov bridges the gap between tsarist Russia (mystical, feudal and isolated) and the West far better than either the forced modernisation of communism, the chaotic shock capitalism of the 1990s or the authoritarian self-confidence of the Putin era. Nabokov, she says, presents the future of Russia for this century: a place that balances both the 'indifference of democracy' and 'heroes of kindness' such as perhaps his greatest character, Timofei Pnin (an emigre academic who is both besotted with America and at sea in it)."


Al Ahram Weekly 14.02.2008 (Egypt)

Margot Badran celebrates the importance of the Iranian women's magazine Zanan as a trailblazer for Islamic feminism. "With her new vision, clear determination, and solid experience in journalism, along with the support of like-minded thinkers, Shahla Sherkat launched an independent gender-progressive journal. In the pages of Zanan, women, along with male contributors (using female pseudonyms), including rising religious scholars, published their reinterpretations of the Qur'an and other religious texts articulating egalitarian readings of Islam. This coincided with the moment - the 1990s - when similar initiatives were surfacing among Muslims elsewhere in efforts to move beyond the constrictions and inequities of patriarchal versions of Islam." The fact that the magazine has now been banned will not change anything: Zanan's "vision remains alive."

Samir Farid reports from the Berlinale and the reaction to the only Arab film screened there, Youssri Nasrallah's "Aquarium" which was shown in the Panorama section. The visibility of Arab filmmakers will undoubtedly increase with the Abu Dhabi Film Festival which is set to take place in October for the second time. "Perhaps most enticingly of all for filmmakers, there will be a million-dollar award as the top prize - the highest to date in the history of all international film festivals."


Le Nouvel Observateur 14.02.2008 (France)

Sociologist Edgar Morin explains in an interview why he turned his back on communism: "At the end of 1941, I became a militant communist in order to enter the gigantic battle of a world incurably engulfed in war. My mistake was much more an error of judgement that one of ignorance. I was not one of the naive who believed the USSR was a paradise, I knew the lies about the Moscow Trials. But I thought that all the shortcomings of the Soviet Union stemmed from Czarist backwardness or being surrounded by capitalism and that victory would lead to the unfolding of a superior society. I did not recognise at this point in time that totalitarian logic was locked into Bolshevism. My mistake plagued me so relentlessly that I wrote the book 'Autocritique' in which I tried to understand how I could have arrived at such a mistake. Under Stalin people suffered from a sort of delirium which I tried to see through. Although I was disillusioned as early as 1948, I had a psychopathological need for love, fraternity, companionship and I did not dare sever the umbilical cord. I was only set free once I was thrown out of the party. After that I became a radical anti-Stalinist."

Elet es Irodalom 14.02.2008 (Hungary)

The Dutch journalists Runa Hellinga and Henk Hirs have lived (with a few breaks) in Hungary since 1989. They talked to Tibor Berczes about the extent to which foreigners can assimilate into the country. "Hungarians tend to mystify their language. How many time have I heard that 'the Hungarian vocabulary is the richest' and that the Hungarian language 'is unparalleled in its expressiveness'. Of course people say this if they don't talk another language. I should mention something that might sound offensive, but it is something that should be confronted and fought against – and that is provincialism. Many people only see and know their own world and cannot even imagine that things could be, and indeed are, different elsewhere in the world. Of course provincialism also exists in Holland but it is less extreme."


The New York Times 17.02.2008

For the Sunday magazine Meline Toumani portrays the Turkish-Kurdish politician Abdullah Demirbas who until recently was the mayor of the Sur district in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir. Last year he was removed from office for using the Kurdish language, but also for printing tourist brochures in Armenian. Official documents are not allowed to contain the letters W, X or Q which exist in Kurdish but not in Turkish. "This miniaturist culture war and the fighting in the mountains are related because they both reflect the inability of Turkish society to integrate Kurds — about 20 percent of the country's total population and the majority in the southeast — in a way that doesn't insist on assimilation down to the last W, X or Q. For decades, Turkish law has not allowed acknowledgment of Kurds as a distinct ethnic group; from 1983 to 1991 it was even illegal to speak Kurdish in public. Until 2002, broadcasting in Kurdish was essentially banned, and only in 2003 could parents give their children Kurdish names (except, again, for names using W, X or Q)."

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