15/04/2008

Magazine Roundup

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

Elet es Irodalom | Vanity Fair | Rue89 | Outlook India | Commentary | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Economist | Semana | Plus - Minus | Nepszabadsag | The Spectator | Le Monde diplomatique | The Times Literary Supplement | World Affairs


Elet es Irodalom 11.04.2008 (Hungary)

Hungarian writer and publisher of the Jewish cultural newspaper Szombat, Gabor Szanto T. spoke to Israeli literary academic Dan Miron. In his reply to the question on the political content of Hebrew literature, Miron refers among other things to "Toward a Theory of Minor Literature" by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: "Minor literature is not 'minor' but culturally marginalised. In this sort of literature everything has a political stamp on it. Not directly, through the reflection of political issues, but due to the fact that whatever the absolute individual writes about, it touches on the themes and experiences of the collective. This applies more or less, I think, to Israeli literature. Israeli writers formulate their individual experiences and yet every important Israeli novel which deals with the destinies of private individuals, conveys something of the situation of the collective. [...] Naturally political poetry also exists but the main flow of literature deals with questions of private life and yet something over and above this emerges. I would not be surprised if this didn’t apply to Hungarian literature as well. Because if the intellectual sphere is not wide enough, it often happens that people, when they talk about themselves also raise issues that apply to the collective."


Vanity Fair 14.04.2008 (USA)

The Russians sent submersibles down through a hole in the ice in the Arctic Ocean and planted a titanium flag on the sea bed – thus staking their claims to the vast oil reserves that are believed to lie beneath it. This, explains Vanity Fair in a comprehensive article, is anything but absurd: "Any way you look at it, Russia has the greatest legitimacy in the Arctic - geographically, historically, demographically, hydrologically... and, it now hopes to prove, geomorphologically and geologically." And naturally this is not without its consequences for global politics. "If it starts tapping the Arctic deposits, Russia will be back as a superpower and may become the world's dominant energy supplier. There would then be a Fifth Russian Empire, presided over by the increasingly autocratic Putin."

Another article worth reading – even for non-scientists, is Christopher Hitchens' review of Peter Ackroyd's not-so-new Isaac Newton biography. Unfortunately he fails to mention whether it's as good as Neal Stephenson's Newton portrait in "Quicksilver".


Rue89 13.04.2008 (France)

Together with teachers, journalists and a number of his colleagues, the young lawyer and specialist in media rights, Emmanuel Pierrat, has put together and published a black book of censorship: "Le livre noir de la censure" (Le Seuil). A full discussion of its findings is available only as audio, but the main conclusions are laid out in an accompanying text. The authors identified three main culprits: the check book, the moral watchdog and new media in the guise of Yahoo, Google and Microsoft. The last category among other things because – like Google in China – they collaborate with the powers that be to get a foothold in new markets. Big business on the other hand, Pierrat says, might have contented itself in the past with capping the advertising budgets of overly aggressive media, whereas today they go for the legal attack. "Their arsenal, compared with the means of counterattack available to publishers, journalists and writers, is enormous." And the threat of the moral watchdog is that "every legal action they take causes costs: lawyers' fees, drawbacks and interests. Much more effective repercussions that imprisonment."


Outlook India 21.04.2008 (India)

Indian cricket is undergoing nothing less than a revolution. The most important new rule in the new T20 version which is not intended to replace the traditional form but threatens to do so all the same: the game can no longer potentially go on for ever, but will have a maximum length of three hours. The industry has invested a fortune in the new T20 league, TV has paid for the rights and the games are becoming mega events. Outlook India is deeply concerned: "If money is the mortal enemy of the soul, as is believed, then cricket could be in danger of losing its soul. On April 18, when the inaugural Indian Premier League Twenty20 begins in Bangalore, cricket, as purists love it - with its bucolic beauty and quaint traditions - will metamorphose into Tamasha Cricket. The mix could be the newest opium for the Indian masses: adrenaline-pumping sport and heart-thumping Bollywood, gyrating dances and lusty sixes, sporting geniuses and dashing superstars. Sport must intermittently reinvent itself - the lure of money is difficult to resist - but soon a day may come to pass when we even fail to recognise cricket as we knew it.

There's also a review of Patrick French's approved V.S Naipaul biography, "The World is What it is," which Sunil Khilnani heralds as a "triumph of the biographer's art." Sanjay Suri gives a rather gloating summary of the reception in Britain of Salman Rushdie's new book "The Enchantress of Florence".


Commentary 01.04.2008 (USA)

Terry Teachout was riveted by Kenneth Hamilton's book on the history of the piano recital, "After the Golden Age - Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance." Its golden era was the 19th century when pianists were entertainers, improvising and talking with the audience. Today they are nothing more than formally dressed performers who play the standard repertoire and never utter a word. Horowitz was the last free spirit and Teachout says of him: "One need not regard Horowitz as a paragon of interpretative virtue to see Hamilton's point and to feel dissatisfaction with the not-infrequent blandness of the 'international style' that came to dominate classical performance after World War II."


Gazeta Wyborcza 12.04.2008 (Poland)

What would happen if the Polish government were to stipulate what brands of car Poles could drive, asks Dariusz Cwiklak with an eye on the near Microsoft monopoly in Poland. "Users of other operating systems are pariahs in Poland. They are treated as a necessary evil or even as thin air. Representatives of various institutions never mention names like Mac OSX or Linux but if they did, the reaction would be: Can't you just use Windows?'" One example is the state social security agency known as the "ZUS", whose electronic payment system can only be accessed using Microsoft programmes. "Many public institutions are technologically under-developed. For people like me who refuse to use Windows, that might not be such a bad thing. Because the real problems will start when electronic communication with authorities or tax returns becomes obligatory and the necessary programmes are only available with Windows," prophesies Ciwklak.


The Economist 12.04.2008 (UK)

The Economist features a special section on the new digital mobility in the wireless world. It focuses on fundamental questions of our daily lives. "Will it be a better life? In some ways, yes. Digital nomadism will liberate ever more knowledge workers from the cubicle prisons of Dilbert cartoons. But the old tyranny of place could become a new tyranny of time, as nomads who are 'always on' all too often end up - mentally - anywhere but here (wherever here may be). As for friends and family, permanent mobile connectivity could have the same effect as nomadism: it might bring you much closer to family and friends, but it may make it harder to bring in outsiders. It might isolate cliques."


Semana 12.04.2008 (Columbia)

Hector Abad is not so sure what he should generally think about the controversial free trade deal between Columbia and the USA. In specific points, though he is all for it: "People with deep felt convictions despise doubters. But I have been convinced by the advocates as well as the opponents of the deal. Normally though people do not weigh up the arguments, they look at things through their ideological filter: followers of Marx will be appalled by the deal; but Adam Smith's disciples will think it's great. As a skeptic I assume that it's good for some companies and their employees, and a catastrophe for others. As a writer I would certainly find it humiliating to demand some sort of 'literary protectionism,' quotas for 'Columbian writers' and extra duties on imported literary products. At least as far as my profession goes, I am for free trade in books, even if it would bring a wave of Gringo bestsellers crashing over us."


Plus - Minus 12.04.2008 (Poland)

In the interview with theatre director Jan Klata much of the talk centres on revolution. Klata is staging Stanislawa Przybyszewska's play about Danton and is fascinated by what happened in 1989 in Poland. ..."If theatre should engage in anything then it's with an attempt to analyse this unusual moment in which we continue to find ourselves. (...) We show turbo change and ask: when will it stop? The play ends with two headless bodies which ask whether the people perhaps don't want a revolution after all. This is what it's about. The people couldn't care less. They are basically only interested in shopping."


Nepszabadsag 12.04.2008 (Hungary)

Jozsef Szilvassy talked to Bratislava-based Hungarian writer and founder of Kalligramm publishers, Lajos Grendel, on his 60th birthday. He travels widely throughout Europe and the world but never feels quite at home in his home country. "I have the impression that the majority of the citizens of post-socialist states have no vision of the future and suffer from a loss of values. We are being flooded with nonsense, with almost every evil of consumer society. Sandor Marai warned at the beginning of the 1930s that the era of the mass humans was upon us. First they were manipulated by dictators and today they are intoxicated by the thousands of siren voices of post-industrial society. Furthermore the ethnic diversity in Central and Eastern Europe is a source of ever new conflicts instead of a peaceful symbiosis which would benefit everyone. The situation in Hungary gets more awful all the time. I am appalled to see the corrals behind which the intellectuals and writers barricade themselves. And antipathy is on the rise. What can writers do against it? Protest, shout into the wilderness and describe this world of nonsense."


The Spectator 12.04.2008 (UK)

Salman Rushdie tells Matthew d'Ancona that such things as universal values exist and that they should be defended - with everything we have. "We have to get thicker-skinned. If we end up going on being this thin-skinned, we're going to kill each other. So we need to have the ability to hear unpalatable stuff. What would a 'respectful' cartoon look like? The form itself requires disrespect — so you either have the form, or you don't… I think we're being extremely wimpish at the level of ideas. People must be protected from prejudice against their person. But people cannot be protected from prejudice against their ideas — because otherwise we're all done. "


Le Monde diplomatique 11.04.2008 (Germany/France)

American pop culture - once so beloved – has, under George W. Bush, become little more than a chattering of teeth, US bashing and moaning. Hardly an inspiring prospect, writes Dietmar Dath. The entire nation and its culture is stewing in its own juices. "The upshot of this can be described as 'ubiquitous re-provincialisation' (parallel to increasing political and military boorishness). In this sort of climate the culture industry produces nothing more than home-made tales, particulars: America's greatest novels of recent times deal with family destinies, its television series, even the best of them, take place in manageable, isolated temporal and spatial enclosures, everything happens in the White House or everything happens within 24 hours, everything takes place on an enchanted island with no contact to the outside world. The universal, total, meaningful is disappearing from sight."

In a further article Hicham Ben Abdallah El Alaoui sees very little progress in the attempts to bring democracy to the Arab world. Three forms of rule have formed there: "Completely 'closed' regimes (like Libya, Syria and a number of others), who are unwilling to awake even a semblance of pluralism; 'hybrid' regimes (like Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Yemen) where authoritarian rule coexists with certain forms of democratic involvement; and 'open' regimes, for which there is currently only one example: Mauritania, where the elections in March 2007 brought about a genuine power shift."


The Times Literary Supplement 11.04.2008 (UK)

"The literary critic as neuroscience groupie is part of a growing trend," declares Raymond Tallis, Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine, after reading an article by author A.S. Byatt, in which she explains the joys of John Donne's poetry in neuroscientific terms: "I was convinced ... that the neurones Donne excites are largely those of the reinforced linkages of memory, concepts, and learned formal structures like geometry, algebra and language. " Nonsense, our expert says, and before going into detail, he expresses he annoyance at the way this is watering down literary criticism. "At first sight, the displacement of Theory, with its social constructivism and linguistic idealism, by talk of something as solid as 'the brain' of the writer and 'the brain' of the reader may seem like progress. In fact, it is a case of plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. The switch from Theory to 'biologism' leaves something essential unchanged: the habit of the uncritical application of very general ideas to works of literature, whose distinctive features, deliberate intentions and calculated virtues are consequently lost."

Joy Connolly has read two very interesting books on wife-beating in antiquity: Sarah B. Pomeroy's "The Murder of Regilla" and Caroline Vout's "Power and Eroticism in Imperial Rome". Unfortunately information sources are less than ideal. "As in modern times until very recently, wife-beating was not much talked of by classical writers beyond the odd aside, as when Augustine in his Confessions recollects the bruises he saw as a child marking the faces of his mother's friends, or when Herodotus and Suetonius report that the Corinthian tyrant Periander and the Emperor Nero beat their pregnant wives to death."


World Affairs 01.01.2008 (USA)

The new magazine World Affairs focuses on American foreign policy. The first edition from January 2008 is now available online. Peter Collier who, among other things, has written a book on the Kennedys, contributes a lengthy essay about the debate launched by signandsight.com and perlentaucher on "Islam in Europe". This debate was prolonged by Paul Berman's giant essay in the New Republic. Collier takes up his stance against Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash: "Two decades ago, when a similar writ threatened Salman Rushdie, these same intellectuals instinctively and unambiguously rallied to his cause. What accounts for their failure of nerve? Two things, according to Berman: the rise of Islamism in the years since the Rushdie fatwa, and the spread of terrorism. But there is plainly a third reason: the neocons and their war. Neither Buruma nor Garton Ash have programmatically replied to Berman's New Republic piece. But Buruma did use the occasion of his review of Norman Podhoretz's World War IV (which he ravages, needless to say) in the New York Review of Books to take a carom shot at Berman, describing him as 'a tub thumper for Bush's war.' Worse yet, he is one of those 'neo leftists' who secretly share the judgments of people like Podhoretz and by so doing, promote neoconservatisim by other means, thereby 'betraying the liberal principles they claim to be defending.'"

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