06/05/2008

Magazine Roundup

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

Caffe Europa | London Review of Books | Die Weltwoche | The New Yorker | Al Ahram Weekly | Nepszabadsag | Elet es Irodalom | The Times Literary Supplement | Das Magazin |
The New York Times

Caffe Europa 04.05.2008 (Italy)

On May 9th 1978 Christian Democrat Aldo Moro was murdered by members of the Italian Red Brigades. Antonio Padellaro, editor-in-chief of L'Unita and chronicler of Italy's so-called Anni di Piombo or leaden years, reminds Alessandro Lanni how good Italy had it with its politicians of the 60s and 70s from de Gasperi to Togliatti. Moro could have achieved great things, Padellaro believes. "Moro was working on a huge project, a strategic coup: the coming together of the Catholic and the communist worlds. This would have been the first real step towards reconciliation in this country. The PD (Walter Veltroni's Democratic Party) came out of this thinking, albeit somewhat watered down. It was an extremely difficult process which the Church leaders fought with a vehemence that makes the Chuch's current course on ethical issues seem like a polite cough. There was aggression and threats which prevented Amintore Fanfani becoming president. Moro was shot and we should not forget that one of the reasons he was kidnapped was that several parties wanted to prevent the Church and the communists from moving towards one other. Whatever you think of him, Aldo Moro did something that was light years away from the lost-in-the-detail politics of today that has become the norm. He stood for a vision, a vision which is so terribly lacking in politics today."


London Review of Books 08.05.2008

R.W. Johnson delivers a damning eye-witness report from Harare about the countless political machinations in pre and post-election Zimbabwe which are propping up Mugabe against the MDC party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and which have resulted in the current deadlock. South African President Thabo Mbeki, who shares Mugabe's paranoid vision, has played a key role. "In Mbeki's and Mugabe's minds Western imperialism is engaged in a struggle to overthrow the National Liberation Movements (NLMs) and restore, if it can, the preceding regimes – apartheid, colonialism or white settler rule. In so doing it will use various local parties as lackeys: Inkatha and the Democratic Alliance in South Africa, Renamo in Mozambique, Unita in Angola – and the MDC in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is the weakest link here, which means that the other NLMs must defend Zanu-PF to the death, for if Zimbabwe 'falls' South Africa will be the next target."

Further articles: Donald McKenzie is astounded by the soaring cost of insurance against "the end of the world" – the collapse of world markets - and sees it as an indication of the gravity of the credit crisis which his article analyses with great precision. Daniel Soar reports on the court case against the eight men charged with conspiracy to blow up an aircraft and who are responsible for the current ban on liquids in flight cabins.


Die Weltwoche 01.05.2008 (Switzerland)

Andre Müller interviews the violinist Julia Fischer who seems rather unwilling to cooperate. An excerpt:

"Do you want children?
Of course. Why else are we here in this world?For art!
I can combine the two if I want. Now you are going to ask if I have found the right man for the job.
No.
That's one of those stupid journalist questions which I refuse to answer."

The New Yorker 12.05.2008 (USA)

The focus of this week's New Yorker invention and innovation. In his essay, non-fiction bestseller writer Malcolm Gladwell introduces "Intellectual Ventures" a group of scientists, tinkerers and original minds brought together and financed by the multi-millionaire nerd Nathan Myhrvold. I.V. is about invention, invention, invention. And it's working better than anyone could have imagined. Currently I.V. files around 500 patents a year and it has a backlog of three thousand ideas. Gladwell lists justs a few facts in this success story: "Intellectual Ventures just had a patent issued on automatic, battery-powered glasses, with a tiny video camera that reads the image off the retina and adjusts the fluid-filled lenses accordingly, up to ten times a second. It just licensed off a cluster of its patents, for eighty million dollars. ... Bill Gates, whose company, Microsoft, is one of the major investors in Intellectual Ventures, says, 'I can give you fifty examples of ideas they've had where, if you take just one of them, you'd have a startup company right there.'"


Al Ahram Weekly 01.05.2008 (Egypt)

Magdy El-Shafie has written Egypt's first graphic novel "The Metro" – which now, months after its publication - has been banned for alleged obscenity and libel. Rhania Kallaf introduces the comic, which is about a bank robbery, as well as its author and his influences. "El-Shafie also mentioned the influence of bloggers on the style of his book. 'Bloggers first appeared in Egypt in 2004 during the demonstrations calling for more democratic freedoms at the time. Their writing was raw and sincere and not based on any particular ideology. It affected me a great deal.' Told in black and white, the plot of the novel takes place in the Cairo district of Maadi, which is seen as divided into two sharply polarised parts: the part lived in by the upper middle class and the part lived in by the poor. It dwells on the lives of the poor, showing how Wanas, one of the novel's characters, resorts to begging after the government demolishes the kiosk he uses to mend shoes and earn a living." (Read an excerpt from "The Metro" in English translation)

Further articles: During the London Book Fair last month the Independent asked whether Khaled Hosseini's novel "The Kite Runner", which has been translated into 42 languages, might kick off an Arab literature boom in the West. Mona Asis has her doubts: Western ideas about the Arab world are riddled with cliches, the West seems to feel it has the monopoly on "universalisism" and there is not enough basic knowledge of the Arab literature classics. Khali El-Alani sees a desperate need for reform in the founding Egyptian division of the now global Muslim Brotherhood.


Nepszabadsag 03.05.2008 (Hungary)

Hungarians are forced to compete in today's market economy, even if they often lack the competitive spirit, psychologist Marta Fülöp explains in an interview with Laszlo Rab. The size of the small country and the lack of socialisation account for the tough competition: "A fierce competitive atmosphere requires many different aptitudes and a varied workforce, but no matter how you look at it Hungary doesn't need seamen. An oceanographer isn't going to have an easy time here. It's more difficult in Hungary for someone with a special training, compared with America or Japan for example. In Hungary you have to fight hard for every little advantage, and that's why competition is so ruthless. Here your competitor is not an honoured rival – like in Japan for example – someone who motivates you to a trial of strength. On the contrary, he's often considered an enemy, unworthy of respect, who you try to liquidate symbolically. In this hostile atmosphere, people resort to aggressive means and don't bother sticking to the rules."


Elet es Irodalom 30.04.2008 (Hungary)

Hungarian politics is another sphere with no clear concept of "competition", writes Anna Szilagyi, who analyses the linguistics of Hungary's right-wing populist opposition. Populists try to stigmatise their opponents with their language, often casting them as criminals with academic-sounding terms: "The Right and the Left use language entirely differently. While the Left fight political adversaries, the Right fight an enemy. … Stigmatising someone as a 'miscreant', 'criminal' or 'lunatic' transmits one key message: the enemy is beyond help. This leaves just no option but to isolate him from the nation or cut him off with other means, and the nation must be 'cleansed' and 'healed'. This language is so effective and disarming because pseudo-scientific jargon conceals the intent of eliminating political opponents, and uses neutral terms usually associated with medicine or law for political, even authoritarian, ends."


The Times Literary Supplement 02.05.2008 (UK)

World famous tenor Ian Bostridge reviews "The Rest is Noise" (first chapter), a history of 20th century music by New Yorker critic Alex Ross (blog). The monumental work deals among other topics with the role of music in totalitarian regimes. And according to Bostridge, "Germany" is where all the problems start: "For Ross, the Nazi infatuation with music is the crux of his story. If nineteenth-century German politics, philosophy and musical endeavour made classical music unprecedentedly momentous, its implication in the near-annihilation of European civilization by the mid-century robbed it of moral authority, a collapse with which classical music still lives, sixty years on. As Ross points out, trivially but accurately, 'when any self-respecting Hollywood archcriminal sets out to enslave mankind, he listens to a little classical music to get in the mood'."

Also in this issue: Historian Mark Mazower reads Bernard Wasserstein's " Barbarism and Civilisation - A history of Europe in our time" (more here). Jon Garvie reviews Cass R. Sunstein's "Republic.com 2.0" (more here), but doesn't share the author's left-wing conservative scepticism about digitalisation, inspired by Jürgen Habermas.


Das Magazin 02.05.2008 (Switzerland)

Climate changes have always played a role in human history, says climatologist Josef H. Reichholf in a discussion with Matthias Meili: "During the High Middle Ages, the climate was extraordinarily mild. Central Europe was for the most part warmer than today. The population grew from 17 to over 70 million. … A large number of cities were founded during this Medieval population increase. Many convents were established as well. … and many young women of child-bearing age became nuns. Women play a crucial role in population growth, and back then convents were part of society's birth control measures."


The New York Times 04.05.2008 (USA)

Pop literature might be dead in Germany, but in China it's just getting off the ground. Aventurina King portrays several of its protagonists, first and foremost 24-year-old cross-dresser Guo Jingming, whose novels relate teen woes. "Guo is hardly universally beloved. Last fall, he was voted China's most hated male celebrity for the third year in a row on Tianya, one of the country's biggest online forums. Yet three of his four novels have sold over a million copies each, and last year he had the highest income of any Chinese author:1.4 million dollars."

China is also the focus of the Book Review. Jonathan Spence reviews Mo Yan's new novel "Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out." Other books reviewed include Jiang Rong's mega-bestseller "Wolf Totem" (here), Wang Anyi's "The Song of Everlasting Sorrow" (here) and Yan Lianke's "Serve the People" (here). And Ian Buruma portrays composer Tan Dun in the Sunday Magazine.

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