On the Death of Siegfried Lenz ? ?You have to justify your life?

Siegfried Lenz, one of the great writers of German post-war literature is dead. He died on 7 October 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.... more more

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13/05/2008

Magazine Roundup

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

Nepszabadsag | The New Republic | Le Nouvel Observateur | Artforum | Al Ahram Weekly | Elet es Irodalom | The New Yorker | Outlook India | Folio | The Times Literary Supplement | Eurozine | Letras Libres | Europa | Spectator


Nepszabadsag 10.05.2008 (Hungary)
Does man need to remember? There is no question about it for writer György Konrad: "The personal history is an active working instrument, a collection of examples, a living metaphor which shows its muscles like an animal. (...) It is human to remember, it is was makes us human. Nature is indifferent to history. Grass growing on a mass grave is no less green than anywhere else. Nature does not mourn and bears no witness. To remember is an unnatural action, which takes a stand against death. Why would I want someone to live who is no longer alive? Is it not humility which prescribes the over-simplicity of forgetting. One says that people who never forget are dangerous. But one also says that God never forgets. Man's memory is a similar hubris, an audacity, like the invention of fire. The apple which forced Adam to decide between good and evil gave everything he had ever lived a simultaneous presence in his mind. Remembering is rebellion."


The New Republic 28.05.2008 (USA)

Seldom was a book more vigorously excoriated than Nicholson Baker's pacifist polemic "Human Smoke" (excerpt) which questions the justification of the allied war against the Nazis, at the hands of Gulag historian Anne Applebaum. She lashes out on two fronts: firstly against Baker's book; and secondly against what she considers to be the rampant lack of seriousness in the internet where conpiracy theories are fabricated from bits of information patched together from Google and Wikipedia. And Baker is a Wikipedia fan, as he recently emphasised in the New York Review of Books. Applebaum has the following to say about the book: "You cannot disagree with Baker's argument, because no argument has been made. Baker does not build a case, he insinuates something, leaving the reader to guess what. My best paraphrase of his view goes like this: Churchill was a bully and a drunk. The Roosevelts were snobs and anti-Semites. Therefore they were not good people. Therefore their so-called 'good' war must have been hypocritical. Therefore they could only have been fighting because they were in hock to the military industrial complex and they had a bloodthirsty fondness for bombing raids." And so on...

Barack Obama 's success so far is testament to a drop in racism in the USA compared with 50 years ago, writes John B. Judis, but a racist subconscious remains, that surfaces with subtle sociological probing. Around 15 percent of most stalwart Democrats would not vote for Obama because he is black, and the question Judis addresses is whether and how Obama can overcome this hurdle. Strains of racism still thrive among the white working class, say Judis, but not exclusively: "The only groups that didn't evince racial animosity toward blacks were voters with post-graduate degrees and, of course, African Americans. Hispanics were nearly as prejudiced as whites, and a group labeled 'other' that includes Asian Americans was even more so - a partial explanation, perhaps, for why Obama fared so poorly among these groups in California." In Judis' view, Obama should steer clear of the race issue in the election campaign and concentrate on the war in Iraq and the economy.

The New Republic is in full form this week: Cynthia Ozick writes an long essay on Lionel Trilling. Francesca Mari explains "Cosmic Realism". Gabriel Sherman analyses Murdoch's strategy for the Wall Street Journal.


Le Nouvel Observateur 08.05.2008 (France)

In an interview, the popular Chinese writer Yu Hua talks about his latest book "Brother" (Seuil). It is a portrait of China over the last forty years and in the first part, he touches on the Cultural Revolution, a time he experienced as a child, and which remains a taboo in China. Some of the characters are fictional but "in China reality far exceeds the power of the imagination. (...) It was a crazy epoch: In a newspaper from the time I read that Pen Zheng, the mayor of Bejing, genuinely suggested to Mao that the Forbidden City should be razed to the ground to make way for the world's biggest latrines so that the entire world could piss and shit where the Emperors lived!"

Le Monde de Livres also features a review and a portrait of Yu Hua.


Artforum 01.05.2008 (USA)

It was not a revolution, at least it was "less and less 'the revolution' the students believed and hoped it was", writes the New York philosopher and art critic Arthur C. Danto who witnessed the student protests at Columbia University in April 1968. And yet it was: "I have a kind of theory that when great social changes are about to take place, something happens in the arts first - think of Romanticism and the French Revolution, or of the Russian avant-garde in the years 1905 to 1915 and of Aleksandr Rodchenko's slogan 'Art into life!' That was close to the motto of Fluxus, led by students in John Cage's seminar in experimental composition at the New School in New York."


Al Ahram Weekly 08.05.2008 (Egypt)

Gamal Nkrumah tells the story of the Sudanese cameraman Sami Al-Haj who was taken prisoner by the Pakistanis in 2001 and handed over to the Americans, who locked him in Guatanamo for seven years without trying or charging him, and who has finally been released. "Al-Haj says that he was deprived of sleep, and that he was subjected to cruel interrogation techniques. He suffers from rheumatism among other ailments but was denied medication and medical attention. During the past 16 months he went on a hunger strike in protest at his illegal detention. And, he says that he was force-fed by intravenous means."


Elet es Irodalom 13.05.2008 (Hungary)

It is not only the cultural heterogenity of the European continent that is blocking the creation of a "European identity", it is also the insecurities of the transitional period explains media scientist Peter György: "As the borders disappeared, the space became dizzily wide and the cultural pattern impossibly complicated. As the national state disappeared and it became clear that the Schengen zone was as big as it was diverse, the old isolation reflex kicked in again. The answer to a traumatic present and failed modernisation is, as always, the longing for a shared mindset, a manageable familiarity. This is an understandable as it is hopeless... The co-opting of national identity by the radical Right is not a proper solution. And since the liberal laissez-faire has brought little of substance in socio-political terms, the millions who are breaking out of society are clinging - surprise surprise – to the hope of national solidarity." György calls for a dialogue with the disenchanted over the connections between trauma and frustration.


The New Yorker 19.05.2008 (USA)

Sue Halpern describes how traumatised veterans are treated with "an experimental treatment option called Virtual Iraq, in which patients work through their combat trauma in a computer-simulated environment. The portal is a head-mounted display (a helmet with a pair of video goggles), earphones, a scent-producing machine, and a modified version of Full Spectrum Warrior, a popular video game."

David Remnick portrays the American jazz DJ Phil Schaap, who every working day for the last 27 years has presented the "Bird Flight" show on Columbia University Radio. The show, which is dedicated to saxophonist Charlie Parker, is "so obsessive, so ardent and detailed, that Schaap frequently sounds like a mad Talmudic scholar who has decided that the laws of humankind reside not in the ancient Babylonian tractates but in alternate takes of 'Moose the Mooche' and 'Swedish Schnapps.'"

Further articles: Hendrik Hertzbergs comments on the last round in the Democratic primaries. There is also a short story "East Wind" by Julian Barnes and poems by Bob Hicok and Richard Wilbur.

Bee Wilson reviews Paul Roberts' study of the food crisis: "The End of Food" (Houghton Mifflin). Alex Ross looks back on a five-concert Stravinsky festival. And David Denby watched Henry Bean's comedy "Noise" starring Tim Robbins, and "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg.


Outlook India 19.05.2008 (India)

Outlook this week offers its annual "Bollywood Special" which this time focusses on the stars or rather superstars. A number of surveys have been carried out into the greatest and most popular stars of all time – Amitabh Bachchan was the clear male winner but there was more variance in the female section (here the results in several categories).

In the most fascinating article of the special, Sadanand Menon describes the close relationship of South Indian fans to their stars. He not only writes about the fluid transition from screen to reality, but also diagnoses a dramatic shift in the image of the hero. "The Southern hero, for long, carried himself within the armature of androgyny. His erotic appeal worked equally for the male and the female. Almost all major Southern heroes from the '50s to '70s had, at earlier stages in their careers, played female roles. There was very little then of the current macho and aggressive masculinity in the bodies of the male stars."

Bhaichand Patel compares female stars of past and present and is unimpressed by what the relaxation in nudity regulations has brought in tow: "Some of today's stars, Aishwarya Rai, Bipasha Basu and Kareena Kapoor, are prepared to expose quite a bit. And why not? They look after their figures better than the heroines of the past and it's paisa vasool for the paying public. But these women look like Barbie dolls, not normal people, exquisite but plastic. They do not have the allure of their predecessors who came to us wrapped in saris."

Naman Ramachandran tells the story of the age of the superstar when stars became godlike idols – which dawned in 1969.


Folio 12.05.2008 (Switzerland)

NZZ Folio focusses on art. Or rather the question: What is good art? This is something art criticism has long been incapable of answering, claims art historian Christian Demand, "who simply cannot believe the mass of linguistic strutting, moral imposture and poor thinking that this genre inflicts on him." This might lie in the centuries-old moral-intellectual divide that has been hewn between art and other artefacts. "The idea that art has to possess certain characteristics which 'raise' it above the rest of the social world, thereby freeing it from all obligations to justify itself, has become so deeply entrenched over the course of 300 years by the pens of entire armies of writers about art, that it will take considerable effort to take another road across this terrain. But why should you? It is certainly in the interest of the critic to follow in these footsteps. They offer, for example, a plausible method for explaining the phenomenon of the chronic variance in the evaluation of art, and in practical terms, one which guarantees that in his work the critic is automatically on the right side."

Gudrun Sachse interviews the artist Pipilotti Rist, the head of the Zurich Kunstalle Beatrix Ruf, the gallerist Bob van Orsouw, the art dealer Simon de Pury and the art professor Philip Ursprung. The latter explains why "beauty" is no longer a category for art criticism. "The intercessory institutions object to the term because it offers a direct connection between art work and viewer and makes their job superfluous."

Further articles: Rene Ammann visits the artists Max Grüter, Sidonie Nuoffer and David Renggli in their studios. Marion Maneker accompanies New York's most sought-after art consultant Kim Heirston. The sculptor Wolf E. Schultz explains how it feels to watch your public sculpture abused over decades.


The Times Literary Supplement 07.05.2008 (UK)

The mighty shadow cast by Edward Said and his "Orientalism" theory still dominates debate, writes Robert Irwin, the Middle East editor at the Times, much to his dismay. Which he why he takes obvious pleasure in reviewing two books which dissect Said's theory: Daniel Martin Variscos book, wittily subtitled "Reading Orientalism - Said and the Unsaid" and the book written by an Islam apostate under the pseudonym of Ibn Warraq, "Defending the West" (excerpt). Warraq, whose defence of the West goes slightly too far for Irwin, draws attention to Said's neglect of the role of the German travellers to the Orient. Irwin writes: "German scholars dominated Arabic, Hebrew and Sanskrit studies in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, yet Said avoided any substantial discussion of their work. Some critics have argued that this was because the pre-eminence of German Orientalists did not fit his thesis about the interdependence of Orientalism and imperialism in the Middle East, but others have suggested that it was because his German was not very good."


Eurozine 11.05.2008 (Austria)

Catalan philosopher Xavier Rubert de Ventos explains in an interview conducted for L'Espill, why he prefers to read reactionaries like Celine and Drieu La Rochelle over John Rawls. Or perhaps Ernst Jünger?
"No, no way! In his Paris Diaries he describes how he kept the last letters of people who were condemned to death by the Nazis during the war and, with icy elegance, justifies the convenient circumstance that they never reached their destinations. In contrast, Drieu La Rochelle and Celine accept their human condition without making excuses. I too am a man and don't like being one. I feel strange about it, bad, uncomfortable, hung-up, perplexed. If my philosophy has been of any use to me, it's been to situate my monstrous condition within an order of general discourse. I feel affinities with Celine, Drieu, and more and more with Marx. I have become more radical in my ideology. Once I was surprised by people who became radical when they got old. But it's happening to me too."


Letras Libres 11.05.2008 (Spain / Mexico)

The focus for the current edition of Letras Libres is "ideas for the Left". The renowned Venezuelan political writer and ex- Marxist Teodoro Petkoff talks in an interview about the difference between the "authoritarian" and the "democratic" Left in Latin America: "Venezuela is an exception. Here the Left found a different way into power than it did in other Latin American countries. Chavez succeeded despite, or rather becuase of a failed military putsch. But Chavez was unable to win over the traditional, organised labour force; instead he won a group which was thought to be impossible to organise: the 'urban poor', in other words the long-term unemployed, poor housewives, casual labourers, street vendors, petty criminals etc. Luckily, for now at least, he has proved to be a non-bloody Utopian. How is this possible? He can afford such experiments because he has a 'shitload' of money: We 27 million Venezuelans will take in 70 million crude oil dollars. And this wil allow Chaves plenty of room to play out his fantasies."


Europa 10.05.2008 (Poland)

As would be expected, Poland has been keeping a close eye on the "changes in government" in Russia. And everyone is asking what the future of the regime will bring. Putin critic Boris Nemzov is dismissive: "The current stability is illusory. Just go and look at the garrisons – 150,000 officers have no homes. The submarines are rusting away unmanned and unarmed; relations with the neighbours are destroyed – even Lukashenko sees Russia as an enemy. State institutions are practically non-existent, self-administration is not working. The only stable factors are gas and oil prices and no one knows how long this will hold. Stability is nothing more that a pretty image on state TV. Nothing more…" And Nemzov also knows when the Russians will finally have enough of their corrupt regime: 2020.


The Spectator 09.05.2008 (UK)

Theo Hobson attended Mass with Gene Robinson, the only openly gay Anglican bishop in the US, who is not popular with his British colleagues. He was asked not to attend the forthcoming Lambeth conference. But Robinson has many fans in the UK. "There is a standing ovation, which I've never witnessed in a church before - except on TV, at Princess Diana's funeral. Come to think of it, the late Princess is not irrelevant to all this. The Anglican gay cult is all about vulnerability, emotional honesty, siding with the marginalised. Robinson invests these gentle virtues with prophetic force. In his talk he cited the passage from John's Gospel in which Jesus tells his disciples that they're not ready for all of Christian teaching, so the Holy Spirit will add further instalments, at a later date. 'That's what's happening in our lifetime. What this is all ultimately about is patriarchy - the beginning of the end of it. The strength of the resistance tells us we're on to something.'"

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