They?re Still Painting, and More: The Leipzig Art Scene

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GoetheInstitute

24/06/2008

Magazine Roundup

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

Die Weltwoche | The New Republic | Polityka | Outlook India | HVG| Tygodnik Powszechny | The New Yorker | L'Espresso | Le point | The Spectator |The Times Literary Supplement | Elet es Irodalom | The New York Times


Die Weltwoche 19.06.2008 (Switzerland)

The Weltwoche published the first part of an interview that writer Jonathan Littell gave the reknowned German interviewer Andre Müller. The talk turns to Michel Houellebecq:
"Müller: What you have in common with Houellebecq is your emphasis on sex.
Littell: I'm very happy to discuss this, as long as it doesn't get personal.
Müller: In your novel you give detailed descriptions of the homosexual practices of your main character, an SS officer in the Second World War. I found myself asking where you got this information.
Littell: I won't answer that question. Chacun sa merde, as the French say. That's a private matter. You shouldn't ask me who I'm fucking. I'm not asking you who you're fucking.
Müller: I don't fuck.
Littell: Then I feel sorry for you. Do you like cheese?
Müller: Cheese?
Littell: There's a plate of French cheese here.
Müller: I'll share everything with you."
The full interview is published in German in the Frankfurter Rundschau here.


The New Republic 09.07.2008 (USA)

The new edition of the New Republic is all about the new China which, as the magazine shows, is identical to the old one.
Philip P. Pan portrays "the last hero of Tiananmen". Surgeon Jiang Yanyong who exposed the Chinese cover-up of the SARS epidemic and in the following year, 2004, prepared a letter to the new leaders of the Chinese Communist Party in which he recorded what he had seen as a surgeon in the PLA No. 310 Hospital on 4 June, 1989: "'I had been a surgeon for more than 30 years. I had treated wounded soldiers before, while on the medical team of the PLA railway corps that built the Chengdu-Kunming Railway. But their injuries resulted from unavoidable accidents during the construction process, while before my eyes, in Beijing, the magnificent capital of China, lying in front of me, were our own people, killed by our people's army, with weapons supplied by the people.' Jiang wrote about how he had struggled to save a young athlete who died on his operating table because the hospital didn't have enough blood." As Pan later reports, it was only a matter of months before Jiang was picked up by the military "for his own protection" and taken to a guest house "to rest, study and improve his understanding."

The editorial diagnoses China sydrome in presidential candidates, who "talk tough before taking office, then, once in the White House, backpedal."


Polityka 21.06.2008 (Poland)

The Five Year War is over, writes Jacek Zakowski, by which he means the domestic political wrangling of recent years. Now Poles just wanna have fun! "The strong zloty, the flailing dollar and low import taxes are giving Poles a spending power unseen by any living generation. But if you look closer at our behaviour, you see that there's more to it than just straight consumerism – it's about fun. It's about shedding the weight of insecurity, of the process of transformation, of austerity and fear. After almost twenty difficult years, after the sinister Five Year War and the two tension-ridden years of the Fourth Republic, we would give virtually anything to shake off the stress, and do all the things we had to do without or that were beyond our reach. Everyone is doing this in their own way, and according to their own means, but for the first time, the majority of society is involved." This is not change, says Zakowski, "this is revolution."


Outlook India 23.06.2008 (India)

Until now, most internationally acclaimed South Asian writers writing in English have come from India. Now, however, William Dalrymple greets a wave of English-language books from Pakistan – both novels and reportage. For Dalrymple, one of the most remarkable books is "A Case of Exploding Mangoes" (excerpt) by Mohammed Hanif. "The book is something quite new in South Asian fiction: an entertaining and darkly comic political thriller which is also a thought-provoking satirical farce attacking the brutality, stupidity and hypocrisy of Pakistan's military dictators. Rooted in Hanif’s own experiences, first as a Pakistani air force cadet, then as a political journalist—he is now head of the BBC Urdu service—the book demonstrates some of the virtues which are coming to distinguish new Pakistani writing. Like 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist', which it in some way resembles, it is intelligent, witty and street-smart without being narrowly urban or elitist; pacey and exciting without being sensational; and showing an enviable humour and lightness of touch without succumbing to the sub-magic realist tricksiness which blights so much new Indian fiction."


HVG 19.06.2008 (Hungary)

Poet Zoltan Poos feels that Hungary needs to do more to confront its past, and this also goes for the 1956 Uprising. "Hungary's recent history begins in 1956 – still today Hungarians define themselves in relation to this date. 1956 is a question of identity. Can you drink a toast with people who, pre-1989, slurping ice coffee in their party-owned holiday homes, laughed out loud when someone mentioned the name Imre Nagy? Our slogans were taste, elegance, sense of justice. In 1989 the country, which was showing signs of collapse, made a compromise with the power that had choked the revolution of 1956 in blood. And it has yet to confront the traumas of 1948 to 1989. The cathartic apologies never arrived, let alone a quiet pardon."


Tygodnik Powszechny 22.06.2008 (Poland)

In dealing with its communist past Poland often refers to the activities of the German Birthler authority. However, notes historian Jochen Staadt, only around 40 percent of the Stasi files have been processed. He then vehemently denies the accusation that the so-called lustration process is a witch hunt. "This analogy does disservice to the witches – innocent women who were pursued by religious fanatics. If we apply the analogy today, we should remember that it was secret police who were the witch hunters. Unfortunately these people and their informal employees, have barely had a hair put out of place since 1989. Only very few have been charged since the fall of communism."

German-Romanian writer Richard Wagner describes a similar experience. He discovered in his Securitate files that as a member of the German minority in Romania, he was labelled as a fascist and an enemy of the state. One of the informants who was spying on Wagner is now an active member of the Banat-Swabian homeland association in Munich!


The New Yorker 30.06.2008 (USA)

The new architectural visions for the Bejing skyline are a "mixed blessing" for the city, writes Paul Golberg. "Locals call Beijing Tan Da Bing, which means Spreading Pancake. (...) Old Beijing - designed for pedestrians and imperial processions but not much in between - has turned out to be a bad framework on which to construct a modern city. (...) In the days when Beijing was famous for swarms of cyclists, its unsuitability for automobiles didn't matter; now that the Chinese have cars, Beijing has gone in one generation from emanating an ancient spirit to feeling like Houston. (...) Crowding, pollution, and sprawl still define the city, but the new architecture, far from replicating an American mistake, surpasses what most American cities would be willing, or able, to do. This has an effect on the city's mood: people talk about the new buildings and, whether they approve or not, recognize that such daring constructions would not get built anywhere else."


L'Espresso 20.06.2008 (Italy)

An appeals court in Naples on Thursday upheld the prison sentences against a number of members of the Neapolitan Camorra. The so-called "Spartacus trial", which opened in 1998, is the largest Mafia trial in Italy's history. Five witnesses or their relatives have been murdered since it opened. Reason enough for L'Espresso to compile a Mafia special. The Calesi clan is in turmoil, report Gianluca Di Feo and Claudio Pappaianni. Now everything hangs on two bosses Antonio Iovine and Michele Zagaria, who are still on the run. "Zagaria is an unusual Casalesi who, informants say, doesn't turn up his nose at a spot of cocaine, a strict taboo within the clan. He insists on being treated like a priest: 'You should do what I say and not what I do.' He knows how to work the image. He receives his employees in extravagant villas and greets them with a tiger on a lead. And together with his brother Pasquale he has become the King of Tendering: the high-speed train Tav, the new prison, the local rail line and recently the Nato radar base."


Le point 19.06.2008 (France)

Bernard-Henri Levy describes the Irish "no" as the comeuppance for politicians who no longer just want Europe for Europe's sake. "For years now, none of our statesmen, no matter how European they might be in their hearts and minds, has dared to discuss Europe other than in terms of concrete, immediate, material advantages to be had under the European colours of united nations. All, nearly all of them, are slowly but surely taking up the line and whispering in the ears of their respective peoples: 'Let's do Europe, not because it's Europe, not because it's a new, thrilling, fantastic political project with its own set of values, but because it's good for the nations and especially ours.' Under the circumstances, why shouldn't this or that nation state - this time it's the Irish - take what it can get and stay in the game?"


The Spectator 23.06.2008

The Catholic Church in England is embroiled in a bitter feud, Damian Thompson reports. On one side are the supporters of the old Tridentine Mass, which was reintroduced last summer by Papal decree, and the liberal bishops on the other, who are horrified at that this old tradition has been reanimated after 40 years. Pope Benedict wrote a letter inviting Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos to celebrate the old Mass at Westminster Cathedral: "He accepted, leaving liberal bishops with only one course of action: pleading pressing engagements elsewhere. Hence the absence of Westminster bishops at the Pontifical Mass, though diocesan spies were spotted craning their necks to see if any local clergy had sneaked in (thereby scuppering their chances of promotion). Walking down the nave, I was greeted by a young priest sitting at the back dressed as a layman. 'I can't really afford to be seen here, but I couldn't resist,' he whispered.' Many Mass-goers are unaware of the fact, but the Catholic Church in England and Wales is sliding towards civil war."

A new hippy age is dawning, notes Reihan Salam and cites of examples of familes who have sold all their worldly goods and moved to the country.


The Times Literary Supplement 20.06.2008 (UK)

G.S. Smith recommends the newly published diaries of Sergei Prokofiev, which are written with the same feel for nuance and timing that characterises his music. "Political exigencies meant that these diaries survived through a combination of selfless resolve on the part of some brave individuals, and a dash of sheer luck. Deposited by the author in the United States after he was surprised to get them back during his first return visit to Russia in 1927, they were sequestered after his death by the Soviet government, and consigned to what was meant to be an impenetrable archive. Developments after 1991 facilitated access to the diaries by the composer's family by his first marriage, and then came the formidable chore of producing a printable text from the manuscript, which, after 1914, the composer habitually coded by deleting vowels. This labour was accomplished by Prokofiev's elder son Svyatoslav with the help of his son Serge and the latter's wife, Irina."

George Fitzherbert reviews a series of new books on Tibet and its history, one of which is a critique of what he calls the "Chinese narrative", according to which pre-1950s Tibetan society was a cruel, oppressive feudal tyranny. Fitzherbert points to a lesson from history: "Tibetan culture produces its own leadership. The Chinese would do well to recognize that in Tibet they do not bestow power, they can only acknowledge it."


Elet es Irodalom 20.06.2008 (Hungary)

Sound recordings of the trial of Imre Nagy from the year 1958 were recently aired in Hungary. Historian Janos M. Rainer listened closely closely and detected in the voices of the "fearful lawyers" the new Hungarian social classes which ushered in Stalinism after the war. "The voice of the federal prosecutor hisses like an Inquisitor, straight out of a late medieval torture chamber. The judge's uncontrolled outbursts of rage, when he shouted down the accused in a grim mixture of legal and activist speak, sound more like a club-swinging officer of the secret police than a judge. These people were demanding revenge and blood, because they had risen to the elite in the course of the Communist seizure of power at the end of the fourties." More information on the website of the Open Society Archive in Budapest.


The New York Times 22.06.2008

Noah Feldman a New York Times columnist who also teaches law at Harvard, complains in the Sunday magazine about the wave of Islamaphobia in Europe. Unlike the US, Europe has never come to terms with its racist past. "Hitler's horrifying success at killing so many Jews meant that the burgeoning postwar societies of the continent never had to come to terms with difference, because it was to a great extent eradicated. Today, as the birthrate for European Muslims far outstrips that for their neighbors, it is as if Europe's discomfort with difference is being encountered for the first time. In theory, Europe remembers the Holocaust. But the depth of that memory may be doubted when many Europeans seem to have forgotten that their continent was home to other outsiders well before the arrival of today's Muslim minority."

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