?From the great beyond into the present? ? an interview with Jo Lendle

Hanser publisher Jo Lendle talks about gentle adjustments of languages and marketing strategies.... more more

GoetheInstitute

02/12/2008

Magazine Roundup

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

Outlook India | Salon.eu.sk | Project Syndicate | The New York Review of Books | Przekroj | The Nation | L'Espresso | The Walrus Magazine | Folio |The Times Literary Supplement | Le Nouvel Observateur | Wired | Le point | The New Statesman | Nepszabadsag | The New York Times

Outlook India 08.12.2008 (India)

Saikat Datta and Smruti Koppikar report on the first findings from the terror attacks in Mumbai: "The name doing the rounds is the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), purportedly working in close coordination with a section of the Mumbai underworld and rogue elements of Pakistan's isi. But neither Maharashtra dgp A.N. Roy nor Mumbai police commissioner Hasan Gaffoor would confirm the involvement of this deadly troika. In fact, early intelligence assessments suggest that some of the terrorists who came in were young British Muslims of Pakistani origin. Sources say they had been in training for well over a year but the final decision to carry out the assault was given at the annual conference of the LeT held in Muridke, PoK, last week. The Mumbai operation, apparently, was funded by Saudi Arabia-based Abdul Bari. He's part of a larger international terror network and has financed strikes in India earlier too. (...) Meanwhile, analysis of the accents of the two (purported) terrorists in conversations they had with a private TV channel suggested they are either expat Pakistanis or from Punjab there." (See Outlook India for regular updates on the Mumbai attacks.)

Further articles: It was the seventh terror attack in India since 1993, Smruti Koppikar reports, and yet the authorities were completely unprepared. More criticism of the Indian security forces comes from Saikat Datta and from B. Raman.


Salon.eu.sk 27.11.2008 (Slovakia)

Salon.eu features an English translation of an article by Martin Simeka, editor-in-chief of Respekt, in which, with the Kundera affair in mind, he remembers his father Milan, "a committed communist in the fifties, a reformed communist in the sixties" who needed the Prague Spring to turn him into a dissident. His son remembers going with his father to meetings of banned Czech writers where people like Karel Pecka and Zdenek Rotrekl who were imprisoned in the fities rubbed shoulders with those who had enjoyed years of privileges in the communist system before changing their tune and finally looking back in literary form at the system they had helped to create. "The Kundera affair is explosive because it destroys this generation's domination of literature that was meant to explain the past in a more truthful way than life itself with its banal and embarrassing truths such as those represented by a crude police document stating that a Mr. Kundera informed on a Mr. Dvoracek. In Czech society literary fiction has effectively replaced real memories that nobody wanted in the past and nobody wants to hear and evoke today. Incidentally, Kundera's novels were particularly successful in fulfilling this task of literature."

There is also an English translation of the conversation between Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik from last week's Gazeta Wyborcza. Here, too, the talk turns to Kundera. Michnik asks Havel why the media was so bent exposing Kundera with such schadenfreude. Havel replies: "The media are out to make a profit. And as we know, 'small earthquake in Chile, not many dead', is not news. But if the media can say that 'XY' was an informer or that he got divorced or raped someone, they will do it because it brings them profit. And to some media profit matters more than substance or truth."


Project Syndicate 29.11.2008

"In order to forgive, we have to know what we are forgiving," writes cultural scientist Norman Manea in Project Syndicate with a view to the Kundera affair. "I don't agree with those who say we should not be interested in the dark episodes in the life of a great writer. Why not? We should be interested not for prosecutorial purposes, but in order to gain a more profound understanding of a bloody, demagogical, and tyrannical Utopia – and of human weakness and vulnerability. We may even consider it a rewarding testament to an artist's ability to overcome his past mistakes and still produce priceless work. But can we justifiably defend morally compromised artists and intellectuals on the basis of their work's merit, yet condemn ordinary people for often less grave offenses? An egregious example of this was the way followers of Romanian philosopher Constantin Noica defended his support for the fascist Iron Guard and his later collaboration with the Communists, while at the same time condemning even a generic cleaning woman for mopping the floors in the offices of the secret police."


The New York Review of Books 18.12.2008 (USA)

New York Times columnist and Nobel prize laureate in economic sciences Paul Krugman discusses rescue plans: "What we're going to have to do, clearly, is relearn the lessons our grandfathers were taught by the Great Depression. I won't try to lay out the details of a new regulatory regime, but the basic principle should be clear: anything that has to be rescued during a financial crisis, because it plays an essential role in the financial mechanism, should be regulated when there isn't a crisis so that it doesn't take excessive risks. Since the 1930s commercial banks have been required to have adequate capital, hold reserves of liquid assets that can be quickly converted into cash, and limit the types of investments they make, all in return for federal guarantees when things go wrong. Now that we've seen a wide range of non-bank institutions create what amounts to a banking crisis, comparable regulation has to be extended to a much larger part of the system. We're also going to have to think hard about how to deal with financial globalization."

Further articles: Deborah Eisenberg has been reading Susan Sontag's diaries edited by her son David Rieff: "Naturally, we in the future happen to know that the child whose diary we're reading is to become Susan Sontag, but oddly enough, so, it seems, does she." Orhan Pamuk talks about his library. Sarah Kerr reviews Roberto Bolano. And in line with an exhibition in the National Gallery in London, Ingrid Rowland writes about Renaissance Sienna. A special on the presidential elections includes a sceptical take by Joan Didion and an enthusiastic one by Darryl Pinckney at a symposium on the elections.

Przekroj 27.11.2008 (Poland)

Little has been heard from Dorota Maslowska since she won the prestigious NIKE literary award for her second book "Paw krolowej" in 2006. But now the young Polish writer is back in an interview with some harsh words for society: "Yesterday I was reading my last book; before I was preoccupied only with writing it. I see it as a book about a society in which people have such different experiences of life, consumer potential and mentalities that they are all going around telling each other to piss off. We live a climate of mutual contempt, hatred, we don't look at each other but isolate ourselves from each another. There are ghettos for the youth, for old people, rich people, poor people. We even lock our bins so the others can't get in. It is the first book in which I don't list the people I despise, but in which I write that we all despise one another, and we can't live like this. People are consumed by anger about each other, and we are in danger of going up in flames."


The Nation 15.12.2008 (USA)

In her book "Passionate Uprisings: Iran's Sexual Revolution" Iranian-American anthropologist Pardis Mahdavi describes the astonishing level of sexual freedom among the women of Tehran's upper and middle classes. But is this a sign of political revolution. Laura Secor has her doubts: "The women in Mahdavi's study seem to occupy a wholly perplexing historical moment, or a palimpsest of historical moments. They live in a theocracy with a premodern, religious legal code, and they are undergoing, all at once, what we in the West would recognize as a 1960s-style sexual revolution, 1970s-style second-wave feminism and the contemporary postfeminist embrace of female sexuality, with all its complexities. The messages these women receive are mixed, to say the least. Mahdavi describes some of her married subjects as spending literally hours every day on their makeup and clothes and the rest of their time cruising the city for lovers. In a society that tells these women they should be chaste, domestic slaves to their husbands, who in turn have the freedom to acquire up to four wives and as many as 99 'temporary' wives, this could be seen as a kind of female empowerment. But there is something undeniably sterile about it as well."

Further articles: For the cover story, Sean Penn travelled to Venezuela and Cuba with Christopher Hitchens and historian Douglas Brinkley to interview Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro. All three met Chavez (we are waiting to hear from Vanity Fair or CBS on how that went) but Penn alone was allowed to talk to Castro. The actor was obviously very taken with Chavez, but Castro left an even more lasting impression: "'What about Guantanamo?' I ask. 'I'll tell you the truth,' Castro says. 'The base is our hostage. As a president, I say the US should go. As a military man, I say let them stay.' Inside, I'm wondering, Have I got a big story to break here? Or is this of little relevance?" (The full version of the article is available at the Huffington Post)


L'Espresso 28.11.2008 (Italy)

"Arf arf bang crack blam buzz cai spot ciaf ciaf clamp splash crackle crackle crunch deleng gosh grunt honk honk cai meow mumble pant plop pwutt roaaar dring rumble blomp sbam buizz schranchete slam puff puff slurp smack sob gulp sprank blomp squit swoom bum thump plack clang tomp smash trac uaaaagh vrooom". The semiotician Umberto Eco is over the moon about a new Spanish lexicon of comic-book onomatopoeia. Roman Gubern and Luis Gasca have come up with over 1,000 words for their "Diccionario de onomatopeyas del comic", but Eco wants more: "Jacovitti has just three entries: a modest and predictable bang, a tompt and a hug. He came up with so many more words, more than I can list here: blomp, pra (the sound of someone being hit with the handle of a gun), pamt, ponfete, slappete, cianft, svoff, ciunft, badabanghete, sdenghete, flup and (his masterpiece) PUgno."

The Walrus Magazine 01.12.2008 (Canada)

Charles Foran reads a number of books by Philip Roth, Mordecai Richler and Michael Chabon and concludes that an era of Jewish-American literature is drawing to a close. The wild Jews are a dying breed. As Philip Roth's alter ego Nathan Zuckerman says:"'The Jew at his most buoyant,' Nathan Zuckerman thinks, 'capable of a calm relationship with nothing and no one.' He widens the pantheon to include singer Eddie Cantor, comedians Jerry Lewis and Lenny Bruce, and social critic Abbie Hoffman. Of late, however, these wild Jews, so dubbed by admirers of Isaac Babel's touchstone short stories about the Odessa underworld of the early twentieth century, have been supplanted by those of 'mild, reasonable' disposition - not the kind, for instance, to stand up at a performance of the emotionally manipulative stage version of the Anne Frank story, and, after the Nazis arrive at the apartment and can't find the doomed Jewish girl, shout out, 'Look in the attic! She's hiding in the attic!'"


Folio 29.11.2008 (Switzerland)

The NZZ Folio magazine is all about siblings. Verena Dürrenmatt believes she "got off lightly" with her brother (Friedrich Dürrenmatt the dramatist) "Certainly – when he was in the public eye so much, when all the fuss started with 'The Visit' or 'The Physicists', that was not my thing at all. On the contrary, it certainly had a much greater influence on my life than I was prepared to recognise at the time. I only really see this today. Luise F. Pusch's book 'Sisters of Famous Men' made a great impression on me. Many of them never marry, suffer from psychological problems – as I did. Perhaps it has something to do with being close to someone who gets so much attention and somehow feeling insignificant by comparison. Although a lot of these men had their fair share of psychological problems. It's often the way with artists, and Friedrich was no exception. We both had sides where life was pretty dark. Like our father. But Fritz had art as a sort of cushioning device. I never had the benefit of this myself."

In his perfume column which is aslo translated into English, Luca Turin talks about his electronic perfume spray invention: "The idea was to use inkjet technology to spray fragrance rather than color. The cartridge would hold four different fragrance bases and spray them in different proportions on your skin according to the software settings. These could in turn follow the time of day, or your mood, or the seasons. The whole thing would fit in the palm of your hand and look like something you'd found in the duty-free of the Starship Enterprise.


The Times Literary Supplement 28.11.2008 (UK)

Will the art market bubble go the same way as the real estate one? Diplomat, politician and commentator George Walden very much hopes so. Perhaps then a little more quality and common sense would infiltrate the British art world. "Contemporary art shows British boosterism at its most frenetic. What is sold as innovation to hedge funders, credulous widows or ageing critics pining for youthful credentials is in fact a prime instance of Britain's endemic conservatism in art: it has taken us almost a century to get the Duchamp/Dada joke, and now that we've got it we massacre it in the retelling. Scuppering the claim that the popular work of today was based on yesterday's most daring, esoteric art, the arch-modernist Clement Greenberg wrote: "Of course no such thing is true. What is meant is that when sufficient time has elapsed the new is looted for new twists, which are then watered down and served up as kitsch'. Greenberg's observation holds good in much self-consciously 'daring' British writing, theatre or opera production, as well as art. Hedge funders will now have the leisure to read him, contemplate their quirky video or tin of excrement, and take what solace they can."

And Lucy Dallas introduces four new French books, only one of which is set in Paris.


Le Nouvel Observateur 27.11.2008 (France)

French philosopher Paul Virilio has curated an exhibition together with the photojournalist and filmmaker Raymond Depardon in the Fondation Cartier, about the phenomenon of refugees, political refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers and resettlers moving around in their millions. In an interview Virilio explains his theory of the "outre ville", where the traditional sedentariness is being replaced by nomadism, and the consequences this has on the concept of the city and the identity of these "modern nomads": "Circulation is becoming the new living. The old city was a place of choice, a place where people chose to live. Today it is a place of expulsion. With the omni-polis the city is everywhere and nowhere. (...) 'Trajectography' is replacing geography (...) The pace of telecommunication authorises this endless flow of people. Why then should we hold onto our born identity? A fireman once told me that if a child was born on a train, they would stop the train so that the child would have a place of birth? The TGV would never stop for such a thing today!"


Wired 16.11.2008 (USA)

Jason Tanz writes about the scriptwriter Charlie Kaufman and his new film and directorial debut "Synecdoche, New York". Kaufman comes over very as a very likeable chap: complicated, pessimistic and full of self-doubt. And at critical moments, his nose starts bleeding. "It's early September, the fourth night of the Toronto International Film Festival, and in two days Synecdoche will make its North American premiere. Tonight, Sony Pictures Classics is throwing a splashy party to promote the 10 films it has at the festival and, with any luck, generate some early Oscar buzz. Outside, director Jonathan Demme chats about his new film, Rachel Getting Married, as the movie's luminous star, Anne Hathaway, dazzles a cluster of reporters and industry bigwigs. Kaufman should be right here, sipping Cabernet Shiraz from Dan Aykroyd's vineyard and shilling Synecdoche, but he bumped his head getting out of his taxi, his glasses sliced into his face, and now he's in the john, convinced his nose is broken. So instead of schmoozing, Kaufman spends the cocktail hour in a dim corner of the restaurant, talking to actress Debra Winger about her farm in the Catskills while holding a napkin full of ice cubes to his face."


Le point 27.11.2008 (France)

Debate has flared up again in France about whether the Senate should approve the bill that would make it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide. A whole army of historians, headed by Pierre Nora, chairman of the Initiative Liberte pour l'Histoire, have signed the so-called Appel de Blois in protest against legislatively-regulated history. His principle argument is that the bill would "terrrorise" historians, installing a "politically-correct yoke" which would "impair their work". One of the more interesting counterarguments comes from Bernard-Henri Levi, who maintains that the denial of a crime repeats it. In his Bloc-notes he writes: "Not the law but the deniers of a crime terrorise historians. These laws are not there to hinder research, but to keep this injury, this plague of falsifiers at bay. Just take the only one of these laws which is actually functioning at the moment, the so-called Gayssot law which makes Holocaust denial a punishable offence. This is a law against Le Pen, a law against anti-Semitic slander. I would like the signatories of the Appell du Bois to name one single scientist who would feel restricted in his freedom of research and opinion by such a thing."


The New Statesman 27.11.2008 (USA)

Andrew Hussey read Frederic Spott's book "The Shameful Peace" with great interest. It deals with the French intellectuals under the Nazi occupation. Many of them, he learns, were deeply impressed by the Nazis, especially good-looking Aryans, like Karl Heinz Bremer, the acting head of the German Institute in Paris. "They included not only Brasillach, but also the likes of the ridiculous and revolting Serge Lifar, one of the leading dancers with the Paris Opera Ballet. Even at the Liberation in 1945, Lifar used to boast that he had had a physical relationship with Adolf Hitler. He used to enjoy gently stroking the arms of his boyfriends and murmuring, 'Only two men have caressed me like this: Diaghilev and Hitler.'" (For more information on fawning French intellectuals Hussey recommends following up with Francois Dufay's " Voyage d'automne" an autobiographical account of a journey through Germany in October 1941.)


Nepszabadsag 29.11.2008 (Hungary)

The skin of civilsation has long since worn thin in Hungarian society. In this climate of growing violence the behaviourist Vilmos Csanyi implores politicians to set an example:"Imagine a parliament in which everyone respects their opponents and expresses their differences of opinion within the boundaries of respect. It would set an example of elemental force. At the very least, politicians need to recognise that when they attempt to personally humiliate the head of some institution, the institution he represents will also will suffer significant and often long-term effects."

The New York Times 30.11.2008 (USA)

What you, dear readers, are permitted to read on the internet, and what not, is determined to a great extent by Google's Nicole Wong, Andrew McLaughlin and Kent Walker. These individuals are responsible for scanning Youtube videos, blogs and Google sites whenever the general public and in particular government raise an objection. Should so much power lie in the hands of three people, asks professor of law Jeffrey Rosen in the NYT magazine in a reportage on Google's censors, especially when they are seldom required to justify their decisions. One of the people who see the dangers of this procedure is Lawrence Lessig: "'During the heyday of Microsoft, people feared that the owners of the operating systems could leverage their monopolies to protect their own products against competitors,' says the Internet scholar Lawrence Lessig of Stanford Law School. 'That dynamic is tiny compared to what people fear about Google. They have enormous control over a platform of all the world's data, and everything they do is designed to improve their control of the underlying data. If your whole game is to increase market share, it's hard to do good, and to gather data in ways that don't raise privacy concerns or that might help repressive governments to block controversial content.'"

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