?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

09/12/2008

Magazine Roundup

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

Al Ahram Weekly | Outlook India | Merkur |
The Times Literary Supplement
| Elet es Irodalom | Przekroj | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Spectator | Le Nouvel Observateur | Nepszabadsag | The Atlantic


Al Ahram Weekly 03.12.2008 (Egypt)

Aijaz Zaka Syed, opinion editor of the Khaleej Times in Dubai despairs about the situation in Mumbai. He is sick and tired of terrorists claiming to be acting in the name of Islam. "It's all very well for us to say Islam has nothing to do with extremism and terrorism. We can go on deluding ourselves that these psychopaths do not represent us. However, the world finds it hard to accept this line of argument because it sees extremists increasingly assert themselves and take centre-stage while mainstream Islam remains silent. The great religion that preaches and celebrates universal brotherhood, equality and peace and justice for all has been hijacked by a demented, minuscule minority. And, as my friend says, only Muslims can solve this problem. Only Muslims can confront these anarchists in their midst. Only they can get their faith freed from the clutches of extremism. This is no time to hide. It's time to stand up and speak out. For the terrorists will continue to speak on our behalf, until we do. This is no time for silence. Enough is enough!"

The Arab world has long viewed Turkey as the west's dogsbody. It's about time we looked again, writes Mustafa El-Labbad, director of the Al-Sharq Centre for Regional and Strategic Studies (more here). "Turkish society paid a heavy price for that critical decision to turn westward and adopt secular values. However, an objective assessment of that society today, 85 years after the founding of the republic, suggests that the decision was largely right. True, the government often took secularism to an extreme. However, those who deplore that choice cannot help but to observe that, in spite of its flaws, the secularist values inherent in the multi-party parliamentary system and the peaceful rotation of civil authority have permitted for the rise to power of a party with an Islamist frame of reference. Equally, if not more telling is the enormous political and economic progress Turkey has achieved, especially when one compares that to the general decline in the Arab world."

Amin Howeidi, former defence minister and chief of General Intelligence tells how, on the day Barack Obama was sworn in, he was sitting with Gaddafi who said to him: "'Do you know that today is the swearing in ceremony for the US president?' I said. The Libyan leader said he did. I pointed out that in our countries power changes hand only upon the death of an incumbent leader, not when the constitution says so. And if the handover is not quite constitutional, we change the constitution to suit the new incumbent. Gaddafi chuckled, and invited me to visit Libya to talk a bit more. For some reason, the invitation never came."

Further articles: Nehad Selaiha is overjoyed that the Al-Hanager theatre is up and running again after two years of silence – supposedly due to building work, but probably because the independent theatre groups of young experimental artists were deemed unsuitable (Selaiha has written two articles on the subject this year here and here). Rania Khallaf breathlessly interviews the 69-year old theatre icon Samiha Ayoub. Gamal Nkrumah praises the dynamic and questioning spirit of young African filmmakers at the Cairo Film Festival.

Outlook India 16.12.2008 (India)

The writer Kiran Nagarkar was in Berlin during the Mumbai bombings. He followed the events on TV and was deeply disappointed by the western media coverage: "CNN is concentrating full-time on the Taj and Oberoi and the Chabad Lubavitch Centre but hardly touches upon the other seven or eight sites where only Indians hung out. ... Late night, and I'm still watching TV. Taj, Oberoi and a Jewish centre exclusively engage the interest of the CNN team with just a passing reference to CST and Cama Hospital. I switch to German channels - surely they will be more balanced and will focus as much on locations with a concentration of Indians. I have no knowledge of German, but understand enough to gather that these media guys, too, do not think that the attack on Cama Hospital deserves some TV time. It would seem that only the whites matter to them." His article ends with the words: "As to the foreign media, for whom the world begins and ends with the West, just a word of caution: Empires collapse, superpowers become underdogs. Wake up, guys, one of these days China or some other nation is going to be at the top. And then don't be surprised if one day you find you don't exist for them."

Further articles: The entire magazine is dedicated to the attacks in Mumbai. In the cover story, Pranay Sharma writes about the possibility of a war between India and Pakistan. Not that anyone is directly in favour of such a thing, but there is deep dissatisfaction with Pakistan's reaction, and with America for not applying more pressure on Pakistan. Sharma cites the former diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar: "We didn't expect [Condoleezza] Rice to come here and tell us that both India and Pakistan are victims of terrorism. We expected much more." Amir San describes the reaction in Pakistan: first shock then outrage. Payal Kapadia outlines the ramifications of the attack for the Jewish community in Mumbai. The Pakistani journalist Nasim Zehra is annoyed by the lack of question asking in the Indian ask-no-questions reporting on the attacks.


Merkur 01.12.2008 (Germany)

Russian historian Dina Khapajea describes how the Soviet past is becoming a "memoryless history". The WWII victories in particular serve the Russian government in creating "nationalist consensus." "The war myths were created with the aim of renaming and repressing the memories of the gulag and the memories of the senseless and unjustifiable suffering of the victims of the Soviet system. In the cooking pot of war mythology, victims and murderers melt into one front united against a common enemy, Germany. The heroic myth buried the crimes to construct a solid base for the 'new nation, the Soviet people'. The most important function of the war myths (which are still successfully at work today), is to convince the Russians that the gulag was just a minor episode in heroic Soviet history."

The Times Literary Supplement 26.11.2008

George Brock read a four-volume anthology of reportage since Herodotus – Robert Fox's "Eyewitness to History", and it got him thinking about the future of professional journalism. The internet, he writes, augments journalism, even if it makes life more difficult for the pros. But newspapers will survive, as long as they can be exercise a bit more self-criticism. "Many media critics believe that the elision of fact and comment commits the original sin and explains what has gone wrong. But newspapers and, increasingly, broadcasters have added a third function to journalism. Serious journalism contains information (news) and sense-making (context, explanation and, crucially, selection). To these tasks, reporters - and not just columnists - have added the job of telling us whether something is acceptable or not. Analysis must have a moral edge. If reporters are practising what Martin Bell calls 'a journalism that cares as well as knows', that goes further than sense-making. Bell may be sparing in his caring but not all his imitators are. What offends many readers, viewers and listeners is the extent to which moral judgement has become routine. Scorn has become a mannerism."

Elet es Irodalom 28.11.2008 (Hungary)

A few months back, the Berliner Verlag for Police Science published a book called "Intelligence-Service Psychology". One of the authors is the historian Helmut Müller-Enbergs who works at the Birthler Authority, the government department which manages the millions of Stasi files. Andras Gervai asks him in an email interview whether the information he has gleaned from the Stasi files and his conversations with informants and Stasi officers has altered the way he thinks. "During my time there I have had two major experiences, both of which I would gladly have done without. I used to have very clear ideas about what constituted normal and abnormal behaviour. Today I find it much harder to judge. The abnormal has become normality. This can have a significant impact on everyday life. For example I can no longer talk to someone without trying to detect their ulterior motives. The other thing is that I used to believe that every person is the way they are and will stay like that, more or less, until the end of their lives. But I had to accept that almost everyone can be manipulated if the right methods are used. My image of the responsible citizen dissolved. Anyone who works in this department, surrounded by these files, changes constantly, without realising it. The process only becomes painful when you become aware of it."


Przekroj 04.12.2008 (Poland)

Lech Walesa is back in the spotlight in Poland. In June, historians working for the state Institute for National Remembrance published a book which claimed that he had worked as a secret police informer, then the government asked him to join the group of EU 'wise men'. And this weekend Gdansk hosted large-scale celebrations on the 25th anniversary of his winning the Nobel Peace Prize. In conversation with Piotr Najsztub, Walesa explains that Poland has become too small for him: "I have done what I had to do here. We won the battle and I pointed the way ahead, to the west, capitalism, democracy. I had it all, now I could at most involve myself in a small part. I would have to vote for one of hundreds of parties. What's more – and this doesn't wash well with most people - I have to be number one. It's just the way I am."


Gazeta Wyborcza 06.12.2008 (Poland)

The Gazeta Wyborcza also reports extensively on the 25th anniversary celebrations of Lech Walesa's Nobel Prize (photos here). Almost one thousand guests were invited, among them Nicolas Sarkozy, Jose Manuel Barroso and - much to the annoyance of the Chinese regime - the Dalai Lama. "For a moment, Gdansk became the capital of Europe," Jaroslaw Kurski writes. "Sometimes I wonder whether we deserve our history. It is certainly lovelier than we are. That is the positive news from Gdansk. Soon we will be celebrating 20 years of sovereignty. We will show the world that it was here, in the docks of Gdansk and at the Round Table, that the collapse of Communism began. The fall of the Berlin Wall was only a consequence of this. We will show that we have not wasted our time, that Poland is still spearheading freedom!"


The Spectator 06.12.2008 (UK)

Aidan Hartley takes his hat off to the professionalism of the Somali pirates, many of whom he got to know personally. Behind the pirates, he reports, are investors with close ties to Somalia's western-backed President Abdullahi Yusuf. "Yusuf and his close circle hail from Puntland, Somalia's north-eastern semi-autonomous region. Estimates are that at least six ministers in the Puntland government, which is allied to Yusuf, are involved with the pirates — together with two former police chiefs and sundry mayors. Puntland's police forces were trained by the United Nations using British funding. But in some port towns pirate gangs are now paying police salaries. Puntland is the modern world's first genuine pirate state. Somali piracy has become extremely efficient, with ransom payments organised via lawyers in regional African capitals. Ex-SAS officers have been employed to deliver ransom payments in cash to the pirates on the high seas. My information is that the pirates behave like perfect gentlemen once the money is handed over and they always release the boats in good humour."


Le Nouvel Observateur 04.12.2008 (France)

In an entertaining interview historian Michel Pastoureau introduces his cultural history of the colour black ("Noir. Histoire d'une couleur", Seuil). It touches on issues such as good and bad black and the spectrum of social meanings right up to prevailing symbolism of luxury and elegance today. In the fashion world at least, black has flourished. In other areas, the story is rather different. "For centuries in Europe most domestic pigs were black. But after the voyages of discovery they were crossed with Asian pigs and their colour gradually got lighter until they they became the pink we are familiar with today – except in Corsica and Gascogne that is. A few years ago I advised Jean-Jacques Annaud on the set of "The Name of the Rose". He wanted to film with pink pigs. But since it was set in the Middle Ages, I told him that this was impossible. So the animals had to be swapped for ones with dark skin and hair."

There is also an interview with Robert Badinter who looks at the bleak situation in the world today, ten years after the 50th anniversary of the UN Human Rights Charter: "What setbacks we've seen!" And in another interview, this time with historian Pascal Blanchard, who has written a number of books about French colonial politics and the relationship between body and skin colour. He looks of at the likelihood of a "post-racist society" after the election of Barack Obama.

Nepszabadsag 06.12.2008 (Hungary)

Hungary's tragedy is in its accumulation of crises, writes political analyst Laszlo Lengyel: the country's structural crisis and the legitimation crisis of the political elite was compounded by the credit crunch which was then intensified by the decision taken at the EU summit on October 12 (European countries will back each other and the rest will have to take care of themselves – in a nutshell -ed.) "We Hungarians are being punished by the world and our own stupidity. We are being punished by the world for not implementing reform, for our poor politico-economic performance and our resulting lack of credibility. Undoubtedly the world is judging us according to a virtual image of Hungary and not the complicated Hungarian reality. And Hungary's image in the international media is at an all-time low. Once Hungary was seen as a peaceful, ambitious country, a pioneer of reform, heroic in revolution, hospitable in everyday life, with a hardworking population and a talented elite. Now Hungary is seen as an irresponsible, incompatible backwards place, that has tired of reform and that is engulfed by nationalist Hungarian populism. Of course it is in the interests of the others to use our bad image to justify their withdrawal. On the other hand, why should they make an effort to save the worst pupil."


The Atlantic 01.12.2008 (USA)

When Barack Obama takes office, the USA will have a good 2 trillion dollars (2000.000.000.000) of debt with China. Gao Xiqing is the head of the state-run China Investment Corporation (CIC) which manages "only" 200 billion or so of the state's assets, 80 of which are earmarked for investment in foreign corporations. In an interview with James Fallows, he praises the pragmatism of the Americans which will get them out of the crisis. As long as as they make some major changes, and eat a slice of humble pie: "The simple truth today is that your economy is built on the global economy. And it's built on the support, the gratuitous support, of a lot of countries. So why don't you come over and … I won't say kowtow [with a laugh], but at least, be nice to the countries that lend you money. Talk to the Chinese! Talk to the Middle Easterners! And pull your troops back! Take the troops back, demobilize many of the troops, so that you can save some money rather than spending 2 billion dollars every day on them. And then tell your people that you need to save, and come out with a long-term, sustainable financial policy."

In the front page story, Henry Blodget looks at bubbles from an unusual perspective. During his time as a top share analyst at Merrill Lynch, he "drove his clients off the cliff" and was eventually charged with fraud by the former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Blodget experienced the current real estate bubble as a journalist and home owner and he has learned that it's possible to get out too early. His house, which he sold in 2003, doubled in value again before the bubble burst: "Live through enough bubbles, though, and you do eventually learn something of value. For example, I've learned that although getting out too early hurts, it hurts less than getting out too late. More important, I've learned that most of the common wisdom about financial bubbles is wrong." He then explains why at length

Further articles: Benjamin Schwarz sings the praises of the "epochal" new book by the Oxford archaeologist Barry Cunliffe, "Europe Between the Oceans".

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