?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

27/01/2009

Magazine Roundup

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

Elet es Irodalom | Wired | London Review of Books| Spiked | Salon.eu.sk | The Economist | Hungarian Quarterly | Guardian | Gazeta Wyborcza | Le Nouvel Observateur | Outlook India | La vie des idees | Reset.doc | New York Review of Books


Elet es Irodalom 16.01.2009 (Hungary)

Hungarian theatre is in crisis. The theatre elite are blaming this on the scarcity of funding. But theatre critic, Tamas Koltai, agrees with them only partially, and points his finger instead at cowardliness: "Hungarian theatre fears three things most of all: existential questions, reality and hard thinking. Which explains why it is reacting so over-sensitively. Nothing in the world provokes more antipathy – neither poor quality, nor bluffing, nor primitivism – than the sort of theatre that has us as its subject matter, that disturbs everyday life, and that demands more than a minimal level of intelligence. But there will be no cultural scandal about a lack of quality... only about anything of quality, anthing that inspires people to think and ask questions. But why should this come as a surprise? Why should we be surprised at the cowardliness of our theatre when the entire society is cowardly?"


Wired 17.02.2009 (USA)

Finally! Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein tell the gripping story of Google's failed search-ad cooperation with Yahoo. Microsoft, supported by advertisers and powerful companies like AT&T, succeeded in pressuring Google to abandon its plan, after the Department of Justice signalled that it had its eye on Google as a potential monopolist, even without Yahoo on board. In the six months preceding, Microsoft had invested millions in a campaign, headed by John Kelly and Michael Kassan. "Kelly turned to Michael Kassan, an advertising consultant who had been advising Microsoft off and on since 2002. Kassan – whose clients have included AT&T, Disney, and Viacom – recently had been named by Advertising Age as possessing the third-most-impressive Rolodex in the industry. Kelly asked Kassan to start talking to his contacts and drum up opposition to Google. Kassan assured him he knew just how to do it; there was plenty of fear and mistrust of Google among advertisers. 'Google has badly misjudged how it is perceived,' he reassured Kelly. 'We have a clear and easy story to tell.' It went like this: Google had 70 percent of the search advertising business, and Yahoo had 20 percent. Now those two companies were proposing a business deal. That would give advertisers less leverage to negotiate ad rates, and they would end up paying more." The campaign was a success: Google pulled out of the deal with Yahoo. Kassam says: "Nine months ago everyone aspired to be Google. Now they have monopolist written all over them."

The story has a second branch which Thompson and Vogelstein touch on only marginally: one of the opponents of the deal was the telecom company AT&T which is also a powerful opponent of net neutrality (same speed internet access for all) and a major advocate of a two-class internet (higher-speed data flow for higher paying customers). For a long time Google - purely out of self interest - was a defender of net neutrality but it seems to have rather abandoned the cause, as the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

Other articles: And Brendan I. Koerner tells the story of a father's attempt to break the DNA code of his daughter who was born with a rare genetic disorder. Daniel Roth describes his emotions at seeing Elmo tortured.


London Review of Books 29.01.2009 (UK)

American Middle East expert Henry Siegman (here a critical article about Siegman) places the blame for the war Gaza almost exclusively with Israel, and explains why it's not only possible to talk to Hamas but critically important. And he warns Barack Obama: "If Barack Obama picks a seasoned Middle East envoy who clings to the idea that outsiders should not present their own proposals for a just and sustainable peace agreement, much less press the parties to accept it, but instead leave them to work out their differences, he will assure a future Palestinian resistance far more extreme than Hamas – one likely to be allied with al-Qaida. For the US, Europe and most of the rest of the world, this would be the worst possible outcome. Perhaps some Israelis, including the settler leadership, believe it would serve their purposes, since it would provide the government with a compelling pretext to hold on to all of Palestine. But this is a delusion that would bring about the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

And there is an online-only special on the war in Gaza with contributions from Tariq Ali, Michael Wood and Alastaire Crooke among others. Fierce criticism of Israel is exercised throughout.


Spiked 26.01.2009 (UK)

Sociologist Frank Furedi writes a long essay about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. He lists all number of shocking examples – in France, Germany, England, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain. "In Spain, anti-Semitism is linked to the prevailing mood of anti-Americanism. Many public figures blame Spain's economic crisis on America's influence over the global financial system. This outlook appears to be underpinned by a diffuse sense of frustration about our uncertain world, where invisible forces can come to be personified in the image of the caricatured Jew. This sentiment is inadvertently fostered by the Spanish Socialist government of Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which is profoundly hostile to Israel, and by the Spanish media's frequent reluctance to distinguish between Israel and Jewish people. Cartoons that are critical of Israel in Spanish newspapers and magazines sometimes depict medieval anti-Semitic caricatures. At a dinner party in late 2005, Zapatero let rip against Israel. He was overheard saying: 'Es que a veces hasta se entiende que haya gente que puede justificar el holocausto.' In English: 'At times one can even understand that there might be people who could justify the Holocaust.'"


Salon.eu.sk, 21.01.2009 (Slovakia)

Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman looks (here in English, here in Polish) at an ageing Europe which can no longer be expected to deliver anything extraordinary. Its legacy to the planet, he maintains optimistically, is in its linguistic and cultural diversity. "Philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer regards the abundance of diversity as the greatest treasure Europe has managed to preserve and has to offer the world. Living with the Stranger and for the Stranger is a basic human task. Maybe this is the basis of the unique strength of Europe, a continent that was forced to learn the art of this kind of living. In Europe there has always been a Stranger nearby, within sight or within reach, both in a metaphorical and a literal sense. Our landscape is characterized by multilingualism, by the close proximity of the Stranger, but even more so by the fact that in our strictly limited space we treat the Stranger as an equal. Europe could become something of a laboratory where a certain model of the art of living could be created and cultivated by people with various religious creeds, languages and traditions of happiness."


The Economist 26.01.2009 (UK)

Two new books have come out about "Africa's World War" in Congo. The article in the Economist uses a comparison with the Kosovo war to demonstrate how little the world cares about Central Africa. "No one doubts the scale of the war in Congo. Ten African countries dispatched troops there in 1998. Two, Uganda and Rwanda, were trying to overthrow their former puppet, President Laurent Kabila, the others ostensibly seeking to prop him up. Although Madeleine Albright, then America's secretary of state, called it Africa's 'first world war', the armies did little fighting. The horrific death toll - as many as 5m - was caused, as so often in Africa, by people fleeing their homes and dying of hunger and disease. And what of the reaction of the rest of the world? The Kosovo war, which occurred at the same time, affected 3m people of whom 10,000 died. ... In Congo 86m people were affected. ... Kosovo is at peace, but the war in eastern Congo, which began in 1993, has never ended."


Hungarian Quarterly 25.01.2009 (Hungary)

The magazine has published (in English) John Pinfold's story of the jockey George Williamson, who enjoyed a fantastic career in Hungary and other countries. The Hungarians were a hugely Anglophile nation at the time. "One season he appeared on the Budapest racecourse with an elegant new girlfriend on his arm. On seeing her, the crowd immediately started singing the well-known music hall song Daisy Bell ('Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do…'). This was because she was Daisy, Countess of Warwick, the woman about whom the song was written and the former mistress of King Edward VII. However, Daisy Warwick also caught the eye of Count Elemer Batthyany, the President of the Hungarian Jockey Club, and it was not long before she had left Williamson to become Batthyany's mistress. Batthyany then disposed of Williamson, by ensuring that he was given no rides that season, so that he had to leave Hungary and return to England."


The Guardian 24.01.2009 (UK)

Emma Brockes talks to American writer Dennis Lehane, who wrote a book a year between 1994 and 2003, many of which have been turned into films - 'Mystic River' for example. "Lehane had the advantage of a thoroughly developed dramatic milieu at his disposal, from his upbringing in Boston, which in the 1970s was a city on the brink of civil war. The youngest of five children, he was the son of a union man, a foreman at Sears, Roebuck, and a homemaker, both first-generation Irish immigrants. His neighbourhood was at the junction of two warring factions. "Directly to our north was South Boston, which was 100% white back then, very poor, very angry, very racist. Then to our east was Roxbury, which was primarily black. Then there was us. When those two went to war, guess who was Poland? We kept getting overrun."


Gazeta Wyborcza 24.01.2009 (Poland)

The Polish newspaper looks at two hotly debated historical films from the USA. Adam Krzeminski reflects on German debates about "Operation Valkyrie" and looks forward to it beginning in Poland, (13th February). Piotr Gluchowski looks at the stormy reception of "Defiance". The film is set during WWII and focusses on a Jewish partisan group led by Tewje Bielski (played by Bond actor Daniel Craig. The media are accusing the film of whitewashing the "dark chapters" of the story, particularly the group's involvement in a massacre of civilians in 1943, giving a false impression of the events in occupied Eastern Poland during the war. "An East Polish partisan of Jewish descent, whom no one had heard of until a month ago, has become the focal point of an old dispute about Polish-Jewish relations in the WWII," writes Gluchowski. In a further article in English, he describes his research which disproves the involvement of Jewish partisans in the massacre.


Le Nouvel Observateur 22.01.2009 (France)

Bahgat Elnadi and Adel Rifaat, who write under the pseudonym Mahmoud Hussein, have collaborated on several books about Islam. Their latest book "Penser le Coran" which has just been published by Grasset.
calls for a counter-Islamist reading of the Koran. In a interview they explain their central thesis which identifies the Muslim dilemma as the over literal reading or exegesis of the Koran, something which "infuriates" the two French authors of Egyptian descent. The way out of this dilemma, they suggest, is to "think" the Koran instead of "psalmodising" it. "It should be read without bias. Then it will reveal its 'transcendence that moves with the times'. Its temporal components and inseperable from its divine origins. God wrote his word in a very specific world at a very specific time. The believer, who lives this word in other places and in other centuries, cannot take this at face value. To the contrary, he is obliged to attempt interpretation. 'To read' the Koran means to understand it and this should be the primary duty of every Muslim."

And in another interview the French historian for contemporary Arab history, Henry Laurens, discusses anti-imperialism today. He compares Roman and contemporary American imperialism and explains why Jihad can not be classified as an anti-Imperialist movement. There is a review of the book "Une histoire des haines d'ecrivains" by Anne Boquel and Etienne Kern, which is a catalogue of insults and injuries hurled at each other by 19th century writers from Chateaubriand to Proust (Flammarion). Barbey d'Aurevilly said of Prosper Merimee, for example: "He has the legs of a peacock, but not the tail."


Outlook India 02.02.2009 (India)

Sheela Reddy introduces the Pakistani-American writer Daniyal Mueenuddin. Mueenuddin who grew up partly in Pakistan, partly in America, now lives as a farmer in a small village on the edge of the Thar desert in Southern Pujab. From there he has written poems and short stories, some of which have been published in the New Yorker (here, here and here). "What's striking about his debut collection of 'connected stories', being variously compared to Chekhov, Turgenev, Faulkner and even, inexplicably, R.K. Narayan, is that for the first time possibly in the subcontinent, we have a writer who is not only a first-rate craftsman of words, but is equally comfortable writing about a fading feudal aristocracy as about a class of characters that has been largely absent in English language fiction in the subcontinent: cooks, servants, electricians, hangers-on and thieves."


La vie des idees 20.01.2009 (France)

In a most nuanced conversation French historian and American Studies expert, Pap Ndiaye, introduces his book "La Condition noire. Essai sur une minorite francaise" (Calmann-Levy). It deals with the social experience of being black in general, and more particularly, within France. Ndiaye's main concern: "It makes little sense to expect that black skin colour will disappear entirely (although we can dream of a completely mixed-race society), nor that skin colour should be relegated to a past that deserves to be forgotten. I do think it makes sense, though, to abolish the anguish and problems that go with black skin. We should not aim for a deracialisation of French society, where being black no longer counts any more that other physical characteristics such as hair and eye colour. It is about reducing the burden of skin colour."


ResetDoc 13.01.2009 (Italy)

Seyla Benhabib dreams of an Israeli-Palestian confederation. "Suppose the neutralization of groups like Hamas and Hizbollah which do not recognize the existence of the state of Israel was a goal common to Palestinians as well as other Arab nations but that in the event Hamas would recognize Israel's right to exist it would have a seat at the table; suppose that there were common air, maritime and water controls jointly exercised by an Israeli-Palestinian authority, suppose that there was a common currency and regulated settlement rights for each ethnic group in certain parts of the common territory. Israel would not have to face civil war against the fanatic settlers in Hebron and the West Bank who would then either have to live under a regional municipal Palestinian authority or would have to return to Israel. But Israel would not have to defend their land grabs through incursions into Palestinian territory; the Palestinians would not have to pretend that the Bantustan of Gaza could in any sense be part of a Palestinian state; instead Gaza would be an autonomous region in a joint Israeli-Palestinian confederation."

And Daniele Castellani Perelli gives an overview of the international media reaction to the war in Gaza. Marta Federica Ottaviani describes the embarrassment felt by the Turkish government that the conflict has escalated despite their attempts at mediation.


The New York Review of Books 12. 02. 2009 (USA)
Roger Darnton is deeply concerned about the future of the book and the reader. Google's book digitalisation programme promised to be a wonderful thing until fall 2005 when it signed an agreement with a group of authors and publishers, effectively securing Google a gigantic monopoly on books. "After reading the settlement and letting its terms sink in - no easy task, as it runs to 134 pages and 15 appendices of legalese - one is likely to be dumbfounded: here is a proposal that could result in the world's largest library. It would, to be sure, be a digital library, but it could dwarf the Library of Congress and all the national libraries of Europe.
Moreover, in pursuing the terms of the settlement with the authors and publishers, Google could also become the world's largest book business - not a chain of stores but an electronic supply service that could out-Amazon Amazon." What happens though when Google not only charges for its services but also makes them really expensive. Should one company have this much power?

And Roger Cohen worries about Israel. William Luers, Thomas R. Pickering and Jim Walsh have an idea about how to deal with Iran. William Dalrymple describes the political crisis in Pakistan. The reviews cover Edward Lucas's book "The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West", a number of books about F.D.Roosevelt and books about the global financial downturn.

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