?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

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10/03/2009

Magazine Roundup

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

Vanity Fair | L'Espresso | The American | La vie des idees | The Economist | The New York Review of Books | Le Nouvel Observateur | The Believer | Elet es Irodalom | The Nation | MicroMega | The Guardian | The Times Literary Supplement | Le point | The New York Times


Vanity Fair 08.03.2009 (USA)

Michael Lewis gives a fascinating ethnological insight into the sensibilities of the Icelandic man. He travels to the island to find out how a nation of 300,000 fishermen can reinvent itself as a global financial player. His answer: the Viking gene. Take Stefan Alfsson: He went to sea at 16 and studied fishing on the side. By the age of 23 he was the captain of a trawler. At 30 he had turned his back on the sea to become a trader with the Landsbanki. Stefan talks about an older man who was his captain for a while and who taught him things that you don't learn at university. "'You spent seven years learning every little nuance of the fishing trade before you were granted the gift of learning from this great captain?' I ask. 'Yes.' 'And even then you had to sit at the feet of this great master for many months before you felt as if you knew what you were doing?' 'Yes.' 'Then why did you think you could become a banker and speculate in financial markets, without a day of training?' 'That's a very good question,' he says. He thinks for a minute. 'For the first time this evening I lack a word.'"

Other articles of note: William Langewiesche's reportage on the hijacking of the French luxury cruiser Le Ponant by Somali pirates. The worst thing one can say about them, having read the article, is that they despise French cuisine.


L'Espresso 06.03.2009 (Italy)

Umberto Eco is mortified by the xenophobic currents in his country. The great scapegoats of the Italian bar-room politician are the Romanians. How right they are, mocks Eco caustically. "Of course, even if it never came out officially, the terrorists behind the attack on Milan's Agricultural Bank were Romanians, as were those responsible for the Bologna railway station bombing. (...) These Romanians have destroyed the image of a country of honest, God-fearing people, who are averse to violence and deeply respectful of difference, whether ethnic, religious or political. Thank goodness we have finally realised that they are to blame for everything, otherwise we would have rooted through the archives of the Italo-Soviet conspiracy in vain, whereas now, our wonderful vigilantes can finally restore law and order to our poor, unfortunate country."


The American 03.03.2009 (USA)

In 2008 American newspaper shares dropped 83 percent! Having compiled a potted history of the fall of the American newspaper, the jurist James V. DeLong cites NYT editor in chief, Bill Keller, who recently declared "that he's not buying the theology of the sentence 'information wants to be free.'" He's not alone. "The LA Times talked of the need for an antitrust exemption so newspapers can jointly agree to stop giving away the product, and several columnists have chimed in about the need for monetization. So from here, things will fork. Either the news business succeeds in establishing a property rights-based monetization model, based on subscribers or control of advertising or both, or it doesn't. If it does, then the scenario described earlier will play out, with national outlets, local outlets, and specialized outlets. Innovative news collection services will arise to compete with AP, especially in specialized areas, and the creative side of the Schumpeterian balance will accompany the destruction of the old print model. We would probably get a paid Internet and a free Internet, with a great deal of interesting crossover and interaction."


La vie des idees 05.03.2009 (France)

In 1818 a court case took place in New York which dealt with the curious question of whether or not a whale is a fish. Alexandre Brunet reviews a book, "Trying Leviathan", by the American historian Graham Burnett, which has turned this battle between scientists, whale catchers and merchants into a fascinating study of pre-Darwinist natural history and the interweaving of economic, religious and scientific arguments. "For Burnett this case is a perfect opportunity to prove again – if it was necessary – that the idea that the natural sciences secured an easy triumph in the early years of the American republic is a pure exaggeration. Far from being a golden age of science, the early 19th century was characterised by profound epistemological insecurity. This was an age which staged the decisive controversy between popular belief, religious conviction and incipient scientific knowledge."


The Economist 06.03.2009 (UK)

Reality exists! But only when we're not looking, the Economist reports. Proof has been delivered by Kazuhiro Yokota of Osaka University and Jeff Lundeen and Aephraim Steinberg of the University of Toronto. Both have proved Hardy's Paradox. "In the 1990s a physicist called Lucien Hardy proposed a thought experiment that makes nonsense of the famous interaction between matter and antimatter - that when a particle meets its antiparticle, the pair always annihilate one another in a burst of energy. Dr Hardy's scheme left open the possibility that in some cases when their interaction is not observed a particle and an antiparticle could interact with one another and survive. Of course, since the interaction has to remain unseen, no one should ever notice this happening, which is why the result is known as Hardy's paradox."


The New York Review of Books 26.03.2009 (USA)

Jonathan Raban watched Kelly Reichardt's film "Wendy and Lucy", the story of a girl stranded in a small town in America's Northwest. Her car dies, her money runs dry and she's arrested for stealing a can of food for her dog, Lucy. And then Lucy goes missing. Wendy (Michelle Williams) searches for Lucy with such method and resourcefulness that "one sees her fundamental competence: here is someone who eminently deserves a job. But there are no jobs in this town, and, in any case, as Wendy says to the Walgreens security guard, 'You can't get a job without an address.' To which he replies, 'You can't get an address without an address. You can't get a job without a job. It's all fixed.' An economy on the brink of collapse is at once the subject of the movie and Reichardt's directorial aesthetic. Wendy and Lucy cost 200,000 dollars to make, and the notebook detailing Wendy's running expenses might be Reichardt's own. Everything is frugally pared down to the barest minimum. The film's musical score is an eight-note theme with variations, first hummed by Wendy in the opening scene, then picked up by a distant synthesizer. This skeletal tune, vaguely liturgical to my ear, becomes as memorable a soundtrack as any I can remember (it was composed by Will Oldham, the Kentucky musician and actor, who also appears here as the chief of the fireside punks)."

Daniel Mendelsohn reviews Jonathan Littell's Roman "The Kindly Ones": "Indeed, the large success of the book, the way in which Littell draws us into Aue's mental world, has much to do with a striking technique he employs throughout, which is to integrate, with more and more insistence as the novel progresses, scenes of high horror (or scenes in which characters coolly discuss horrific acts or plans) with quotidian, even tedious stretches, conversations about petty military intrigues and official squabbling and so forth that go on and on, thereby weaving together the dreadful and the mundane in an unsettlingly persuasive way-the tedious somehow normalizing the dreadful, and the dreadful seeming to infect the tedious."

Further article: Amartya Sen wonders whether we need a "new capitalism" or a "new world". Elizabeth Dew sums up thirty days of Obama. Cass R. Sunstein writes about the Federalist Papers. There are reviews of Jackie Wullschlager's Chagall biography, books from and about Reinhold Niebuhr and a biography of Donald Barthelme.


Le Nouvel Observateur 05.03.2009 (France)

Promoting his memoirs, "Le Lievre de Patagonie" (Grasset), French director Claude Lanzmann speaks about his Jewish identity. It was important to him and his work to be part of Judaism and also an outsider. He could never have made his film "Shoah" had he actually been deported. When he approached American Jews to finance the project and they asked what his "message" was, he didn't know where to begin. "They expected me to tell them: 'Never again', or 'Love one another'. In short, a Christian message. Or maybe an answer to the question of why. Why did it happen? Why did it happen to the Jews? This question is absolutely obscene. All the explanations one gives might be necessary, but not sufficient. How does one rationalise the murder of one and a half million children? I had to do everything in my power to submit to bewilderment, to refuse to understand. I was like a horse with blinkers, looking neither left nor right, but rather confronting myself with what I've called the 'black sun' of the Shoah. That was the only way to proceed; blindness is the purest form of sight, clairvoyance itself."


The Believer 01.03.2009 (USA)

Author and filmmaker C.S. Leigh mulls over the future of cinema and cinephilia, in an honourable, if slightly unconvincing article. Directors like Michel Gondry, Paul Thomas Anderson, Charlie Kaufman or Sofia Coppola "make films you can watch [at home] while doing the many other things we do while watching movies now, but that still command our attention." Hm. Leigh is better when looking back on the days when "cinema" was a real place with a real audience. "I'm talking about dark and damp basement cinemas in New York, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Berlin, and London, places like the Carnegie Hall Cinema, the Cinema Village, and the Notting Hill, where double features were the order of the day. They were cheap and they were brilliantly programmed and we flocked to them in droves. Sometimes you walked up three flights to get to these theaters but they still felt subterranean. You could buy candy and drinks and there was always a smoking section. It was a fetid, human experience. You could also have a very different relationship with a film depending on where and with whom you watched it. An audience at a university cinema in L.A. had a solemn, nearly funereal reaction to Pasolini's 'Salo', based on Sade's '120 Days of Sodom' (they seemed uncertain whether they had just witnessed a film or a crime); later, I watched the same film at the Accatone in Paris with an audience that couldn't stop laughing."

Further articles: British filmmaker Mike Leigh talks in an interview about how he works with actors, and about a project that will probably never grace the screen because it requires too big a budget: a film about the painter William Turner. "We're talking, after all, about the man who strapped himself to the mast of a ship in order to paint a storm."


Elet es Irodalom 27.02.2009 (Hungary)

Dutch writer J. Bernlef used to run a foundation that gave financial support to imprisoned or persecuted Eastern European writers and their families. Berlef's repeated visits to countless East European countries inspired his 1987 novel "Publiek geheim" (Public Secret), which investigates the mechanism of self-censorship in the region. Tibor Berczes asked him why he continued to return to his experiences in Hungary: "I had the feeling that the dictatorship in Hungary was subtler, that there was a silent agreement between the population and the powers that be, and that the border between them wasn't as clear-cut as in other East European countries. Here, people censored themselves and adapted to the mechanism of dictatorship in return for a certain measure of freedom. Of course, that was not without danger, because self-censorship can easily blur the line between the moral and the indefensible - and that's what I wanted to portray in my book."


The Nation 23.03.2009 (USA)

Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz has very clear ideas about cleaning up the banks in the USA – and he wants them nationalised. Then he gets down to a "basic principle in environmental economics called 'the polluter pays': polluters must pay for the cost of cleaning up their pollution. American banks have polluted the global economy with toxic waste; it is a matter of equity and efficiency that they must be forced, now or later, to pay the price of cleaning it up. As long as the banking sector feels that it will be bailed out of disasters - even ones it created - we will continue to have a moral hazard. Only by making sure that the sector pays the costs of its actions will efficiency be restored."

Barbara Ehrenreich ("Nickel and Dimed") and Bill Fletcher argue that with capitalism beyond repair, we should turn our thoughts to socialism. The pair admit to not having a plan for how to bring about a democratic, sustainable future, but they are convinced that "the core idea of socialism still stands: that people can get together and figure out how to solve their problems, or at least a lot of their problems, collectively. That we - not the market or the capitalists or some elite group of über-planners - have to control our own destiny."

And Samuel Moyn reviews Jonathan Littell's "The Kindly Ones": "Contrary to most foreign critics (and perhaps Littell's self-defence), the novel's true premise is not that Aue is like other perpetrators. It is that he stands for Nazism as a whole."


MicroMega 06.03.2009 (Italy)

At the end of February the University of Turin debated the "Italy case". Dozens of scientists and intellectuals gathered for the first "Week of Politics" to discuss the state of the country and its governance. The situation is dire, Angelo d'Orsi learned. "Luciano Gallino did not lily-gild in his magnificent speech. He painted a picture of a rotten country, ravaged by environmental disaster, ruled by organised crime (which by now controls a third of the country), a land where illegal work is burgeoning (over 18 percent some say, others put the figure at 30 percent), hand in hand with tax evasion, a land of tax fraud, of illegal construction, a land which resists all form of regulation, a land where there are three types of law: useless (most of them), detrimental (in operation) and useful or valuable (permanently violated because of the general disinterest). The first thing that springs to mind is our republic's constitution which, to a great extent has still not been realised, and which continues to come under fire, principally for its democratic and progressive character."


The Guardian 07.03.2009 (UK)

Author Jeannette Winterson revisits the bookshop Shakespeare & Company in Paris, which the proprietor, George Whitman, has now passed on to his daughter Sylvia, but where you can still spend the night, provided you are willing to work in the shop for two hours and read a book per day. "Sylvia lived in the shop until she was seven; then, after her parents' divorce, she went with her mother to be educated in England. It wasn't her intention to take over the shop, but she was drawn back in, and she has made it her life. 'When I first arrived, we didn't even have a phone and Penguin was threatening to cut us off for not paying their bills, so I had to run round St Michel looking for a pay phone and ring Accounts in Essex.' She adores her father, and is committed to carrying on his legacy - but in her own way. 'Dad was furious when I took out one of the beds and installed a computer. When I told him we were going to start a literary festival and a publishing business, he said: 'Who's gonna cook for all those extra people?'"

In addition: The public dying of reality star and cancer victim Jade Goody in camera-crazed Britain reminds Gordon Burn of Dave Eggers' "Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" ("Am I on? Have I broken your heart? Was my story sad enough?") The reviews cover T.C. Boyle's novel about Frank Lloyd Wright, "The Women," and Barney Hoskyns' friendly Tom Waits biography "Lowside of the Road".


The Times Literary Supplement 06.03.2009 (UK)

Leafing through a book on Hitler's private library, Richie Robertson wonders whether the dictator was perhaps a bookworm. At any rate, he had little time for literature and philosophy. "Hitler's library is most remarkable for what it didn't contain. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche are absent, confirming the suspicion that Hitler knew them only at second hand. There is a handsome edition of Fichte, given by Leni Riefenstahl to placate Hitler after a disastrous encounter, but the annotations are by someone else. (...) The other striking absence is literature. According to Oechsner, Hitler owned all the Wild West adventure stories by Karl May, all the detective fiction of Edgar Wallace, and many love stories by Hedwig Courths-Mahler (a German Barbara Cartland), but nothing that could send the imagination along unfamiliar tracks. Hitler's mental world seems to have had no place for imagination". Robertson comments that "Hitler's Private Library" is often poorly written and proofread. "Hitler at least knew the value of encyclopaedias".


Le point 05.03.2009 (France)

In his "bloc-notes", Bernard-Henri Levy sounds the battle cry against the Durban Review Conference scheduled to take place in Geneva in April. It is the follow-up to the scandalous "UN World Conference against Racism" of 2001 in South Africa, which became a platform for hate-filled agitation against Israel and the Jews. "Everything we know about the organisation of this new conference, everything leaking out of the office of the Libyan-led "preparatory committee", especially the preliminary draft of the 'final declaration' written with the help of the Pakistani, Cuban, and Iranian - ah, the great democrats! - vice-presidents, leads one to expect the worst. (...) In the interest of the struggle for the beauty and nobility of anti-racism, out of respect for all those, from Fanon to Mandela, who devoted themselves to its spirit, one must - rapidly, decisively, and without appeal - reject the farce of Durban II".

(On Thursday at 11 am in Berlin's Press and Information Office, there will be a press conference on the initiative "Boycott Durban 2!" with a variety of speakers. Perlentaucher's Thierry Chervel will moderate.)


The New York Times 08.03.2009 (USA)

David Gates has almost nothing good to say about Jonathan Littell's "The Kindly Ones". Max Aue, a Nazi obsessed with his sister who, at one point "self-administers" (Gates' words) a sausage and later serves it to his mother and stepfather, "is simply too much of a freak, and his supposed childhood trauma too specialized and contrived, for us to take him seriously. When he tries to give us the moral willies by arguing that 'you might also have done what I did,' visions of sausages dance in our heads".

The reviews cover a number of books from or about China: Yiyun Li's grim novel, "The Vagrants", about China in the 1970s (chapter 1), Yu Hua's novel "Brothers" (chapter 1), Xinran's book of interviews, "China Witness. Voices From a Silent Generation", and James Fallows' reportage from China for the Atlantic Monthly, "Postcards from Tomorrow Square" (chapter 1).

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