?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

06/04/2009

Magazine Roundup

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

London Review of Books | Tygodnik Powszechny | The Economist | Babelia | The Spectator | L'Espresso | Le Figaro | The New Yorker | Outlook India | Le Nouvel Observateur | Vanity Fair


London Review of Books 09.04.2009 (UK)

On 19 March 2009, after nearly 200 years of accumulated theory on realism in the novel, John Lanchester has had an epiphany: "Stendhal said that the novel was 'a mirror that one walks down a road', 'un miroir qu'on promene le long d'un chemin'. Although this maxim is generally agreed to be a masterful summary of the realist project in fiction, it has always brought out a literal streak in me. How much would the mirror show? Wouldn't everything depend on how big it was? Who would be looking into it? They wouldn't have much of a view, would they? Is the novelist the person who's carrying the mirror, or is she standing by the side of the road looking at the mirror, in which case isn't that a bit passive, given that it's presumably meant to be her novel? Would the mirror change angle, so you could see more of what was going on? We can all relax. It's now clear that Stendhal meant to say the novel is a bit like Google Street View."

Elsewhere in this highly interesting issue: Pakistan correspondent Graham Usher reports on the growing influence of Indians in the US - and the highly problematic effects it's having on the development of Afghanistan. Michael Wood saw Tom Tykwer's movie, "The International" and is one of the few critics who doesn't care for the shoot-out in the Guggenheim - he prefers Tony Gilroy's "Duplicity". Historian Christopher Clark discusses Fabrice d'Almeidas's book, "High Society in the Third Reich."


Tygodnik Powszechny 05.04.2009 (Poland)

It's hard to believe that no Polish book exists about the entry facility for immigrants on Ellis Island – this is how Michal Olszewski opens his review. The reporter and writer Malgorzata Szejnert has now written that book, "Wyspa klucz" (island of keys), about the needle eye through which an estimated 2.5 million Poles have passed. (The Gazeta Wyborcza printed an excerpt from it last week.) "The author openly tackles US exclusivity, linking these images of humiliation with the later European methods of eugenics and racial hygiene. Immigrants were clearly divided into humans and sub-humans. Is there such a thing as a fair method for selecting immigrants? (...) Modern history knows no country which would open its gates wide. Everywhere there are officials holding keys in their hands. It is not so far from the island with its view of Manhattan to the Polish-Ukrainian border in Medyka."


The Economist 06.04.2009 (UK)

In its title story and a "special report," The Economist fulfills its duty as an economically liberal medium by defending the rich against exaggerated accusations: "The system is already beginning to correct itself. (...) The rich are not as rich as they were: some 10 trillion dollars, around a quarter of the wealthy's assets, has been lost. Inequality will decline. Investment banks and hedge funds are shrinking; private-equity groups are struggling to finance takeovers. (...) There is even a correction going on in conspicuous consumption: Net-a-porter, a pricey website, offers to deliver designer outfits to its customers in brown paper bags."

Other articles deal with online gaming in China and the disputes regarding the future of cloud computing. There are also reviews of Jonathan Bates's book, "Soul of the Age," (website) about the world of William Shakespeare, and Neal Bascombe's description of the hunt for Adolf Eichmann.


Babelia 04.04.2009 (Spain)

"The Teatro Colon is a metaphor for Argentina - for that which once was but which we could not preserve, for that which we will, possibly, destroy once and for all." Soledad Gallego-Diaz has taken a good look at the chaotic renovation of Buenos Aires's legendary opera house. Started in 2001, the renovation will probably not be finished for the already postponed reopening date in 2010, which would have had it ready for the bicentennial celebrations of Argentine independence: "In the last thirty years, four general directors for this theatre have died of heart attacks. Others managed to retire in time or were fired - not surprisingly, given the insurmountable conflicts of interest revolving around the building that may have not only the best acoustics but also the largest staff of any opera house in the world: 1300 people. Milan's Scala employs 910; London's Covent Garden, 915. One of the construction supervisors was once amazed to discover a cellar room with a group of men sitting around a table loaded with food: 'And who's this?' - 'The divorcees,' he was told. 'They belong to the large family of Colon employees. They're divorced and are living here for now. Since they're alone, they sometimes have a get-together on Sundays.'"


The Spectator 04.04.2009 (UK)

It started with the New York Met, and now everyone wants to broadcast opera premieres in cinemas. That's how Ariane Bankes saw Jules Massenet's "Manon," which opened at London's Royal Opera House. As an audience member, she thought it was wonderful, but she wonders if it's worthwhile for the operas. "With large amounts of taxpayers' money going to subsidise opera and ballet it's a point of principle to reach as wide an audience as possible, and cinema chains are coincidentally looking beyond film for 'alternative content' to fill the schedules. It would seem a win-win situation, and more of the great opera houses — La Scala and Glyndebourne among them — are being enticed into the market with celebrated productions such as David McVicar's effervescent 'Giulio Cesare'. With its limited season and steep ticket prices, Glyndebourne sees this as an exciting way to complement its touring programme, but is it reaching a new public or simply making itself more accessible to the old? When you think about it, the 19th-century opera house was the cinema of its day. Does this fusion of art forms lead to a fusion of audiences?"


L'Espresso 03.04.2009 (Italy)

In Italy, there is serious talk about overhauling the appointments system for professors, which hitherto depended more on connections than qualifications. The idea is that a public list drawn up by a national jury from which the universities make their selections, will reduce nepotism. Good idea, says Umberto Eco with obvious satisfaction. He thought the idea was good twenty years ago, too. "What speaks against such a measure? That scheming or feeble-minded functionaries or even cretins could get on the list. Certainly, no human law has ever prevented cretins from getting positions of responsibility. But the public list would certainly enable good people to go further, because a functionary arguing that, say, a Pascal or Descartes don't deserve to get on the list would have to publicly defend this opinion. And everyone would know that he or she would proabably end up in the same position as the 19th century critic who dismissed Beethoven's Fifth as an "orgy of noise and vulgarity."


Le Figaro 03.04.2009 (France)

A number of important new books on Cioran prompted le Figaro litteraire to compile a dossier on the writer. Most notably the entire collection of Cioran's legendary juvenilia from Romania has been published in French for the first time, including "Romania's Transformation" which contains a number of antisemitic and pro-fascist passages. Sebastien Lapaque describes the book (excerpt) as the "hot-headed confessions of a desperate young man who is under the influence of Oswald Spengler's 'Downfall of the Occident"... 'Romania's Transformation' is a book about seduction in all its forms: the seduction of fascism, of anarchy, of nihilism, of collectivism, of despair." But, Lapaque adds, Cioran had freed himself from these clutches long before the war ended.

The dossier includes a wonderful conversation with the Cioran fan, Alain Finkielkraut, who describes how, in the mourning process that followed, Cioran broke with all ideas of historical inevitability. "He returns to this illusion in his diaries. 'Please don't ask me to believe that the history and the future of the human race makes any sense. Man stumbles from problem to problem until it kills him.' His entire oeuvre is a critical meditation on the ecstasy of his early life."


The New Yorker 13.04.2009 (USA)

Jon Lee Anderson traveled to Tehran where President Ahmadinejad will be standing for re-election in June. Change does not seem to be on the cards, writes Anderson, after visiting the human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh: "One of Sotoudeh's clients is a woman who was arrested for going to a meeting about the One Million Signatures Campaign, a petition drive seeking the repeal of the harshest of Iran's laws discriminating against women. The woman was sentenced to be whipped and to spend two and a half years in prison. Sotoudeh noted that sixty per cent of the university students in Iran today are women, but legally an Iranian woman's testimony is worth half that of a man. Nine is the age when girls are obliged to begin wearing the hijab, the veil, and that is also when they are susceptible to full punishment under the law. Boys are legally liable at fifteen. If Ahmadinejad was reelected in June, Sotoudeh said, it would mean that things would become 'much more horrible' than they are today. If a reformist won, it would be better, but she was not expecting 'miracles.' She hoped that Iran and the West could resolve their differences, but the prospect of a deal also worried her. 'After the nuclear issue was settled between the West and Qaddafi, the human rights of Libyans were left in a state of oblivion,' she said."

Further articles: George Packer admires the considerable activism that the Obama team has displayed in its first 100 days in office but he has failed to understand the philosophy behind it all. On the 70th anniversary of Marian Anderson's heart-rending concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Alex Ross makes the point that black singers still have it hard today. Nicholas Lemann concludes from a number of new biographies on media moguls that they seldom have direct access to power.


Outlook India 14.04.2009 (India)

"What's blooking?" asks Outlook India, and introduces a number of food blogs that are making the country salivate wildly. "While recipe sites have been around for a while, only a greenhorn could confound those with food blogs. A food blog entices with rapturous descriptions of the cooking and eating experience, and is as much a literary enterprise as it is a culinary one; while the recipe site provides a more mundane inventory of ingredients and instructions. Enthusiastic food blog writer Anita Tikoo confesses to spending a minimum of ten hours writing each blog post, regardless of whether her subject is the simple pakoda or the more elaborate Kashmiri kofta. Her blog, A Mad Tea Party, records an average of a 1,000 hits a day and allows Anita, a Delhi-based landscape architect, to share her love for food with audiences from Bahrain to Bolivia, while adroitly circumventing pesky editors.(...) C.Y. Gopinath, a seasoned journalist who writes the often riotously funny food blog Gopium, avers, 'Writing a food blog is like having someone over for a meal — it's a very personal experience'." Other recommended food blogs: Mahanandi, Mane Adige, Indian Food Rocks, Ahaar, Jugalbandi, hookedonheat and The cooks cottage.

Le Nouvel Observateur 02.04.2009 (France)

The Nouvel Obs features a conversation between Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the philosopher Edgar Morin about Cohn-Bendit's ideas on the "politics of civilisation", which he expounds in his book with the Leninist title of "Que faire". Morin, whom Cohn-Bendit references, has the following to say on the subject: Daniel sees his 'politics of civilisation' as part of ecology; I on the other hand, integrate ecology into politics. Politics of civilisation infers that western civilisation has had plenty of positive effects but also negative ones, which always weigh more. Individualism, for example, brings independence, but it also dissolves solidarity. Material wealth is also accompanied by psychological problems and depression. On a global level, the unchecked proliferation of science, technology and finance is leading the human race into the abyss." Spiegel online also features an interview about Cohn-Bendit's book.


Vanity Fair 01.05.2009 (USA)

Alex Shoumatoff crawled through a hole in the fence to crash the annual forest gathering of the Bohemian Club in California's Bohemian Hain. The club's members include 2,500 of America's wealthiest and most conservative men – among them George W.H. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger and numerous Rockefellers. The Hain is home to a forest of precious Californian redwood trees - some of them 1000 years old - and Shoumatoff had been tipped off by a former member that the club is practising "commercial timber harvesting disguised as fire-hazard reduction." But this is only one in a long list of dodgy practices purportedly going on: "Aside from the prostitutes who are rumoured to be visited by randy Grovers at local bars and motels, it's a guys-only affair, and, historically, there's always been talk of buggery in the dappled shadows under the redwoods, particularly at Highlanders, perhaps simply because members wear kilts and nothing underneath. Richard Nixon (a member of Cave Man camp), whose 1967 lakeside talk kicked off his successful run for the presidency, was caught on one of his Oval Office tapes describing the Grove as 'the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine.'" If you're wondering about the knife-edge to the humour here, you should know that the reporter was apprehended in the field and photographed.

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