?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

01/06/2009

Magazine Roundup

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

Al Ahram Weekly | Observer | Polityka | The New Statesman | Die Weltwoche | The Nation | Odra | Nepszabadsag | Magyar Narancs | Salon.eu.sk | The New Republic | Merkur| Prospect | Le Nouvel Observateur | Times Literary Supplement | Bookforum


Al Ahram Weekly 28.05.2009 (Egypt)

"Arabs are notoriously over sensitive to criticism when it comes from fellow Arabs," Nehad Selaiha reports back from the first Arab Theatre Festival in Cairo". The festival, which was started by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi (himself a playwright), produced little of artistic merit, but it did provoke some fascinating discussions. After the Tunisian play "Cinema" for example: "Now Arabs, and especially Tunisians, generally resent the fact that while Egyptian colloquial Arabic is understood everywhere in the Arab world, thanks to the popularity of Egyptian movies and television drama, very few Egyptians understand the local versions of Arabic spoken in many Arab countries. Unwittingly, the Egyptian critics saddled with discussing the Tunisian 'Cinema' touched this sore point, declaring at the outset that they could not understand the Tunisian dialect and, therefore, could not make head or tail of the play, then asking the director to explain what it was all about. Naturally, the Tunisian director was deeply offended, and said so without much ceremony. He accused the Egyptian critics and public of being smug and lazy and acting superior, not taking the trouble to learn how other Arabs speak. ... When one of the critics suggested that in future editions of the festival all performances should be in classical Arabic to make them accessible to all Arabs and that he would propose this to the head of the festival, the Tunisians nearly hit the roof."

Rania Khallaf welcomes the initiative for a Palestinian Holocaust Memorial Museum (PHMM). Until the funds are raised to build it, however, it will be limited to an online presence. The initiative is a reaction to a statement by Israeli politician Matan Vilnai, who threatened the Palestinians in Gaza with a "Shoah". "As a reaction to this provocative statement, the idea of creating a Palestinian Holocaust Memorial Museum, modelled on the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, was put forward in March 2008. Provoked by Vilnai's words, Dalia Youssef, a young journalist and political activist, decided to promote the idea of the museum in order to draw attention to Israel's crimes against the Palestinians. 'Because we do not have the means to establish such a museum in real life, I decided to build it on the Internet,' Youssef said. 'We have endless resources in terms of documents and pictures drawing attention to the Palestinian victims of Israel's war against them, and so I thought, why not make use of them? The PHMM is dedicated to all the civilians who lost their lives during the attacks on Palestine." (No doubt there will also be a wing for the victims of suicide bombers in Israel).


Observer 31.05.2009 (UK)

Rachel Cooke met with Cairo dentist, author, Alaa Al Aswany, who was in London to promote a new collection of short stories. Aswany's novels "The Yacoubian Building" and "Chicago" have proved so successful that his publishers are now also bringing out earlier books that were banned by the censors. Alaa Al Aswani is a fierce critic of Egypt's repressive regime and is active in the opposition movement. "Has fame made him safer? 'I cannot compare what has happened to me with what has happened to some of my friends and comrades who have been tortured and beaten. What has happened to me - banning me from attending the premiere of 'The Yacoubian Building' - is negligible in comparison. But, in any case, writing and fear are absolutely contradictory. Writing is an expression against fear.' He remains convinced that democracy is coming to Egypt and that the rest of the Arab world will then use it as a model. 'I am telling you, it is not far away. I can't tell you a particular date but we are prepared.'"


Polityka 29.05.2009 (Poland)

Twenty years after the June 4 elections in Poland, no one wants to celebrate this day any more, write Mariusz Janicki and Wieslaw Wladyka (here in German). The country is "polarised between two view points" regarding the events which lead to the country's peaceful revolution. And so June 4 is fading date in the national calendar. "We know that the system changed, that the Poles brought about something great, a peaceful revolution. And that an entire generation abandoned Comecon for the EU. We moved from the age of Polonez cars and little choice about what to put on our plates, to the free market and a continent without borders. But the sceptics, critics, grumblers and locals with grievances and grudges about injustices to the people are seeing to it that June 4 1989 no longer stands tall, but fades in the background and ceases to move people. ... It's as if we don't like our victory any more, as if we think there's something suspicious about it. Martyrly spectacles, on the other hand, are thriving - celebrations of uprisings, demonstrations and wars that were bloodily suppressed."


The New Statesman 28.05.2009 (UK)

The journalist Isabel Hilton traces the protest movement against official policy in China since 1919. Things are relatively quiet today, she cites the researcher Minxin Pei as saying, because the party learnt valuable lessons from the uprising in 1989. "Authoritarianism, therefore, was essential to the party maintaining control. The party also recognised, Minxin argues, that its rule was vulnerable if it was not broadly supported by elite groups - the professionals and the intelligentsia - and therefore it adopted a strategy of co-option. Party membership among students has grown; intellectuals are appointed to well-rewarded government posts. The intellectuals and students who were at the forefront of demands for political reform throughout the 20th century have become noticeably less prominent since 1989. For now, those who call for political reform - or even ask that China respect its own constitution, as the Charter 08 group did last year - are in a small minority."

Further articles: Keith Gessen recommends Orwell's essays from the forties. "Because we, too, live in a time when truth is disappearing from the world, and doing so in just the way Orwell worried it would: through language."


Die Weltwoche 28.05.2009 (Switzerland)

At least two fakes will be on show at the Van Gogh exhibition in Art Museum in Basel, "Jardin a Auvers" and "Le jardin de Daubigny", claims art historian Matthias Arnold, and then presents his case in detail. It is not the first time that Van Gogh fakes have been hung in a major art institution. And there is always an art dealer close at hand. This time it is Zurich art dealer Walter Feilchenfeldt, "the true initiator and organiser of the current Van Gogh exhibition in Basel. His name crops up all over the catalogue. The Swiss publishers are confident that in Feilchenfeldt - one of their co-owners - they have a 'leading Van Gogh expert at their side'. In fact Walter Feilchenfeldt has continually been referred to as a 'Van Gogh expert' of late, not only in his own words and those of his colleages, but also in official statements by the Van Gogh museum. But just how independent is this man?"


The Nation 15.06.2009 (USA)

Public discussion of the events that took place on Tiananmen Square is still banned by the Chinese government 20 years later, writes historian Jeffrey Wasserstrom. "China's rulers have instead combined rigidity about Tiananmen with startling flexibility on other fronts. To minimize the likelihood of a recurrence of 1989 and avoid succumbing to what some Chinese leaders call the 'Polish disease' (a Solidarity-like movement), the party has encouraged consumerism (many youths can now buy those Nikes), pulled back from micromanaging campus life (today's students have much more personal freedom than their predecessors) and tried to leap ahead and steer new outbursts of nationalism. It has also treated different kinds of protests in varying ways, using draconian measures to stop any struggle that seems highly organized or that could link people of different classes but showing leniency toward some single-class, single-locale actions. And while dissidents have found exciting uses for new technologies like the Internet and text-messaging, the regime has also proved adept at using these media to discourage protests, disseminate its own interpretations of events and get supporters onto the streets."


Odra 01.05.2009 (Poland)

This year the cultural magazine Odra is awarding its prize to the Polish-Jewish-Danish writer Janina Katz. The author and translator of Polish literature into Danish left the country in the chaos of the events following the "Polish 1968" (a year of student protests and widespread anti-Semitic purges by the government). "Janina Katz's novel 'Pucka' is one of the few books to address the complex and still undigested era of the People's Republic. 'Pucka' is almost unique in the precision and directness with which it addresses the controversial issues of our post-war history, and without self-censorship," writes Mieczyslaw Orski.

The magazine also takes a sweeping look at music, art and lifestyle in the 1960s and 70s, to coincide with the publication of Kamil Sipowicz's book documenting the hippies in Socialist Poland. The artist and musician uses a wide range of sources – among them interviews with his peers – to describe the dying throes of the movement in a rather surreal environment. "These two worlds were separated by a huge divide: rebellious youth on one side, a society of slaves on the other, manipulated by a degenerate establishment," writes Jacek Dobrowolski. In this tension ridden and neurotic country, a hippy's smile was enough to provoke aggression on several fronts. A highly commendable book, writes the critic (another veteran hippy), that, sadly, is rather sloppily researched and edited."


Nepszabadsag 30.05.2009 (Hungary)

Every year since 1998 Pecs University in Hungary has staged a philosophy conference on the life work of a contemporary philosopher. After Jacques Derrida, Hilary Putnam and Richard Rorty, this May came the turn of German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Janos Boros, a philosophy professor at Pecs, and the journalist Tamas Ungar talked to Habermas about the future of Europe and his call for an European public sphere. When asked what form this public sphere might take, Habermas answered: "We should not envision the European public sphere as a pyramid cake, hierarchical, a new layer on top of the national public sphere. It should be a network of existing public spheres. The national papers and media must be open to one another so that, for example, the Germans will know what's being said about particular issues in Budapest, in Paris, Warsaw or London at the same time – and vice versa. The same newspapers and channels which today express local prejudices and perspectives, have to open their membranes to allow broader streams of information to enter and flow out again. They have to encourage their readers, listeners and viewers to put themselves in the shoes of people in other countries that have long since joined with their own in political community."


Magyar Narancs 28.05.2009 Hungary

European election campaigns are focussing on domestic issues. Many people still don't know what the EU does and why it's important to them. But this should not stop them voting, opines Balint Szlanko. "One of key things we have learned about the EU is that it is distant, out of reach and impossible to influence. The best means to bridge the gap between the rulers and the people is through voting. The European Parliament has never succeeded in bridging this gap. But we should still go and vote because the only thing connects the EU – which is otherwise so out of touch with reality – with the real world, is the Parliament – in spite of the buffoonery which frequently takes control of its halls. The unwieldy European Committee, which regularly gets lost in the labyrinths of diplomacy, and the EU Commission, which has been battling an identity crisis for a decade now, are unfit to govern. The Parliament takes the ideals of the EU more seriously than the ranks of civil servants or the member states which are often unable to see beyond provincial interests. (...) Its self assuredness, its energy stems from the very fact that it is elected. (...) The European parliament is doing a good job. So it's only fair to support it with good politicians."


Salon.eu.sk 26.05.2009 (Slovakia)

Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman devotes an article (originally printed in the Gazeta Wyborcza) to the ongoing pollution from totalitarian regimes. He criticises Slavoj Zizek for wanting to localise totalitarianism to the Gulag and Auschwitz, instead of looking "beyond the barbed wire": "It is obvious that causing suffering morally taints the perpetrator. But the victims do not get away safe and untainted either by the destruction of moral impulses and inhibitions… Do they wait for their chance to pay back the executioners in their own coin? Yes, but first they learn the secrets of life in which this coin is currency."


The New Republic 17.06.2009 (USA)

You couldn't describe it as a good article but its frothing vitriol does make for rather compelling reading. In "The Puffington Host", Isaac Chotiner charts the career path taken by Ariana Huffington after publishing her first books under the name of Stassinopoulos and attracting attention for her reactionary statements about feminism. "It takes a particular kind of intelligence to understand when to swim against the current and when to ride the wave." But she has remained consistent in one thing: her hatred of the press. Then comes the usual culture-clash rant about her blog, the Huffington Post :"Some tough questions must be asked also about the powerful digital interlopers. For the blogosphere and the news aggregators that dominate cyberspace are completely reliant - completely parasitic - on the very institutions they are driving to bankruptcy."

Further articles: Michael Kinsley is not satisfied with the new concept for Newsweek. Anne Applebaum reviews "Spies - The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America" (excerpt) by a collective of three authors. And Peter Green reads a new translation (excerpt) of C.P. Cavafy's poems by Daniel Mendelsohn.


Merkur 01.06.2009 (Germany)

Our concept of literature, how it is "discussed, reviewed, analysed, protected by copyright, illegally printed and parodied" is all tied to the printing press, explains Michel Caouli. But what will happen when we read books electronically? And our reading devices are able to filter out unnecessary words, or protracted descriptions of the landscape? "Using text for my own needs means that I will no longer do what scholars, critics and many ordinary readers do: I will no longer interpret the text, I will not read with the intention of understanding the author's intentions. If I watch Martin Scorsese's 'Good Fellas' without sound, opting to listen instead to a Handel aria with no consideration of the original context of this work, if I abstract adverbs from Rohinton Mistry's prose – all this is only possible if I first relieve myself of the obligation to stay true to the work. Under certain conditions (in a classroom for example, or with a scientific article) it can be interesting to determine the complex intentions of the author, but there is no reason why my use of the text should stop at that."


Prospect 01.06.2009 (UK)

The June issue focusses on the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Parag Khanna travelled several thousands of kilometres into the poorest regions to the West, near to the border with Tibet. The writer and political commentator Ian Buruma talks about returning to the country after ten years and finding it virtually unrecognisable. He discovered no spirit of resistance in the people, but pins his hopes on the dissidents who last year signed the Charta 08 for democracy and respect of human rights."

Diane Wei Lang
, one of the student protesters in 1989 and now a writer living in New York, paints a similar picture. In an article about the changes of the last twenty years, she writes: "If anything, the political significance of Tiananmen outside China has grown over the years, and it is almost universally assumed that China will never be whole as a modern country until it faces up to the truth of these events. I believed this myself for years." For the past fourteen years, she has returned to her country every year. "The further it has lifted the living standards of its citizens, the more remote the memory of Tiananmen has become. The generation born since the protest are not only unaware of what really happened in 1989, they are not interested. They live in a new China. They have the freedom to speak their minds, if not in print, certainly in private. ...We in the west should not use Tiananmen as a stick with which to beat China. We should instead help the country to move forward, improve its human rights, protect its environment, further eliminate poverty and create wealth for its people and, in time, for the world. That is what will truly honour the ideals of the young protesters of 20 years ago."

Other articles deal with British education standards and "Sarko, the sex dwarf"


Le Nouvel Observateur 28.05.2009 (France)

Under the title "The pig is always to blame" French historian, Michel Pastoureau, who has written numerous histories of colours, symbols and even stripes, talks about his cultural history of the pig: "Le Cochon. Histoire d'un cousin mal aime" (Gallimard). He explains the unique love-hate relationship of human beings towards swine. "It has to do with the close biological kinship to pigs. It is not only morphologically that humans resemble pigs so closely. Which is why we use them for so many medical products (far more than apes): insulin, also the adrenal glands are used, we take bits of their skin... Doctors in Antiquity and Arabs in the Middle Ages knew things that are only being fully confirmed by modern medicine today. The insides of a pig are identical to our own! Pig organs can be transplanted into humans. With modern surgery, a sow could even carry a human embryo! I don't know what the psychological implications of having been inside the belly of a pig would be, but it's been done in Canada."


Times Literary Supplement 30.05.2009 (UK)

Jane Yager reviews historian Karl Schlögel's "Terror und Traum" an "extraordinary work of scholarship, prose and remembrance" that is dedicated to saving the victims of Stalin's attrocities from a second death, this time in Western memory. "Calling his book a 'narrative of simultaneity', Schlögel draws out harrowing ironies and concurrences" in 1937 Moscow. "The public celebration of the opening of the Moscow–Volga Canal coincided with the execution of the overseers of its construction. A popular book praising the USSR's affinities with the United States appeared at a time when individuals could be shot for real or imagined personal connections to America. While the Soviet secret police drew up their execution lists of the imagined internal enemy, a real external enemy was making its own 'to-kill' lists for Moscow – and many of the same names appear on both the Soviet and the Nazi lists. About Red Square, Schlögel writes: 'Everything converges: a ticker-tape parade and a plebiscite on killing, the atmosphere of a folk festival and the thirst for revenge, a rollicking carnival and orgies of hate. Red Square as the true arena of the year 1937: at once fairground and gallows'." Read our feature by Karl Schlögel on the fall of the Wall.


Bookforum 01.06.2009 (USA)

A bevy of new publications from the African continent prompt James Gibbons to make comparisons with the explosion of Latin American authors in the sixties. But he does draws one key distinction: "The literature of the Latin American boom was already formed within the region's own institutions and coteries before being packaged in translation and exported. The new African writing is emphatically not homegrown. Forged in the crucible of globalization, it is a literature largely of displacement and exile. Very few of [the authors] especially the younger ones, live in the countries in which they were born. Nearly all the Francophone writers have settled in France, and the typical English-language writer has an American MFA and professorship."

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