?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

16/06/2009

Magazine Roundup

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

Salon.eu.sk | Outlook India | The New York Review of Books | MicroMega | The New Republic | Polityka | The Guardian | Le Figaro | The Economist | Elet es Irodalom | Le Nouvel Observateur | The Nation | Die Weltwoche | Le Monde diplomatique | The New York Times


Salon.eu.sk 09.06.2009 (Slovakia)

Polish writer Pawel Huelle lists nine mostly positive changes that have happened in his country since 1989. Here is the sixth: "Poland's greatest success since 1989 has been its local government. I know what I'm saying since I always vote for the candidate in my local elections who promises to and really does, build the greatest number of bicycle lanes. And since I ride my bike from spring to autumn I am in excellent contact with reality and thus have full control over the meeting of election promises. At the moment the number of cycle lanes in Gdansk is increasing at a pace incomparably faster than in any other Polish city, which makes me, simply and selfishly, happy. (...) Is this an insignificant detail? I don't think so. Quality of life is expressed precisely in such seemingly minor details, not just in great ideas, continuous discussions, demands, reckonings or accusations. I could go on and on about this. Yet, by singing the praises of bicycle lanes in my city I wish to stress that my vote, that of a potential voter interested in specific way of expending public monies, does count."

Outlook India 22.06.2009 (India)

Shama Zaidi fondly remembers the popular dramatist, theatre director and actor Habib Tanvir, who died on June 8. At the end of the fifties Tanvir travelled through Europe where Bertolt Brecht's Berliner Ensemble left a powerful impression on him. "The influence of Brecht made him discard all that he had learnt in England. He took to heart Brecht's dictum that theatre needs to be fun, like the music-hall or football. Some of the Brechtian concepts had already been tried out by him in his production of 'Agra Bazar' and 'Shatranj ke Mohre' which were produced by the Okhla Theatre Group. But the example of the Berliner Ensemble inspired him to use song and dance as part of the theatrical style."

All in all Arif Mohammed Khan was generally satisfied with Barack Obama's Cairo speech. With one minor objection: "Today, Islam or Muslims are not confined to any one particular geographical region; in fact more than 80 percent of Muslims belong to non-Arab lands, including the US. But in President Obama's speech, a faith like Islam and a nation-State like America are placed side by side as two equivalent entities. On the other hand, Egyptian and Lebanese religious minorities have been described by their racial denominations such as Coptic and Maronites, and not by their Christian faith. I do not see any design behind this idiom and terminology, but it appears that President Obama has unwittingly used the language of the pan-Islamist radicals. Right from Jamaluddin Afghani to Osama bin Laden, the ideological plank of pan-Islamists has been that Muslims are not only adherents of one common religion but they constitute one single political community.

Further articles: Namrata Joshi was less than happy about the new Star Trek film. And Daniel Lak explains in his Toronto diary how Ruby Dhalla, a Punjab-born Canadian politician, has been a breath of fresh air in a "house full of boring men."


The New York Review of Books 02.07.2009 (USA)
Nicholas D. Kristof tackles a selection of new books about Darfur, focusing in particular on Mahmood Mamdani's "Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror". Mamdani is deeply critical of the "Save Darfur" campaign, accusing it of unilaterally blaming the massacres on the Sudanese Arabs, without consideration of context or Sudan's complex history. Kristof agrees with Mamdani's criticism to a certain extent: "Yet every mass slaughter has had its complexities. Turks bitterly protest the designation of the 1915 killings of Armenians as genocide because the killings happened during a war and an uprising by Armenians. In the case of the Cambodian slaughter in the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge targeted people on the basis of education, urban background, or whim, but not for their race, religion, or nationality, so by a strict definition the savagery of Pol Pot is not genocide. In short, complexities always abound, and yet the central truth that resonates through history is that governments have targeted groups of people and slaughtered them."

Further articles: Michael Dirda recommends Patricia Highsmith's "perversely entertaining" Ripley novels. Jonathan Mirsky introduces the English translation of the memoirs of Chinese reform politician Zhao Ziyang who, until his death in 2005, lived under house arrest for refusing to take action against the students protesting on Tiananmen Square. Malise Ruthven reads new books on Iran. Tony Judt writes an obituary for Amos Elon.

MicroMega 11.06.2009 (Italy)

Fools, a parliament and a government of fools. Furio Colombo describes the pompous state reception for the Libyan head of state Muammar al-Gadaffi (complete with a tent in the garden of the Villa Doria Pamphili) as a pathetic farce: "What are we celebrating in Italy in the Palazzo Chigi and in the Senate, at the grand Roman receptions, in the idiotic and barbaric ritual of 1000 women requested by the bloodthirsty Libyan clown and granted by the party-mad Italian clown, while posing like an ageing James Bond with his hundred female body guards? The truth about this Roman feast is that we are celebrating a twofold spilling of the blood of innocents: firstly the victims of terror attacks like Lockerbie (no one knows or has ever published the complete list of Gaddafi's terrorist activities), and secondly, the fate of those migrants who were killed in the desert, in the sea, in the Libyan camps – in the name of and at considerable expense (5 billion dollars) to the Italy of Maroni, Bossi and Berlusconi."

The New Republic 01.07.2009 (USA)

Sharp-witted, sharp-tongued and not particularly friendly is how the New Republic's editor-in-chief, Martin Peretz, describes Barack Obama's Cairo speech (transcript and video). He also pins down some elements of the Obama rhetoric: "Two grand but antithetical stories about the same problem, awaiting him and his Olympian skill for the discovery of 'common ground': That is Obama's favorite script. He regards himself as a kind of unprecedented referee between histories and philosophies. He likes to think that he can see what others cannot see and that, therefore, they must come to him if they wish to live in peace and with meaning."


Polityka 12.06.2009 (Poland)

Adam Szostkiewicz takes to task (here in German) the Pis and other Poles who confuse patriotism with self-justification and who discredit self-criticism as treason. "Hannah Arendt wrote: the evil committed by my people saddens me much more than the evil committed by other peoples'. And Europe is indeed moving in the direction of critical history, a far cry from self-satisfied consensus-seeking. Which is why the Spiegel report (here in English) about Hitler's European Holocaust helpers met with a less sceptical reaction in Europe than from our nationalist Right (and Left)... The same goes for the unfortunate sentence in the European election brochure of the German Christian Democrats [about the right of expellees to return to their homeland]. In Europe this was understood more as an appropriate condemnation of expulsion itself, than as a sign of some revisionist threat to Poland's sovereignity. Of course expulsion is always terrible. Even if the expellees or those who have been resettled are German. To admit this does not mean distorting history or whitewashing blame, it is simply an expression of a certain empathy which comes quite naturally in Europe today."


The Guardian 13.06.2009 (UK)

Maya Jaggi met Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami in Paris, because the British authorities didn't want to let him into the country without a guarantee that he wouldn't become a refugee. His film, "Shirin", which comes out in the UK next week, writes Jaggi, is "90 minutes of close-ups of more than 100 women - including a headscarved Juliette Binoche - as they watch a film based on a 12th-century poem by Nezami Ganjavi about a love triangle involving an Armenian princess and a Persian prince. Light from a screen flickers on the women's faces; their expressions alone create the drama.... For Kiarostami, the 'beauty of art lies in the reaction it causes'."

Julian Bell writes a fascinating article about the exhibition "Colour Chart" which examines the role colour still plays in art, after Richter, Warhol and Stella declared it the "bleating of a passe expressionism". "'Any universality in the experience of colour is an illusion,' claims Ann Temkin, the curator of the exhibition that has recently opened at Tate Liverpool. Citing anthropological studies, she explains that some other languages fail - bizarrely, you might think - to distinguish between the experiences that English identifies as 'blue' and 'yellow'. But she exaggerates. All known languages agree in finding a distinctive term for the spectrum's longest wavelengths, those thrust at us by blood and fire. Red is for sound reasons the most powerful of chromatic cues for attention. It makes sense to think of it as the starting point from which human colour consciousness gradually expanded."


Le Figaro 11.06.2009 (France)

At the age of 88 and almost 15 years after the publication of the last volume, writer Anne Golon succumbed to pressure from her fans in North America to republish her incredibly popular historical novel series which revolves around her heroine Angelique. So far five episodes have been reworked and restored to their original length (the editors cut the novels drastically), and have just been published by a house in Switzerland which was founded specifically for the purpose. On top of all this Golon is working on a new fourteenth volume. In a profile of the author, Francois Riviere writes about the phenomenon: "Readers from Minnesota admit that these books opened their eyes about 17th century France, others confess to their feelings for the irresistible Peyrac... Over the course of the years and 13 installments (...) this unusual literary project will now come to a head in a final episode of often hectic plotting, historical precision and contemporary questions all delivered with astonishing lightness." (Here an interview with the writer from 2008 on Youtube).


The Economist 12.06.2009 (UK)

Solar powered aircraft, the Economist reports, is in reach. The newest models are ready for manned testing, but the pace of progress is painfully slow. "Although it has a wingspan of 61 metres, HB-SIA has room only for a pilot. A quarter of the weight of HB-SIA is accounted for by its lithium-polymer batteries, which will power the four electrically driven propellers during the first test flights. As those flights become longer and higher, the aircraft will start to draw power from its solar cells. It will fly slowly, only at about 70kph in windless conditions. Its electric motors can produce a maximum of 9 kilowatts, or 12 horsepower — which is about the same as the Wright brothers had."

The reviews cover a study by Justin Fox on the "Myth of Rational Markets" (publishers site) and Patricia Fara's whistle stop history of "science" from Babylon to the present day (publishers site).


Elet es Irodalom 05.06.2009 (Hungary)

Hungarian theatre is much better known abroad than at home. Tamas Ascher's production of Chekov's "Ivanov" or Arpad Schilling's production of the "The Seagull" were international hits but no one wanted to see them in Hungary. Not even the intelligentsia visit the theatre, as theatre critic Tamas Koltai complains. "Even the most average novel will get much more media attention than a fantastic theatre production. [...] And it would go a long way if personalities from the other arts would at least do some moral lobbying for the theatre. [...] I find it depressing to hear intellectuals and artists boast in interviews about not going to the theatre. Theatre is a form of community which combines public communication with discipline, form and thought. It is almost the only such forum. It is indispensible."


Le Nouvel Observateur 11.06.2009 (France)

Under the title "The Great Disappointment" South African writer and comrade of Nelson Mandela Breyten Breytenbach takes stock of the situation in his country since the end of apartheid. His recently published collection of essays "Le Monde du milieu" (Actes Sud) includes a letter to Mandela on his 90th birthday last year, and complains bitterly about what Breytenbach describes as the "obscene" conditions in the country: violence, robbery, rape, racism and a absence of public morals. In his analysis of the reasons he explains: "This is the main question which all of us here are asking ourselves: Were we wrong about the moral quality of the freedom movement? Our liberation was the result of a long and painful process which also ensured the continuation of the same state. This throws up numerous problems because a certain percentage of old functionaries and notorious war criminals are still protected by the state. (...) So did the ANC fail? Many factors play a role here. During the changeover and restructuring of the South African authorities, old civil servants had to be replaced by new ones. This happened at the loss of enormous competence. Today 60 percent of all municipalities are bankrupt, primarily due to the negligence of the civil servants. You can say what you like about the old executive cadres, but they did create a mandarin caste which managed the country relatively efficiently."


The Nation 30.06.2009 (USA)

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro reads a number of interesting new books on the history of Cuba, the "empire of vice", about how the Jewish don Meyer Lansksy had the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista on his payroll until the latter fled the island with the advance of Fidel's barbudos. In passing we learn that the USA has had its eye on Cuba for a very long time. "After the United States took possession of Texas and California by war in 1848, many in Washington advocated annexing Cuba by force as well. The impulse was quashed for a time. Nevertheless, with Spain's empire sunk in a long decline, the United States' eventual possession of Cuba was viewed as inevitable for most of the nineteenth century."

Further articles: Jordan Stancil explains the success of the extreme right in Hungary as a result IMF and EU policy (another case of how "the social destruction wrought by market forces paved the way for fascism in Central Europe"). And Juan Cole hopes that Obama's Cairo speech will convert one and a half billion Muslims into Obama fans.

Die Weltwoche 11.06.2009 (Switzerland)

Dambisa Moyo, an economist and book author from Zambia, explains in an interview why aid is bad for Africa and tells the West to follow China's example. "The Chinese have achieved in ten years what, after 60, the West has still failed to achieve. They have built an infrastructure and created well over 100,000 jobs. In 2004 alone China invested 900 million dollars in Africa, compared with the USA's 10 miilion. China has bought copper and cobalt mines in Congo, iron and platinum mines in South Africa, textile plants in Lesotho, it invested 20 billion in Africa's largest bank, and 3 billion dollars in a Nigerian oilfield. By now 30 percent of China's crude oil imports come from Africa. China has built streets in Ethiopia, pipelines in Sudan, electricity plants in Ghana. It has built 30 clinics, 100 schools and 2000 students receive grants every year to study at Chinese universities." And Europe? "Africa loses 500 billion a year through trade embargoes. The EU protects its markets the most tightly. Every cow from the EU is sponsored with 2.5 dollars a day. That's more than one billion people in Africa have to live on." (More with Moyo at the BBC's "Hard Talk")

Le Monde diplomatique 12.06.2009 (Germany/France)

Adirana Rossi describes how the drug trade is eroding state and society in the Latin America and how it has changed its organisation since the big cartels were destroyed. It has democratised essentially: "The bosses of today are no longer the absolutist charismatic leaders of yesteryear, no one would describe them as spectacularly manly or unusually courageous. The various groups with their small bosses have come to an arrangement with one another and there is a certain room for manoeuvre. Anyone who doesn't play by the rule pays with his life and starts a gang war. This tendency has become the rule. All organisations have transformed into networks of clandestine cells which are easy to replace if their cover is blown. The collapse of one cell does not damage the whole. Vertical power pyramids are no more and and territorial expansion is easier. The drug networks are like a monstrous wall of fog."

Najam Sethi observes with some relief how, after Pakistan's military operations in the Swat Valley, popular support for the Taliban seems to being disappearing, even if two million people are having to flee the war zone – "this is the largest expulsion of civilians since the Second World War."


The New York Times
14.06.2009 (USA)

In a time of financial crisis and job stimulus packages, the New York Times Magazine focusses on infrastructure. Nicolai Ouroussoff, the paper's architecture critic is bowled over by Nicolas Sarkozy's new blueprint for Paris. Ouroussoff might have the building catastrophes of the sixties and seventies in the back of his mind but he allows himself to be sucked into Sarkozy's vision: "The plans presented for Grand Paris suggest that it is possible to believe, once again, that government can play a decisive role in achieving a truly egalitarian city - and that architecture is essential to that transformation."

Jon Gertner has written a reportage about Obama's fast train project for California. And Tom Vanderbilt visits some giant data centres to try to understand how the Internet can be so fast.

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