On the Death of Siegfried Lenz ? ?You have to justify your life?

Siegfried Lenz, one of the great writers of German post-war literature is dead. He died on 7 October 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.... more more

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01/09/2009

Magazine Roundup

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

Observer | Przekroj | Tygodnik Powszechny | spiked | Le Monde | Standpoint | Frontline | Eurozine | Magyar Narancs | The Economist | The Wall Street Journal | Nepszabadsag | The New York Times


Observer 30.08.2009 (UK)

The Russians don't want to hear a squeak about their role in starting WWII, writes Luke Harding. So they have a very different take from the Poles on the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which "saw Hitler and Stalin carve up Europe, with Moscow subsequently annexing Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, two-thirds of Poland and much of Romania. The Kremlin now argues that Stalin had no choice but to forge the pact with Hitler in August 1939. It says Britain and France made war inevitable by signing the Munich agreement. And it puts the boot firmly into Poland; the Kremlin says the country was a willing Nazi ally and accomplice to Hitler's partition of Czechoslovakia the previous year. (...) Russia has promised to reveal more documents about Poland on Tuesday from the secret archives of the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service. They follow the declassification of other top-secret surveillance documents, used by Moscow last week to defend Stalin's occupation of eastern Europe."

The 70th anniversary ceremony on the Westerplatte promises to be a lively affair! According to the German Tagesspiegel newspaper, the Polish paper Dziennik has now announced that "to coincide with the September 1 anniversary, a Russian historian will be publishing a book called 'The Secrets of Polish Foreign Policy 1935 -1945'. On the basis of documents that were top secret until now, he reveals that Poland signed an agreement with the Third Reich in a secret additional protocol on the German-Polish non-aggression pact of 1934, as well as on the division of Lithuania and Czechoslovakia. 'Lies, lies and more lies,' thunders the Dziennik commentator in reply, and compares the historian with Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels."


Przekroj 27.08.2009 (Poland)

Poland was certainly no goody two-shoes in the 1930s, but in 1939 they did the right thing at the right moment, says the controversial essayist Tomasz Lubienski, who has just published a book on the outbreak of WWII, in an interview. "One could say, with some pathos, that September 1 and the fact that Poland resisted Hitler, was an atonement for the Second Republic. As a country, Poland had been playing the super power, treating its weaker neighbours and problematic minorities with brutality. It was a country in which large numbers of the population were inflamed by nationalistic propaganda and delusions of grandeur. One should not forget that we were playing into Hitler's hands for quite some time. One should also not forget who he was, and what was happening in Germany – with the Jews. This tolerance towards Hitler was widespread throughout Europe. And yet our foreign minister, Jozef Beck, who was responsible for all the mistakes of Polish politics at that time, did a great and righteous thing at a critical time, by refusing to comply with Germany's wishes and take on Russia jointly. He changed the history of the world, more so than all other Polish heroes together: he played a role on the world's stage. (Read the reportage about the end of the Second Polish Republic in Time Magazine from 2 October, 1939)


Tygodnik Powszechny 30.08.2009 (Poland)

In a special supplement on the outbreak of WWII 70 years ago, Patrycja Bukalska quotes from memoirs written immediately before and after the war started: "At the end of August I heard about about mobilisation and I locked what I had written of my PhD thesis in the cupboard," writes Zdzislaw Jezioranski (more here) "I never thought that it would be forever or that this highly promising chapter in my life was about to be nipped in the bud. Indeed there was a pleasant sense of excitement in the air about things to come, as long, one thought, as things would return to normal after a while or perhaps a bit longer, and our lives would continue where they left off (...) Everyone was in good spirits, no one was worried."

Further articles: Joachim Trenkner writes a countdown of the last twelve days of peace; Piotr M. Majewski describes the "Museum of the Second World War" (under construction) and analyses the Polish defence strategy of September 1939; Tomasz Zuroch-Piechowski remembers that the famous Westerplatte was (and is) more than just a military defence base; Bartlomiej Noszczak reconstructs Hitler's road to war and to the pact with Russia.

Further articles: Not that the writer Miron Bialoszewski, who died in 1983, has been forgotten, but with the first-time publication of his book "Chamowo" we can now discover him anew. "It seems we have matured enough to really treasure his writing – we, being the better class of readers and writers in Polish culture," writes Adam Poprawa.

spiked 28.08.2009 (UK)

Nathalie Rothschild tracks the enmity that developed between Sweden and Israel after the publication of an article in the Swedish tabloid Postille Aftonbladet, claiming that the Israelis were dealing in the organs of murdered Palestinians. The Israelis immediately demanded an apology from the Swedish government and threatened to freeze entry visas for Swedish journalists. But, Rothschild notes, no one mentioned journalistic standards: "A cobbled-together piece of hearsay and prejudices passed muster with the paper's editors and is now defended by the paper as a valid piece of reporting. Unfortunately, the overreaction of Israeli politicians to this affair has only allowed Aftonbladet to claim the moral highground as some kind of free speech warrior when, in fact, its editors are defending the freedom to let conspiracy theories pass for serious journalism."


Le Monde 29.08.2009 (France)

The concept of human rights did not originate in either the USA or France, but in Haiti, writes Jean-Michel Caroit, in an article about the Haitian Revolution of 1791, the subject of a recent conference in Paris: "According to the anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot, this revolution was "unthinkable" because it was so radical in the context of the dominant thinking of the time. It transcends the French or the American revolution because the concept of human rights was applied to the humanity as a whole, with no differentiation between races or sexes. The authors of the human rights declaration of 1789 were referring to the 'white' western man when they wrote 'Les hommes naissent et demeurent libres et egaux en droit.' The Haitian revolution adds the word 'all': 'All human beings...'"


Standpoint 01.09.2009 (UK)

Standpoint devotes two articles to the systematic oppression of women in the Islamic world. Nick Cohen asks why religiously propagated misogyny is not discussed in the West. Why does no one object when women are locked in their own homes, hidden under veils, forced into arranged marriages, raped and stoned. "Governments that stifle half their populations do not face boycotts or demonstrations outside their embassies, motions of condemnation at international conferences or opprobrium in everyday political discourse.
The comparison with the international anger directed at Apartheid is instructive. The oppression of blacks was once an affront to the conscience of the world. When we turn to the oppression of women, however, we find that the United Nations loses its conscience and encourages the ideologies of their oppressors."

Clive James asks how Western feminists can turn a blind eye to the "honour killing" of women (he can only explain it as perverted multicultural ideology, what Pascal Bruckner termed 'the racism of the anti-racists). "We are told that when it comes to a case of honour, Jordan is one of the more progressive Islamic communities. In Jordan, only one quarter of all homicides are cases of honour. In the Palestinian sectors of the West Bank and in Gaza, the proportion is two thirds. In Pakistan about 1,000 women get killed every year, and a startling, if lesser, incidence of ritual murder is true wherever Pakistanis live in the outside world. When a girl in a British Pakistani community is set on fire by her brothers, or has her face ruined with acid by a rejected candidate for the role of husband, we hear about it in the newspapers, although seldom for long. But in Pakistan such incidents aren't news at all. They happen three times a day. They are part of the culture."


Frontline 15.08.2009 (Pakistan)

Frontline has compiled a highly informative dossier on the subject of "honour killings" in India. And, no, this is not about Muslims and the victims are just as likely to be men as women. "Honour killings" are particularly common in the North West of India, which is home to the Jats. The Jats are an ethic group who live in both India and Pakistan and though most of them are Hindus there are also significant numbers of Muslims and Sikhs among them. Unofficially they are ruled by the self-appointed caste panchayats (more here) who enforce strict observance of traditional rules. These include the incredibly complicated rules on marriage, explains T.K. Rajalakshmi, citing the example of a village in Haryana (map). "According to the 'brotherhood' principle on which the caste panchayat organise themselves, marriages cannot take place between people of different castes. Within the same caste, marriages should not take place between people of the same gotra (clan). Even when the gotras are different, people living in the same village or adjoining villages cannot marry." It goes without saying that under such circumstances brides and grooms do not know one another, but are forced by their parents into arranged marriages with strangers. Thousands of young couples who are taking a stand against these rules – the article lists a number of cases – and have been condemned to death by one of the panchayats, lynched by a village mob, and seen their relatives threatened and hounded.

Further articles: In an interview Brinda Karat, an MP for the Indian Communist Party, explains that no one knows how high the number of "honour killings" really is. When she inquired about the issue in parliament, she was told was that such as category was not recognised and, therefore, there was no separate collection of data for it. Political scientist Ranbir Singh explains the historical and political background of the khap panchayat. Lawyer and women's rights activist Kirti Singh explains in an interview that the "honour killings" are an expression of an intolerant society's "disrespect for young people's wishes". She calls for a special law "that views these killings as community killings and seeks to punish or make liable such panchayats." Venkitesh Ramakrishnan reports on a number of barbaric murders of young couples (the victims were chopped into pieces) in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh (map) and describes the silence that surrounds the murders: neither the villagers nor the political parties have sought to make a statement. More significantly, the main political parties refuse to admit "that the caste panchayat is an illegitimate extra-judicial agency with no constitutional validity". T.K Rajalakshmi cites a number of court rulings related to "honour" killings.

And S. Dorairaj notes that "honour killings" are not confined to India's northern states, they are also committed in south-eastern state of Tamil Nadu (map). There, however, the victims are almost exclusively women. And there is a local twist to the killings – the female victims are then deified. "S. Madasamy, a former coordinator of the 'Arivoli Iyakkam' (literacy movement), who has conducted an extensive study on the history of little-known female deities, said honour killings still continued in the state and were usually committed by intolerant relatives of women who had taken control of their own lives or had chosen partners on their own. To escape police action and stall legal measures, the perpetrators of such crimes glorified the victims by installing a 'putam', a mound of earth or a small structure made of bricks, in the villages and deified them, he said. ... The devotees and priests of these temples assert that the deified women had disappeared owing to supernatural powers and were not murdered." Madasamy found over 300 such altars in the 1990s.


Eurozine 24.08.2009 (Austria)

Hungarian writer Janos Hay describes his impressions of India in a breathlessly paced translation by Judith Sollosy. This is the opening passage: "If you can't stand others encroaching on your space, breaking through the wall that you're used to having between you and them, you lose. If you can't stand others touching you, handling you, laying their hands on your shoulders, so that when they retreat, there is nothing but smoke and noise that comes between you, you lose. You're standing on Chandni Chawk, the market of old Delhi, a loser, the sounds assault your brain, and as the muezzin chants, you can't even remember where you're headed. It's coming from a loudspeaker. Apparently, the old-style religion does not frown upon this new-style technical assistance. You see the demarcation line between the Hindu and the Muslim Delhi as the sound breaks through it from time to time. Of course, terrorists also want to violate borders now and then, so the public buildings are protected by soldiers equipped with machine guns crouching behind sandbags, watching over what, as the Mumbai attacks prove, appears to be public safety. You are suddenly scared, anything can happen anywhere, but if you're scared, you lose."

The only other writing by Janos Hay available in English can be also be found online: the short story "The Sun", which was published in the European Cultural Review.


Magyar Narancs 27.08.2009 (Hungary)

The weekly paper comments on the recent arrests following a spate of brutal murders of Roma in Hungary, and calls for a thorough investigation to prevent it happening again. "First we have to face the fact that a Hungarian is capable of serial murder of this sort, that racial hatred can motivate our people to kill children. But this 'mental exercise' somehow seems to be beyond a remarkably large amount of the population – members of the elite included. Our president, for example, made an early statement in which he took to task those who were making "unfounded claims" about the murders having an ethnic background. 'Hungary accused of ritual killings' was the headline of the Heti Valasz in May, followed by an article which raged against those Hungarians who had supposedly betrayed Hungary in the foreign press (by 'cooking up' racist motives for the murders). What sort of an absurd distortion of national pride is this! As if the entire country was being blamed for these cold-blooded murders; as if the mere suggestion that a Hungarian could be capable of such a shameful act was the equivalent of treason! As if this blow to Hungary's reputation was the greatest problem here – and not the fact that our countrymen are killing people in their sleep, just because they are Roma."


The Economist 31.08.2009 (UK)

US journalist Christopher Caldwell has written a deeply pessimistic book about the effects of Islam on Europe (excerpt). The multicultural culture of tolerance, he argues, has only itself to blame. "Europe's indigenous population is ageing fast, with a quarter of it over 60. Immigrants have large families. Moreover, Europe is no match for Islamic self-confidence: 'When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident and strengthened by common doctrines, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter.'" The Economist critic is not convinced, and accuses Caldwell of exaggerating European relativism and the closeness of the Islamic population: "He all but ignores the multiple examples of upward mobility and successful integration. He dwells on the fact that many Muslim men feel emasculated by the success of their women without bothering to wonder why so many of the women are successful." And yet, the magazine holds, the book is important - and the 500-odd reader comments so far seem to agree.

In a further article the Economist comments on the plans of newspaper bosses to move away from free online news: "Newspapers have plenty of options for charging online, but no sure bets". The title and subtitle of the review of "Inglorious Basterds" says it all: "Making the unfunny funny. But better if you don’t see this as a film about the Holocaust".


The Wall Street Journal 24.08.2009 (USA)

Joe Queenan, satirist and author (more here), wonders how their contemporaries would have reviewed the work of Shakespeare or Sophocles, had Amazon reviews existed back in the day. "Of course, some reviewers can get a bit coarse and personal in the rough-and-tumble world of Internet interfacials, but for the most part these gifted amateurs inject a much-needed breath of fresh air into the reviewing process. Most appealing is their absolute fearlessness when it comes to trashing high-profile authors that mainstream reviewers would hesitate to mix it up with." Queenan then rolls off a series of fantasy reviews – for Copernicus' "On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres" for example: "Average Reader Rating: Three stars. Those who have read my countless reviews elsewhere know that I am a mathematician, astronomer, polyglot and philosopher in my own right, and therefore uniquely qualified to discuss everything from Zeno's Paradox to Gordian's Knot. Mostly, I think my fellow polymath Copernicus has done a pretty solid job here. The thing most laymen don't realize—unlike mathematicians/ philosophers/astronomers/polymaths like me (as those familiar with my numerous other reviews can tell you)—is that people like Copernicus are really good with numbers. Just as I am. Really, really good. (Me, that is.) Readers seeking more of my unique insights can reach me at Igor@mymommysbasement.com."


Nepszabadsag 29.08.2009 (Hungary)

The Modem gallery in the Hungarian city of Debrecen recently opened an exhibition entitled "Messiahs. Masterpieces of Modern Art about Salvation, from Pablo Picasso to Bill Viola. Other artists include Munch, Kokoschka, Chagall, Warhol, Bacon, Nitsch, Serrano. Julianna P. Szücs can find little art historical significance to this otherwise bombastic exhibition. "Not just because convincing works of art are often missing behind the big names. Not because you can accommodate anything under the Messiah theme, even its opposite; nor even because there's no chronological observance or even a sensitively qualitative selection. [...] Simply because the curator's starting point - 'can man be saved in the culture of western modernism? - is utterly foreign to art itself. Art cannot and does not want to answer such artificial questions. It was just as pointless in the past to torment art with questions about the workers' movement or environmental protection. For a while art plays dead and allows itself to be thrown about. It obeys every organisational whim. When curators, cultural managers and politicians meditate on salvation, it will play along for a while. But then it goes off its own way again – and in the worst case scenario, visitor records might not be broken."


The New York Times 30.08.2009 (USA)

Jonathan Lethem is beside himself: after an 11 year hiatus Lorrie Moore has published a new book, "A Gate at the Stairs". "I'm aware of one — one — reader who doesn't care for Lorrie Moore, and even that one seems a little apologetic about it. 'Too . . . punny,' my friend explains, resorting to a pun as though hypnotized by the very tendency that sets off his resistance. For others, Moore may be, exactly, the most irresistible contemporary Ameri­can writer: brainy, humane, unpretentious and warm; seemingly effortlessly lyrical; Lily-Tomlin-funny. Most of all, Moore is capable of enlisting not just our sympathies but our sorrows. ... As for the puns, they seem to me less an eagerness to entertain than a true writerly obsession. Moore is an equal-opportunity japester: heroes and villains both crack wise with Chandleresque vivacity, so you can't use cleverness as a moral index. The wrinkly recursiveness of her language seems lodged at the layer of consciousness itself, where Moore demands readers' attention to the innate thingliness of words."

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