?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

29/09/2009

Magazine Roundup

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

Mother Jones | Le Monde | Clarin | The Economist | L'Espresso | The Boston Review | The Nation | Le Nouvel Observateur | The Times Literary Supplement | Artforum | Poets & Writers

Mother Jones 01.09.2009 (USA)

Al Gore drinks it, Barack Obama and Paris Hilton drink it. High society loves it and so do the greens: Fiji mineral water: "Even though it's shipped from the opposite end of the globe, even though it retails for nearly three times as much as your basic supermarket water, Fiji is now America's leading imported water, beating out Evian," writes Anna Lenzer in a breathtaking piece of reportage. "Nowhere in Fiji Water's glossy marketing materials will you find reference to the typhoid outbreaks that plague Fijians because of the island's faulty water supplies; the corporate entities that Fiji Water has - despite the owners' talk of financial transparency - set up in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg; or the fact that its signature bottle is made from Chinese plastic in a diesel-fueled plant and hauled thousands of miles to its ecoconscious consumers. And, of course, you won't find mention of the military junta for which Fiji Water is a major source of global recognition and legitimacy."

Sifted out of the July issue: The writer William T. Vollmann talks about his new book "Imperial", and why literature can be so much tricker to write than non-fiction: "I think that we're all, as human beings, so limited. If we want to write about ourselves, that's fairly easy. And if we write about our friends or our families, we can do that. But if we want to project ourselves somewhere beyond our personal experience we're going to fail unless we get that experience or we borrow it from others. When I go train hopping and I look up into the sky, there are always so many more stars than I remember there were."

Le Monde 28.09.2009 (France)

What if the fifty best journalists from the New York Times were to leave the daily and start up their own Internet paper? Xavier Ternison takes this question (originally posed by American blogger Michael Arrington) as a cue to examine the US phenomenon of personal branding in journalism, whereby journalists become brands which generate brand loyalty among their readers. "The rise of multimedia journalism has encouraged publishers to push the idea of the press as a brand: the magazine or newspaper as a guarantee of quality and credibility in the jungle of online information. But as a fantastic tool for information dissemination – and for self-promotion – the Internet could very well contribute to big-name journalists becoming brands themselves, that sell without help the help of a big-name newspaper behind them." Ternison cites Arrington, who pointed to two political journalists who left the Washington Post to start up the Politico website. "They took their brand and credibility with them, and the readers followed.


Clarin 26.09.2009 (Argentina)

"The future is no longer releasing energies." Hector Pavon interviews the French sociologist Michel Maffesoli, who is currently giving a series of seminars in Buenos Aires: "Work, Rationality, Future were the three big values of modernism. We have given our time the provisional name of post-modern, because we still don't have a better term. By 2050 we might have come up with one – one that highlights creativity, imagination and the present. Europe was the laboratory of modernism but Latin America and East Asia are the laboratories of 'this post-modernism.' Here people are working intensively on these things, here the imagination plays a major role, here it's not just about work, but about creation, here there's a future, but the present is always there, too. Europe also had its phases when everything was oriented towards the present, the Renaissance for example, or the 3rd and 4th Centuries, during the fall of the Roman empire – and, as I see it, we are heading towards another one now."

The Economist 28.09.2009 (UK)

"The single most transformative tool for development", according to one expert at Columbia University's Earth Institute, is the mobile phone. It is also the focus of this week's Economist. We learn how telecoms companies are innovating across technology deficits in the developing world – a lack of reliable power being only one example. And how, in Africa, mobile money now means financial transactions can be carried out simply and efficiently even in the most remote areas (although the banks doing their best to impede the progress of the unexpected competition). One of the knock-on effects is a boom in micro businesses, which make up 50 to 60 percent of business globally, and as much as 90 percent in Africa. "Porters, carpenters and other self-employed workers can advertise their services on lamp-posts and noticeboards and ask potential clients to get in touch with them. Iqbal Quadir, a Bangladeshi who moved to America and became an investment banker, likes to tell the story of a barber in Bangladesh who could not afford the rent for a shop, so he bought a mobile phone and a motorbike instead, scheduling appointments by phone and going to his clients' homes. This was more convenient for them and he was able to serve a larger area and charge higher fees."

L'Espresso 25.09.2009 (Italy)

Francesco Fonti is one of Italy's best known Mafiosi. Statements he made in 2005 led to widespread investigations into the Calabrian trade in radioactive waste. Now in a video on the Espresso website, he talks about his role in the Aldo Moro case. The former prime minister of the Italian Christian Democratic Party (DC) was kidnapped on May 16 1978 by the Red Brigades and murdered 54 days later. Fonti was – he says – hired by the DC to save Moro. Riccardo Bocca recorded his statement: "On the morning of March 20 1978, Giuseppe Romeo came to my flat on the Ionian coast in Calabria. He was the brother of Sebastiano, the head of the family from San Luca at the time. 'Sebastiano wants to see you immediately," he said. When you hear something like this you don't ask questions. Sebastiano was not only my boss, he was also one of the most powerful men of the 'ndrangheta. So I didn't try to discuss the matter, I just did as I was told and before long I was sitting at the oval table in his salon. I was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect. But he didn't beat about the bush. 'Ciccio, have you heard this nasty story about Aldo Moro?' he said. 'We have to do something. Go to Rome. You have to get help from our people and the contacts you have with those cocksuckers from the secret service, and find out where the Brigadists who kidnapped the president are hiding.' Sebastiano gave me no time to reply. He was nervous about the state of alarm that had been called with the Moro case. It was bad for the business of our organisation. 'I'm under pressure from two fronts,' he said. Riccardo Misasi and Vito Napoli called me (two leading members in the Calabrian CD at the time) as well as certain people in Rome....'"

The Boston Review 01.09.2009 (USA)

Great stuff to steal! Jordan Davis dives gleefully into several chunky anthologies of contemporary poetry from Germany, Russia, Vietnam and Turkey that have just been published in English. Davis looks forward to the trickle-down effect that this could have on American letters, citing T.S Eliot on the positive effects - even necessity - of literary theft: "In order to stop talking about themselves, to be inspired, to say something recognizable in an unfamiliar way, poets make believe, generalize, extrapolate from an overspecific detail, and otherwise appropriate what is not theirs. Translation and signaling foreign influence are some of the more prestigious means to effect this escape from the self and its unchallengeable rules, even if they only lead to alien rules, equally unchallengeable. Indeed, Eliot, a bit of a rule freak, emphasized both the importance of stealing from sources 'remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest,' and making what is taken into something better."


The Nation 28.09.2009 (USA)

The capitalism critic Naomi Klein watched Michael Moore's latest film "Capitalism: A Love Story" and loved it. In conversation (also available as podcast) the two also talk about Barack Obama and his capitalism-friendly advisers and ministers such as Lawrence Summer and Timothy Geithner. This is what they have to say: "NK: Exactly. So what I worry about is this idea that we're always psychoanalyzing Obama, and the feeling I often hear from people is that he's being duped by these guys. But these are his choices, and so why not judge him on his actions and really say, "This is on him, not on them? MM: I agree. I don't think he is being duped by them; I think he's smarter than all of them. When he first appointed them I had just finished interviewing a bank robber who didn't make it into the film, but he is a bank robber who is hired by the big banks to advise them on how to avoid bank robberies. So in order to not sink into a deep, dark pit of despair, I said to myself that night, That's what Obama's doing. Who better to fix the mess than the people who created it? He's bringing them in to clean up their own mess. Yeah, yeah. That's it. That's it. Just keep repeating it."

Further articles: William F. Baker, a journalism professor and long-term president of the US public radio station Wnet calls for foundations and the state to come to the rescue of the newspapers. He recommends the British BBC and German public TV as shining examples. Marina Harss celebrates the St. Petersburg-born dancer and choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, who is the first ever "artist in residence" at the American Ballet Theatre (watch a short video of his choreography).


Le Nouvel Observateur 24.09.2009 (France)

In his latest book "Pari de civilisation" (Seuil), essayist, lyricist, and professor Abdelwahab Meddeb makes a renewed appeal for an enlightened Islam to bridge East and West. In an interview he explains, among other things, why such thoughts are more likely to stem from the West than from Arab- Muslim coutries. "The intellectual power of the Islamic world has shifted towards Europe and America. Both countries participate in the post-colonial phenomenon of migration, and this includes intellectual immigration. This means that vast numbers of originally Islamic researchers and academics practise Islamic Studies as an international field of research. Their contributions have freed the field of Orientalism and ethnocentrism. (...) Our work here has a knock-on effect over there: we who want to modernise Islam stand facing those who want to Islamise modernity. This modernising work also effects Europe because in the West we need a modern Islam that is compatible with secularisation."


The Times Literary Supplement 25.09.2009 (UK)

There are authors who purport to know from the outset of writing a novel, how it will end. Or whose characters essentially "write themselves". William Golding was not one of them, as demonstrated clearly in "Darkness Visible", a book which took over ten years to write, Allan Massie learns from John Carey's biography. "John Carey recounts the plot in detail, with notes about the way the novel changed in the writing. 'Windover', Golding noted in January 1974, 'now I think is possibly a coloured gent' who might be extradited to a country that would 'do him', perhaps Portugal. Two years later, Carey remarks, he reminds himself that ‘the proper person for the British Government to sell for oil would be a Jew', so perhaps Windover could be a 'coloured Jew' who is 'framed' by MI5 and maybe the CIA as well. He told his Monteith, his publisher, 'The basic difficulty is that I don't know what the damn thing is about either'. He had written so many versions that 'I can’t remember what is which'."


Artforum 01.09.2009 (USA)

"Shocked into Abstraction" is the name of an exhibition by writer and artist Matias Faldbakken, which showed at the Nationalmuseum in Olso until 20th September and is headed for the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, UK. After an introduction by Ina Blom, Feldbakken describes his concept for the show: he started off by leaving everything where the transportation people offloaded it: "Once that was done, anything I did in the museum space would be a bit arbitrary. This strategy is linked to my general attempt to do things in a really halfhearted way, to make halfheartedness the core of my production, so to speak, as if very little were at stake. And it is clear to me that the museum - even if it's a place where I might not want to spend all my time - is the only institution that allows you to work in such a manner. I cannot imagine any other place where such a practice would be possible and even appreciated. And so my work turns around all the conflicts and ironies that come with the institutionalization of these kinds of strategies."

The online version also has articles by Thomas Crow, Claire Bishop and Linda Norden about the Venice Biennale.


Poets & Writers 01.09.2009 (USA)

In an epic interview, Georges Borschardt, who was born in 1928 in Berlin (and still looks fabulous), tells about his experiences as a literary agent. Basically the business has changed very little, he says: The biggest change came when the publishers were replaced by managers: "You don't necessarily make the money out of the flavor of the month. The real money, if you're in it for the duration, comes from books like that - from books nobody wanted - be they by William Faulkner or Elie Wiesel or Beckett or many others. Unfortunately, that argument is totally unconvincing to publishers now. If you're an editor at Random House or one of the other large firms, you can't say, 'We're not going to make any money on this book for the next three years, but in ten years everybody will be envious of us for having it.' The guy you're saying it to has two years to go on his contract, which is about to be renegotiated next year. What good does it do him to have a book that will bring in money ten years from now? He couldn't care less! He wants the book that makes money now so he can tell his bosses, 'You should give me another contract for five years at twice the salary.' So it's become different, and I think that's what's weighing on publishing, more than any of the other crises that come and go."

In China a new literary genre has been growing in popularity for a number of years. Stephen Morison Jr. presents the Officialdom novel: "Fans claim that the novels offer rich entertainment while providing valuable insights into the byzantine system of manners and etiquette that is the key to success at white-collar jobs in China, but the trend might signal a much more significant shift in the culture-one that goes beyond matters of literary taste. Wang Yuewen is widely credited with writing the first successful Officialdom novel, 'Painting', in 1998. 'I gradually learned that it was hard to gain promotion with talent or hard work,' the former bureaucrat said in an interview with China Daily, the country's largest online English-language news service. So he turned to writing fiction that draws from his personal experience navigating the complicated machinations of the Communist government and government-controlled industries. Since then the genre has blossomed."

And Alex Dimitrov introduces the "The Invisible Library" blog, which collects books that are mentioned in novels but which do not actually exist. For example "The Endless Rose" by Hans Reiter in Roberto Bolano's "2666" or "When the Train Passes" by Elisabeth Ducharme in Vladimir Nabokov's "Bend Sinister". Recently there was an exhibition about these invisible books in London.

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