?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

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27/10/2009

Magazine Roundup

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

Magyar Narancs | Der Spiegel | The New Republic | Le Nouvel Observateur | The New Yorker | Tygodnik Powszechny | Newsweek | L'Express | n+1 | Polityka | The Times Literary Supplement | Elet es Irodalom | The New York Times

Magyar Narancs 22.10.2009 (Hungary)

"The indictment against Radovan Karadzic could not be more ambitious," writes the weekly Magyar Narancs in the run-up to the trial of the alleged Serbian war criminal, who was due to go on trial in The Hague on October 26. The indictment accuses the former president of the Bosnian Serbs of genocide – and pillories the entire Repulika Srpska (the Bosnian-Serb Republic). "The public prosecutors in the Karadzic trial want to show what happened between 1992 and 1995 in the Balkans. They want to show how, under the leadership of Radovan Karadzic and a handful of his political allies, the state institutions of the Repulika Srpska were permeated by racist ideology, by ethnic and nationalist hatred. They want to show how the state, which emerged from this ideology and which was created to realise this ideology, carried out its horrific crimes. The raison d'etre of the Republika Srpska can be found in any Eastern European state and it is a local and extreme version of a broadly similar, post-romantic-nationalist ideology. This idea, this Eastern European plague is still poisoning people's lives from the Baltic to the Adriatic. And that goes for Hungary to. Which is why the Karadzic trial concerns us all."


Der Spiegel 26.10, 2009 (Germany)

For Spiegel Online, the court reporter, Gisela Friedrichsen, describes the first day of the trial of Alex W., the man who stabbed to death the Egyptian woman, Marwa al-Sherbini, in a Dresden courtroom last July. Friedrichsen was appalled by the plea delivered by Alex W.'s second defence lawyer, Viekko Bartel. She summarises his words: "Any mention of honour killings or calls for terrorist attacks are always met with an 'embarrassed silence' from the Muslims. You could never accuse Islam of presenting an 'image of love and mercy'. This should be taken into account when considering the case of the accused. In other words, the Muslims have only themselves to blame." Friedrichsen comments: "The justice system does not need lawyers like this. The trial in Dresden is taking place under the watchful eyes of the international media. It could be an opportunity to present the German justice system as independent and fair – were it not being so distorted by Herr Bartel. Dresden says he is the defendant's chosen barrister. So who is paying his fee? It's certainly not the welfare recipient Alex W."


The New Republic 04.11.2009 (USA)

Why was Gabriel Garcia Marquez such a fan of Fidel Castro? Enrique Krauze, editor of Letras Libres, uses the publication of Gerald Martin's new Marquez biography as an opportunity (here in the Spanish original) to examine in depth the writer's love for the dictator. For Krauze, though, Martin's biography verges on hagiography. For example, he finds it impossible to reconcile Garcia Marquez's declaration of journalistic ethics with his own concealment of the truth in Cuba, despite his possession of privileged inside information. "Eventually history makes both aesthetic and moral judgments. Aesthetically speaking, it is a little premature to say that Garcia Marquez is the 'new Cervantes.' But in moral terms, certainly, there is no comparison. A hero in the war against the Turks, wounded and maimed in battle, castaway and prisoner in Algeria for five years, Cervantes lived his ideals, his tribulations, and his poverty with Quixote-like integrity, and enjoyed the supreme freedom of accepting his defeats with humor. There is not a trace of such greatness of spirit in Garcia Marquez, who has avidly collaborated with oppression and dictatorship. Cervantes? Not by a long shot.'"


Le Nouvel Observateur 22.10.2009 (France)

Having just published a new collection of essays, the literary Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk talks in an interview, about the relationship of Turkey to Europe. He admits that he used to exaggerate the differences in the past, in order to better grasp the Turkish identity, but that he sees things very differently today. "Turkey has become more visible, showing both its beautiful and its dark sides, its human rights violations, its treatment of the Kurds (despite significant improvements) or its problematic relationship with the past. This once closed country is developing slowly but tangibly. The younger generation is much more open to Europe and lots of young people travel abroad. I no longer need to promote Europe as a cultural construction or reality, because it has a powerful presence, even if lots of Turks do not hold it as an ideal. When asked about the anti-European forces in his country, an alliance of ultra-nationalists, the mafia and a military splinter group, which has assassinated a number of intellectuals and threatened Pamuk, he says: "They are being tracked down by the law now. But they have caused quite a stir and this of course plays into the hands of the conservatives like Sarkozy and Merkel who are opposed to Turkey's EU accession."

There is also an interview with Volker Schlöndorff, whose memoirs have just been published in France.


The New Yorker 02.11.2009 (USA)

Jerome Groopman charts the advances in the use of therapeutic robots. He describes the case of one woman in particular, who was left without the use of one arm after a stroke. The software developer Maya Mataric developed a robot to help her do her therapeutic exercises, monitor progress and reward successes with a beep. The report shows how the patient tried to outwit the robot and stuck her tongue out at it: "'She is totally thrilled, because she thinks she cheated the robot.' The robot, though, was on to the game. A reflective white band that Mary wore on her leg allowed the robot to follow her movements. A thin motion sensor attached to her sleeve transmitted Mary's gestures to the robot, so that it knew almost instantly whether she was raising her arm and in what motion. A sensor in the rack signalled the robot when a magazine was properly placed, and the robot communicated with Mary only when she performed the task correctly. Although the task lasted about an hour, the novelty of the interaction did not seem to wane. In a debriefing after the study, Mary said, 'When I'm at home, my husband is useless. He just says, 'Do it.' I much prefer the robot to my husband.'"

Further articles: Elizabeth Kolbert reviews Cass R. Sunstein research "On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). David Denby watched Mira Nair's film biography "Amelia" about the American flight pioneer Amelia Earhart, Allan Miller's documentary "You Cannot Start Without Me – Valery Gergiev, Maestro" about the artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre and Frederick Wiseman's portrait of the Parisian opera ballet "La Danse". There is also a short story "While The Women Are Sleeping" by Javier Marias and poems from Nina Zivancevic and Spencer Reece.

Tygodnik Powszechny 25.10.2009 (Poland)

The Polish medieval historian Karol Modzelewski who was born 1937 and raised in Moscow, was an avowed communist and dissident alike. In an interview he condemns the sort of historiography which seeks to exorcise not analyse communism. And he defends himself against the claim that history must be useful. "Does history have to teach us something? It is not time we grew up and stopped our constant looking around for some sort of teacher?! 'Historia magistra vitae' – history can teach us amusing or educational stories, but we have to write our own recipes for living."

Further articles: the historian Bartlomiej Noszczak remembers that the Vatican under Pius Xll not only said nothing about the Holocaust, it also failed to take a position on the crimes committed by the occupying forces in Poland during the Second World War, many of which were against Catholics. And Michal Olszewski explains why the Polish government is making such a fuss about the planned EU climate fund – according to a number of estimatesm the Polish contribution would amount to almost five percent of annual state spending: "This would effectively create an extra giant voivodeship, populated by the poor from Africa, Asia and South America, with no access to water, farmland or basic consumer goods."


Newsweek 02.11.2009 (USA)

Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova portray the Russian politician and governor of Kirov, Nikita Belykh. Belykh, who was part of the liberal opposition in Russia, was appointed in 2009 by Medvedev, the authors say, to stand up to Putin and to run a socio-economic experiment in the chronically underdeveloped province of Kirov. Naturally he has run up against plenty of resistance: "Nevertheless, Belykh insists on running the place his way - as democratically as possible. He keeps his advisers working practically nonstop and has them debate all sides of any issue before he makes a decision on it. 'We plan to turn this region into the most transparent, corruption-free, and business-friendly region in Russia,' says [his sister in arms Maria] Gaidar. 'But that is a long way off. We face a wall of Soviet mentality that has not changed in 20 years.' Sometimes it seems nearly impossible. 'On my worst days I think it is easier to rule like an Asian despot than to become a Russian Obama,' Belykh says. 'But look, to me this job is a chance to change people's attitudes about democratic values.'"


L'Express 23.10.2009 (France)

In a chat with the readers of the online version of the L'Express, the 78-year-old playwright and novelist Jean-Claude Carriere ("Monsieur Hulot's Holiday") seems unperturbed about the future of books and newspapers, and admits to not caring whether or not paper survives. When asked if he thinks Ebooks will make reading an easier and more rounded experience, he answers: "No one is denying the practical advantages of the E book, but it's still a book, only in another form. The choice of medium is up to the individual. It might be a question of habit, the greater intimacy that comes from having your own individual item, in which you can make notes, fold down corners or underline passages. Nothing replaces anything else outright. In the 20s and on into the 30s, people thought that cinema would force out all other forms of artistic expression: theatre, opera, even the book. It was heralded as the absolute art. And what's happened? More people than ever go to art exhibitions today. It not the technology but the idea that counts."


n+1 26.10.2009 (USA)

Marco Roth has noticed that the mind is being replaced by the brain in literature, in what could be a new literary genre: the neuronovel. Ian McEwan, Jonathan Lethem, Mark Haddon, John Wray or Richard Powers all have protagonists with mental disorders, whose roots are not societal or psychological but biochemical:"The aesthetic sensation a reader gets from the neuronovel is not the pleasure of finding the general in the particular, but a frustration born of the defeat of the metaphoric impulse. We want to make the metaphor work, to say, 'Yes, we are all a bit like a paranoid schizophrenic sometimes' or, 'Yes, as Mark Haddon's autistic narrator needs to separate the foods on his plate and not let them touch, to sort colors into good and bad, so am I in my impulse to classify a new genre.' But this would be to indulge the worst tendency of literary criticism, whether of a jargony and sectarian or burbling and humanistic type: to insist on meaning or relevance when there isn't any, or when the works themselves actually foreclose it. Instead the reader has to admit to himself that his brain doesn't work like an autistic person's, a Capgras sufferer's, and that when he loves or works or fears or talks, his ordinary neurons fire or misfire for ordinary rather than extraordinary reasons."


Polityka 23.10.2009 (Poland)

In an interview about German-Polish relations, Adam Krzeminski (here in German) asks the former German president Richard von Weizsäcker what he considers to be the most important event of 1989: the opening of the Hungarian border to Austria, Polish Solidarnosc, or the peaceful revolution in the GDR? Weizsäcker's answer: "From the perspective of the events that were taking place on German territory, the most breathtaking and heartening was the gradual development of a civil society in the GDR, which then brought the SED regime to its knees. But this only makes sense if you look at the first truly great civil movement in the Eastern Bloc and that was, without a doubt, Solidarnosc.


The Times Literary Supplement 21.10.2009 (UK)

The problem for Trotsky biographers is that behind all the charisma and genius, he was indifferent to the suffering of others, explains Donald Rayfield, a professor of Russian and Georgian in London. But Robert Service's "Trotsky" is the first Trotzky biography that is not written by a non-Trotskyist: "There is no reason to suppose that, had Trotsky outwitted Stalin and managed to seize power, he would have murdered fewer peasants or bourgeois. Given his belief in exporting revolution, Trotsky might well have plunged Eastern Europe and China into war a decade before Hitler. Service never lets his reader forget Trotsky's callousness, and rightly so: on the few occasions that Trotsky worked in conjunction with Stalin – suppressing the Orthodox Church, deporting dissident intellectuals – he equalled or even exceeded the Georgian in ruthlessness." Rayfield also strongly recommends Bertrand Patenaude's "Stalin's Nemesis", which describes Trotzsky's last years, not forgetting the "obscenely primitive" love letters that the ageing Russian sent his wife from his sickbed.

Further articles: Elizabeth Lowry opens Laura Cummings' "A Face To The World" and proceeds to work her way through countless self-portraits by Van Eyck, Dürer, Rembrandt and Courbet to Rothko.


Elet es Irodalom 16.10.2009 (Hungary)

In his portrait of Herta Müller, the Hungarian writer (also of Romanian descent) György Dragoman praises the "reasoned poetics" with which the literary Nobel prize laureate describes dictatorship. "Her perception is extremely precise, and these precise observations create a relentlessly oppressive, sometimes Kafkaesque yet very real world, which sucks its readers in, never to release them again, and shows them from the inside, how fear drives people to madness. Because fear is a compulsion, fear is like hunger, it cannot be curbed, it is almost impossible to overcome and you have to live with it, for days, weeks, months and years, for ever."

The New York Times 25.10.2009 (UK)

Jonathan Lethem
's new book "Chronic City" (excerpt) is set in the most unlikely place for an author from Brooklyn, writes Gregory Cowles in the Sunday Book Review, namely Manhattan's Upper East Side. The book's two protagonists are a former child star who lives from the residuals of an 80's sitcom, and an obscure Rolling Stone columnist. The book, which mixes episodes from reality and fantasy is, says Coles, even better than the unforgettable "Fortress of Solitude": "'The Fortress of Solitude' was a great novel, but also a chaotic sprawl — it addressed gentrification and race relations and comic books and disco and the prison system and more, on and endlessly on. 'Chronic City' is more contained, less greedy in its grasp, and it is even better. It limits itself to a single big theme — but then, it's the biggest there is: the pursuit of truth."

Further articles: David Hajdu is astonished by Robert Crumb's new comic, "The Book of Genesis": "This book, I believe, is the first thing by Crumb ever published without a single image of flying sperm or a sharp blade approaching male genitalia." And Liesl Schillinger recommends a pioneering translation of the fantastical short stories of the virtually unknown Russian author Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, who never published his work under Stalin.

Lynn Hirschberg writes a compelling portrait of the director and producer Lee Daniels, whose rather un-PC film, "Precious" (trailer) about an obese black teenager who is abused by her father, was a huge hit in Cannes and is now opening in the U.S.

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