?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

15/12/2009

Magazine Roundup

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

Vanity Fair | Elet es Irodalom | Qantara | Outlook India | Polityka | The New Yorker | London Review of Books | Nepszabadsag | Prospect | Rue89 | 3Quarksdaily | The Spectator | L'Espresso | Le Nouvel Observateur | The New Republic


Vanity Fair 01.01.2010 (USA)

Kurt Andersen visited CERN in Geneva, to find out exactly why the Large Hadron Collider crashed last year and how much depends on this, the world's biggest machine: "If this new collider doesn't produce groundbreaking discoveries, particle physics will have reached a dead end for a generation or more. The theorists would keep theorizing. But without hard experimental data pouring out of the L.H.C., says Jim Virdee, a Kenyan-born British-Indian physicist with the L.H.C., then 'particle physics, the whole thing, becomes metaphysics.'... Apart from discovering (or not discovering) the Higgs, the best odds for a thrilling eureka moment from the L.H.C. would be on discovering that supersymmetry exists. 'We have a religion,' an American physicist and cern lifer named Steven Goldfarb confessed one day over lunch, 'and that's symmetry.' As yin is twinned with yang and Christ with Antichrist, so does matter have its equal and opposite anti-matter, and they destroy each other on contact—so that, according to the guiding principle of symmetry, at the moment of the big bang, all the matter and anti-matter should have canceled themselves out, leaving nothing behind. Not only did that not happen—we are among the evidence that it didn't—but 14 billion years later there is a lot more matter than anti-matter in the universe. Something has to explain that mysterious imbalance, and the betting is that it's supersymmetry, the idea that for every known particle there's an as-yet-undetected 'superpartner'— and that dark matter consists of those superpartners. There's a very good chance that the proton collisions at the L.H.C. will create some of those primordial bits—maybe next year, says Jim Virdee, who runs the collider's C.M.S. experiment, 'if nature is kind.'"

Christopher Hitchens
was infuriated by Stieg Larrson's thriller trilogy, which smuggles in deeply sadistic descriptions of violence against women under the guise of feminism. "His best excuse for his own prurience is that these serial killers and torture fanciers are practising a form of capitalism and that their racket is protected by a pornographic alliance with a form of Fascism, its lower ranks made up of hideous bikers and meth runners. This is not just sex or crime - it's politics!"


Elet es Irodalom 04.12.2009 (Hungary)

Imre Kertesz has recently published a collection of essays in Hungary called "A megfogalmazas kalandja" (the adventure of wording). The author Csaba Bathori has high hopes for its influence: "Kertesz's thinking guides our thinking towards conclusions which we would otherwise never have the intellectual courage to pursue. Thanks to our lack of self-criticism as a nation, our public thinking still adheres to the misconception that public self-criticism is harmful and immoral. And yet in larger cultural circles, it is perhaps precisely the recalcitrant writers who change their countries with their stubborn questioning of national illusions and their pruning of the arrogant and pathos-filled flourishes of national identity. [...] Kertesz's essays tell us to look at our national identity in the light of the European experience and to measure our senses against a wider sense of humanity, change them and raise them up a level."


Qantara 12.12.2009 (Germany)

"Who is to be blamed" that the Swiss voted against minarets, asks Tariq Ramadan (here in English). "I have been repeating for years to Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and proactive within their respective Western societies. In Switzerland, over the past few months, Muslims have striven to remain hidden in order to avoid a clash. It would have been more useful to create new alliances with all these Swiss organizations and political parties that were clearly against the initiative. Swiss Muslims have their share of responsibility, but one must add that the political parties, in Europe as in Switzerland have become cowed, and shy from any courageous policies toward religious and cultural pluralism."

The curator Almut Sh. Bruckstein Coruh explains in an interview (here in English) what lies in store for the visitor to the "Taswir – Pictorial Mappings of Islam and Modernity" exhibition in the Berlin Martin Gropius Bau: not so much a history of Islamic art, as "a poetic association of artistic positions, classical and contemporary, that are organized along certain issues. These are issues like drawing as a trace of the absent, linking such works as the Persian miniature from the 16th century depicting the sandals of the Prophet and a piece by Rebecca Horn entitled 'Waiting for Absence.' These are general issues that span time and location. One could say, they are human issues - the sort that Aby Warburg might have called 'emotional formulae'."


Outlook India
20.12.2009 (India)

The media is also in crisis in India. Vinod Mehta is deeply concerned that more and more editorial space is up for sale: "Indeed, the system is fast becoming institutionalised, with TV channels and newspapers approaching politicians, especially during elections, with a 'package' which, interestingly, is negotiable. It is an offer difficult to refuse. ... Outlook (like others) is neck-deep in this skirmish. As you may have noticed, the Outlook 'Spotlight' feature is sponsored, the client has almost full editorial control. The only redeeming aspect is that the reader can easily spot it, since it is clearly marked on the page. News for sale is not. The purpose here is to pass off sponsored news as professional news."

Anuradha Raman illustrates this trend with examples from a number of newspapers and TV channels. One politician, for example, explains that during an election campaign in his constituency, there was almost no information about his candidacy in the press. He called up a his local newspaper and was "'politely informed that if I paid up like other candidates in the fray, I would get my share of space,' he recalls. 'I was worried that readers were perhaps not even aware that I was contesting and so called a reporter and paid 50,000 Rs. I was promptly rewarded with three half-page colour features on three consecutive days highlighting my worth as a politician and predicting my strong prospects of winning the election.'"


Polityka 11.12.2009 (Poland)

A new generation of writers and filmmakers are telling their version of life under communism: "the solemn rules of martyrdom" have been discarded, heroes and villains are a thing of the past and all eyes are fixed on modern independent American cinema, as Zdzislaw Pietrasik reports: "'People in Poland people have got used to the idea that every historical film will be a national epic, says [animation filmmaker Tomasz] Baginski in an interview with the magazine Film. 'I'm dreaming of an historical film in which the story is secondary, a modern, impressive film. Because who today cares if films stick religiously to the facts? You cannot treat audiences like philistines. If they don't know some bit of information they will read up on it later. Cinema is about emotion.' His worlds could serve as the manifesto of young Polish artists today, who are on the look out for historical subject matter."


The New Yorker
28.12.2009 (USA)

Louis Menand was very impressed by Michael Scammell's 720-page Koestler biography: "Just getting the file cards in order would have challenged Hercules, if Hercules had been literate," he writes, with a subject as polyglot and socially and sexually active as Koestler. "'Koestler' seems a prodigy of research, in many languages, and a scrupulous piece of fair-minded advocacy." But the book has two problems: "To capture Koestler biographically, therefore, you need to capture all of this (plus what was going on in Moscow under Stalin and in Palestine under the British Mandate) - not only the multitude of personalities and the internecine details of organizational intrigue, which crowd the pages of this book, and with which Scammell is admirably methodical, but also the sense of history being made, the moral and ideological weather, the existential stakes. There are two difficulties. The first is simply the demands that the material places on narrative technique. Scammell is a clear writer, but he is not a dramatic one. Koestler was, preeminently, both - and that is the second difficulty. The best biographer of the first half, the adventurous half, of Koestler's life is Koestler, which means that Scammell is often in the unhappy position of describing events that Koestler himself has already written about brilliantly and grippingly."

Further articles: Evan Osnos describes China's efforts to become the global leader in clean energy. Peter Schjeldahl takes great pleasure in visiting the Gabriel Orozco retrospective in MoMA. And Anthony Lay was in the cinema to see Rob Marshall's musical "Nine" which is based on Fellini's "8 ½", the fantasy film "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" by Terry Gilliam, Jean-Marc Vallee's costume drama "The Young Victoria", and the directorial debut "A Single Man" by former fashion designer Tom Ford.

There is also a short story "Diary of an Interesting Year" by Helen Simpson and poems by Bill Manhire, Roger Angell and Jonathan Aaron.


London Review of Books 17.12.2009 (UK)

Taylor Branch spent almost ten years conducting conversation after conversation with the president and then ex-president Bill Clinton. The transcripts are still under wraps, but Branch has reconstructed the interviews from his notes and collected them in a 700-page book "The Clinton Tapes". For David Runciman, the result is a fascinating and not necessarily flattering image of an occasionally weird man who loves politics, hard data and his family, in roughly that order: "He can switch effortlessly from number-crunching to empathetic mode and back again. He loves hearing people's life stories, and is just as happy speculating about their deeper emotions as he is analysing their demographic profile. He wants to know what makes you tick, whoever you are and wherever you come from. Why does Boris Yeltsin drink so much? (During one memorable visit to the White House, Yeltsin ends up in his underpants on Pennsylvania Avenue trying to hail a cab to find him a pizza.) Clinton contemplates calling Mrs Yeltsin in for a heart to heart, and maybe even staging an intervention. You get the feeling there is nothing he would enjoy more than trawling through Yeltsin's childhood, looking for clues, and spinning yarns about the drunks he knew back in Arkansas, including his own stepfather. Among world leaders, only Jiang Zemin remains entirely immune to his charm, and this nags away at Clinton far more than the intractable business of US-Chinese trade relations."


Nepszabadsag 12.12.2009 (Hungary)

For Gabor Balazs, France is a shining example of the collapse of social democracy and the blooming of the ultra-left in the ruins: "The ultra-left always arises after major defeats and the ideological emptying of the left (or rather the institutional workers movement) when not only the reform arm of the movement proves powerless, but also that of the 'classical' socialists, who insist on the continued existence of the social state (and want to realise their aims through political means alone). The ultra-left have moved away from the workers movement entirely. It has been "replaced by a horde of plebians, a motley crew that has nothing to lose except its chains. It is still calm on the horizon today, and the sound of the ultra-left, the 'action-taking minority' is still barely audible. But even the league of communists was made up of no more than a few dozen people who went on to publish a manifesto..."


Prospect 14.12.2009 (UK)

Most people think the Internet is in league with the world's dissidents rather than its dictators. Evgeny Morozov's cover story paints a very different picture. His experiences in Belarus have shown him that the Internet is very much in the hands of the regime. "After the first flash mob, the authorities began monitoring By_mob, the LiveJournal community where the activities were announced. The police started to show up at the events, often before the flashmobbers did. Not only did they detain participants, but they too took photos. These - along with the protesters' own online images - were used to identify troublemakers, many of whom were then interrogated by the KGB, threatened with suspension from university, or worse."

The "media guru" Clay Shirky, who is on the receiving end of Morozov's criticism, accepts the accusation of one-sidedness, but is keen to emphasise that: "The easier the assembly of citizens, the more ubiquitous the ability to document atrocities. And the more the self-damaging measures which states take - like shutting down mobile phones networks - will resolve themselves as a net advantage for insurrection within authoritarian regimes. Net advantage, in some cases, is a far cry from the 'just-add-internet' hypothesis, but it is a view that is considerably more optimistic about the balance of power between citizens and the state than Morozov's."


Rue89 12.12.2009 (France)

In the online magazine, Jerome Godard launches a spirited attack on the French government's fondness for squandering tax payers' money - in this case by splurging on senseless polls. The national agricultural institute Inra, for example, was so interested in people's opinions on the provenance of prawns, that it went to great lengths to mobilise the public's ecological conscience, pestering them with a poll "as tendentious as it was pointless". Godard's conclusion: "I am not proud of having been an accomplice in this pitiful masquerade. But I will keep the 15 euros all the same. I will use it to buy prawns from the Third World which are raised by environmentally-hostile prawn dealers in outrageous and humiliating conditions. And with the money from Inra I might even be able to afford a dollop of mayonnaise to go with them."


3Quarksdaily 01.12. 2009 (USA)

London's Camden Arts Centre has put on an exhibition
of Eva Hesse's little known 'test pieces'. 3QD's Sue Hubbard is fascinated by these ephemeral objects, which she describes lovingly: "In one of the galleries husks of papier mache lie like empty pods on a large central plinth. Made of brown paper they are dry and brittle; the apparent detritus of something left behind by a previous unnamed event, like shards of memory. Elsewhere two small pieces of stuffed canvas, covered with hair-like tendrils of string, lie hunkered in their glass case like some primitive copulating animal." This is the first time they have been exhibited, as they have always posed something of a problem in the art world: "What was all this 'stuff' left in her studio? Her friend Sol Le Witt tried to make sense of it, calling what he discovered a series of 'little experiments' or 'studio leavings.' Sometimes he insisted that what he found was 'definitely not a piece' whilst on other occasions he would pronounce: 'Yes, this is a piece'. Yet, despite his close friendship with Hesse, maybe he was asking the wrong questions."


L'Espresso 11.12.2009 (Italy)

So much is happening in Italy at the moment that Umberto Eco doesn't have to enter the realm of fantasy to fill his Bustina di Minerva. Silvio Berlusconi had his nose broken with a miniature Milan cathedral, and his minister for Public Administration, Renato Brunetta, has announced plans to pay public-service TV presenters a uniform wage. Eco thinks Stalin, Lenin and Pol Pot all rolled into one. What would happen if the plan went ahead? "If Rai pays everyone the same wage, it would be the death of the channel. Once wages had been strangled at Rai, Mediaset could follow suit and cut its wages, but just enough to ensure that all the best presenters were not tempted to move to Rai. The successful Rai presenters, on the other hand, would have every reason to go to Mediaset, waving the flag. Only the less popular presenters would stay at Rai. If I were Berlusconini, it would be at precisely this point that I would offer Brunetta my dacha for coming up with such a perfect and brilliant plan to destroy Rai. Oh, make that two dachas!"


Le Nouvel Observateur
10.12.2009 (France)

In an interview Azar Nafisi ("Reading Lolita in Tehran"), whose "Memoires captives" have just been published in France, talks about the struggle of the younger generation and the intellectuals against the Islamic dictatorship. "Iran has the religious tradition of ketman, or the right to lie, which can be used to protect the true faith if it is threatened. This has resulted in an unbelievably suffocating atmosphere. Writers, on the other hand, do not lie. ... Iran not only has a very dark side of hate-fuelled violence of the ultras against the people, it also has a bright, educated side. This is made up of millions of young people who have an unbelievable determination to belong to a world which they are being denied. To this end they will use all their weapons: poetry, humour, literature. Culture, also imported culture, has become a drug. Their thirst for knowledge is unquenchable."

There is also a discussion between the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare about Stalinsm in his old homeland, Obama, and the Nobel prize for which he was so often nominated but never received.


The New Republic
12.12.2009 (USA)

"A magnificent book", writes philosopher Moshe Halberthal on "The Idea of Justice", the rather grand-sounding new publication by the highly productive economist and philosopher Amartya Sen. (excerpt). And yet, Halberthal marvels, humility is the most sublime characteristic of Sen's book, which clearly demonstrates that every abstract theory of justice, even it is conceived solely as a conceptual model, as in the case of John Rawls, is folly. "According to Sen, a sustained and reasoned argument about justice should focus on a result-oriented comparative approach among different conditions, rather than on an attempt to formulate the philosophical conditions of a perfectly just society. We can confidently claim that a society that rejects slavery is more just than a society that endorses slavery. And such a sound comparison can be performed without actually having a clear-cut notion of what a perfectly just society would be like. Injustices are altogether easier to identify than the conditions of perfect justice."

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