?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

09/02/2010

Magazine Roundup

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

Prospect |The Daily Beast | Rue89 | Vanity Fair | Tygodnik Powszechny | Le Figaro | Polityka | London Review of Books | Salon.eu.sk | Le Nouvel Observateur | The Times Literary Supplement | Elet es Irodalom | The Guardian


Prospect 27.01.2010 (UK)

On 5th January the British government launched the website data.gov.uk which provides access to public data. It features exclusively non-personal data, which is not covered by the data protection act and lists everything from school absenteeism, air quality, and deaths by asthma. In its cover story (sadly not online yet), Prospect tells the story of how this revolution in public data sharing started. The brains behind the project was Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the world wide web. In an interview with Prospect that is online, he explains: "The thing people were amazed about with the web itself is that when you put something online, you don't know who is going to use it. (...) It's the serendipity—the unexpected reuse that is the value of the web. When you move to data, suddenly this is not applied because data actually is really desperately boring when you look at it by itself. When you put data together you can derive very powerful new insights; so I think that realisation that the UK had got all all this resource that was under-utilized means the arguments become very obvious for putting them out there for people to re-use."


The Daily Beast 31.01.2010 (USA)

"England is a cesspit," Novel Prize laureate Wole Soyinka declared, to the deep surprise of Tunku Varadarajan. The Nigerian political activist was outraged when his country was added to the terrorist list in the wake of Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt to blow up a plane from his underpants. "That was an irrational, knee-jerk reaction by the Americans. The man did not get radicalized in Nigeria. It happened in England, where he went to university.' (...) In Mr. Soyinka's view, the origins of the current religious strife in the world - including all of the bloodshed in Nigeria - lie with Ayatollah Khomeini and his fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989. "It all began when he assumed the power of life and death over the life of a writer. This was a watershed between doctrinaire aggression and physical aggression. There was an escalation. The assumption of power over life and death then passed to every single inconsequential Muslim in the world—as if someone had given them a new stature."


Rue89 07.02.2010 (France)

In an interview the Italian comedian and activist Beppe Grillo talks about being banned from Italian television and his blog, which is one of the most popular in Italy. Although he believes that every Italian has a bit of Berlusconi in their DNA, he cannot really believe that Berlusconi exists. "He is just a hologram, an advert, a window display. When they pass this window display people say: 'Oh it's so beautiful! Then they enter the shop and find out that there's nothing inside." So it seems only logical that Grillo finds Sarkozy much worse: "He is more modern and therefore much more dangerous. Because his politics revolve around nuclear energy and the military, and he is steering the whole of Europe in this direction. Sarkozy is much more intelligent and insidious than Berlusconi. He understands how to gather great thinkers and economists around him like Amartya Sen or Joseph Stiglitz, and incorporate them into his ideology."


Vanity Fair 01.03.2010 (USA)

Michael Wolff discusses the next big thing on the Internet and its propagators: Russian billionaire 'platform' collectors, rabid Internet behaviorists, no-baloney cost-cutters, Murdochian Big Media avengers, and a new-machine enthusiasts. And then there are the customers, who need to watch out: "Behind these theories of how this new world will be organized and how best it will serve humankind lies a Manichaean struggle that pits good against evil, control against freedom, one man's Establishment against another's new order, with every entrepreneur and engineer believing that he or she can run your life better than any other entrepreneur or engineer-and certainly better than you."


Tygodnik Powszechny 07.02.2010

"The Polish are unconsciously conservative," writes sociologist Pawel Spiewak. "We have gone through fundamental changes to the political system, the economy, the media and technology, but the Polish mindset – at least at the level of articulation – has remained essentially unchanged. This has nothing to do with conservatism but with automatism. It's as if we were unable to critically evaluate our identity and are now just defensively digging in our heels and spouting learned statements. We tell ourselves that this is the way we are and we have no intention of changing." Everyone contents themselves with cliches: "The image we have of ourselves has no contours, its as if it were made of plastic. It dissolves into meaningless platitudes and lets us sleep soundly at night."

Novelist and literary historian Stefan Chwin, though, is not sleeping so soundly. In the ongoing Polish debate, it is not the quality of post 1989 literature that perturbs him, but the choice of subject matter: "After 1989 the Poles quickly decided to become 'a normal nation'; they abandoned all their dreams of solidarity. It was time to keep both feet firmly on the ground and to tough things out. So, obviously, writers had to follow with their desciptions of the smooth transition from idealism to realpolitik. How fast our old dreams have flown out of the window! We have placidly accepted that capitalism needs no sentiments. (...) The world is how it is, and since we can't change it, the best thing to do is just accept it."


Le Figaro 06.02.2010 (France)

"France's most hated dandy" is the title of Renaud Girard's profile of the philosopher and political commentator Bernard-Henri Levy. Last week BHL published two new books with Grasset: "Pieces d'identite", a collection of texts and defence pleas spanning from 2005 to today, about Nicolas Sarkozy, Barack Obama and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; and "De la guerre en philosophie" on the clash of political concepts. But why does France's most prominent and vociferous intellectual have so many enemies and critics? "Let's hazard a guess," writes Renaud. "In a country as obsessed with rationality and status as France, BHL's flaw is that he can't be pigeon-holed. He practises philosophy without being a professor, without being elected, he practises diplomacy without belong to a corps and writes reportage without being a journalist. Worse still, he is not afraid of mixing his genres and making a mess of things. He not only breaks into fields which are not his own but he also never keeps to the rules."

This week's L'Express features an interview with BHL about his new books. In it he endorses France's burqa ban: "We are kidding ourselves if we pretend that this is a religious problem. The burqa is a political provocation and it should be addressed with political means."


Polityka 05.02.2010 (Poland)

The Poles have filed over 34,000 complaints in the European Court in Strasbourg, Joanna Podgorska reports (here in German). And when these concern restrictions on freedom of expression in Poland or prison conditions, they are almost always successful. A recent case involved a man who was not allowed to marry under Polish law: "The court issued a warning to Poland that prison did not mean depriving individuals of their basic human rights and freedoms In Strasbourg, prison inmates have won cases about prison conditions, humiliating treatment or poor access to medical care. Another prisoner won his case against a prison after it refused to allow him out to attend his father's funeral, and another, who was told by a prison guard that he could only vote in the elections if he removed all his clothes."

In an interview Piotr Pazinski, editor-in-chief of Midrasz magazine, discusses his debut novel "Pensjonat", which describes life in a Jewish pension in Warsaw: "I spent many years wondering why I so loved old spa towns like Krynica or Zakopan. Perhaps because my first archetypical image was the Pension 'Srodborowianka' which I used to run with my grandmother. It was the inspiration for the pension in my book. For Virginia Woolf, the sea is the archetypical landscape, the lighthouse, the large family. My primal image was this dying world of the Polish Jews."

The French debate about Yannick Haenel's book "Jan Karski" is now being followed in Poland. In an interview Haenel explains that in now way should his book be regarded as an historical account about Poland or anti-Semitism. "It's just literature. You cannot accuse it of historical inaccuracy. I chose Poland because I regard it as a sort of "black box" when it comes to the Second World War, that stores the difficult memories of this time."


London Review of Books 11.02.2010 (UK)

The brilliant author Tom McCarthy analyses and celebrates two novels newly published in Britain, by Belgian author Jean-Philippe Toussaint, who is obviously one of his idols. Toussaint, whose work has been tagged with the label nouveau nouveau roman has, McCarthy, added the element of humour which was entirely lacking in the books of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Claude Simon. "In a wonderful sequence in 'Camera', Toussaint sets up a scene of dialogue in a restaurant and, having placed a bowl of olives on the table (as a naturalist writer would do to provide background verisimilitude), suppresses the scene's dialogue entirely, and describes exclusively the movement of hands as they reach towards the bowl, the trajectory of fruit from hand to mouth, the ergonomics of pit-transfers from mouth to tablecloth and, most striking of all, the regularly spaced imprints made by the back of a fork's tines across the skin of the lone olive the narrator toys with before stabbing it. We don't want plot, depth or content: we want angles, arcs and intervals; we want pattern. Structure is content, geometry is everything."

Further articles: Stephen Smith describes the dwindling of the French and the growing of the Chinese influence in the former French colonies in Africa. The publication of a new English translation of Simone De Beauvoir's "The Second Sex" prompted Toril Moi to re-read the book, but she finds the new version hard to stomach. August Kleinzahler describes how it feels to sell your childhood home. Inigo Thomas read William Langewiesche's book about the landing of flight 1549 on the Hudson, and Barry Schawbsky visits Christian Boltanski's installation "Personnes" in Paris' Grand Palais.


Salon.eu.sk 03.02.2010 (Slovakia)

Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk reports back from a trip to Amsterdam, and Salon has kindly translated her notes into English: "My dreadlocks are very popular here, especially with blacks. Every now and then someone stops me with a smile asking if I’m married to an African. I explain with a smile that dreadlocks are not really a Rastafarian or African invention. I bring up the term 'Polish tangle' which is well documented in reports by travellers who visited our country in the seventeenth century. At that time the tangle was a widespread phenomenon, known all over Europe as plica polonica and generally associated with Poland. In a certain sense we can be proud to have introduced this hairstyle to Europe. Plica polonica should be added to the list of our inventions, alongside crude oil, pierogi and vodka." She later describes her reaction to finding a 17th century inscription: 'Homo sapiens non urinat in ventum'"


Le Nouvel Observateur 04.02.2010 (France)

In a fascinating conversation with Jean Daniel, the Israeli novelist Amos Oz, co-founder of the Peace Now movement and advocate of a two-state solution, talks about what remains of the founding myth of Israel and the conditions and chances for peace in the Middle East. Oz believes: "At the moment we are at war with the fanatics. This is not a conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. When I talk with secular Palestinians, we are always able to find grounds for compromise and solution, even if we are not always agreed about everything. With foreign pro-Palestine representatives however it is much more complicated and the same goes for pro-Israeli representatives. But dialogue is always possible between secular Palestinians and Israelis like myself, if not without complications. The problem is twofold: there are fanatics in both camps and also  cowardly politicians. They know only too well what they have to do but lack the courage to act."


The Times Literary Supplement 05.02.2010 (UK)

Martin Amis' new novel "The Pregnant Widow" is an "elegy to missed opportunities," writes Bharat Tandon. The novel takes place in the 1970s and features a group of young people caught between sexual liberation and self-discovery: "In the summer of 1970, Keith finds himself spending his university vacation in an Italian castle, mugging up on the history of the English novel while finding his affections, and his definitively male gaze, wandering between his on-off girlfriend Lily and the aristocratic Scheherazade ("Lily: 5'5', 34-25-34. Scheherazade: 5'10", 37-23-33"); the former is ostensibly more street-smart about the impending sexual revolution, the latter a reformed do-gooder only beginning to become sexually aware in the new style. In a plot pitched somewhere between a Shakespeare comedy and an Iris Murdoch novel, Amis depicts his characters not only occasionally groping one another, but also groping awkwardly for a stable understanding of what is expected of them, at a time when values are in flux, but where the new rules are not yet set down."


Elet es Irodalom
29.01.2010 (Hungary)

Last August nine art historians published a manifesto in the magazine Magyar Szemle, which slated the new "user-friendliness" and "mass entertainment" in Hungarian museums. It is a rejection of the idea of "the museum as workshop". For Peter György, though, this is exactly what museums should be. "Museums today have to guarantee," he writes, "that everyone has access to that utterly undefinable and constantly rewritten tradition which is described as the cultural heritage of an epoch. The museum is a laboratory and a workshop, an open cultural space, which is not there simply to safeguard a static idea of tradition. Indeed it is a space of cultural dialogue, where the meaning of works of art can be worked out together – and only together – with the artists, curators, the museologists and the public. Without the visitors the museum would lose its philosophical essence."


The Guardian 06.02.2010 (UK)

With a retrospective of the mysterious art of Arshile Gorky (here with his mother) currently showing at the Tate Modern in London, William Freaver honours a painter who, he says, were it not for an untimely suicide, could have beaten his great rival Jackson Pollock to the title of America's greatest painter. Here Freaver quotes from Gorky's own description of his "Garden in Sochi" series of 1941. The work "he explained, harked back all the way to [his father's] 'Garden of Wish Fulfillment and often I had seen my mother and other village women opening their bosoms and taking their soft and dependable breasts in their hands to rub them on the rock. Above all this stood an enormous tree all bleached under the sun the rain the cold and deprived of leaves. This was the Holy Tree. I myself did not know that this tree was holy but I had witnessed many people whoever did pass by that would voluntarily strip off their clothes and attach this to the tree.'"


And 3quarksdaily links to Eduardo Mendieta's interview with Jürgen Habermas on a postsecular world society over at The Immanent Frame.

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