?From the great beyond into the present? ? an interview with Jo Lendle

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19/10/2010

Magazine Roundup

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

Le point | Eurozine | The Atlantic | Foreign Affairs | Elet es Irodalom | The Economist | Magyar Narancs | London Review of Books | Polityka | The New York Review of Books

Le point 14.10.2010 (France)

Few people today remember that the Left, especially in France, was a great defender of colonialism. The socialist Prime Minister Guy Mollet was infamous for his ferociously repressive policy in 1950's Algeria. Francois Mitterrand was his minister for justice, and Mitterrrand was certainly not known for his tolerance of Algerian nationalists, writes Laurent Theis, in reference to a book by Francois Malye and Benjamin Stora on the subject: "Moreover, and this is the book's great revelation, the justice minister unhesitatingly sent strings of Algerian nationalists to the guillotine, whether they had blood on their hands or not: 45 beheadings in 500 days. The state President Rene Coty rejected 45 appeals for mercy and even Mitterrand only gave 8 exonerations. One of the men who was killed by the guillotine is a stain on Mitterrrand's memory: Fernand Iveton a French-Algerian and member of the Communist Party who was murdered on 1 February, 1957."


Eurozine 15.10.2010 (Austria)

In an article on the 50th anniversary of the death of Albert Camus, the historian of ideas Michael Azar discusses his position on the Algerian war, for which he was heavily criticised. Camus was one of the first to speak up, long before Sartre, against the behaviour of the French in Algeria, but he also refused to support the nationalism of the FLN: "Camus never breaks completely with the premise of French colonialism," writes Azar in an essay for the Swedish magazine Glänta, which Eurozine publishes in English, "that the most fervent wish of the colonized is to be recognized as equals in French civilization. The principles of the French Enlightenment – freedom, equality, fraternity – are interwoven with a colonial paternalism. Despite the torture, racism and the obvious betrayal of the native Algerians, Camus never stopped seeing France as 'the best possible future for the Arab people'."

Eurozine also features two articles from the Romanian magazine Dilema veche on the French expulsion of the Roma: For Nicolas Sarkozy the Roma are a soft target and an easy way to appease the populist right-wing sentiments of his voters, writes Olivier Peyroux. "They are easy to find because they live in groups. They don't get violent with the police. They rarely seek legal settlements. They almost never have popular support." For Valeriu Nicolae, the expulsions are racist. But if they are going to be used then at least they should be used consistently: "If we are to believe the French media about the Bettencourt scandal, the French president accepted campaign funds beyond the permitted limits. If this is the case, the president should be sent back to Hungary or Greece!"

And the Canadian novelist Mavis Gallent talks about her time in 1968 Paris, and her "Paris Notebooks" on Sartre, de Gaulle and others.


The Atlantic 01.11.2010 (USA)

B. R. Myers takes up the cudgels for the thoroughly unhappy love story which has become so unfashionable. His examples include Somerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage", Wolfgang Koeppen's "Eine unglückliche Liebe" and, above all, Patrick Hamilton's "The Midnight Bell". All these novels feature men who are head over heels in love with women who make them utterly miserable and whom they find neither intellectually nor sexually appealing. So what's at work? Pure magic: "No wonder the 'Thoroughly Unhappy Love Story' receded in time with the popularization of psychology and its refusal to see magic in human relations. Our age can no longer understand great destructive passion except in terms of sexual obsession, a phrase printed on the Bantam paperback edition of Maugham's book. Never mind that Philip finds Mildred's body downright repulsive. Koeppen's hero does not sleep with Sibylle either, but that did not stop the American publisher from sexualizing - and trivializing - the title, 'Eine unglückliche Liebe', into 'A Sad Affair'. Nonclinical explanations having become unthinkable, 21st-century man must wonder what is mentally wrong with himself for staying in an 'unhealthy' relationship. As for Mildred, Sibylle, and Jenny, and Angela in Waterhouse's 'Our Song' - who are different in so many ways - a psychologist would surely note their shared dishonesty, craving for attention, and hostility to even mild criticism, and cut them down to size with one diagnosis. (Histrionic Personality Disorder, I'm guessing.) But how poorly psychologists understand the heart can be seen in the advice they give those who love such women: get away!"

Further articles: Nicholas Schmidle met the Ghanaian prize-winning investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas: "When I asked him about his role models, he named only one, Günter Wallraff, a German undercover reporter with more than four decades of muckraking experience. Sarah A. Topol goes surfing with a handful of young teenage Palestinian girls on the Gaza City beach – but only when it's almost empty. But by the time they reach 17, the fun is over: "'I'm not doing anything wrong. No one has the right to say anything to my daughters or me. But in the end, I can't live outside the traditions of my society. There are limits to where we can have our freedoms here,'Rajab, Shurouk's father, tells me." And Michael Hirschorn is furious that anyone can just say what they please on the Internet.


Foreign Affairs 01.10.2010 (USA)

For some months now Foreign Affairs has hosted a passionate and clear-cut debate about Islamism. Again it circles around Paul Berman's book "The Flight of the Intellectuals", and in particular around the figure of Tariq Ramadam and the historical connections between the Nazis and Islamism. The political scientist Marc Lynch tore Berman to pieces in the July/August issue, accusing him of failing to sufficiently differentiate between different forms of Islamism. "There is a vast and important gap between the Salafi vision of enforced social uniformity and the moderate Islamist vision of a democratic state, with civil institutions and the rule of law, populated by devout Muslims." Lynch's list of moderates includes the Muslim Brotherhood, Tariq Ramadan who is a descendant of its founder, and also Hamas which is fighting against even more radical Salafis in the Gaza Strip.

As for the TV preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whom Lynch defends as the "seismograph" of Muslim public opinion, Berman makes it very clear in his response, that Qaradawi does not simply have a "hostile attitude to Israel' as Lynch suggests: "From reading Lynch, however, or from reading Ramadan (who has always treated Qaradawi as a revered mentor, even when respectfully disagreeing with him), one would never guess that Qaradawi is a genocidal anti-Semite. In Qaradawi's televised opinion, Allah inflicted Hitler on the Jews 'to put them in their place.' And Qaradawi has called for a renewal of Hitler's efforts: 'Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.'"

And Jeffrey Herf, author of the book "Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World" answers Lynch. His reasearch is based on thousands of pages of anti-Semitic radio speeches that were broadcast in the Arab world during WWII as a result of the Islamist-Nazi collaboration. These speeches were assembled in Cairo by the American embassy from 1941 to 1944: "If there is anything 'ludicrous' about documenting the extent of Arab and Islamist collaboration with Nazi Germany, it is that scholars who study the history and politics of the modern Middle East managed for so long to avoid confronting such crucial evidence." Lynch has since offered a riposte (same link further down), in which he repeats his accusation about insufficient differentiation.

Elet es Irodalom 15.10.2010 (Hungary)

The Hungarian writer Zsolt Lang pays tribute to this year's literary Noble laureate: "Mario Vargas Llosa is a rebel: with a stable world view and in regulated material circumstances. Even his scandals have only served to underscore the credibility of his rebellion. Every redemption brings scandal. He falls in love with his aunt and marries her. And their divorce provokes another scandal. And as if he enjoyed displaying his life alongside his books on bookshop shelves, he has now added the next scandal, by marrying his cousin. He is a knight, not of the melancholy sort, but one who possesses a Dulcinea of flesh and blood and who does not fight windmills but giants with real power."

"State policy on the Roma has remained virtually unchanged for the past 250 years," Aladar Horvath, a Hungarian Roma rights activist, who has recently left politics after 22 years of activism, explains in an interview with Eszter Radai: "The Gypsy edicts of the Habsburg rulers Maria Theresia and Joseph II were aimed, as was the 1961 decision of the Communist party, at the violent assimilation of the Roma. After the fall of communism, Hungary had a genuine historical chance to abandon the short-sighted and self-destructive minority policies it had pursued up to that point. And yet, all the measures of previous governments – despite the lip service paid to the advantages of integration – only served as a confirmation of ethnic-social segregation. [...] The civil rights movement has now given up trying to change or even influence these structures."

The Economist 14.10.2010 (UK)

In two articles the Economist examines the possibility of a peaceful coexistence of the western justice system and the Sharia. One thing is clear: the practice of Sharia has long been part of "our" culture – particularly as practised in Muslim divorce courts, whose relationship to the secular law of the state, as one of the articles explains, can vary enormously. The other article goes into more detail: "One tricky issue is polygamy. French law explicitly outlaws it, and denies second wives the right to join their husbands in France (though if a second wife dies, her children are sometimes allowed to join their French-based father). Another is a form of divorce known as talaq in which a man simply renounces his wife. That has no standing in French or German law, but when both parties to a failed marriage freely testify that a talaq has taken place in some Islamic country, European courts have been forced to acknowledge the fact."


Magyar Narancs 07.10.2010 (Hungary)

In the wake of the toxic sludge catastrophe the management of the MAL aluminium plant has tried to play down the extent of the damage and to blame Mother Nature. This is a scandal, writes the liberal weekly Magyar Narancs: "Before we take this outrageous impudence as an excuse to pontificate on the fundamentally flawed nature of Hungarian capitalism, we should remember the absurd sums of money that will be guzzled by the destruction of buildings and people's lives, not to mention even the most basic rehabilitation of the heavily polluted environment. Someone will have to foot the bill at some stage. But if we are to correctly understand the hair-raising, albeit from the legal perspective perfectly logical text [the MAL press release], we have to prepare ourselves for a long trial – and in the meantime, as with every disaster, tax payers will be asked to dig deep in their pockets."


London Review of Books 21.10.2010 (UK)

Peter Campbell visited the Gauguin retrospective at the Tate Modern which, he assures us, is free from all South Seas cliches. And yet: "The exhibition's subtitle is 'Maker of Myth'. The suggestion seems to be that we have to get past common misconceptions and pay more attention to the complexity of the narratives he created and manipulated. But that kind of exegesis isn't necessarily useful. The best of the paintings have a life of their own, and while our perception of them doubtless changes with cultural fashion, it is uncomplicated and direct: fear in a girl's face, the yellow pillow she lies on, the vertigo that comes over you when you see the cow on a cliff in 'Over the Abyss', the blue shadows on the pink sand – these things are like simple sentences, easy to read, and very easy to like and admire."

Further articles: Slavoj Zizek reads a book by Richard McGregor about the Party in China which explains how this organisation maintains plenty of room for itself and the economy to manoeuvre, and yet he remains convinced that the more talk there is of harmony, the more chaos must be bubbling away under the surface. Philosopher John Gray wonders about the progressive liberalism of the British Lib Dems. Former PLO representative Karma Nabulsi tells old heroes' tales and condemns the desperate state of Palestinian resistance today. Daniel Soar reviews "Ricin!", a study by Lawrence Archer and Fiona Bawdon, about a terrorist plot that never was.

Polityka 15.10.2010 (Poland)

The Bialowieza Nationalpark is Europe's last primeval forest, and hunting the bison that live there, strictly prohibited, although the practice is permitted in the surrounding parkland, and deerstands are situated all along the border. Recently, environmentalists have started to protest against the often international hunts, as Joanna Podgorska und Maciej Perzanowski report (here in German) after talking to the head forester Piotr Wawrzyniak: "According to his report, foreign hungers who have paid large sums of money to participate in these hunts and who were expecting to experience the primeval forest are deeply disappointed. Or downright furious. The ecologists chained themselves to the hunting perches which are intended solely for the use of the forest service, and were distracting the hunters from concentrating on their targets. According to Jaroslaw Krawczyk, the regional spokesman for the state forestry, some hunts proceeded without interruption whereas on others, huntsmen from Denmark and Germany had to concede financial losses because of failing to deliver the expected trophies."


The New York Review of Books 18.10.2010 (USA)

The NY Review of Books has added two more interesting articles to the online version of its current issue: Timothy Snyder was very impressed by Belarussian author Victor Martinovich's novel "Paranoia", which deals with all the key themes of dissident literature – power, surveillance, betrayal. The country in which the novel takes place is not named, but Snyder recognises plenty of Belarussian traits: "'They went home,' writes Martinovich of his lovers at a certain point, 'where else could they go?' In the center of Minsk, city blocks extend for miles without a single bench. The message is unmistakable: when you have concluded your day's business, go back to your apartment. But home itself, as in the Soviet system of which Lukashenko's regime is in many respects a continuation, is not really a private sphere in the Western sense. Although private property is recognized by law, ownership can be challenged on technicalities at any time. About four fifths of workers are employed by the state, so almost no one has the independent capacity to pay rent or a mortgage. Most state employees work on one-year contracts. If they show any sign of disobedience to the regime, they can be denied a means of existence by the discreet measure of nonrenewal."

Further articles: Geoffrey O'Biran introduces Harvey Cohen's biography of Duke Ellington which is a gripping description of how the musician shaped America and American him. And of his beginnings: "Music was not a predestined career choice for Ellington. He liked to draw and attended a commercial art school, and in his teens ran a sign-painting business. But by age fifteen he had discovered the profits and pleasures of music, acquiring the musical knowledge he needed not systematically - he had abandoned Mrs. Clinkscales's lessons early on - but by absorbing what he could from every musician he encountered."

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