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13/09/2005

Magazine Roundup

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

The New York Times| Plus - Minus | L'Espresso | The Spectator | Der Spiegel | Gazeta Wyborcza | Le Nouvel Observateur | The Economist | The Guardian | Merkur | Die Weltwoche | Outlook India


The New York Times, 11.09.2005 (USA)


Four years after 9/11 Mark Danner takes stock and has to admit that the war on terror has changed the terrorists but it has also strengthened them. "The sheer number and breadth of terrorist attacks, suggest strongly that Al Qaeda has now become Al Qaedaism - that under the American and allied assault, what had been a relatively small, conspiratorial organization has mutated into a worldwide political movement, with thousands of followers eager to adopt its methods and advance its aims. Call it viral Al Qaeda, carried by strongly motivated next-generation followers who download from the Internet's virtual training camp a perfectly adequate trade-craft in terror. ... 'We have taken a ball of quicksilver," says the counterinsurgency specialist John Arquilla, 'and hit it with a hammer'."


Plus - Minus, 10.09.2005 (Poland)

Four years after the attacks of September 11th, Zbigniew Brzezinski the former national security advisor to president Jimmy Carter writes, "The US government replaced the communists with the Islamic terrorists as the number one enemy. The real threat however lies in the Third World, in the millions of frustrated people. Self-righteous America is the ultimate object of hate for them." The world expects more of the USA than just the military affirmation of its power. It is in its own interests to look for allies to share the weight of responsibility for improving the human race. "The sovereignty of the USA has to serve something greater than its own security."


L'Espresso, 09.09.2005 (Italy)

The Pentagon is coming down strong on the blogs of soldiers in Irak, in which they describe the trials of war, writes Alessandro Gilioli. "Colby Buzzel, 28, first battalion, 23rd regiment, tried to write about the battle for Mosul in August last year, in which he fought on the front line. He provided all sorts of horrific details, admitted to having shot civilians, and contested the number of deaths reported by CNN (who gave the number as 12). Colby was ordered by the Pentagon to close the blog until he was released from the army. Now he has started it again and if you click on it you find an image which clearly illustrates the opinion of the ex-soldier: Guernica, Picasso's painting of the massacre during the Spanish Civil War."


The Spectator, 10.09.2005
(UK)

The Katrina catastrophe prompts the Spectator to ask on its front page: "What's Wrong with America?" Walter Ellis summarises just how grim the situation is. "For nearly half of the people of the United States, these are hard times. The gap between the haves and have-nots has widened to almost Third World dimensions over the past 30 years. The rich and successful have flourished, but the middle classes are in trouble, saddled with debt and uncertainty (to say nothing of college fees), while many Hispanics barely scrape a living. Factories have been closing at an alarming rate, with much of the slack being taken up by China, whose power in the world America is only now beginning to appreciate."


Der Spiegel, 12.09.2005 (Germany)


"After the poets, now the sociologists and historians are becoming the puppets of the politicians." Matthias Matussek delivers a melancholy swansong for left-wing political critique. "To a great extent, left-wing criticism has become reactionary. It either comments on Oscar Lafontaine's pro-welfare rhetoric or not at all. Left-wing visions no longer promote culture, probably because they've needed such constant revision. Who's going to hurl abuse at internationalism when they have to fight globalisation to keep their job. Who is still enamoured with multiculturalism when in the Muslim ghettos of western capitals, women are being beaten up and bombs constructed? Yes, and who's not sick to the teeth of the whole self-realisation circus of the sexes when the shattered remains of the family and abandoned children brutalize society? The time, says Hamlet, is out of joint."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 10.09.2005 (Poland)

Commenting on the heated discussion in Poland over the mistakes committed after 1989 and the demands for a "moral revolution", Adam Michnik paints a black picture of the power of blind masses. In a long essay, he cites examples from history in which adrenalised nationalistic and anti-Semitic masses ruined the lives of decent people – whether in the Dreyfus Affair in France, the bating of Emile Zola or the hate campaign against the first Polish president Gabriel Narutowics, who was shot by an artist in 1922, just after being elected. "It is difficult, very difficult, to stand up against the aggression of the masses. And it is very difficult to find a reply to the base, antidemocratic argumentation that is lapped up so eagerly by the mob. But you have to resist, even if it means showing solidarity for a losing cause. That is the lesson learned by every Polish democrat in the 20th century."


Le Nouvel Observateur, 08.09.2005 (France)

John Updike's book of short stories "Licks of Love" has just appeared in French, and the Nouvel Obs asks him in an interview whether he believes writers are a dying breed. "Writers, as I understand them, are professionals who work in meditative solitude to create a product that is sold to an interested readership, and who strive to think subtly and express themselves well. This type of writer, who can approach almost any subject, is becoming increasingly rare. The term 'writer' is fading in the electronic age, where the market's appetite for the written word has abated... The desire to read hasn't entirely disappeared, because the printed word offers escapism and enlightenment second to none. But what is new, what in earlier times was printed in newspapers, is now threatened – like poetry – with being shunted onto a side track in a specialised province, which is basically only frequented by self-proclaimed writers."


The Economist, 09.09.2005 (UK)

The Economist dedicates a dossier to the quality of university education in a time of steadily rising enrolments. The magazine writes in bitter terms that teaching quality in the former academic citadels of Europe has suffered considerably. In a list of international universities put out by the University of Shanghai, only Oxford and Cambridge ranked among the top 20. "To grasp the full absurdity of this ambition, it is worth visiting the Humboldt University in Berlin. Walk into the main foyer, stroll up the steps to the first floor past a slogan by a former student engraved in gold on the wall ("Philosophers have simply interpreted the world; the point is to change it") and study the portraits of the Nobel prize-winners that line the walls. There were eight in 1900-09, six in 1910-19, four in 1920-29, six in 1930-39, one in 1940-49 and four in 1950-56. The roll of honour includes luminaries such as Theodor Mommsen, Max Planck, Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg. But after 1956 the Nobel prizes suddenly stop."


The Guardian, 10.09.2005 (UK)

Austrian author Murray Bail attempts to understand what distinguishes European from Anglo-Saxon novels. The Europeans, including the Russians, love to generalise. "Another attraction of European, including Russian, writers: they are not afraid of the bold assertion. So bold and distinctive are these assertions, it's enough to send timid and ordinary minds rushing for the exits. 'Oh, that's a generalisation.' What then is to be said of the first sentence of Anna Karenina? 'All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.' Surely it's little more than a 'generalisation'. Timid readers, timid thinkers are more comfortable when bold and distinctive minds are lowered to more digestible levels - via the refuge of relativism."


Merkur, 01.09.2005 (Germany)

This year the September/October issue is dedicated to reality and realism in philosophy, politics and culture. After years of deconstructive melancholy, Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht identifies a new longing for substantiality: "'Substantiality' also, and above all, stands for a (not just psychical) warmth, for density and perhaps also for the incalculability of life, which can never be reduced entirely to the performance of consciousness."



Die Weltwoche, 09.09.2005 (Switzerland)

The cover of this week's Weltwoche boasts the title: "All about Germany". Bruno Ziauddin travels first class through the Federal Republic on the high-speed ICE train, to find a (Swiss) answer to the question: Are the Germans really doing so badly? No sooner does the train start through the Allgäu Region in south-western Bavaria than he exclaims: "Here everything looks as perfect as in a Heidi film. Everyone's well-off. Hardly a house hasn't been renovated, the limousine quotient is considerably higher than in Switzerland, not to mention elsewhere in Europe. And with its high-tech equipment, roomy, wood-trimmed toilets and friendly stewards who bring a tray with tomato juice to your seat, the ICE is like a four-star hotel. Can a country that can afford trains like this really be in crisis?"


Outlook India, 19.09.2005 (India)

"Adoor Gopalakrishnan lives very much in the present, crafts exquisite cinematic essays about the past and is assured of a permanent place in Indian cinema's future." And he is the first filmmaker from Kerala to be given the renowned Dadasahed Phalke Award by the Indian government, very much to the delight of film critic Saibal Chatterjee. Despite the European influence in his works, writes Chatterjee, "it became clear quickly enough that he was too distinctive a filmmaker to build his career on borrowed ideas and styles.... All his films hinge on adroit psychological probing rather than on sweeping dramatic thrusts."

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