On the Death of Siegfried Lenz ? ?You have to justify your life?

Siegfried Lenz, one of the great writers of German post-war literature is dead. He died on 7 October 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.... more more

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09/05/2006

Magazine Roundup

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

New York Review of Books | Der Spiegel | Clarin | Le Point | Folio | Outlook India | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Spectator | Elet es Irodalom | L'Espresso | The New Yorker | Magyar Narancs | Al Ahram Weekly | Die Weltwoche | The Times Literary Supplement | The New York Times Book Review


The New York Review of Books, 25.05.2006 (U.S.A.)

The magazine has printed Orhan Pamuk's "Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture", in which he elucidated his position on freedom of expression and religion at the recent PEN Festival in New York: "Whatever the country, freedom of thought and expression are universal human rights. These freedoms, which modern people long for as much as bread and water, should never be limited by using nationalist sentiment, moral sensitivities, or— worst of all—business or military interests," he said. "Respect for the rights of religious or ethnic minorities should never be an excuse to violate freedom of speech. We writers should never hesitate on this matter, no matter how 'provocative' the pretext."

The physicist Jeremy Bernstein, who worked on the Los Alamos atomic programme and recalls how nobody had the foggiest idea that the spy Klaus Fuchs was delivering blueprints to the Russians, can only agree with Jeffrey T. Richelson whose most recent book "Spying on the Bomb" describes the failures of military espionage. Julian Barnes presents Frederick Brown's biography of Flaubert and Hugh Eakin reads Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini's "Medici Conspiracy".


Der Spiegel, 08.05.2006 (Germany)

"There are a few great men in Germany who are really worried - that we're dying out."
Writer Elke Schmitter has given some thought to Germany's shrinking birthrate and "as a woman" can only say, "Relax, boys." Because, "ever since the birthrate has become an issue, the wrong people have been having kids. The middle class has always felt threatened 'from below' and was therefore happy when the economy and society offered the children of the poor and uneducated opportunities for advancement. That's not the case at the moment. The old concern about pauperism is growing; it's no surprise that the warning cries are being aimed at well educated women: 'we' (the good German middle class) should step up our reproduction. To talk this way is the most scandalous thing since the slogan: 'We'll give the Führer a child.'"

In the speech poet Durs Grünbein gave on receiving the Berlin Prize for Literature, he sings praises of the German capital. "It was once the swollen capital of an over-inflated empire, later a pile of rubble for lost souls, today a federal retreat, a moth-eaten sofa at the side of the road and a disemboweled culture palace, still with something deeply underground about it, a labyrinth of bunkers and subway tunnels, a refuge for booming techno parties. But as soon as you walk into the light of one of its massive empty spaces, the walls fall and you
see a clear starry night or, in daytime, the strangest blue of German skies."


Clarin, 06.05.2006 (Argentinia)

In the first April edition of the London Review of Books, Slavoj Zizek accused philanthropic capitalists like Bill Gates, George Soros and Ted Turner of being "liberal communists." Fernando A. Iglesias fires back: it's not the capitalists that are the problem but the Left. "The Left of the new millenia are not lacking a programme, they're lacking imagination, will, courage and decency. If they were capable of adopting the basic values of capitalist liberalism and of engaging themselves for class society but not for its transformation into a community of heirs, for a world in which personal earnings and accomplishment count and not the coincidence of inbred patrimony, for a humanistic individualism instead of a national community of clans and family clans, then we might be able to finally overcome this progressive feudalism in which so many have made themselves at home. How badly can the left be doing, that we feel obliged to defend Bill Gates."


Le point, 05.05.2006 (France)

Anthropologist Malek Chebel has assembled a "Kama-sutra arabe", an anthology of erotic texts from Islamic history. In an interview with Catherine Golliau, he cites erotic passages from the Koran and calls the puritanism of contemporary Islam, unislamic. "The rejection of the flesh and sexuality amounts to a rejection of the self. But how should someone who rejects himself be able to love anyone else, including God? Islam emphasizes the importance of profane happiness as a passage and invitation to spiritual happiness. Those who see these two forms of happiness as oppositions are 'emotionally illitera
te.'"


Folio, 02.05.2006 (Switzerland)

The NZZ's Folio magazine is in World Cup fever: a great string of authors write wonderful texts with their tips for the World Cup: Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro for Brazil: "We've got the best players, in practically all positions." Andrew Anthony for England, here on Wayne Rooney: "Not only is the comic-book manchild blessed with power, speed and an unlikely balletic grace, he also seems to thrive on the big occasion." Herve Le Teiller for France: "Honestly, I feel sorry for everyone else." Rodrigo Fresan for Argentina: "For the time being, soccer is overriding reality in Argentina." Leon de Winter for the Netherlands: "I view soccer as a form of practical terror. I remember games of Ajax Amsterdam when the opponents lay whimpering on the ground pleading for mercy." Guillem Martinez for Spain: "The day of the Apocalypse will come. Sometime. Why not now?" Robert Gerhardt writes a poem for Germany: "It's as clear as dumpling consommé! The world's amazed how well our heroes play." And Benno Maggi for Switzerland: "After France in 1998, 'Le principe melange' will win in world soccer for a second time." It seems no one's expecting much from the Czechs, but look out!

Nigel Barley looks at soccer from an ethnological perspective, reviewing the loss of the subjective ego in the stadium, the aggression and the testosterone rush: "The old saw of historian Manning Clark that soccer is 'the ballet of the working class' sounds rather out of place in a world where the players really take ballet classes as part of their training, but then beat up journalists who dare to photograph them leaving a performance of 'Swan Lake'."

And of course there is Luca Turin's Duftnote column on fragrances (english version), this time looking at the simplexity of perfumeries: "the combination of cool blue elegance and teeming red intricacy".


Outlook India, 15.05.2006 (India)

Anjali Puri considers the "cut-and-paste" generation and the wildly growing culture of plagiarism in literature and the sciences, which is being well maintained by the Indian education system. "In school, to be precise, where 'a photographic memory' and ability to 'internalise' (...) exact phrases that belong to other people is a talent to be envied..." At universities, "plagiarism may not be actively encouraged, but it is rarely frowned upon." In the Net, things are different. "A writer snitches from what he or she may believe to be a little-read publication, and the blogosphere erupts in outrage."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 07.05.2006 (Poland)

According to Wojciech Sadurski, philosophy professor at the European University Institute in Florence, liberals are having a tough time in Poland at the moment and not just because of the conservative government. "The failure that has been proclaimed by the Kaczynski brothers and their allies – the failure of liberal Poland – means more than the failure of an economic model. It's about a state philosophy – people who feel attached to the ideas of the enlightenment are not only unpopular, they're on the side of the losers. The nationalistic, xenophobic, anti-liberal tradition is ahead for the time being." Now, Sadurski says, thought has to be given to what role liberals can play in a non-liberal environment. He looks for answers in the writings of John Rawls. "The alternative would be to retreat to a liberal position, as though in a fort under siege."

Nowa Huta, the industrial suburb of Krakow, is hot! One of the largest Stalinist building plans in Poland, once an urchin near the capital, it is now attracting ever more artists (example) and tourists, writes Renata Radlowska. "Until now, Nowa Huta has not been part of Krakow's tourist image. The interest came from within – artists came and started social projects. Even the EU wants to contribute money for the 'revitalization of the post-industrial space.' Nowa Huta is a contrast to old, boring Krakow, says an insider. It's fresh, open and very real – not staged." Now the city wants to make the complex a UNESCO world heritage site.


The Spectator, 06.05.2006 (U.K.)

Austen Ivereigh, co-ordinator of the Da Vinci Code Response Group of the English and Welsh churches and Opus Dei, describes how the organization has turned its role as a bad guy in Dan Brown's bestseller into free advertising for itself. "Watching Valero and his colleagues rush between TV studios, it is hard to remember that this was once the Catholic Church's most furtive, defensive organisation, obsessed with secrecy and taking an almost perverse pride in the media's hostility. Once the whipping boy of progressive Catholics, long associated with shadowy Spanish politics and Vatican intrigues, the face of Opus Dei is now Valero's: cheery, energetic, transparent, as open as its doors. You want to meet a supernumerary musician with twins in Notting Hill? No problem. Discuss mortification with a celibate numerary? Sure thing!"



Elet es Irodalom, 05.05.2006 (Hungary)

Theatre critic Tamas Koltai asks why the monotony of playwright Marius von Mayenburg is so successful in Germany: "Take several deviant people, put them together in a tank, add several social catastrophes, stir, and it's done! The audience and the critics hungrily swill it all down, at least in Germany, where the people are calibrated with a guilty conscience and a need to be absolved through confession."

Veronika Agnes Toth finds that dance theatre in Hungary is aimed solely at men: "A beautiful puppet moving across the stage, the antagonism of whore and virgin that we've already seen a thousand times, that 'eternally feminine' element presented as if it went without saying, all that doesn't interest a female member of the audience at all; even the Jolly Joker – the portrayal of love as a battle – leaves her cold."


L'Espresso, 11.05.2006 (Italy)


Jokes are going around in Italian e-mails that use the political rhetoric of recent weeks to cast doubt on soccer results. Umberto Eco gives one example that blends reality and absurdity: "In a waste bin near the VIP box, a piece of paper was found of the kind referees use to note the results of a game. There it was written that the Milan-Barcelona game ended 3:1 (and not 0:1), with goals scored by Gilardino, Shevchenko, Giuly and Kaladze. We demand that this disconcerting occurrence be investigated and assessed within a reasonable time. The definitive result of the game is to be expected in four or five months at the earliest."


The New Yorker, 15.05.2006 (USA)

Mitchel Zuckoff tells the story of John W. Worley, an ordained minister and psychotherapist from Massachusetts who displayed a classic 4-1-9 case of "wilful blindness" and was lifted of eighty thousand dollars by cashing false checks for Nigerian advance fee fraud swindlers. A certain Captain Joshua Mbote sent Worley and e-mail requesting help in transferring 55 million dollars that had been left over from a failed weapons deal for former Congo president Laurent Kabila: checks and emails were exchanged for two years, and then Worley became sceptical: "''To date, I have lost nearly fifty thousand dollars chasing a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end of it. I cannot go any further. It will take me two years to recover from this, and I will probably be dead by then.' Mrs. Abacha's reassurances wrung thirteen thousand dollars more from Worley ..."


Magyar Narancs, 04.05.2006 (Hungary)

After the First World War, two thirds of what was then Hungarian territory passed over to neighbouring countries. Today, large Hungarian minorities live in Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine, with smaller numbers in Croatia, Slovenian and Austria. Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom has now initiated a series of conferences to discuss the relations between Hungarians living in Hungary and those living abroad. But he and all other politicians have failed in a grandious manner, writes Boroka Paraszka, herself an expatriate Hungarian. "Hungarian nationalism, which has still not been seen as a problem in Hungary, has a fatal impact. This nationalism accepts only the Hungarians living in neighbouring countries as neighbours, despite the fact that the Hungarian minority cannot be treated separately from the majority society... It's obvious Hungary's political relations with its neighbouring countries are too weak. That also has disadvantages for the Hungarians living abroad, who – thanks to the Hungarian domestic policy – feel as if they live in a sort of provisional forced emigration."


Al Ahram Weekly, 04.05.2006 (Egypt)

For Amr Hamzawi of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the demand voiced recently at the meeting of the "World Movement for Democracy" in Istanbul that Arab states should support secular society in the fight against Islamists is false. Secular groups, he writes, are elitist and unpopular: "They are elitist in their composition and lacking popular support. They lack the power that opposition parties and popular movements have. Arab societies are not that different in that sense from those of East Europe, Latin America and Asia. One is to expect popular movements to press for democracy, with civil society groups playing a supporting role. Civil society groups can offer guidance and help build consensus, and that's all we should be asking them to do."

And: Khaled Diab talks with Brian Whitaker about his book "Unspeakable Love" on gay and lesbian cultures in the Middle East.


Die Weltwoche, 04.05.2006 (Switzerland)

Swiss writers are not to blame for the supposed crisis in Swiss literature, writes Julian Schütt. The problem lies with the system. "In fact, the problem is that our writers are lousy at sticking up for themselves. If it were up to them, you'd no longer even be able to call what they write 'Swiss literature,' because that reduces literature to the national sphere. For the same reason, they no longer want to be Swiss authors, but 'authors of written German', as Peter Bichsel recently decreed. Their linguistic comrades in Austria and Germany go on referring to themselves as Austrians and Germans. And they make our writers and their sterile label reforms look like petty-minded little people with big inferiority complexes – typically Swiss, that is. On top of that, startlingly few professors know anything at all about Swiss literature at our universities. And things are no better on the newspapers' cultural desks."


The Times Literary Supplement, 05.05.2006 (UK)

Benjamin Markovits is full of admiration for Philip Roth's new book "Everyman", which – more a novella than a novel – tells the life of a man as his medical history and as the story of failed marriages. "'Everyman' makes you feel how much the power of such comforting counts for in life. The ability to comfort each other (not to arouse, or interest, or amuse) is what we finally depend on."


The New York Times Book Review, 07.05.2006 (USA)

Even a Nobel Prize winner is happy at Philip Roth's "Everyman". Nadine Gordimer is thrilled: "If descriptive amplitude went out with the 19th century, Philip Roth, who strides the whole time and territory of the word, has resuscitated it — in description revved with the power of narrative itself" (here an excerpt and feature on the author).

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