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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16/05/2006

Magazine Roundup

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

Outlook India | L'Espresso | Le Nouvel Observateur | Gazeta Wyborcza | Plus - Minus | The Guardian | Il Foglio | Nepszabadsag | Die Weltwoche | Al Ahram Weekly | Le Monde diplomatique | NRC Handelsblad | Journal Culinaire | Elet es Irodalom | The New York Times Book Review


Outlook India, 22.05.2006 (India)

Bleak is the future of the banana. With the conference in Madrid on "Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture" starting in June, Seema Sirohi deems it timely to extol the virtues of the world's fourth most important food, whose wild species are threatened with extinction. "Wild bananas may not always be edible because they are full of seeds but they may carry disease-resistant genes. The Lushais, Lakhers and the Mizos use them to extract fibre, while many indigenous people use the banana for medicinal purposes, including reducing kidney stones. Some tribes use it as cheap animal feed and even for making beer. The banana is, in fact, integral to Indian cultural and religious life. Written records of the fruit go back to Kautilya's Arthashastra (400-300 BC), to the paintings of Ajanta and Ellora caves (200 BC) and to the Ramayana." Reducing the number of species will have grave consequences, not only for lovers of the banana daiquiri.


L'Espresso, 18.05.2006
(Italy)

Andrzej Stasiuk writes a maliciously juicy portrait of the Kaczynski Brothers who rule Poland like a "double Sancho Panza, both of whom want to be Don Quixote". "They are both small and fat. Their facial expressions have a childlike quality. They look like two ageing boys. Their suits don't fit them, the rooms in which they present themselves seem oversized, the vehicles they climb into, too long. The country they lead seems too big, and too complicated. As children they played the leading role in a film called 'The two who stole the moon'. In this beautiful and sinister fairy tale they really do perform this heroic and cursed deed."


Le Nouvel Observateur, 15.05.2006
(France)

"French cinema is dying and television is taking the reins" grumbles the Nouvel Obs film critic in an article tagged "Autopsy of a debacle". Although the industry has never produced more films, 240 in 2005, of which 24 alone accounted for 90 percent of all ticket sales, there have never been fewer real filmmakers. Because the majority of the films are not meant for the big screen at all but are fodder for television channels that have risen to become the industry's powerful principal employer. "What would change if qualitatively challenging films were to be made again? For the audience, a lot, for filmmakers, nothing at first, but in the long-term they could only profit. It's just that filmmakers can't do it any more, they're not in the mood and they've lost faith. French film is an industry lacking in conviction."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 13.05.2006
(Poland)

Gazeta Wyborcza publishes an essay by the writer and cultural editor Krzysztof Varga from a collection of writing from Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and Germany entitled "Sarmatische Landschaften" (Sarmartic landscapes). In it he compares the history of Central Europe with Holbein's "The Ambassadors" – if you look at it from a certain angle you see a skull in the picture. "The history of our part of Europe demands a similar approach: only by looking at things from from another angle can you make out things which at first sight look like a formless blot. Then you see not just one but a million skulls. The problem is that most viewers stand rigidly right in front of the picture, which means that they will never see the real image. They just see blots, the origin and meaning of which they have no understanding."


Plus - Minus, 13.05.2006
(Poland)

Russia is in the spotlight of Rzeczpospolita's weekend supplement. The historian Richard Pipes explains in an interview why it's good that Poland is being so vociferous about the Baltic pipeline but warns against provoking Russia unnecessarily – as the minister of defence, Radek Sikorski, did when he compared the pipeline project with the Hitler-Stalin pact. He also talks about Russian authoritarian tendencies and its imperial complex. "When I tell Russians that they should build up a strong state from the inside, instead of flexing their muscles abroad, they label me a Russophobe. Which I am not – I just believe that states can change, look at Japan. They just have to want to and Russia does not want to..."

The Russian mentality is also the subject of a discussion with writer Vladimir Voinovich, who lives in Munich. "Basically we all yearn for a life in a zoo cage: the animals of prey are behind bars and we are fed regularly. Whether or not Putin is a good zoo director is something I will be only able to say once when his term in office is over."


The Guardian, 13.05.2006
(UK)

The writer Colm Toibin tells of his visit to the painter Howard Hodgkin in his studio where he extracted the following confession: "I hate painting". And Hodgkin goes only unwillingly into his studio. "All around the walls are 16 huge canvases facing inwards. I begin to think that he has started to work on a much vaster scale, and presume that is why I have been sent in here alone to get used to the idea before he comes in to explain. When he arrives, however, it is instantly made clear that there is nothing painted on what I have taken to be canvases; they are merely screens. They are there to hide the pictures he is working on, which hang on the wall facing outwards. The screens are not heavy, which means it would be easy to lift one or push it aside and then the unfinished painting could shine its light on you as you sit in one of the broken armchairs in the studio. Secrecy is very important for him. No one else knows what these screened half-finished paintings look like. When I ask him if he would ever unscreen them all, have all his unfinished work look down at him in one fell swoop, he says he would run screaming out of the studio. The idea is unthinkable."


Il Foglio, 13.05.2006
(Italy)

In the weekend supplement, Maurizio Crippa portrays the prolific Carlo Lucarelli, "a writer and story teller, who brings out novels and stories in veritable mountain ranges, classical crime and noir fiction, television series and film scripts. He also has an Internet site of manic precision which gives you the creeps to scroll through – are serial writers and serial killers brothers in spirit? Where all interviews he has given are listed in full and his bibliography in almost all its entirety fills ten pages." It's true: the painstakingness of his Internet presence unfortunately makes Luccarrelli something of a rarity in Italy."

Paola Peduzzi and Rolla Scolari rate a number of upcoming leading ladies of global politics on their style and image. Tzipi Livni, for instance, the defence minister and vice president of Israel. "She's rarely puts on a dress. As a tall and commanding woman Tzipi prefers tailored trousers, dark, straight-lined, strict – like the sort Angela Merkel wears – and combines them with a few feminine touches: two peals on the ears behind a simple, smooth, short haircut, which does nothing to disguise her imposing nose."


Nepszabadsag, 13.05.2006
(Hungary)

Hungary is pursuing its own path in East Central Europe, writes the acclaimed political scientist Laszlo Lengyel. "The socialist-liberal coalition which has been stable for twelve years is unique in the East Central European region. It is reminiscent of the German governments of the 70s, of the Brandt-Scheel and the Schmidt-Genscher line." The rest of East Central Europe, "the 'new Europe' has been defined
since spring 2003 by economic liberalism and/or national radicalism. It orientates itself towards the USA and turns its back on continental Europe and Russia... The Hungarian strain of these currents, Hungarian Viktorianism (named after the opposition leader Viktor Orban) was rejected by the voters. The great Hungarian nationalism, economic patriotism, the structuring of all politics around one leader, the attempt to unite the entire conservative camp in a single people's party, has failed. Hungary abandoned the course of Eastern European nationalism."


Die Weltwoche, 12.05.2006 (Switzerland)


"When I was young, things weren't so simple", writes a head-shaking 35-year-old Christof Moser about his younger flatmate who switches on his computer and "an hour later the doorbell rings, followed by moans and groans coming from his room." A sexual revolution is under way, Moser comments: "Twenty-year-olds lead parallel lives on the Web, they've almost completely virtualised their circle of friends, and they now often put more attention into their virtual identities than their real ones. They meet on the Internet at work or after school, they manage their friendships online, look for new acquaintances in chat rooms, and line up sexual encounters as if things had always been done that way."

At the latest with the so-called Clearstream affair surrounding Dominique de Villepin, the French Republic is in a "crisis of government", writes Daniel Binswanger, who gives an overview of the affair. This is clearly not easy: "Now and then it seems that even insiders have difficulties separating hard facts from spy stories."


Al Ahram Weekly, 11.05.2006 (Egypt)

A court sentence providing official recognition to Bahais has sparked a heated debate in Egypt. Is this a religion, and are we dealing with the freedom of belief? Or are the five million Bahais spread across the world followers of a private sect, or even Israeli spies with their the headquarters are in Israel? Gihan Shahine explains the fuss: "Many people see Bahai as a threat to Islam - as well as to Christianity and Judaism - since it calls for a global government based in Israel that unifies the world into one Bahai faith and renounces basic Islamic tenets including jihad." Others, however, argue "that Islam is tolerant of all creeds and that Bahais should not be denied their right to be officially recognised just because they are a minority."

Further articles: Nevine El-Aref reports from the Exhibition "Egypt's Sunken Treasures" in Berlin's Martin Gropius Bau. And Gamal Nkrumah portrays the Sudanese politician and founder of the Popular Arab and Islamic Congress (PAIC), Hassan Al-Turabi.


Le Monde diplomatique, 11.05.2006 (France / Germany)

The central organ of the "altermondialistes" publishes a small dossier on the sorry situation of intellectuals in France. In the leading article, Jacques Bouveresse criticises public intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy and the machinations of the media, deploring the deaths of Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Derrida. And he has a few words to say about the absence of a literary criticism worth the name in France: "You really have to wonder whether the true swindle, which is in effect at the heart of all the other swindles, is not simply that perpetrated by the critics. Put another way: critics often lack any sense of – and even any will to – critique. Similarly, they see it as normal and natural simply to do the exact opposite of what people expect." Bouveresse's article is much indebted to a prior article from the London Review of Books by Perry Anderson.

Mona Cholet explains the term "the intellectual underclass." The "precarious intellectuals", she writes, "come from privileged milieus, or have acquired the 'symbolic capital' of the 'higher classes', yet as far as their condition and incomes are concerned, they belong to the lower strata of society."


NRC Handelsblad, 08.05.2006 (The Netherlands)

At the beginning of April, Jane Kramer wrote in The New Yorker of the "blase" and "thoughtless" way the Dutch have of dealing with radical Muslims (here the article). This did not fail to ruffle the feathers of Dutch intellectuals from Arnon Grünberg to Stephan Sanders. Anil Ramdas, born in Paramaribo in Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana), now throws in his two bits. "When people from abroad start analysing, or even criticising us, we become huffy, even petty. That's an extremely childish reaction, but I can understand it. If I weren't treated as a foreigner in the Netherlands myself, I'd probably also say: Jane Kramer, you keep your mouth shut about the Dutch assholes."


Journal Culinaire, 15.05.2006 (Germany)

Here's a brand new periodical put out by media gourmet Vincent Klink. The second edition, focusing on "Eating in Art", contains a piece published in 1927 by Viennese architect Adolf Loos, in which he settles scores with Viennese cuisine. "It is my contention that Viennese cooking has not changed for 200 years. In that time man has entirely changed, both physically and psychically, yet here in Vienna we continue to cook as we did in the 18th century. In addition, the Viennese has a manner of eating unheard of elsewhere. He doesn't eat to satiate himself, he eats until he bursts. Above all else he prefers flour dishes such as dumplings, which are entirely unknown in Western states. The Frenchman, for example, eats flour only in the form of bread. Moreover, Viennese cooking commits the cardinal error of refusing any and every diversity on its menus. We stuff ourselves full with one dish and leave the table as best we can, sometimes partially, often entirely unable to resume work. What I enjoy so much in Western countries are meals with many courses, from which you only sample a small portion each time. In France you rise from the table as fresh and unencumbered as when you sat down."


Elet es Irodalom, 12.05.2006 (Hungary)

György Somlyo, one of Hungary's foremost contemporary poets, has died. György Somlyo, one of Hungary's foremost contemporary poets, has died. The translator, poet and publisher Gabor Csordas writes in his obituary that it was difficult for Somlyo to work as a true European on the periphery of European culture: "We see ourselves as inheritors of Greek and Roman antiquity, the Italian and the French Renaissance, the Spanish and English Baroque, and so as the heirs to European culture. We have long ceased to purposely isolate ourselves with the primitive phrase 'extra Hungariam non est vita'. But we are still tortured by the consciousness of being behind the times, even if less so than formerly. We don't reject Hungarian artists whose work is unequivocally in keeping with European tradition – a tradition which we have declared our own despite perceiving it as somehow 'alien' – but with imperceptible gestures we relegate them to a place that is not worthy of them."

György Spiro's novel "Gefangenschaft" (Captivity), hailed as the literary sensation of 2005, has been awarded the Aegon literary prize. Agnes Szechenyi celebrates the novel, which takes place in the times of Jesus of Nazareth, as a "mirror of our times": "How do people in Rome, the centre of the empire, view Alexandria? The same way European civilisation views New York: as a centre on the periphery... The novel describes the religious war in the 1st century as a robbery, assault, hunt, sacrifice, Holocaust, havoc, calamity.... On 11 September, 2001, the buildings on the south tip of New York were covered with ashes. The Roman Empire went on existing for another four hundred years, but something changed definitively – as in our time after the destruction of the Twin Towers. Uri, the major protagonist, notices this change. Do we?"


The New York Times Book Review, 14.05.2006 (USA)

A must! Kevin Kelly "senior maverick" at Wired magazine, examines in a lengthy article the repercussions Google Print will have on reading habits and the book market. "What is the technology telling us? That copies don't count any more. Copies of isolated books, bound between inert covers, soon won't mean much. Copies of their texts, however, will gain in meaning as they multiply by the millions and are flung around the world, indexed and copied again. What counts are the ways in which these common copies of a creative work can be linked, manipulated, annotated, tagged, highlighted, bookmarked, translated, enlivened by other media and sewn together into the universal library. Soon a book outside the library will be like a Web page outside the Web, gasping for air. Indeed, the only way for books to retain their waning authority in our culture is to wire their texts into the universal library."

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