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24/10/2006

Magazine Roundup

Elet es Irodalom | Magyar Hirlap | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Atlantic Monthly | Outlook India | Tygodnik Powszechny | Al Ahram Weekly | L'Express | Le point | Asharq Al-Awsat | Le Monde diplomatique |The New York Times Book Review


Elet es Irodalom, 20.10.2006
(Hungary)

Fifty years after the Uprising, Hungarian author Peter Nadas now understands why the West did not step in. "In October 1956, the people and the legitimate governments of Europe and North America had decided that the days of revolution were over for good. And they were right. This was an epoch which believed that social and political protests must be integrated into existing systems in order to avoid a third world war. With great sorrow, bleeding hearts and full awareness of their moral responsibility, they decided not to support this revolution of Hungarian democracy which came 150 years too late with either diplomatic means or troops or weapons."

Two weeks ago (the article is only now online) the writer Peter Esterhazy called for a shared memory of the Revolution, which he defines as something "that we Hungarians have continued to lose our hold on. We first lost hold of it when the Soviets marched into Budapest on November 4, 1956. We lost it a second time when Imre Nagy, prime minister of the independent government, was killed on June 16, 1958. The Kadar regime (1956-1988) guaranteed a decade of amnesia. On June 16, 1989, at the celebrations for Imre Nagy's rehabilitatation and entombment, it seemed as if we'd rediscovered our lost revolution. On this incredible afternoon it seemed our history – independent of all political interpretations – could have enormous power, as if history would have the last word over the forgotten, and not us, the untrue. This was an illusion: On the 50th anniversary, we have lost 1956 again. It is interesting only as party-political fodder."


Magyar Hirlap, 21.10.2006 (Hungary)

The socialist-liberal government and the right-wing conservative opposition are celebrating 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising separately. Magyar Hirlap asked a number of prominent figures from scientific, cultural, business and political circles when they thought Hungary would reach a consensus on 1956.The journalist Istvan Elek answered, "The French left and right have always staged separated celebrations of the French Revolution. I think we will outdo them."

"1956 opened Europe's eyes", Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom is quoted by the paper as saying. At 23, Nooteboom was an eye-witness to the Revolution. "The sight of the murdered secret police, the toppled trams, the smell of gunpowder reminded him of the Second World War and the German occupation of the Netherlands. He sensed that the West would betray the Hungarians fighting on the streets. He was speechless when a girl asked him time and again when the West would come to help Hungary. The question was understandable, because Radio Free Europe had announced that Western Europe and the USA were planning a military attack in Hungary. But the West remained silent in response to the girl's question. 'False hopes were very dangerous at that time. I wanted to help Hungary but I was utterly powerless'."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 23.10.2006 (Poland)

In October 1956 there was not only one revolution in the Eastern Bloc. After the workers' uprising in Poznan in June, there was leadership change in the communist party: the supposedly liberal Wladyslaw Gomulka took over power on a wave of national fervour. This event heralded in a brief period of so-called thaw. "That was the beginning of the end of communism, it started to weaken back then," one of the leaders of the striking workers, Lechoslaw Gozdzik, recollects. "In 1956 we used our chance to the maximum. We could have just rattled our sabres a little and led the people onto the street. Then we'd have nice monuments today. But at the time, we didn't cross that line."


The Atlantic Monthly, 01.11.2006 (USA)

In a fantastic and very long portrait, Joshua Green describes the senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as "a wily manipulator of the Senate's outsize egos, and a master of cloakroom politics", who to the horror of the Democratic Party has learned masterfully in her six years in office how to behave in Washington power circles. For example in Evangelical prayer circles, which conservative Republican senators are especially fond of visiting. Clinton went straight to the most exclusive of all of them: "One spring Wednesday, a few months into the term, Senator Sam Brownback's turn came to lead the group, and he rose intending to talk about a recent cancer scare. But as he stood before his colleagues Brownback spotted Clinton, and was overcome with the impulse to change the subject of his testimony. 'I came here today prepared to share about this experience in my life that has caused great suffering, the result of which has deepened my faith,' Brownback said, according to someone who watched the scene unfold. 'But I’m overcome now with only one thought.' He confessed to having hated Clinton and having said derogatory things about her. Through God, he now recognized his sin. Then he turned to her and asked, 'Mrs. Clinton, will you forgive me?' Clinton replied that she would, and that she appreciated the apology." Since then, things have worked fine with the Republicans.

Outlook India, 30.10.2006 (India)

In a passionate appeal, writer and much-feared activist Arundhati Roy demands amnesty for Mohammed Afzal, who has been sentenced to death on two counts in the wake of the attack on the Indian parliament of December 13, 2001. Roy is highly critical of the judiciary and the press. While the papers have nothing better to do than discuss the length of the rope on which the condemned man would hang, she steams, the highest court bases its sentence on an illegal confession by Afzal, and is engaging in a sort of lynch justice in the name of the collective social conscience. "Sadly, in the midst of the frenzy, Afzal seems to have forfeited the right to be an individual, a real person any more. He's become a vehicle for everybody's fantasies—nationalists, separatists, and anti-capital punishment activists. He has become India's great villain and Kashmir's great hero—proving only that whatever our pundits, policymakers and peace gurus say, all these years later, the war in Kashmir has by no means ended... On the basis of this illegal confession extracted under torture, hundreds of thousands of soldiers were moved to the Pakistan border at huge cost to the public exchequer, and the subcontinent devolved into a game of nuclear brinkmanship in which the whole world was held hostage." The execution scheduled for October 20 was suspended on the grounds of a clemency plea by Afzal's wife.


Tygodnik Powszechny, 22.10.2006 (Poland)

Ewa Baliszewska recommends an exhibition on Afro-American art currently on show at the "Zacheta" national gallery in Warsaw. But she also addresses the exhibition's major problem: authenticity. "The romantic vision of the black artist who delves into his African roots in search of inspiration in both the figurehead and the biggest threat to Afro-American art. Some critics even say it has been created to satisfy the needs of whites. In the context of black pop culture, these accusations are especially topical." Photographer Hank Willis Thomas tells how he was asked accusingly by white friends of his: "Hank, you don't listen to rap?! So we're blacker than you are?"


Al Ahram Weekly, 19.10.2006 (Egypt)

Lebanese author Elias Khoury can't get very excited joy at Orhan Pamuk's winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. Instead, he lends support to the thesis that the decision of the Swedish Academy was politically motivated: "Did Pamuk receive the award in his capacity as an alternative to an Armenian writer? Has the game of doppelgangers and the interlocking of identities now overtaken the novelist himself, turning him into the hero of a novel he did not write? The game of the writer's transformation into the hero of a novel he has not penned fascinates me because it is one of the signs of the text's revenge on the writer who considers that his intelligence allows him to pass over the very chalice he has given to the heroes of his novels to drink. Was this not the fate of Salman Rushdie, Kafka and Emile Habibi, among others?"


L'Express, 19.10.2006 (France)

In one of his relatively rare interviews, Prince gives detailed information about his origins, the reasons for his metamorphosis into The Artist "hermaphrodite" and, the "gangsters" at his record company Warner. The company is currently releasing a DVD with previously unpublished videos of songs from his 1991 album "Diamonds and Pearls". The interview starts very nicely. Prince asks first of all if, in accord with their agreement, the interviewer Paola Genone has neither camera mobile telephone nor tape recorder with her. In response to her counter question if she can at least jot down what he says, he tells the story of one interview in the US. "I recently gave an American journalist a two-hour interview on the condition that he take no notes whatsoever. Every ten minutes he got up and went to the toilet, saying something about a kidney condition. In truth he wrote everything on toilet paper, for fear of forgetting it all... I had to laugh when he confessed his sins before he left, and pulled out a bundle of toilet paper that he'd scrawled all over."


Le point, 19.10.2006 (France)

Bernard-Henri Levy returns to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, suggesting that President Putin be stripped of his membership in the Legion of Honour, and that he should be confronted with the case at every occasion: "He must not be left in peace until every last detail of this tragedy has been cleared up. No summit meeting, no state visit, no press conference must be allowed to unfold without him being asked: 'Well? How do things stand? What can you tell us about who masterminded this crime that took place right under your eyes?' Anna Politkovskaya was the conscience of Russia. She must become the bad conscience of its president, the spirit that visits him and fills him with pangs of remorse."


Asharq Al-Awsat, 18.10.2006 (Saudi Arabia / UK)

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897) counts among the most important precursors of Islamic renewal, and is often called an Islamic Martin Luther. Farial Hasan al-Khalifa paints a different picture in her book "The Meaning of the Future." Muhammad Khalil outlines her views: "Instead of developing a new perspective on Islam, one which would enable both individuals and society to liberate themselves, Afghani backed the Islamic state and Islamic society with his idea of a unity of religion and worldly life. Such a unity transcends nationality, ethnicity and the nation. And exactly that was Afghani's objective and view of the future. Such a unity would offer Muslims power to resist imperialistic attacks from the outside and backwardness and degeneration on the inside. Afghani's call for an Islamic identity and Islamic civilisation means, in the author's view, setting it apart from the course of the (non-Islamic) human civilisation."

Nazim Muhanna reports from Syria on a minor boom in state-produced films. The nomination of Damascus as the Arab Cultural Capital of 2008 has prompted the National Film Organisation of Syrian Cinema to produce ten films about the city. It's an enormous project, considering the organisation's normal production of three new films every two years. The ineffectiveness of the institution, whose entrance is like "an old hospital for the chronically ill," has led an increasing number of Syrian filmmakers to pin their hopes on digital cameras, reports Muhanna. This technology offers – over and above state film funding – the possibility of a fledgling renaissance in Syrian film.


Le Monde diplomatique, 13.10.2006 (France / Germany)

Envy also plays a role in the contempt for the French banlieues and their vitality, writes Denis Duclos: "Basically, certain intellectuals simply get upset that a strong culture has emerged out of this unruly and sometimes deadly vitality, which is evidently more infectious than their own, supposedly high culture. They regret the lack of integration or orientation much less than the fact that enthusiastic youths and some old media people have made suburban hiphop into an enduring phenomenon and an element that itself promotes integration."


The New York Times Book Review, 22.10.2006 (USA)

The New York Times Magazine publishes the first part of a long reportage on the growing power of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Elizabeth Rubin describes the Pakistani-Afghani border region as a kind of "Taliban spa," where fighters come to rest and renew their inspiration while the underpaid Afghani police, left to themselves by NATO and the Americans, get high on opium: "One afternoon I ran into a group who said their friends had just been killed when a Talib posing as a policeman served them poisoned tea. A shaggy-haired officer in a black tunic was standing by his pickup, freshly ripped up by a barrage of bullets, and staring at my feet. 'I envy your shoes,' he said, looking back at his own torn rubber sandals. 'I envy your Toyota,' he said and laughed. And then looking at my pen and notebook, he said, 'I envy you can read and write.' It's not too late, I offered feebly, but he tapped his temple and shook his head. 'It doesn’t work anymore,' he said. 'I smoke hash. I smoke opium. I'm drinking because we're always thinking and nervous.' He was 35. He had been fighting for 20 years."
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