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14/11/2006

Magazine Roundup

Outlook India | The Guardian | Nepszabadsag | Elet es Irodalom | The Times Literary Supplement | Asharq Al-Awsat | Gazeta Wyborcza | Folio | Foreign Policy | London Review of Books | Le point


Outlook India, 20.11.2006 (India)

Lazy? As if! Indian historian Irfan Habib responds to an article published a few weeks ago in Outlook, in which the British historian and Delhi resident William Dalrymple ("The Last Mughal"), accuses Indians and Indian historians in particular of indifference and laziness. Habib criticizes Dalrymple's view that the Islamic rebels of the 1857 mutiny were predecessors to the terror organization Al Qaida. "This ignores the vital fact that religion in 1857 was the medium through which a growing resentment against the multiple inequities of the British rule was expressed. Ray brings this out fairly well. The Bengal Army sepoys throughout maintained a surprising inter-communal unity among them, a fact noted by Syed Ahmed Khan in his Asbab Baghawat-i Hind. He admitted that the Hindu and Muslim sepoys, having shed their blood together for their British masters for so long, were now so closely linked to each other in a common brotherhood that they could not but fight till the end once the uprising had begun. Such anti-colonial spirit suggests analogies as strong with Vietnam as with Iraq or Palestine. It would be too narrow to see it in a 'jehad' framework of our own creation."

The Guardian, 12.11.2006 (U.K.)

Geoffrey Moorhouse, on the other hand, finds William Dalrymple's biography of the last mughals in India to be simply "magnificent". He concludes from the book that the British were basically responsible for the uprising because they had lost their Kipling style of rule. "No longer were Britain's Indian policies in the 1850s conducted by the likes of Warren Hastings and William Jones, who understood and respected Indian values and traditions. Instead, 'this steady crescendo of insensitivity' on the part of people like Jennings and their governing superiors was directly responsible for the mutiny: the gaffe (and it was no more than that) of the greased cartridges was simply the last straw for the already resentful sepoys who mutinied. If the army had followed its instructions - that goat or mutton fat would not offend the religious susceptibilities of either Hindu or Muslim soldiers, but that on no account must either beef or pork fat be used - there would have been no problem."


Nepszabadsag, 11.11.2006
(Hungary)


Not so many years ago, southeast Europe was the scene of wars, ethnic and religious conflicts. Leading up to Bulgaria and Romania's entry to the EU, writer György Konrad reflects on how transnational cooperation can be promoted in the region. "The glorification of local warlords is a thing of the past. We need investments that bring opposing groups into daily contact so that moral, ethnic, national and religious civil wars can be overcome. Projects that unveil common interests and promote a culture of compromise should be sponsored. Many politicians here still have not understood that they do not stand at the centre-point of history, that they are no longer the heroes of our times, that they are responsible to the people and not just the rulers of them and that citizens don't need ringleaders anymore."


Elet es Irodalom, 10.11.2006 (Hungary)

Miklos Radvanyi, longtime advisor in the American congress and vice president of the Frontiers of Freedom Institute sees a basic crisis in the democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. "The political crises in Poland, the paralysis of the Czechs, the extreme nationalism of the Slovakian government, the almost ridiculous circumstances in Bulgaria and Romania, the failure of the orange revolution in Kiev and Tbilisi show that the institutional and economic bases of Anglo Saxon democracy are lacking in these countries." Taking the Hungarian example, Radvanyi shows the deficits in the political culture. "Politicians present themselves strangely, they claim publicly to be beyond the law and show open contempt for the poor. They are narcissistic, almost without exception, and unable to present their opponents and their own supporters with reasonable ideas and arguments. In this very unique political culture, differentness, a diversity of opinions, is not considered something necessary for social progress but rather, something to be punished."

Editor in chief Zoltan Kovacs criticizes businessman Gabor Szeles, who owns a majority share of Magyar Hirlap, one of Hungary's most important dailies, because he has fired leading editors and journalists in order to bring the publication in line with his own politics. Kovacs says that in the USA, things work differently. "The New York Times is highly respected internationally. This is largely thanks to the efforts of its owners. For them, the press is more than a corporate enterprise, more than an instrument of political influence... Power for them is not a goal but a means to serve the common good. The New York Times believes in exposing not concealing, solidarity not complicity. The interests of the Sulzbergers and society at large are not at odds with each other – even if Arthur Sulzberger grants himself the last word in debates."


The Times Literary Supplement, 13.11.2006 (UK)

The music of the American composer Aaron Copland (the "Fanfare for the Common Man" as mp3) reminds Allen Shaw of the paintings of Edward Hopper and the poems of Robert Lee Frost. Shaw warmly recommends a new volume of letters of this pioneer of American e-music – primarily to today's young artists: "While these charming and circumspect letters do not dwell on intellectual matters and seldom betray any personal or artistic secrets, this is still a book that artists, in particular, should read. It shows very movingly that it is possible to be committed to what one is doing while being generous to others and a citizen of the world; that it is not necessary to be especially neurotic to be a great artist; that strong convictions need not preclude diplomatic civility; that it is possible to produce important work and remain unpretentious. Addressing the latter point directly, Copland instructs the young Henry Brant: 'Some friendly advice: get a different bow. The one you have at present is not simple enough... It looks too much like Henry Brant the great composer coming to greet his public! Be a great composer but be natural and unaffected about it'."


Asharq Al-Awsat, 08.11.2006 (Saudi Arabia / UK)

The Egyptian film industry is threatened by "time bombs," writes Ayhab al-Hadri. He means the descendants of famous people who are increasingly often putting up barriers to films about the lives of their forefathers, often causing films already in the advanced stages to collapse. Two examples are given by film projects about the musician Muhammad Abdul Wahab and singer Farid al-Atrash. These failed recently after protests from family members who had demanded a far-reaching right of co-determination in film production. "Do we tell truth as it was, or do we ignore it to protect the reputations of the heroes of these films?" al-Hadri asks. "The only solution to this problem will be a transformation in Arab thinking, for example with the understanding that stars are not angels, and that they shouldn't be treated like geese that lay golden eggs for their heirs and other profiteers. Only then will there also be an audience for this type of film, and only then will new horizons open up for creative filmmaking. Otherwise all we have is more censorship."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 11.11.2006
(Poland)


Roman Pawlowski writes that the settling of historical accounts has become a central theme in both political debate and culture. "More historical films have been shot in Poland in 2006 than ever before: from Andrzej Wajda's 'Post mortem' to a Popieluszko biography, various stories about the Polish and Russian secret services to Schlöndorff's 'Solidarity' epic. That doesn't just have to do with a political boom; since the public film subsidies have been increased, historical films, which are more expensive by nature, can be shot in much greater quantity."

In west Ukrainian Drohobytsch, the international Bruno-Schulz Festival, which honours the Polish Jewish author, has opened. "Gradually at first, a group of Schulz researchers has assembled in the city. The neglect of his legacy lead to the illegal removal of unique murals of the artist by employees of Yad Vashem (more). During the festival, a memorial plaque for Bruno Schulz was unveiled – on the spot that he was shot 64 years ago by a Gestapo officer."


Folio, 06.11.2006
(Switzerland)

"Shopping has the undeserved reputation of being a lowbrow activity. In truth it's the most undervalued cultural technique of our time," writes Reto U. Schneider, who goes on to explain in detail the tricks which store designers use to perfect the shopping experience - from the vendor's perspective, of course. "They push their wagons along the course and come to the wine shelves. Don't you want to bring a bottle to your friends? Vivaldi's 'Four seasons' whispers in your ears. You reach for a bottle of Tignanello for 50 francs. If the supermarket had been playing Madonna, you would have gone for a cheaper gift. At least that was the result of an experiment conducted by an American wine dealer. When accompanied by light classics, customers bought bottles that were three times more expensive than what they bought to pop music. Thank goodness that no Bavarian brass bands were blasting from the loud speakers – otherwise the friends would have gotten a bottle of 'Kröver Nacktarsch' (Kröver Barebum)."


Foreign Policy, 01.11.2006 (USA)

Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun set out in search of the Russian dealer Viktor Bout, whose friends describe him as affable, clever and generous. "Former colleagues describe him as a postman, able to deliver any package virtually anywhere in the world. Not yet 40 years old, the Russian national also happens to be the world’s most notorious arms trafficker. He, more than almost anyone else, has succeeded in exploiting the anarchy of globalization to get goods—usually illicit goods—to market. He's a wanted man, desired by those who require a small military arsenal and pursued by law enforcement agencies who want to bring him down. Globe-trotting weapons merchants have long flooded the Third World with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, and warehouses of bullets and land-mines. But unlike his rivals, who tend to carve out small regional territories, Bout's planes have dropped off his tell-tale military-green crates from jungle landing strips in the Congo to bleak hillside runways in Afghanistan. He has developed a worldwide network of logistics, maneuvering through a maze of brokers, transportation companies, financiers, and weapons manufacturers—both illicit and legitimate—to deliver everything from fresh-cut flowers, frozen poultry, and U.N. peacekeepers to assault rifles and surface-to-air missiles across four continents."


London Review of Books, 16.11.2006 (UK)

Of four representations of the Hungarian uprising of 1956, Eric Hobsbawm (more) chooses that of Charles Gati ("Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt"), in which the author suggests that Imre Nagy has to be seen as a fateful figure specifically because he was not able to prevent the attack on the headquarter of the Communist Party on October 30th. Moscow had already announced a withdrawal of it's troops when "the building was taken, the Budapest Party chief – a strong supporter of reform – killed, and 23 secret policemen lynched by the mob in front of the world's newsreel cameras. It was this demonstration of anarchic fury, combined with Nagy's increasing concessions to the maximalist demands on the street, that persuaded both Moscow and Beijing that uncontrollable disorder was impending in Hungary. 'In the end,' Gati writes, 'Nagy became a reluctant revolutionary who could not control that sudden outburst of violence . . . and this was the main reason why he lost whatever confidence Moscow had had in him.'"


Le point, 09.11.2006 (France)

In his notebook column, Bernhard-Henri Levy counters the widespread view that the trial against Saddam Hussein was carried out in an amateurish way. "Hitler killed himself, Stalin and Mao died in their beds, Mengistu is still enjoying peaceful days in Zimbabwe. The victims of a Pinochet or a Pol Pot have waited for decades – or their whole lives – for people to bring their torturers to trial. After his downfall, Saddam's victims had the modest consolation of the beginnings of justice. And Saddam was accorded the justice which he himself denied the countless men and women he murdered over 24 years. There were lawyers, defence and prosecution witnesses and argued cases at the trial, which was practically broadcast live throughout Iraq. Whether you like it or not, things were done according to strict rules and procedures. This was the first trial of its kind in the Arab world, and in some respects in the history of fallen dictators altogether."
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