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27/11/2006

Magazine Roundup

Merkur | Le Figaro | Literaturen |The Spectator | Outlook India | Die Weltwoche | Nepszabadsag | The Times Literary Supplement | L'Espresso | Przekroj | London Review of Books


Merkur
01.12.2006 (Germany)

Wolf Dieter Enkelmann director of the Institut für Wirtschaftsgestaltung (institute for business structuring) considers what makes Europe what it is and comes up with the following thoughts: "Europeans are eccentric in the literal sense of the world. This shines vividly through most of the history of the world. But unbeknown to them. So strongly has this become second nature even to those for whom respectability has pride of place. They seek their identity in their aims, their centre in alienation. Hard-line defenders of the status quo look quite different. Europeans see chances where others see only abysses and the end of all justice. What would Europe be without the migration of peoples, without its adventurers and soldiers of fortune, its refugees and expellees, those who have betrayed their fatherland or lost their homeland, without all those who found Europe intolerable? A longing for distant shores: it is tempting to think of this as a European invention. Eccentricity is a hallmark of Christianity, but it was already written into the original mythology which the peoples of this continent invoke through their common name."


Le Figaro
27.11.2006 (France)

Philosopher Alain Finkielkraut restates his opinion on the affair of philosophy teacher Robert Redeker, who has received death threats because of his article criticizing Islam. Redeker is currently living in hiding. Finkielkraut demands clarity, and criticizes the "Yes, but..." approach with which intellectuals and politicians defend Redeker's right to free speech: "Even if he is wrong - Redeker is not a racist, as Olivier Roy and others suggest. Redeker is not attacking collectively, but rather condemning what he sees as the intolerance and bellicosity of a religious teaching. We must remind those apostles of justice, bothered as they are by Redeker's vehemence because supposedly this is the teaching of the poor, that Sartre – using the same logic of empathy in the middle of the Stalinist ice age – pictured every anti-communist as a dog. Anyone who wants to prevent the victory of the infamous has to part with the notion that the downtrodden, disrespected, damned of this earth are always innocent even if guilty, and that the 'rulers' are always guilty even when innocent."


Literaturen
01.12.2006 (Germany)

Manfred Schneider delivers an acerbic observation on how a return of a patriotism of values is emerging on the horizon of moral philosophy and pedagogy. Take, for example, Wolfram Weimer's plea for the strengthening of values and moral fortitude through religion ("Credo") and Bernhard Bueb's pedagogical hymn, "In Praise of Discipline," in which the former head of the Schloss Salem boarding school espouses a return to authority and discipline. Schneider sees this as a stiff, top-down pedagogy of do's and don'ts, meant to replace independent experience: "Why does the teacher begrudge others this experience? Why shouldn't youth, too, follow the crooked path strewn with errors and disappointments, instead of stumbling along from one guidepost of discipline and authority to the next? The modern world even broke the authority of organized religion, because modernity wanted to promote experience and experiment over belief."


The Spectator 27.11.2006 (UK)

Neil Barnett recounts his meeting with the poisoned former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died last week, and gleans a fascinating observation from the latter's friend, Vladimir Bukowski. "In July, the Duma passed two very interesting laws. One permits security forces to kill extremists, even abroad. The second one expands the definition of 'extremist' to cover anyone who criticizes the regime in a slanderous manner. The process is as follows: a death penalty is passed in absentia, and then the FSB (Federal Security Service) or GRU (military intelligence) is charged with carrying out the sentence. When I saw Sasha a couple of weeks ago, he did not mention being watched or threatened, but probably only because this had become a permanent part of his life."


Outlook India
04.12.2006 (India)

Has Indian literary criticism been reduced to fit on the back of a book? Sheela Reddy exposes the composition of book-jacket testimonials as a lucrative and incestuous business that tricks the reader: "Khushwant Singh let me know that 'most well-known writers of such texts don't even read the book. They praise it because they like the author or know him personally.' In India, connections are everything. Authors increasingly depend on networking and take care of the reviewing business themselves."


Die Weltwoche
23.11.2006 (Switzerland)

"If someone offers you a tape or interview with Bin Laden, you don't hesitate to accept it, even if it means you'll end up in Guantanamo." Ahmed Sheikh, editor in chief of Al Jazeera TV, in an interview with the rather toothless Pierre Heumann, is pure paradox: a journalist bound to report the news, while operating from a firm ideological basis. "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons behind the continued simmering of all these crises and problems. The foundation of Israel is the source of our problems. The west should finally wise up: things would be much more peaceful if the Palestinians got their due."


Nepszabadsag
25.11.2006 (Hungary)

Fifteen years after German unification, political scientist Laszlo Lengyel seeks balance and analyses the foundations of the crisis in eastern central European democracies: they oriented themselves to the transformation process of the western countries after World War II, and expected, after the "hell" of socialism and the "purgatory" of the transitional period, marked by "wild" capitalism, to see the establishment of "paradise" on earth – a more just, more secure, social capitalism. "On the social and political map of the new gentrification, Warsaw, Prague, Bratislava and Budapest just don't compare with competitors Vienna, Milan, Munich and Berlin. This is especially hard to take, for those who were always pushed to the sidelines, both under the old and the new systems, and who have to live in deep poverty, without support... So is there really any such thing as 'capitalism with a human face', is there no sensible goal, or are we simply incapable of achieving it?"


The Times Literary Supplement
22.11.2006 (UK)

The Age of Apology came to a head with 1990s contrition chic: Bill Clinton apologized for slavery, Tony Blair for the Irish Famine, the Pope for the Crusades. David Lowenthal takes a look at two new books on the subject. Reparations politics, writes Lowenthal, are often little more than "narcissistic therapy" and a way to deflect from the problems of the present. "Many today find it incredible that racism and genocide and gross inequality are the usual human condition.... Few recall that in the 1830s, when enlightened Britain ended slavery in its West Indian colonies, compensation went not to ex-slaves for deprivation of liberty but to slave owners for deprivation of property. We may well lament past misdeeds, but current morality cannot justify anachronistic defamation of their perpetrators, acting by the moral climate of their own day."


L'Espresso
30.11.2006 (Italy)

With the aid of three different translations Umberto Eco proves that headscarf wearing was never recommended in the Koran. He refers to Sura 24 (presumably verse 31) which deals with covering the chest. Head covering was a Christian idea. "The vicar general of the Italian Sufi brotherhood Jerrahi Halveti, Gabriele Mandel Khan, points out (in his commentary on Islam) with a certain satisfaction that it was the Apostle Paul (in chapter 11 of his first letter to the Corinthians), but Paul limited this command to women praying and prophesying. Long before the Koran was written, Tertullian (who despite being sympathetic to the beliefs of the Montanists was most definitely a Christian) outlined in his writings "On the Apparel of Women": God bids you to be veiled. I believe He does so for fear the heads of some should be seen!'"


Przekroj 23.11.2006 (Poland)

Sun, sand and cheap property – Europe is discovering the benefits of its "promising new EU member", Bulgaria, writes Wawrzyniec Smoczynski. "Estate agents are springing up all over the place, and investors from Western Europe are everywhere. Even in the places that look a nightmare from one of Andrzej Stasiuk's books, you can spot cars with British number plates." Many Bulgarians are enthusiastic about entering the EU, but the ubiquitous pursuit of profit is distorting perception on both sides. A Bulgarian journalist warns: "You Poles are constantly building your moral Utopia and you want to convert Europe to you Catholic alternative. Bulgarians prefer to make a comfortable nest in the EU and watch to see if they can tease out a few more euros."


London Review of Books
30.11.2006 (UK)

Indian author Pankaj Mishra visited Shanghai whose rise to a capitalist mega-metropolis he found as unsettling as that of Bombay. "To be an Indian in a Chinese city is to find familiar not only the vast crowds, the vivid street life, the open-fronted shops and food stalls, but also the malls with their luxury brand-names, the shiny new Mercedes and BMWs marooned in the intransigent traffic, the billboards for reality TV shows, the websites mixing sexual exhibitionism with jingoism.(...) It is hard not to wonder about the political outlook of the newly affluent Chinese. Their inability to articulate it through elections does not make any less urgent the question of what role they are likely to play within China as well as in the wider world. For, given the chance to vote, Indians have failed to prove the thesis that free markets and regular elections lead to an enlightened and harmonious society. India's new middle class tends to be conservative, if not reactionary, consistently and overwhelmingly electing Hindu nationalists as their representatives, despite the latter's repeated assaults on Muslims and their equally murderous indifference to the rural poor."
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