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02/01/2007 

London Review of Books | Merkur | ScienceGuide | Le point | Literaturen | The Economist | alsharq alawsat | The New York Review of Books | Outlook India | Der Spiegel | The New Yorker | Telerama | Edge.org | Elet es Irodalom | The New York Times


London Review of Books 04.01.2007 (UK)

According to Corey Robin, Hannah Arendt's writings on imperialism, Zionism and careerism are what make her so relevant today. Interestingly though, says Robin, despite all the hype surrounding her 100th birthday year, these remain largely ignored. Why is this? "The main reason for the contemporary evasion of Arendt's critique of careerism, however, is that addressing it would force a confrontation with the dominant ethos of our time. In an era when capitalism is assumed to be not only efficient but also a source of freedom, the careerist seems like the agent of an easy-going tolerance and pluralism. Unlike the ideologue, whose great sin is to think too much and want too much from politics, the careerist is a genial caretaker of himself. He prefers the marketplace to the corridors of state power. He is realistic and pragmatic, not utopian or fanatic."


Merkur 01.01.2007 (Germany)

"The failure of the neoconservatives should not be an occasion for sneering," asserts Mariam Lau, reflecting on the lessons learned from the failed war in Iraq. "This would be the appropriate moment to depart, finally, from ubiquitous comparisons with Eastern Europe, with the Cold War, with World War II, with Munich 1938, and to call attention, at long last, to the following reality: approximately 8.5 million Muslims have been killed by Muslim regimes, in inter-Arab conflicts, in civil wars and ethnic cleansings. By comparison: seventy-thousand dead Muslims can be blamed on the USA, one-half-million on France in the 1950s alone, one million on Russia, sixty thousand on Israel. Attention has been distracted with great success from the ten million and focused fully on the sixty thousand. This is due not to Arab anti-Semitism, but instead to the crude historico-political fixations of the West. If the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites remains unresolved, if a kind of Peace of Westphalia is not concluded, then stability in the Middle East - whether that be stability à la Kissinger or à la Podhoeretz - remains inconceivable."


ScienceGuide.org 01.01.2007 (Netherlands)

Does the collective rule the Netherlands? In his essay on leadership in the Netherlands, Utrecht literary scholar Frits van Oostrom cites author Barbara Tuchman (more here) and Jared Diamond (more here). "Both speak of 'the Dutch' and 'the Netherlands' as an exemplary community," he observes. "Not a single hero is highlighted, no mention is made of any Dutch figure comparable to Washington or Lincoln, Lech Walesa, Churchill or Mandela. If the Netherlands has ever known such messianic figures, they are in Madame Tussaud's today. Of course, we have our founding father in William of Orange, a couple of famous admirals, and the architects of the 'polder model'. But genuine authority in the Netherlands resides with the collective. This is seen in particular in the case of our glory days, the 'Golden Age'. The republic had no head of state, no government, no unified administration, not even a national system of legislation and jurisprudence. Taxes were collected primarily at the local level."


Le point 28.12.2006 (France)

In an interview with Manuel Carcassonne, Japanese Nobel Prize recipient Kenzaburo Oe pays homage to the exception culturelle and the French model in world politics. In addition to the love-hate relationship with America, he likes the self-image of France as a land of asylum, one that allows itself to be culturally enriched by exiles: "France loves the kind of cultural hybridisation that is nourished mainly by refugees. This was particularly true before the war. Were Japan to present iself as such a cultural crossover in relation to the other Asian countries, to China, Korea, the Philippines, our position would be entirely different. We have think about how to reconstruct a specifically intellectual culture. In this context, Korea is much better off than we are, more inventive, more attractive. Not to mention the explosive power of China! We Japanese today are dangerously isolated."


Literaturen 01.01.2007 (Germany)

Sigrid Löffler presents "Istanbul," Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk's autobiographical city portrait, and in so doing discovers that the westward orientation promoted by the founder of modern Turkey, Atatürk, by no means reached all sectors of Turkish society and thus became a criterion for social advancement. "As 'the nouvelle riche of the republic,' writes Pamuk, 'we owed our superior position not primarily to our property ownership, but rather to the fact that we were modern and European.' In the world of values this made Islam the religion of the servant class; as a modern westerner, one did not observe the fasting commandment of Ramadan, the call to prayer meant nothing to the Pamuks, and only cooks and nannies went to the mosques. In short: the laicist, kemalist bourgeoisie 'was not god-fearing, but it lived in fear of the fury of the overly religious.'"

The Economist 29.12.2006 (UK)

Bookshops may be brimming with conversation manuals giving advice on how to be persuasive and engaging (for the furtherance of one's career), but The Economist knows the art of conversation to be something else entirely, and compiles a brief history of the colloquy. It emerges that although Britain has a host of formidable conversation artists to its name (Samuel Johnson, Sir Isaiah Berlin and Winston Churchill), it is the French who down the centuries have mastered the art. "A man without conversation was liable to find himself devalued, whatever his other qualities: 'In England it was enough that Newton was the greatest mathematician of the century,' wrote Jean d'Alembert, a French philosopher and mathematician; 'in France he would have been expected to be agreeable too.'"


asharq alawsat 27.12.2006 (Saudi Arabia / UK)

Asharq alawsat looks back at 2006. Despite all the worries about the state of Arabic cultural politics, there was a general sense of optimism, according to Osama Alaysa. He reports from Jerusalem about the decision of the Israeli Knesset to establish an academy for the Arabic language. A long overdue decision, given that Arabic, next to Hebrew, is an official language of the state. In Palestine, for its part, the year was defined by parliamentary elections. Following the success of Hamas, the Islamists put Attallah Abu al-Sabah in charge of cultural affairs. But, says Alaysa, the worst fears have not materialised: in those few events that the ministry staged this year, Abu al-Sabah proved to be more open-minded than many expected. And he also had some success to show for his efforts: "The minister is proud to have accomplished at least one important task. During their last meeting in Masqat the Arab Minister of Cultural Affairs accepted his suggestion to make Jerusalem the cultural capital of the Arab world for 2009. Though this decision seems to be important for Abu al-Sabah, it drew little attention in Palestine due to the difficult conditions there. Some commented on the overdue decision, asking: 'Which culture? Which Jerusalem?'"


The New York Review of Books 11.01.2007 (USA)

Newsweek reporter Christian Caryl, having returned from a spell in Iraq and read many books on the situation there, concludes: "As I listened to these Iraqi voices, I could not entirely shake the feeling that we Americans are already becoming irrelevant to the future of their country. While people in Washington continue to debate the next change in course, and the Baker report raises the possibility of gradual withdrawal, Iraqis are sizing up the coming apocalypse, and making their arrangements accordingly."


Also printed is the moving speech given by writer David Grossman at the annual memorial ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv. "Look what happened to this young, bold country, so full of passion and soul... And I ask you, how can it be that a people with our powers of creativity and regeneration, a nation that has known how to pick itself up out of the dust time and again, finds itself today - precisely when it has such great military power - in such a feeble, helpless state? A state in which it is again a victim, but now a victim of itself, of its fears and despair, of its own shortsightedness?"


Outlook India 15.01.2007 (India)

Outlook India also reviews 2006 which the editor Vino Mehta has dubbed the "Year of the India Middle Class". He still has a lot to get used to - see the magazine's culinary tour through today's the Indian cities. Sheela Reddy's article on the city of Kohima opens: "Three dogs, clearly mongrel from their bristly brown fur and question mark tails, come bounding up the garden path, and pause tentatively before Naro, looking up at her in that abject way dogs have, needy for love. These are pet dogs, Naro explains. Quite unnecessarily, I think at first. But in Kohima that distinction is important... "


Der Spiegel 30.12.2006 (Germany)

In an essay, writer Leon de Winter of the Netherlands shares his dark view of Israel's future: "The anti-Semites of the Middle East are so outspoken in their language, just as Adolf Hitler was, and their deeds show that this is not empty chatter: Israel is surrounded by Iran, Syria, Hisbollah and Hamas, and their spokesperson President Ahmadinedjad expresses clearly their deepest wish: to eliminate Israel, to punish the arrogance of the Jews and to reduce them to a minority under Islamic rule. In order to survive, Israel must destroy its enemies and eradicate them in the manner of the Old Testament. But Israel would no longer be Israel if it behaved this way. It does not appear as if Israel's enemies have the same compuction. These enemies are feverishly trying to develop the technology to destroy Israel, and one day they will attack and let loose a new Holocaust. They deny the first, and at the same time dream of the one to come."


The New Yorker 25.12.2006 (USA)

A double edition with plenty of reading material. In an autobiographical story Julian Barnes writes about God, family and belief. "I don't believe in God, but I miss Him. That's what I say when the question is put. I once asked my brother, who has taught philosophy at Oxford, Geneva, and the Sorbonne, what he thought of such a statement, without revealing that it was my own. He replied with a single word: 'Soppy.'"

Further articles: Ruth Franklin portrays Thomas Bernhard and introduces his works that have been translated into English. There are also stories by Marguerite Duras, Louise Erdrich, Ian McEwan and Paul Theroux.


Telerama 23.12.2006 (France)

Telerama talks to the scriptwriter Jean-Claude Carriere who has written over 60 screen plays, among them for Luis Bunuel ("Belle du Jour"), Jean-Luc Godard ("Every Man for Himself"), Louis Malle ("Milou in May") and Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum). The interview deals mainly with fantasy, the importance of fairies and of course, cinema itself. "If there is anything in the history of the world and mankind which truly astounds me," Carriere says, "then it is this insatiable impulse which seems to exist in all societies to fathom the fantastic, to soar up, to touch the sky which encloses us all, until we have tracked down another world. This enduring desire, which can also have a frightening side, because it can lead to the worst type of excesses – individually (asceticism, drugs) or collectively (radical political utopias, sects and fanatical mass movements) – is the reaction to the endless frustration inherent in human life."


Edge.org 25.12.2006 (USA)

One of the most interesting theoretical articles on Internet collectivity and Web 2.0 was Jaron Lanier's "Digital Maoism" published in Edge on the cult of "swarm intelligence", which says Lanier is manifest in Wikipedia. In a new article in Time, which is Edge also publishes, Lanier broaches the subject once again. "There are a lot of recent examples of collectivity online. There's the Wikipedia, which has absorbed a lot of the energy that used to go into individual, expressive websites, into one bland, master description of reality. Another example is the automatic mass-content collecting schemes like DIGG. Yet another, which deserves special attention, is the unfortunate design feature in most blog software that practically encourages spontaneous pseudonym creation. That has led to the global flood of anonymous mob-like commentary.


Elet es Irodalom 22.12.2006 (Hungary)

At the "European Dream" festival, which is the first cooperation between European cultural institutes in New York, the Hungarian writer Peter Nadas was prompted to ponder the nature of the European identity. "Not all EU member states will have the same difficulties connecting with the core: Malta has it easier for example than Hungary. The different mentalities will be a far greater hurdle for European integration than the differently developed economies and technologies. The Protestant Northern Europeans can put up with their Catholic cousins in the South, but seem always to misunderstand the Orthodox people from the Balkans. What does France, still drunk on republican fervour and influenced as it is by its countless Islamic communities, have in common with an agressively proselytising Poland which has fallen into a coma of nationalist Catholic perversion?"

"A new era is beginning, the old traditions and rules are redundant," declare film director Kornel Mundruczo and theatre director Arpad Schilling in a joint article describing Europe as nearing "a new detonation". "What we see as now in fact no longer exists. Life goes on at first, because we all have to eat and fuck, but only technology is making any real progress, the framework of existence remains in tact. History repeats itself, which is why you have to ask yourself which era our own resembles. The era of agony of 1800? Or the Middle Ages?"


The New York Times 31.12.2006 (USA)

Rachel Donadio is concerned that memoirs should be autobiographical. Specifically in the case of Ronald Suresh Roberts' biography on the South African writer Nadine Gordimer. Gordimer has accused Roberts of a breach of confidence. Roberts sees Gordimer's objections against the book as the actions of an autocratic control freak. "Indeed, the chapters devoted to the post-apartheid period are stridently critical of Gordimer, whom Roberts depicts as the embodiment of a hypocritical white liberalism that takes a paternalistic attitude toward black South Africans even as it makes protestations on their behalf." For Donadio, there is nothing new about these objections: "In criticizing Gordimer for blaming the government for 'mismanaging' the AIDS crisis, Roberts seems to tap into a strain of South African populist rhetoric that sees Western medicine as a new form of imperialism."
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