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09/01/2007

Magazine Roundup

Le point | Al Hayat | L'Espresso | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Spectator | Die Weltwoche | Heti Vilaggazdasag | The New York Times


Le point 04.01.2007 (France)

In "American Black Box", the third volume of his journal Theatre des operations (which, having been thrown out of Gallimard is being published by Albin Michel), the writer Maurice G. Dantec, who emigrated to Canada, settles accounts with the "macho" West and its "modernist" excrescences. In a very full-bodied interview, the self-confessed reactionary talks about his political convictions and his new book. "In my book I call Islam 'the idol worship of the own god '. Islamicism is nothing more than an orthodox interpretation of the Koranic laws, the systematic application of the religious, ethnic and political regulations of Islam. But one can make a clear distinction between a Muslim who is ready to engage in dialog with a 'non-believer' and a Muslim for whom the 'unbelievers' are to be eliminated or enslaved. It was possible in 1940 to be a German nationalist without being a Nazi."


Al Hayat
07.01.2007 (Lebanon)

The Arabic weekly's supplement is devoted to the execution of Saddam Hussein. Criticism all round. Lebanese author Dalal al-Bizri regrets most that the opportunity to determine the actual extent of the criminal regime has been lost. "Saddam Hussein deserved a fair trial as a bloody dictator, not for the idea of justice as such... but a fair trial would have been important, given all that was repressed that didn't come out in this trial; it's important that the living witnesses' testimonies be documented in complete detail. The trial against Saddam was not fair, it was limited to the case of the 'al-Dajil' (where 140 Shiite villagers were killed in 1982) and 'Anfal' (the bombing of the Kurds in northern Iraq). It was only the victims of these crimes that were discussed in the trial. The many other victims were not mentioned."

Iraqi journalist Falih Abd al-Jabbar argues in a similar vein. The defeat of justice that is evident in the trial and execution of Saddam Husseins means that "Iraq's entry into a new era will take even longer (...) Instead of being seen as a law-breaker, the hanged President appears to the outside world as a victim."

Syrian author and dissident Yassin al-Haj Salih sees a missed chance. Rather than launching a new era of rule of law, the execution of Saddam signals a return to the "spirit of revenge and retaliation" – to the climate of which he had become a symbol.


L'Espresso 08.01.2007 (Italy)

Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun accuses the USA for not putting Augusto Pinochet on trial, as Saddam Hussein was. "The person, the individual Pinochet is not of interest. It's just despicable, the dregs of humanity. But his political deeds, his system is interesting. They have to be judged. The people go, the crimes stay."

Umberto Eco reflects on the conflict between those who honour and those who destroy images. "If the Carolingians had read Barthes, who thought about the verbal anchoring of images (not for the reverence of God but rather for the selling of new commercial idols) and predicted the theory of the verbal-visual culture that we know today, where television (image and word) has simply replaced the church – and I think that it's here on the screen that the Pope is in fact revered and worshiped – they wouldn't have gone to church at all."


Gazeta Wyborcza 06.01.2007 (Poland)

There was only one topic in the weekend edition: the collaboration of Stanislaw Wielgus with the former communist secret service. Wielgus was supposed to have been inaugurated as Archbishop of Warsaw, but he turned down the new office after confirming his collaboration with the former communist secret service. For Jaroslaw Makowski of the left-liberal magazine Krytyka Polityczna, the question now is how the Church can save its reputation. He writes: "The question is not whether Wielgus shouldn't have rejected the Papal nomination. More important is the question about the consequences for the Catholic Church. The loss of reputation is immense – cynical journalists have discovered the sensation potential of stories about pastor-agents. It is in the interest of the Church and all devout Catholics that a historical commission should be assigned as soon as possible to work through all of the relevant files of the former secret service. Church leaders have no other alternative – either they tidy up their own ranks or it will be done by sensation-seeking journalists."


The Spectator 05.01.2007 (UK)

The largest British mosque is to be built in London, big enough to accommodate 70,000 people. Irfan al-Alawi and S. Schwartz report that the costs are estimated at 300 million pounds. "Among non-Muslims, the erection of so large a mosque will arouse resentment. But it is provoking unease among Muslims, too. The mosque will have no minarets — Sunni fundamentalists hate minarets — but, rather, a system of wind turbines that will make it look like the set of a science-fiction film. More controversially, however, the project has the backing of the Islamic separatist movement known as Tabligh-i-Jamaat — or Call of the Community. Tabligh is a missionary Sunni sect that came under serious scrutiny after the atrocities of 9/11. It is not mainstream in its interpretation of Islam. Rather, it is, according to its own claims, ‘reformist’ — like the Saudi-financed Wahabi movement, the extremist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the Jamaatis in Pakistan."


Die Weltwoche 04.01.2007 (Switzerland)

In a long interview, historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler wishes the younger generation of historians had more bite. "A professional reserve reigns today that irritates me no end. I tell younger colleagues that if they think Turkey doesn't belong to Europe, they should go ahead and write it. But they answer they're not sure the time is right. And they travel less to foreign countries, where they can be exposed to other languages and other students… I always told my students that they've got to get involved, no matter for what. At the moment my most diligent student is Paul Nolte, he's not afraid to open his mouth."


Heti Vilaggazdasag 04.01.2007 (Hungary)

Historian
Andras Gerö calls the second half of the 20th century in Hungary the era of the petty-bourgeois. "The most important social transformation of the last fifty years is the heightened significance of the petty bourgeois ethos, which has also modified attitudes to life and preferred values." The Hungarian petty bourgeois may well be passionate patriots when it comes to words and gestures, Gerö writes, but they are the first to backtrack when political consequences are at stake. "When the citizens decided in a referendum not to grant Hungarian citizenship to several million Hungarians living in neighbouring countries, it was a pragmatic move. The naturalisation would have been complex and costly… Yet they identify emotionally with Hungarians living outside the country. The anthem of the Szeklers (Hungarians living in Transylvania) is sung at mass events in Budapest, and the Transylvania cult has spread throughout the country. The crown, the symbol of a greater Hungary, is generally considered holy…. The country is in the throes of an illusionary petty bourgeois nationalism. As far as reality goes, Hungarians are very rational, but emotionally they're far from it. And vice versa: the illusions with which they identify emotionally are not supported on the political level."


The New York Times 07.01.2007 (USA)

And you thought he was a writer! Richard Powers (more here) has come out as a vocalist. For years now he has lain in bed and dictated his novels into a language recognition programme. There's nothing more natural, he writes – sorry, says: " What could be less conducive to thought’s cadences than stopping every time your short-term memory fills to pass those large-scale musical phrases through your fingers, one tedious letter at a time? ... I can forget the machine is even there. I can live above the level of the phrase, thinking in full paragraphs and capturing the rhythmic arcs before they fade. I don’t have to queue, stop, batch dispatch and queue up again. I spend less mental overhead on orthography and finger mechanics and more on hearing my characters speak themselves into existence. Mostly, I’m just a little closer to what my cadences might mean, when replayed in the subvocal voices of some other auditioner."
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