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Features » Magazine Roundup


23/01/2007 

The Guardian | Le Figaro | Asharq al-Awsat | Il Foglio | Al Ahram Weekly | Die Weltwoche | Le point | Outlook India | London Review of Books | Nepszabadsag | Gazeta Wyborcza | The New York Times


The Guardian 20.01.2007 (UK)

In an excerpt from his book "What's Left?" Observer columnist Nick Cohen asks why the Left is willing to support a fascist regime as long as its anti-Western. For example, Saddam Hussein. His regime demonised the European Left for as long as the West supported it – and now that the war has ended? "I waited for a majority of the liberal Left to offer qualified support for a new Iraq, and I kept on waiting, because it never happened - not just in Britain, but also in the United States, in Europe, in India, in South America, in South Africa ... in every part of the world where there was a recognisable liberal Left. They didn't think again when thousands of Iraqis were slaughtered by 'insurgents' from the Baath party, which wanted to re-establish the dictatorship, and from al-Qaeda, which wanted a godly global empire to repress the rights of democrats, the independent-minded, women and homosexuals. They didn't think again when Iraqis defied the death threats and went to vote on new constitutions and governments. Eventually, I grew tired of waiting for a change that was never going to come and resolved to find out what had happened to a Left whose benevolence I had taken for granted."

Simon Schama recommends having a look at the "most unhip artists" ever to show in London's White Cube, this "Sanhedrin of cool," Anselm Kiefer. "He doesn't do droll, he does the big embarrassing stuff, the stuff that matters: the epic slaughters of the world, the incineration of the planet, apocalypse then, apocalypse often; the fragile endurance of the sacred amid the cauterised ruins of the earth." And Hermione Lee writes about Edith Wharton and the texts from her time in Paris.


Le Figaro 22.01.2007 (France)

The publication of a new book about Martin Heidegger, edited by Francois Fedier ("Heidegger a plus forte raison", Fayard, here the review), has unleashed a new discussion in France about the German philosopher. At the centre is Heidegger's political position on National Socialism and the question of whether he is to be vilified or venerated. The philosopher Remi Brague, author of the book "Heidegger" (Cerf, 2005), provides an interesting answer to the question of whether the book may bring closure to this aspect of the discussion. "That would surprise me. For one, because it takes a lot of time to re-invoke the context, to try to understand, to explain the mistakes and to see the errors to which Heidegger himself admitted. And secondly, these polemics return again and again, almost ever 20 years. Everyone profits from them, not only publishers and journalists. Even authors. If you're not able to write a book, you can still attack Heidegger. And the readers profit too: if the thinker is discredited, then you don't have to read him anymore, don't have to position yourself on the essential questions that he poses."


Asharq al-Awsat 17.01.2007 (Saudi Arabia / UK)

Amir Taheri, an Iranian-born journalist now resident in Europe, ponders the skepticism that Pope Benedict XVI expresses in his book "Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures" of today's supposedly "mystical values" - progress, science and freedom. "The trouble is that the Pope does not spell out what he means by any of those terms (...) in what way can freedom be regarded as a 'mythical value'? By coincidence, the Pope's book has been published at a time when the world prepares to mark the centenary of the abolition of slavery, an evil that Christianity, along with other faiths, never even questioned. For those released from the shackles, freedom was real, not mythical." Taheri is embittered by Benedict's concern about Europe's demographic future. "The Pope's europhilia, not to say eurocentrism, is at times so passionate that one wonders whether he regards Christianity as little more than an ingredient in a more complex ideological mix in which the Hellenic heritage and medieval scholasticism are also present."


Il Foglio
20.01.2007 (Italy)

Italy is yet another country in the throes of a passionate debate on values. Edoardo Camurri ends his contribution with a subtle remark: "Whoever complains about the loss of values in contemporary society does it on the assumption that he still has values at all. And because everyone complains of the loss of values, it means that we all still have more than enough values. Consequently the problem is perhaps not their absence, but the fact that they are ever-present."

Further articles: Claudi Cerasa breaks a lance for obesity. Alfonso Berardinelli remembers the literary critic Giacomo Debenedetti, who died forty years ago and who gave Italy its most esoteric and illuminating texts on the interpretation of the novel. Giulio Meotti reads Michael Kazin's biography of William Jennings Bryan, who made three unsuccessful bids to become US president. Kazin is convinced (here and here) that Bryan's infusion of Biblical foreseeing in the realm of politics marked all the presidents who succeeded him.


Al Ahram Weekly 18.01.2007 (Egypt)

Nehad Selaiha has seen a staging of Yusri El-Guindi's "Al-Yahudi Al-Ta'eh" (The Wandering Jew), and was more impressed by the play than by the production. El-Guindi, "a fervent socialist and advocate of Arab Nationalism," wrote the work in 1968 after the murder of Robert Kennedy by the Palestianian Sirhan Sirhan. He "had sought to identify him with all the oppressed of the earth, including Jews, and make him into a symbol of all the victims of Western capitalism. The tragic history of the Palestinian people and their many grievances were viewed by El-Guindi in a wider historical perspective which brought in the tragic history of the Jews as well. The fates of the two peoples seemed to him tragically linked and, he argued, you could not speak of one without having to bring in the other. To achieve this imaginative intertwining, El-Guindi unearthed a popular figure from Christian folklore, the Wandering Jew who, according to legend, taunted Jesus on the way to the crucifixion and was then cursed to walk the earth until the Second Coming."


Die Weltwoche 18.01.2007 (Switzerland)

Only a few hundred testers have been able to view Joost until now, but Ralph Pöhner is sure the site represents a breakthrough for television on the Internet. "The image leaves no doubt: this is how television of the future could function. Joost bundles television broadcasters from all over the world and brings their programmes to the computer screen. The images don't wobble the way they do on YouTube, and even in a full-screen format, Paris Hilton stalks as clearly through the lightning bolts as she does on your good old living room appliance."

In an interview with Mathias Plüss, Mayan specialist Nikolai Grube defends the Mayans against Mel Gibson, who presents them as decadent sacrificial murderers in his film "Apocalypto". "We have absolutely no proof for these sacrifices. Prisoners were killed after raids. But it was never a matter of taking as many prisoners as possible with the intention of sacrificing them. There were no sacrificial stones. We haven't found a sacrificial stone in a single Mayan city big enough to lay a prisoner over and rip out his heart."


Le point 18.01.2007 (France)

The magazine preprints the "most haunting" passages from the recovered World War II notebooks (published in English as "A Writer at War") by the Russian author, Red Army war correspondent and later dissident Vasily Grossman. One scene takes place at the end of 1941, after the Wehrmacht was stopped outside Moscow by Soviet resistance and "General Winter": "Frozen Germans lie by the road as we advance. Their bodies are entirely intact. We didn't kill them, the cold did. Some little sods have stood the frozen Germans on their feet or on all fours, arranging them into fantastic sculptural groups. The frozen bodies stand erect, fists raised and fingers spread. Some give the impression they want to pull in their heads. They wear shoes, short, thin overcoats and cardigans that don't hold the heat."


Outlook India 29.01.2007 (India)

Sanjay Suri can't find too much pity for Bollywood-actress Shilpa Shetty, who was accosted by one Jade Goody with racist comments in the British television programme "Celebrity Big Brother." Shilpa's decision to take part in the show amounts to "eat dirt, make money." And as far as racism goes, Suri finds that Indians should keep their cool. His conclusion reflects India's confidence as an ambitious super-power to be: "This show is not India's problem, or any Indian's. It is Britain's. Feel sorry not for Shilpa but for those poor white Brits, because Jade and her like are legion in the country."


London Review of Books 25.01.2007 (UK)

Perry Anderson provides a detailed analysis of the Putin era and betrays a secret of his popularity (which remained at a respectable 70 percent rate of support). The image he presented as a man of strict and, if necessary, merciless authority, went over well. "But there is another, less obvious side to his charisma. Part of his chilly magnetism is cultural. He is widely admired for his command of the language. Here, too, contrast is everything. Lenin was the last ruler of the country who could speak an educated Russian. (...) To hear a leader of the country capable once again of expressing himself with clarity, accuracy and fluency, in a more or less correct idiom, comes as music to many Russians."


Nepszabadsag 19.01.2007 (Hungary)

Composer Ivan Madarasz addresses the question of whether modern social structures and the victory of the individual over the collective are also reflected in contemporary music. "The relationship between musical order and the systems of the outside world is  so complicated that this question cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Until the 19th century, there was a musical ideal to which composers oriented themselves and which varied according to their taste and fantasy. Because of this ideal condition – when a Bach chorus rang out, it meant much the same thing to all listeners – the music also served as a type of folk music. People of the middle ages converted the laws of world order into musical order. In the 20th century, there were several musical ideals that excluded others, but that also had different functions. Contemporary music, through social changes, has developed into an individual art form which no longer serves to create community."


Gazeta Wyborcza 20.01.2007 (Poland)

In an interview, economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz criticizes neo-liberal economic recipes and defends Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez against his critics. "The neo-liberal recipe doesn't work. In the 1990s, when most neo-liberal Latin American countries were following the regulations of the International Monetary Fund, economic growth was half what is was between the 1950s and the 1970s. I don't need to mention that in the 1990s, only the elite profited from growth." And further: "Chavez was able to register political and economic success. I see no big dangers there. You can accuse him of endangering certain basic democratic values with his policies but you could accuse the USA of the same."


The New York Times 21.01.2007 (US)

Ten years after "The Gospel According to the Son", 83 year old Norman Mailer has come back with a new novel, "The Castle in the Forest" (excerpt). A phenomenology of evil, the book tells of the young Adolf Hitler and his family. The narrator is the Devil himself, in the form of an SS man named Dieter. Lee Siegel describes the daring project: "'The Castle in the Forest' is a story about simple folk and good pagan brutes from the muddy barnyard, a tale narrated by a devil whose voice is soft as the silk of a sleeve, and written in the spirit of a corrective irony. The young Adolf Hitler, his parents, siblings, stepsiblings and extended family are stuck in the sty of their instincts, immediate gratifications, primitive fears and terrors, yet nearly each of them — the men, especially — feels that he is living a noble, honourable, admirable life. Mailer the wild empathiser, the maestro of the human ego, is keen and blunt about these delusions — what, in effect, are the deceptively homey psychological origins of evil."
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