SignAndSight.com

Features » Magazine Roundup


30/01/2007

Magazine Roundup

Prospect | Al Hayat | Magyar Hirlap | Le Monde | The Spectator | Tygodnik Powszechny | The New York Review of Books | Der Spiegel | Outlook India | Il Foglio | Le Figaro | L'Espresso | De Groene Amsterdammer | The Economist


Prospect 01.02.2007 (UK)

Francis Fukuyama analyzes the problems Western democracies have in dealing with Muslim minorities. Together with Olivier Roy, he believes that radical Islamic ideology is less a manifestation of traditional Muslim culture and more of modern identity politics. When it comes to identity, European societies in particular have little to offer. "The rise of relativism has made it harder for postmodern people to assert positive values and therefore the kinds of shared beliefs that they demand of migrants as a condition for citizenship. Postmodern elites, particularly those in Europe, feel that they have evolved beyond identities defined by religion and nation and have arrived at a superior place."

Timothy Garton Ash
suggests that the EU work on a new, credible and durable Europe myth but admits that the project is not unproblematic. "The nation was brilliantly analysed by the historian Ernest Renan as a community of shared memory and shared forgetting; but what one nation wishes to forget another wishes to remember. The more nations there are in the EU, the more diverse the family of national memories, the more difficult it is to construct shared myths about a common past."


Al Hayat 28.01.2007 (Lebanon)

A special supplement addresses the relationship between the Arab World and the USA. The Syrian dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh asks why the USA enjoys such a good reputation in Eastern Europe while it is finds no sympathy in Arab countries. "While the USA supported the liberals in Eastern Europe against the Soviet camp, it supported the conservative and radical Islamic groups in the Middle East. Thus the USA helped to promote the 'terror', the combating of which in a five year American war has cost the Arab World more than everyone else. While the Cold War was drawing to an end in the late 1980s, the security, political, and ideological 'regimes' of this era lived on in our part of the world until September 2001. It was then replaced by nearly imperialistic politics. It is not insignificant that the new American policies in the Middle East revolve around the war against terror with all the military and security priorities that this implies, whereas in its policies on Asia and Europe, the USA makes globalisation the central focus."

Wahid 'Abd al-Majid sees the moderate currents in the Arabic world trapped a Catch 22, caught between two unattractive alternatives: the USA's project of a "new Middle East" on the one hand and an Iranian "Islamic Middle East" on the other. "It seems that the states and peoples of the region will pay the main price in this fight."


Magyar Hirlap 26.01.2007 (Hungary)

Author Erzsebet Toth considers the consequences of climate change on Central Europe. "I actually like the fact that the Carpathian basin and our little country in it are gradually becoming Mediterranean. I already see the palm trees on the shores of the Donau in Budapest, the ecstatic faces of our descendants who will finally be able to live on a sea because some sea is going to start in the Puszta ... With all the cloning and genetic manipulation, it is possible that certain animals will develop consciousness and won't want to accept that people rule over them. The animals were there before us. A tribe of ferrets might take a fancy to our village Nagykovacsi, drive out the villagers and take over our apartments."

Poet Andras Duma-Istvan portrays the Csangos, a Hungarian speaking, largely Catholic minority in Romania that is subject to more pressure to assimilate by the Vatican than the Romanian majority. "For centuries, the Vatican has seen in the Csangos the opportunity to propagate Catholic belief in Slavic-orthodox Romania. Around 1800, the Vatican issued the order that all Catholics on the Vltava must conduct their services in Romanian .... Today, shortly before Romania's entry into the EU, the Csangos are fighting with the Catholic Church over their language. Nonetheless the Church remains an important institution for the preservation of their culture. In Romania, there are still nationalists but they are not as radical as they were years ago. The Csangos are winning ever more respect."


Le Monde 29.01.2007 (France)

Annick Cojean reports on the antagonisms between secularism and fundamentalism in French hospitals, and the religious, cultural and ethical conflicts which result in treating patients with different beliefs. According to doctors, it is sometimes difficult or even impossible to examine a Muslim woman, while others have problems with performing hymen restoration surgery to preserve "family honour" before a wedding. A gynaecologist reports: "A man once said to me in the maternity ward: 'Don't you touch my wife.' I answered: 'You shut your mouth! I'm in charge here! I'm going to respect your wife, I won't look her in the eyes and I'll bring your baby safely into this world. But no discussion!' After the umbilical cord was cut I let him say a prayer into his child's ear."


The Spectator 27.01.2007 (UK)

Too bad British conservatives are so anti-intellectual. Michael Grove takes a somewhat envious look at the leftist intellectuals who have freed themselves from comfy self-satisfaction and questioned leftist certainties like relativism and multiculturalism. Grove lists a few: Nick Cohen ("What's Left"), David Aaronovitch, John Lloyd, Christopher Hitchens. "Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and, of course, Salman Rushdie have all argued, in different ways, that Islamism is a totalitarian ideology, like fascism and communism before it, which seeks to deny human freedom. McEwan has denounced the way in which the Left is 'morally selective' in its outrage, denouncing America with greater fervour than it can ever muster for criticising the record of Saddam or the Taliban. Amis has been typically fearless in attacking those 'people of liberal sympathies, stupefied by relativism, who have become the apologists for a creedal wave that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, imperialist and genocidal'."


Tygodnik Powszechny 22.01.2007 (Poland)

Michal Klinger looks at a further dimension of the EU expansion in Romania and Bulgaria: now two further Orthodox countries have joined Greece in the EU. Byzantium is moving closer to Brussels. "Certainly, the EU is attempting to keep its distance from religious issues, but the continual integration process also means that the common heritage is being augmented with ever more currents and cultures. John Paul II spoke of the two 'lungs' of Europe – the Western and the Eastern Churches. So if we're looking for the roots of Europe, we should not only look to the West, but also to Byzantine culture. The full integration of these traditions in the EU should lead to new mechanisms being created for the resolution of conflicts between East and West – even before the Churches end the schism." The integration of further Orthodox countries could lead Russia to stop seeing Europe as a "Western club," Klinger writes.


The New York Review of Books 15.02.2007 (USA)

In a collective declaration, over a hundred Iranian writers and intellectuals "strongly condemn the Holocaust Conference sponsored by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tehran on December 11–12, 2006, and its attempt to falsify history; Pay homage to the memory of the millions of Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and express our empathy for the survivors of this immense tragedy as well as all other victims of crimes against humanity across the world."

Writer J.M. Coetzee makes the case that while the poetic truth is not the same as the historic one, it's no less less valuable. He appreciates the attempt Norman Mailer made in his novel "The Castle in the Forest" (excerpt) to explain how Adolf Hitler became evil. Mailer's answer is clear. Evil was in him from the beginning, since his conception. "He was a bad child before he was a bad man, and he was a bad baby before he was a bad child. Alois and Klara Hitler are convincing portraits of people doing their best as parents, given that they are human and human nature is frail, given also that they have superhuman forces ranged against them; Adolf is equally convincing as a chilling and repellent child. Despite the supernatural interventions, Mailer has not descended to writing a novel of the supernatural, a Gothic novel. Dark forces may have entered his soul, but Adolf remains unshakably human, one of us."


Der Spiegel 29.01.2007 (Germany)

In an interview with Matthias Schepp and Martin Doerry, Russian author Vladimir Sorokin talks about his new novel "The Day of the Opritshnik," the "dark energies" in his country and the powerlessness of the Russian people. "The Germans, French and English can say about themselves: 'I am the state.' I can't say that. In Russia, only the people in the Kremlin can say that. Everyone else is nothing more than human material, with which everything conceivable can be done... The West should put more emphasis on human rights. I'm all for compromise, but if you ask if Russia is heading for democracy, I say no! Step by step, the country is reverting into an authoritarian empire. The worst thing that could happen would be if the West lost interest in us apart from our oil and gas. I'm amazed at the weather reports on German TV. They show a map of Europe, and then the camera pans right. You see Kiev, then Moscow, then everything stops. That's how the West seems to see our country. The Russian wilderness begins behind Moscow, and you'd better not look too close at what's there. That's a big mistake. The West has to pay more attention."


Outlook India 05.02.2007 (India)

A surprise at the second literature festival in Jaipur: the audience no longer collects the autographs of their favourite authors on loose bits of paper, but rather in books that have been made for the purpose! Sheela Reddy reports of Salman Rushdie, "At 60, the role of ageing patriarch is beginning to suit him: he thaws under the reverence. Patient, courteous—even with autograph-hunters and cranks—he is almost (dare one use the word?) affable. And with the young, he blossoms: whether it is addressing 'fearless' high school children questioning him on fundamentalism, or advising a volunteer—a sort of 'child-minder' he's saddled with to fend off intruders—on which of his books she should start reading as a crash Rushdie course (Midnight's Children, of course!)."

In addition: the main dossier (here, here and here) takes up the stigmatization of smokers in India. Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan reports of a booming tourism in film extras. And in an interview, the behavioral scientist Jane Goodall reports on the "dark side" of chimpanzees.


Il Foglio 27.01.2007 (Italy)

Paola Bacchiddu reports that, 64 years after the fact, Carlo Lizzani has shot a film about the massacre at Meina, which marked the beginning of the Holocaust in Italy. On September 22, 1943, SS units killed sixteen people at Lago Maggiore. "During the entire night and the following day, the droning of the SS's flatbed trucks picking up two prisoners at a time mixed with the noise on the ground floor. The National Socialist soldiers cried, sang and got drunk. The other hotel guests sat at their tables, like they did every day. As though nothing was happening. Then everything went quiet: it was quiet in the inn, the gramophone stopped, the radio was silent, the room on the fourth floor emptied. But something surfaced from the water in the lake. Near Pontecchio, in front of the houses of the street guards, the white, bloated bodies of those who had been throttled with barbed wire the day before floated by."


Le Figaro, 28.01.2007 (France)

In a short but very entertaining interview, the pioneer of "Nouvelle Cuisine," Paul Bocuse, criticises its outgrowths ("nothing on the plate, everything on the bill") and mocks the techniques of contemporary cuisine. Asked what he dislikes most about modern cuisine, he says, "Nitrogen. It doesn't interest me at all. Nor this cuisine where you have to explain what's on the plate or where you're told in what order to eat things. That's not my thing at all. A thermometer for the right meat temperature? I prefer the times when you could smell or feel when something was done, or noticed from the length of time in the oven whether you needed to put on more coal. The grip and instinct, those are the nicest dimensions of our profession."

In an interview, Austrian conductor and Bach expert Nikolaus Harnoncourt admits that he would love to conduct Gershwin's "'Porgy and Bess.' (...) But Simon Rattle, with whom I discussed the idea, explained that I don't carry the right passport."

L'Espresso 26.01.2007 (Italy)

Polish author Andrzej Stasiuk remembers the Oberek, the now almost forgotten Central Polish wedding dance. "The Oberek is an obsessive dance. Its repetitive, circular structure sinks the brains of the singer and dancers into a kind of hypnosis. The violinist has to modify the basic melody for hours at a time in constant improvisation. Watching the films and photographs and listening to the recordings, it seemed to me that these artists had freed themselves from worldly reality. Even when they were old and their only audience was ethnographer and collector Andrzej Biefkowski, even when their arthritis-plagued fingers could no longer play the melodies that rose up from their memories, their music had something shaman-like about it. They fell into a trance. Literally."

Umberto Eco argues against capital punishment in his Bustina di Minerva column. The state "kills to educate others, to teach them that you die when you kill. In this way killing is a message, a means and not an end. That's why the death penalty is itself an offence."


De Groene Amsterdammer 26.01.2007 (The Netherlands)

The Dutch troops in the Afghan location of Uruzgan are having a lucky streak, observes Joeri Bloom. "The Canadians call the Dutch 'Lucky Dutch' and the Australians have dubbed them 'Dutch Angels.' The Dutch have had just four fatalities since the start of the Uruzgan mission. One suicide, and three in aircraft accidents." The Canadians and British, for their part, have lost 45 and 46 soldiers respectively. 18 Brits and have been killed and 80 wounded since the beginning of March alone. Nevertheless the 'Lucky Dutch' have their share of traumatic situations to deal with: "The soldier raised his left arm. 'The bullet went in here,' he said. Then he pointed to a huge hole in his left side. 'And here it went out again.' He'd been helping the British soldiers set up a blood bank in the Afghan province of Helmand, and told of M.A.S.H.-like scenes with helicopters flying out the wounded. 'We were all rounded up together, and then there was another suicide attack,' he said. 'The British medics simply couldn't handle it all.' That was the end of December. Then last week Dutch blood also flowed."


The Economist 26.01.2007 (UK)

Hardly an American politician has been so hated by rivals as Hillary Clinton, writes the magazine. But this "Hillary-hatred" could bolster Senator Clinton in her run for the presidency: "Hillary-hatred is a double problem for the Republicans. It blinds them to Mrs Clinton's strengths: many Republicans live in such a conservative cocoon that they think no sensible American will ever vote for the she-devil. And it brings out everything that is most noxious and misogynistic about the right."

Further articles: The Economist takes an amused look at the latest coup in the German press landscape. After a change in street names, Axel Springer's Bild Zeitung, which played an active role in the hate campaign against student revolutionary Rudi Dutschke that eventually led to his death, is now located on Rudi Dutschke Strasse. Its arch rival, the leftist tageszeitung, or taz, which orchestrated the change, has its offices just down the road. "Not that the taz should get cocky: it has yet to find a potion for second youth, even if its street address has become 23 Rudi Dutschke Strasse." And finally: the magazine feels the suggestion by the German Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries to make denying the Holocaust an offence throughout the EU is wrong and dangerous.
signandsight.com - let's talk european