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20/02/2007

Magazine Roundup

De Groene Amsterdammer | The Spectator | Asharq al-Awsat | Revista de Libros | The Guardian | Magyar Narancs | Le Nouvel Observateur | NRC Handelsblad | The New Republic | The Economist | The New York Times


De Groene Amsterdammer 17.02.2007 (Netherlands)

Sociologists have finally discovered the "Polder Jihad." Aart Brouwer takes a look at a flood of recent literature on the "Islamic youth in Holland" and is not impressed. "Sociology doesn't go deep enough when it comes to the turning point at which a young man or woman becomes a terrorist." Literature is better at that, in particular "the German essayist Hans Magnus Enzensberger. His essay 'The radical loser' begins where sociology leaves off: with the psychology of the lone wolf, who sees himself as a loser in society and in life. A mobile bomb that could go off at any time and for any reason: a humiliation, a disappointed love, a dismissal. Ideology occupies that last position." Much more important is the sexual aspect which the writer Ian Buruma sees as playing 'a prominent role in the biography of all radicals (...) Mohammed Bouyeri, the murderer of Theo van Gogh, offers a perfect example; he was ticked off not to be considered a hot item by Dutch girls and he 'lost it' when he learned that his sister had a boyfriend."


The Spectator 16.02.2007 (U.K.)

Philosopher John Gray feels that British society should do away with the notion of a "liberal monoculture," in which Muslims adopt Western values. The best scenario imaginable would be peaceful co-habitation, but sharing the same perspectives seems illusory. "Large-scale flows of people and ideas, the impact of the media and continuous cultural innovation have made Britain far more deeply pluralistic than it used to be. This anarchic vitality seems to me to be one of the more attractive aspects of globalisation but, whatever one may feel, it is here to stay. Britain has become home to an unprecedented mixture of styles of life and views of the world. There are fundamentalists of all varieties, large unobtrusive enclaves of traditional life and countless people who take a mix-and-match approach to the diversity of traditions. Why should Muslims be singled out for deviating from a national consensus that is now largely mythical?"


Asharq al-Awsat 14.02.2007

Ali al-Azir describes the most recent rioting among students in Beirut: "The universities are divided into fronts, the students are split into enemy camps.... The university administration hurried to temper the shock and call publicly for rational dialogue, the right to differentiating opinions and recognition of others. The educational establishments were forced to remind people of their role as an oasis for creative thought." In al-Azir's mind, fundamental questions about the Lebanese educational system are being raised by events at the universities: "Do curricula encourage the concept of civic duty among the students? Do they encourage students to obey the law and avoid the use of violence when dealing with obstacles? Are they taught that religious, racist and ethnic fanaticism are opposed to the axiom according to which all are members of one nation?"


Revista de Libros
19.02.2007 (Chile)

Chilean writer and frequent blogger Alberto Fuguet asks "Can blogs be literature? (...) Fernando Pessoa would have been the ideal blogger, given his pathological shyness, his almost psychotic, tri-polar heteronyms and his fatal lack of social contact. Kafka and Pavese would probably have had blogs today. That's the difference in the end: before Max Brod published them, nobody could glimpse Kafka's diaries; everyone has access to the blog of Alexander of Alexandria but nobody does, because nobody knows that it exists. Alexander von Alexandria is neither the only blogger nor the only writer of this world, let alone its only inhabitant. Nonetheless, and that's the fascinating thing, he or she feels that way. It's probably for this reason that he or she writes so well in the middle of the digital night."


The Guardian
17.02.2007

The Spanish Civil War is one of the few events whose history is not written by the victors, but by intellectuals, writes Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm. Yet in view of increasing criticism of the Republican side, he fears the spread of a false consciousness: "The major question at issue in the Spanish civil war was, and remains, how social revolution and war were related on the republican side. The Spanish civil war was, or began as, both. It was a war born of the resistance of a legitimate government, with the help of a popular mobilisation, against a partially successful military coup; and, in important parts of Spain, the spontaneous transformation of the mobilisation into a social revolution. A serious war conducted by a government requires structure, discipline and a degree of centralisation. What characterises social revolutions like that of 1936 is local initiative, spontaneity, independence of, or even resistance to, higher authority - this was especially so given the unique strength of anarchism in Spain. In short, what was and remains at issue in these debates is what divided Marx and Bakunin."

Further articles: Salman Rushdie writes about the Indian-Hungarian artist Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941) whom the Tate Modern in London is dedicating a major exhibition, and who served as model for his novel "The Moor's Last Sigh." DBC Pierre bows before Luis Bunuel and his film "Los Olvidados."


Magyar Narancs 16.02.2007 (Hungary)

Until now, the Stasi files of senior members of the church have been kept confidential on the basis that priests are not public personalities. Daniel Kozak, a writer at the weekly Magyar Narancs, took this position to court and won. Today, he celebrates the judgment. "My goal was not to uncover the Stasi past of particular people, but rather to challenge the lawmaker to take a new look at the Stasi file law. While the constitutional court already posed the question in 1994 as to 'why the church as a political institution of influence is considered exempt from investigation on the basis of its Stasi past,' the church has always succeeded in shirking responsibility. Moral and political questions, and with them the interests of the church and political parties, often overlap. How else to explain that an investigation of the Stasi past of the church has not yet begun? This investigation would also be to the advantage of the church, which would gain credibility in questions of a moral nature."


Le Nouvel Observateur
15.02.2007 (France)

The Nouvel Obs asks with evident consternation, "Are intellectuals drifting to the right?" The question is posed in light of the coming presidential election and the public engagement of former leftists like Alain Finkielkraut or Andre Glucksmann for Nicolas Sarkozy, the candidate of the Gaullist UMP. An article summarizes the various positions and then ends with brief, mocking characterizations of the most important players. For example: "Pierre-Andre Taguieff, Andre Glucksmann, Max Gallo and Alain Finkielkraut each embody a certain slide to the right on the part of the intelligentsia. Partisans of a new Atlanticism (Taguieff, Glucksmann) or convinced of the decadence of the Republican model (Gallo, Finkielkraut), they reject, however the label of 'neoreactionisms.'"

In an interview, Bernard-Henri Levy makes clear that he remains solidly on the Left. He admits that he doesn't really understand his friend Glucksmann because three principles apply to the engagement of intellectuals in elections. The first is that they should never be "retinues", the second principle is "distrust". The most important one, however, is "timing": "Intellectuals are freebooters and an annoyance, people who set conditions and who exercise maximum pressure. They should make their positions known at the latest point possible."

Plus articles by the historian Benjamin Stora (here) and Nicolas Baverez, author of the much-discussed book "La France qui tombe" (here and on the debate, here and here).


NRC Handelsblad 17.02.2007

War rages in Bagdad's streets, but the Iraqi National Library remains open. Floris van Straten quotes from the blog of its director, Dr Saad Eskander: "'My secretary was appalled when two bombs exploded just 70 meters from her car. But like many others, she just talked about it for a couple of minutes before going with her day's work. Around 11 we got the staggering news that Ali Salih had been murdered, while his younger sister was standing right beside him.' Not long beforehand, Eskander had sent the young Ali to a computer course in Florence. 'He symbolised for us the modernisation of the national library. Everyone began to cry. I went home deeply distraught, took my small boy in my arms, and thought that Ali had left behind two sons.'"


The New Republic 19.02.2007

The magazine has put online the whole debate sparked off when historian Jeffrey Herf called for the creation of a new American book review. Herf argues that even in the New York Times Book Review or the New York Review of Books, only a fraction of the roughly 10,000 scholarly books published each year are reviewed, continuing: "We scholars know that there are fine universities located all over the United States. We know that talent is dispersed around the country as never before. It extends well beyond the most traditionally famous universities and extends far beyond Manhattan which, partly due to its high cost of living, is far less the scholarly and intellectual mecca it once was. We know that a large number of very fine, well written, deeply researched and important works are being published in this country to the sound of deafening silence. We know that most of the vast non-specialist audience of university graduates in the United States hasn't a clue about what is going on in history, political science, sociology, economics, philosophy, literary criticism, art history, the natural sciences, and a host of other smaller academic disciplines."


The Economist 16.02.2007

India has it good – also as far as the newspaper industry goes. The magazine prints some impressive figures: "India has some 300 big newspapers, with a combined circulation of 157 million last year—a rise of 12.9 percent on 2005. Only a few dozen of these rags, with a circulation of 35 million, are in English, but they get about half of the advertising cash.... The future looks bright. At best, a mere 300 million of the country's billion-odd people are middle-class; only 60 percent are literate. As the untutored crowds learn to read, they are likely to reach for a newspaper. Internet access, although spreading, is enjoyed by only 1.2 percent of Indians over the age of 12."


The New York Times 18.02.2007

Dagmar Herzog presents the English translation of Götz Aly's book "Hitler's Volksstaat" ("Hitler's Beneficiaries" - here an article by Aly defending his thesis) as a "fresh model" for understanding the broad support for Hitler in Germany. Yet the model has its foibles: "It is Aly's great accomplishment to demonstrate that World War II could not have gone on for as long as it did, nor the German populace kept content for as long as it was, without the expropriation of the property and monies of slaughtered Jews. But correlation is not causation, and illustrating connections does not prove motivation. The historian Jonathan Petropoulos has written, 'The Nazis were not only the most notorious murderers in history but also the greatest thieves.' 'Hitler’s Beneficiaries' offers stark proof that the murder and the theft were in many cases integrally linked. The Holocaust was unquestionably accompanied by outrageous greed. Yet this fact cannot make us conclude that greed alone drove the Holocaust."
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