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27/02/2007

Magazine Roundup

The New Yorker | Gazeta Wyborcza | Outlook India | Literaturen | NRC Handelsblad | Reportajes | The Spectator | Plus - Minus | Elet es Irodalom | L'Espresso | The Nation


The New Yorker (USA) 05.03.2007

Seymour M. Hersh asks whether the new orientation of American government policy is in the interests of those opposing the war against terrorism. "To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda. One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran.”


Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland) 24.02.2007

Film critic Tadeusz Sobolewski sees a positive side to Volker Schlöndorff's most recent film "Strajk - die Heldin von Danzig" (Strike), which is premiering in Poland this week and causing much controversy. "The legend of 'Solidarnosc' has a life of its own and it's doing remarkably well. In the film and the discussion about it, two versions of the myth collide: the Polish, romantic-patriotic one and that of the Western Left. Schlöndorff manages to rescue the positive Utopia of 'Solidarnosc', the myth of world betterment and the third way, by going beyond the bitter conflicts and debate about the legacy of the movement. The film is a gift, a look at a bright moment in our history."


Outlook India (India) 05.03.2007

In a passionate essay (presented on the occasion of the Sahitya Akademi Awards for Indian literature) the writer Nayantara Sahgal ("Mistaken Identitiy") defends regional literatures against the literature of the Indian diaspora. "And I believe what is relevant is not to be subsumed into the kind of globalisation where some of the world's people are privileged to keep their distinct identities while others are required to surrender theirs. We see the diverse effects of soil on story even within our own borders where we have no single lump called Indian literature. It varies from region to region not in language alone, but because imagination draws as much on a region's history, memory and psychology as on personal experience (...) caste, corruption and religious fundamentalism alongside computers and satellites and a sexual revolution. To whom can all these possibly matter but to the lives that are affected by them, the people who enjoy or suffer their consequence and those who feel the need to join battle against them?"


Literaturen (Germany) 01.03.2007

The author Josef Haslinger survived the Tsunami, and has written a book about it. In an interview he talks about the traumatic experience, and the difficulty of dealing with it in literature. "I had quite a few things wrong in my memory. Take the stairs of the administration building which we ran towards, and which meant salvation for everyone who made it onto them. In my memory they were as broad as stairs to a palace. But in reality the staircase is very narrow, and even the terrace would have been too small for everyone who wanted to get onto it. The electric cable I grabbed onto, which was my saving grace underwater because thanks to it I suddenly to recovered my orientation – still hangs on the facade. And it is still live, I presume. Even the little projection on the wall which Edith and I were able to climb onto is still there. But now we saw that in fact it serves no purpose. Possibly the sole function it ever had was to save us. People hung knotted sheets down to us, and then flew us out."


NRC Handelsblad (Netherlands) 26.02.2007

Dutch teachers demand too little from black children, states sociologist Paul Jungbluth, who presents a report produced for the community of Amsterdam. To blame is a "feminising of schools and education," Jungbluth writes. Teachers ask too little of pupils and apprentices out of "misguided sympathy" if they're from modest backgrounds or migrant families – regardless of their IQ. "Teachers ask themselves: how can I let the kid off easiest? This attitude is well-meant, but improper. I like to call it the feminisation of teaching staff. Teachers are too modest, too nice. As a teacher you can't spend too much time sitting comfortably on your rear, because that'll ruin weaker pupils' chances."

Further articles: All of the Netherlands are talking about a TV reportage about Second Life, which shows how users "take sexual advantage of virtual children with their alter egos." The question arises: is pornography with child avatars a punishable offence? Perhaps not punishable, but dangerous. Jos Buschman, psychologist at the Van Mesdag clinic for forensic psychiatry in Groningen, calls Second Life "by definition a training camp for paedophiles."


Reportajes (Chile) 25.02.2007

Now also Mario Vargas Llosa has expressed his opinion on the allegation recently published in the magazine Letras Libres that in fact someone else is buried in Santa Clara mausoleum, Che Guevara's official Cuban grave site: "I can't give all the arguments of the journalists Maite Rico and Bertrand de la Grange, there are simply too many. But why, for instance , is the discovery of Che's bodily remains not questioned by any international scientific institutions, although a DNA analysis was never carried out as promised by the excavation team? It is certainly possible that the allegation bears water. The discovery of Che's corpse came at a very opportune time for Fidel Castro, at detracted public attention from the economic crisis and future uncertainties. The rest was then done by the myth, I'd say, which had led people to expected that Che's remains would one day reappear. When it finally happened, everyone believed it without giving it a second thought. Sometimes that's how history gets written. And that's how pretty fictions can enrich the grey reality."


The Spectator (UK) 24.02.2007

Rod Liddle identifies a racist undertone in British multiculturalism, and says that emphasising skin colour both of blacks and whites should be refrained from altogether. "We should sweep it all away. All the discrimination, all the cant, all the misplaced attempts to instil pride in people simply because they have a greater (or, for that matter, lesser) amount of melanin. Why do we need award ceremonies, for example, like Mobo — Music of Black Origin? Why are there so many awards for black people in the media? Aren’t these little jamborees by their very definition racist? Don’t they perpetuate the notion that black people are in some way separate from the rest of us and, worse, that they should remain so? Why do our schools have a Black History Month every October? Shouldn’t the history of black people inform the subject every month of the year?"


Plus - Minus (Poland) 24.02.2007

The Berlin Wall became a symbol of the Cold War, but the border region between Czechoslovakia and its Western neighbours also claimed hundreds of victims. In the magazine of the Polish paper Rzeczpospolita, Maciej Ruczaj praises the book "Zelezna opona. Ceskoslovenska statni hranice od Jachymova po Bratislavu 1948-1989" ("The Iron Curtain: the Czechoslovakian national borders from Jachymov to Bratislava, 1948 – 1989."). The book reconstructs how the depopulated and closely watched borderland became a type of "Wild West". "Film representations of the heroic border control guards led to a sort of socialist Western, replacing the 'bourgeois' novels of Karl May, according to the book's author Jiri Stanek. In the middle of socialist-realist cultural production about power plants and industiral buildings, the borderland provided authentic, fascinating material with a real conflict: on the one hand were smugglers and agents from the West, on the other the heroes – the border guards."


Elet es Irodalom (Hungary) 23.02.2007

In response to the domestic political crisis brewing in Hungary since last autumn, voices are increasingly warning of a "Bolshevik turn." Writer Rudolf Ungvary is convinced things will never go that far: "In what used to be the totalitarian half of Europe, at least a third of society is economically and culturally disadvantaged and unable to benefit from the possibilities offered by modernity. This reserve can be mobilised against democracy. The left is weak, it feels unsettled by the downfall of state socialism. No left-oriented revolutionary movement could mobilise these people and seriously threaten the political system of capitalism and civil democracy in today's Europe. And democracy also rules in Hungary, although it is both questioned or disregarded by the extreme right and left. But neither of these movements have volunteer corps or something like the organised Bolsheviks had. And even if they did, they would have to be dealt with according to the law. Yet the suffering third of society does exist. We must protect these people from the siren tones of the extreme right. Because the only people seeking to bring about a revolution that will topple capitalism in Hungary are on the extreme right."


L
'Espresso (Italy) 01.03.2007

For Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun, things do not look good for France. Neither Nicolas Sarkozy nor Segolene Royal could free the country from its stalled reforms, he writes. "What would be necessary is a politician from the provinces, someone like de Gaulle or Mendes-France, who puts his own ambitions and interests behind those of the country. If someone like that did exist, the French would follow him and accept change. But de Gaulle and Mendes-France spurned television, while Sarkozy and Segolene Royal are children of the telly."


The Nation (USA) 12.03.2007

Robert Nathan and Jo-Ann Mort ask why no one makes films like "Norma Rae" any more. Martin Ritt's 1979 classic tells the story of a woman who co-founded the first union for textile workers in America. "It would be easy to blame the entertainment industry for the invisibility of working people fighting to better their lives. Ask writers in show business and they'll say, 'Nobody cares about seeing those people on a screen' and 'If audiences wanted to see that, the studios would make it' and, finally, the answer to nearly every question about the current condition of American filmmaking, 'The studios have a mega-hit mentality; they don't want to make small pictures.' But maybe there's another reason. Making Norma Rae in 1979 was hard enough; now it would probably be impossible. The country has changed. It's more difficult to build a mass movement for social and economic change, to find large numbers of Americans who care about social solidarity. If popular entertainment is, by definition, mass entertainment, what happens when no mass exists, when an insufficient number of people occupy cultural common ground? In that case, for whom would you make Norma Rae?"
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