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06/03/2007

Magazine Roundup

Al Ahram Weekly | Polityka | Asharq al-Awsat | The Economist | Elet es Irodalom | Nepszabadsag | Il Foglio | Le Nouvel Observateur | Merkur | Folio


Al Ahram Weekly 28.02.2007 (Egypt)

The Canadian Hadeel Al-Shalchi (blog), who decided to live as a veiled woman ten years ago, gets a culture shock when she arrives in Cairo. Almost everyone is wearing one there, the choice is fantastic. "Coming from a country lacking in scarves, I spent time in scarf shops like a person at an oasis in a desert. I would stand wide-eyed in a shop and think to myself, "Oh my God - I want them all!'" As time goes by however she starts to suspect that a herd mentality is the driving-force of much Egyptian hijab-wearing. "Many women seem to wear the veil without thinking. They use phrases like 'I don't want to go to hell', or 'it's something I have to do', 'my parents told me', "it's what everyone does"... Stickers decorate metro stations warning girls to wear the hijab before meeting their God on the Day of Judgement -- do you feel guilty for not wearing it? Do you want to be seen in this immoral state? ... And if a girl chooses not to wear the veil, then she is either ready to be catcalled or harassed by men on the street, or she's a Copt."


Polityka 27.02.2007 (Poland)

Adam Krzeminski
the weekly Polityka correspondent for Germany visited the "Art and Propaganda. Clash of Nations 1930-1945" exhibition at the Deutsches Historisches Museum. He found the analogy drawn between the exhibits from the dictatorships and those of the USA under Roosevelt risky but overall he was impresed. "Every form of propaganda combines art and kitsch. The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship however, is that in the former, propaganda is only one aspect of the reality whereas it is the very heart of a dictatorship. The Berlin exhibition brilliantly illustrates another thing: in the 20th century, Europe was no bastion of democracy and humanism. From the depths of its past the continent not only creates human rights, freedom, equality and brotherhood, but also despotism and totalitarianism. The new wave of populism that is plaguing Europe of late testifies to the weaknesses of our democracies and the strong anti-democratic tradition."


Asharq al-Awsat
28.02.2007 (Saudi Arabia/ UK)

Muhammad al-Mazdiwi reports from the presidential elections in Paris. He is particularly concerned by the support that Nicolas Sarkozy, the moderate right-wing candidate, is attracting from intellectuals on the left. This prompts al-Mazdiwi to question the position of Arab intellectuals in France. "Even today there are still no intellectuals that one would describe as French of Arab origin, in other words second or third generation. On the market place of ideas, there are hordes of intellectuals who came to France at an advanced age. But they have no significant influence and the majority of them swing between the right and left. Some of the Sarkozy's liberal ideas - in particular affirmative action which he imported from the USA – cater to the thinking of these intellectuals. (...) Sarkozy's blunders - like when in what smacked of campaign manoeuvre he wrote a letter of support for the newspaper Charlie Hebdo which had printed the denigrating caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad - seem to have put the wind up these intellectuals and dampened their enthusiasm for the right."


The Economist
02.03.2007 (UK)

The Economist reports on light and shadows in South Africa. On the one hand things are undoubtedly looking up: "The township of Soweto, Johannesburg's largest, was once a byword for violence and black deprivation. Look at it now. In the Diepkloof neighbourhood, shiny new cars are parked next to elegant houses protected by security systems. Shopping malls are planned, banks have opened and tourists are coming. New bars and restaurants stay open all night, drawing in the rich blacks who now live, during the week, in quiet suburbs of Johannesburg that used to be all-white." But then again: "although half a million jobs are being created every year, unemployment remains stubbornly high at 25% - or, on a broader definition, close to 40%. Almost half the population are poor; around a quarter get government handouts."


Elet es Irodalom
02.03.2007 (Hungary)

After the unrest in Budapest last autumn, there has been much bandying of the accusation that the "system change" never took place, that the "old guard" is still at the helm and that the crimes of the Communist regime were never atoned. Economist Janos Kornai thinks this is claptrap and recommends that his compatriots treat democracy with respect but without deluding themselves. "Morals dictate that the guilty should receive due punishment – but neither the capitalist economic structure nor parliamentary democracy is a triumph of pure morals. The system change and the simultaneous change of government established only the most basic requirements for a capitalist system and a democratic form of government. This alone is already a historic achievement. And yet is is also not more than this – a minimum, a point of departure. Where the politicians and citizens take things from here is totally up to them."


Nepszabadsag
05.03.2007 (Hungary)

A report looking into responsibility for the Budapest riots last autumn was put out several weeks ago by a Hungarian parliamentary committee. Political scientist Laszlo Lengyel looks back on the events, which may well be repeated this March 15 on the country's state holiday: "One thing's for sure. If tensions on the part of demonstrators and police took a violent turn, the fault lies with the political class. Both the mob's violence and the brutal reactions of the police attest to weaknesses on the part of politicians. And these can only fan the fears of law-abiding voters who don't know who to fear more, the rioters or the peacekeepers. We've reached a state of negative expectation: rather than wait for something to happen, we hope nothing will. And at the same time we see that the dissolution of the Hungarian state has begun. It's impossible to know if state power is in sure hands, or for that matter in whose hand it is at all. And it's impossible to know whether the rioters are following the lead of one part of the political class, and if yes, if these people are in a position to bring a halt to the aggression."


Il Foglio 05.03.2007 (Italy)

Mararosa Mancuso reviews the Mafia epic "Sicilian Tragedi" by Ottavio Cappellani, whose first novel "Who is Lou Sciortino?" was very well received in Germany. Cappellani has accomplished what generations of authors have tried and failed to do, Mancuso writes. "Everyone has tried to live up to Shakespeare, but no one's been able to do it. Now Ottavio Cappelani has pulled it off, interweaving 'Romeo and Juliet' with Mafia wars, Elizabethan theatre with Greek tragedy, baroque self-portrayal with costumed comedy, the comedy of Nino Martoglio with the popular festivals organised by 'cultural committees' that already know how to keep the electorate in good humour."

Le Nouvel Observateur 01.03.2007 (France)

French historian Francois Furet died a decade ago, and several of his books (for example here and here) have been reissued in France to mark the occasion. Philippe Raynaud reappraises Furet's critique of Western intellectuals and their relationship to communism: "Furet spoke of the 'past' and not of the end of an illusion, and in that he demonstrated he was a faithful reader of Tocqueville (and of Marx). He knew that this illusion is engendered by a permanent dilemma of democracy, which promises equality without ever being able to deliver. That's why in his book 'Passe d'une illusion', (the past of an illusion) Furet was far from considering that the radical critique of the liberal democratic, capitalist world was over with. Several years after the fall of Soviet communism he even announced its rebirth."


Merkur 01.03.2007 (Germany)

Sociologist Hans-Peter Müller asks where the German's "deep aversion, even hatred, for class society" comes from. "Why do we see this in Germany of all places, where Marx, let's not forget, stated that capitalism is necessarily accompanied by class structure and that only socialism can open the prospect of a classless society? Why do the English and the French have no problem describing their communities as class societies, to say nothing of the Southern Europeans? Why is class so taboo in Germany? (...) Here in Germany, you're supposed to have your gaze fixed on the ideal image of the national community, but certainly not on the class society. Anyone who contradicts the image of our private egalitarianism only puts their political neck on the line."


Folio 05.03.2007 (Switzerland)

This month the magazine is dedicated to the digital renaissance of radio. On the Internet you can hear exotic programmes like La Colifata, a short selection of the pearls of international radios shows. "Sometimes the show features a city tour through Buenos Aires with music by Jimi Hendrix. Sometimes it's a live concert serenade on International Children's Day, sometimes a correspondent's report from heaven. No one could say La Colifata's programmes are predictable. But a station that calls itself 'Sheer Madness' has got to earn its name. In 1991 a psychology student hit on the idea of putting a dictating machine into the hands of his patients in La Borda psychiatric clinic in Buenos Aires. What the 'loonies' said was so poetical, imaginative and clear-sighted that a radio station tore the tapes from his hands and broadcast them. The result was La Colifata, now broadcast by over 50 stations."

In his column on fragrances, Luca Turin sings the praise (in English) of – believe it or not – a perfume produced by Calvin Klein: "CK One is not so much a perfume as a chemical time machine. Most fragrances happily operate on a logarithmic time scale, each successive phase occupying a span ten times longer than the previous one: six minutes of topnotes, an hour of heart, and the rest of the day for drydown. A lot of interesting things can happen during scene changes, for example in the first half-hour of Patou's EnJoy or the first three of Guerlain's Insolence. Some fragrances manage time differently, by fading seamlessly from one accord to another, similar one, for hours on end, as, for example, in J'Adore or DK Gold. But CK One takes a different tack, by stopping time altogether."
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