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03/04/2007

Magazine Roundup

Merkur | Prospect | Die Weltwoche | The New Yorker | Literaturen | Dissent | Folio | Le Monde | De Groene Amsterdammer | Il Foglio | The Spectator | Gazeta Wyborcza | NRC Handelsblad


Merkur 01.04.2007 (Germany)

Political scientist Matthias Küntzel recalls the reactions in the West – from helplessness to admiration – to the Iranian revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini and wonders why European politicians are so slow to learn when it comes to Iran. "In June 2006, Javier Solana, emissary of the six powers, proposed to the regime 'a new relationship on the basis of mutual respect and trust' in almost the exact same words that Jimmy Carter, shortly after the hostage-taking, made the friendly but absurd offer of a 'new and mutually advantageous partnership.' Tehran responded to this fawning in its own particular way: one day before Solana arrived, it expanded its uranium enrichment programme."


Prospect 01.04.2007 (UK)

A discussion is going on in the UK about whether the goverment should make reparation payments to descendents of slaves. After all, the British profited enormously from teh slave trade. Historian James Walvin describes the dilemma (only online): "The history of slavery is not dead and gone. On both sides of the Atlantic, the sense of grievance and communal hurt among the descendants of slaves is profound—more than most white people realise. Although the reparations debate is sustained by that mood, it has more specific origins. The post-1948 settlements between Germany and Israel form an obvious starting point, but so too is the widespread awareness that in 1833 the British parliament compensated slave owners to the tune of a massive 20 million pounds for the loss of their slaves. Not a penny was paid to the enslaved."


Die Weltwoche 29.03.2007 (Switzerland)

Putin may not be a flawless democrat, but his government's track record is positive, writes Roger Köppel: "In retrospect it's perhaps a miracle that it never came to the development many people thought possible: that Russia could degenerate into a sort of Weimar Republic, with all the difficulties that entails. To understand Moscow's success, you have to bear in mind the example of Yugoslavia. And the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky is instructive as far as Putin bashing goes. The oligarch, who people in the West liked to cast as a dove, was in fact a cut-throat businessman who managed to buy up his oil empire thanks to official toleration and dubious rock-bottom prices, and who was not exactly pussy-footed in dealing with competitors. Above all, however, he trod on Putin's toes when he bribed Duma members to secure a position of power countervailing that of the president. Putin had to stop Khodorkovsky. What was wrong was the way he did it, the show trial and heavy-handed stripping of the corporate group."

The New Yorker 09.04.2007 (USA)

Adam Gopnik has been rummaging through novels and digging up the best descriptions of food and the best recipes – while trying a few himself. "These days, we have long cooking sequences in Ian McEwan; endless recipes in James Hamilton-Paterson; menus analyzed at length in John Lanchester; and detailed culinary scenes involving Robert B. Parker’s bruiser of a detective, Spenser. Cooking is to our literature what sex was to the writing of the sixties and seventies, the thing worth stopping the story for to share, so to speak, with the reader."

John Cassidy offers a portrait of former political advisor to George W. Bush, deputy foreign minister and neocon, who supported the Irak invasion: Paul Wolfowitz. Since 2005, he's been head of the World Bank and is very controversial there – particularly for his position that corrupt regimes should not be entitled to payments by the World Bank.

Literaturen 02.04.2007 (Germany)

Historian Gerd Koenen takes his review of the posthumously published diaries of the murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya (more) as an opportunity to describe the current situation in Russia and the danger in which all regime critics find themselves. "The question of what those in power fear can be answered much as it was in the Soviet Union: not a couple of old men and women; not the few journalists and human rights activists whose influence is minimal and restricted to Internet publication; and not the handful of young men and women who sporadically charge the state organs with a crazy ideological mix of national bolshevism and anarchism, expressed in desperate banter. The gentlemen in the Kremlin are much more concerned that it will become clear to what extent their seemingly invulnerable power is built on social quicksand."


Dissent 01.04.2007 (USA)

Johann Hari reviews a series of books on Islam in Europe, from Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "The Caged Virgin" to Bruce Bawer's "While Europe Slept," and points out a serious mistake in the thinking of multiculturalists. "Multiculturalism has worked on the assumption that there is one 'pure' Islam, represented by elderly mullahs. Now that Islam is splitting into liberal and literalist wings, this approach places European states closer to the reactionaries than to the feminists and liberals. We will have to ensure there are no more state-funded Muslim-only schools and youth clubs, no more privileged status for reactionary clerics. 'It must,' Bawer notes, 'become impossible for children growing up in Western Europe to be raised to see their religious affiliation as the be-all and end-all of their identity.'"


Folio 01.04.2007 (Switzerland)

Just in time for spring, Folio has gotten romantic: it's about marriage. Journalist Shobha De considers the good old arranged marriage to be the model for the future in an India that's uncertain about women's emancipation. "Men in Asian societies are not equipped for rejection. For centuries they've been told that the world – and women – belong to them. They needed only to snap their fingers and point: that's my bride. Bingo. And the chosen one would gush with thankfulness. 'Dream on, boys,' is what they're getting back today. 'You aren't the right one.' That's a massive cultural change that men are having to really chew on. And at this point, mummy comes into play. She's become the chief negotiator, she's the agent in relationship questions. And young men are totally relieved that she's there."

Luca Turin thinks that Guerlain wouldn't be offering the "probably best" perfume in the world had it not been obliged to adapt to new EU regulations. "Then some in-house people refused to mess with the formula and walked out, at which point Guerlain brought in the great Edouard Flechier to fix the problem. He appears to have worked on it for a couple of years. Two days ago I got the new stuff, and it gives me great pleasure to report that Flechier has done the impossible. The new Mitsouko conforms to all the rules and smells sensational, ever so slightly different, more bread-like up top, a touch less sweet below and with a slightly stronger iris note in the middle. If I had to choose between the old and the new, regardless of habit, I might pick the new. Bravo."


Le Monde 31.03.2007 (France)

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe is up against a strong headwinds thanks to his traffic policy which has been subject to much attack since January, when Liberation ran an article on it with the headline "The destruction of Paris." Now Le Monde and filmmaker Claude Lanzmann are bewailing the situation in a wonderfully offended (and unwittingly funny) article on the "ecologisation" of Paris – in particular, the introduction of bus lanes. "If you drive along the Boulevard Saint-Germain towards Boulevard Saint-Michel and try to turn right in the Rue de Seine or the Odeon , you'll find yourself risking your life: aided by the gray lane next to the normal driving one, taxis fly by on green and prevent others from turning. If you try nonetheless, the chances are good that you'll be rammed into at high speed. Nor are pedestrians safe. I walked by mistake on the checker-painted cement, on the hopscotch, the latest foible of these ecological chubby cheeks and didn't know whether and whither I should go and who might protect me. I'm not the only one." We've always known: life in Saint-Germain des Pres is dangerous!


De Groene Amsterdammer 29.03.2007 (The Netherlands)

In an interview on the second part of his much-discussed Muhammad biography, Arabist Hans Jansen calls the cultural criticism of young Muslims "half-baked": "Recently I spoke with two Salafis, young Islam dogmatists, and they sounded very sensible. There's just one problem: they don't have a solution. I can only agree with their criticism of things related to sexuality, and the over-sexualisation of advertising. But stoning women and men doesn't help. They are also right in finding fault with the increasing commercialisation of our social welfare system. But doing away with pensions altogether won't get us any further. In this regard I see myself as a successor to Karel van het Reve. The communists were certainly right in criticising capitalist society, but they didn't have a solution. And it's the same with radical Muslims."


Il Foglio 31.03.2007 (Italy)

Gabriella Mecucci looks back on the Venice Biennale of 1977, which was dedicated to dissent and dissidents. With discussions on the reform of communism and an exhibition of samizdat literature, the Biennale became the most important cultural event of the 1970s, and grounds for considerable tension with the USSR. "Riccardo Manzini convened Biennale director Carlo Ripa di Meana and gave him a talking to: 'Honoured president, your decision has resulted in a serious worsening of relations with the USSR. Nikita Rijov (the Russian ambassador) has paid me a visit and informed me that his government interprets the 1977 programme as an act of deep animosity, an attack on the Soviet Union.' In this way, political countermeasures reached right to the heart of the Biennale, and Ripa di Meana handed in his resignation with a reference to 'unbearable interference on the part of foreign powers.' It seems that ambassador Rijov hit the bull's-eye. After that a good hundred or so questions were raised on the subject in the parliament and senate."


The Spectator 31.03.2007 (UK)

French-based author Theodor Dalrymple explains France and its presidential candidates to his countrymen: Sarkozy divides, Royal is like a sedative, and Bayrou? "Bayrou excites no emotions: his very absence of high profile may yet prove his greatest asset. I remember a Peruvian peasant's reply when asked why he had voted for Fujimori in the most important election in the country's history: I voted for him, he replied, because I don't know anything about him. This implies a rather pessimistic view of the moral qualities of politicians in parliamentary democracies, one that is now almost universal in countries where elections are held with any kind of regularity; but it makes Bayrou a distinctly possible future president. As for Le Pen, the word is virtually unmentionable, at least in decent company. I don't think I've ever met anyone who admitted to voting for him, and can therefore only conclude that the French electoral system in its counting is massively rigged in his favour."


Gazeta Wyborcza 31.03.2007 (Poland)

In a very readable interview, Norman Davies, the most Polish of British historians, explains how he imagines a common European history book. "We should start with a small handbook to get the facts straight, before discussing different interpretations. Historians are seldom successful at selling their histories to other nations. They know too much and think too little about how this knowledge could be received abroad. Someone once said to me that only a Chinese person could write a true history of Poland, because otherwise things inevitably get tangled up in disputes over honour. A Pole, on the other hand, could write the history of Portugal."


NRC Handelsblad 28.03.2007 (The Netherlands)

Maarten Huygen sees one reason for the new Dutch "culture of bans" (more on this phenomenon in Germany here) in the longer life expectancies in wealthy Western European countries. "Why are there so many smokers in poor countries? Because smoking is not as harmful there. In those countries most people don't die of the consequences of tobacco consumption, but much earlier, of infectious diseases that primarily attack the elderly." But too many bans can be counterproductive. "If bans become too widespread, people's behaviour can swing about in the opposite direction. Victorian London was the world's prostitution capital. And now chaste Tehran is top spot for heroin, prostitution and alcohol. You just have to know the rules - sometimes also the unwritten ones."
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