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Features » Magazine Roundup


08/05/2007

Magazine Roundup

The Nation | Le Nouvel Observateur | Outlook India | Elsevier | Elet es Irodalom | Europa | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Times Literary Supplement | Die Weltwoche | Nepszabadsag | Literaturen | The New Statesman


The Nation 04.05.2007 (USA)

Nicholas von Hoffman raves in an online exclusive about the French presidential candidates, who battled it out uninterruptedly for two and a half hours. "Back and forth the two French candidates went like grown-ups disputing. The 1858 debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas on the question of slavery and the future of the union went on for hours. What passes for a political debate in the United States today is little more than duelling sound bites. The Republican candidates were restricted to sixty-second answers to the questions put to them. Such time limitations are the rule in American debating and give rise to the suspicion that these politicians are unable to discuss a topic at a greater length than 100 words. After that they apparently run out of material. They are programmed for short bursts and little more."


Le Nouvel Observateur
03.05.2007 (France)

Andre Glucksmann and Bernard-Henri Levy conduct a passionate discussion in the Nouvel Obs about their engagement in the French election campaign. Although it took place two weeks before the second round of elections, it opens up a number of perspectives for the future. Levy, who backed Segolene Royal, speaks openly with the interviewer about how irritated he was by Glucksmann's support for Sarkozy. "What surprises me, was that he was so quick to rally to Sarkozy's side and with such fire – a passion that for thirty years, we have reserved for Bosnian resistance fighters, Chechen martyrs and Soviet dissidents, to whom we were grateful for vital lessons in the taste and meaning of freedom." BHL accuses Sarkozy, who during the election campaign called for a ministry for immigration and national identity, of a populism reminiscent of Le Pen. Glucksmann replies: "As for this splendid 'ministry', you know as well as I do that Sarkozy's concept of national identity is not ethnic but republican and touches on successive waves of immigration in which his own family also took part. Sarkozy has freed us from the burden imposed by the Front National on democratic life in France."


Outlook India
14.05.2007 (India)

Fear is spreading among Pakistan's women, reports Marian Baabar. "Just the other day Tahera Abdullah was driving down the spiffy Margalla Road in Islamabad, the windows rolled down to enjoy the evening breeze. A development worker, her silvery hair could tell anyone she's 50 plus. Tahera stopped at the traffic signal; an eight-year-old boy accosted her: didn't she know Islam required her to cover her head? Tahera immediately rolled up the window. 'How do you argue with an eight-year-old?' she asks. But the encounter with Pakistan's religious extremism, at once frightening and puerile, has prompted Tahera to choose sweating inside the car over letting in the breeze. 'We women are feeling more threatened today,' she says. The streets of Islamabad are menacing women, compelling them to be what they are not, what they have never been. Consultant Sara Javeed realised this when she lit a cigarette in her car recently. 'I quickly stubbed it. I don't want strangers asking me why I'm smoking. This is the new me,' she says dolefully."

Why can't I live in West Bengal, asks Taslima Nasreen, desperately. A Bangladeshi writer who has lived in Europe for the last twelve years after having been refused entry to her homeland, Nasreen has been applying since for citizenship, or at least a residential permit for India. "As a writer I crave for my language, to live with people who share my culture - is that so unjustified? Western Europe saved my life; I can't help but hope India will save me as a writer." And she recounts once more why she is forbidden to return to Bangladesh: not because she has committed theft, adultery or murder. But because she protested against the discrimination of women by Islam.


Elsevier
07.05.2007 (The Netherlands)

"A lot of non-committal hot air" rails Leon de Winter on reading Jan Pronk's speech "Freedom without boundaries" (available in Dutch on his weblog) held on the national holiday on May 5th, the Dutch "Bevrijdingsdag". The speech by the prominent politician and UN special envoy is sprinkled with "a bus load of self-criticism and guilty sentiments. He doesn't want us just to be free, but free to give, or something like that. It's so riddled with cliches that anyone who reads it with half an eye open will realise that it doesn't actually say a thing."

And the Elesevier commentator Gertjan van Schoonhoven reveals a similar amount of "words in place of deeds" when he looks back over the five years that have passed since the death of the right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn. "First there was the debate about why no debate happened in the years before Fortuyn. Then came the debate about whether the debate was still relevant, and finally there was a debate about the boundaries of the debates. Most of the energy in recent years has been spent in verbal activities: naming problems, 'discussing' problems, and then of course 'making problems discussable' in the first place. This may not be a 'clearance sale' of Fortuyn's ideas but as a 'legacy' it is pretty one-sided."


Elet es Irodalom 07.05.2007 (Hungary)

The EU is free to impose a smoking ban in Poland and the Czech Republic. But if these countries want to station a US missle defence system on EU territory, in the eyes of Washington, Warsaw and Prague the EU should keep its nose out. Columnist Istvan Vancsa is struck by the absurdity of this: "The US missle defence system would fundamentally alter the political and security situation in the EU and would potentially make its territory a target for military attacks. Washington and Moscow insist nonetheless that this is not a matter for the EU and it should continue to concern itself with the standardisation of mousetraps and the regulations for cleaning eggshells." The situation reminds Vancsa of an old story about a Hungarian married couple, both writers. "Sandor Weöres and Amy Karolyi were invited to give a reading abroad and were given a surprisingly luxurious accommodation, a huge, beautiful, elegant room with several entrance doors. In the middle of the night, one of the doors suddenly flew open, the light went on and in stormed a water polo team, which charged through their room gesticulating wildly. The poet pair sat in bed, gasping. Sometime later another door opened and the same team ran back through again, this time followed by a second team, who were shouting even louder. One of the team members mumbled an apology to the poets who by now had turned to columns of salt. Europe is now sitting there, in the same bed, stuttering."


Europa 05.05.2007 (Poland)

Now that liberalism as a world view and concept for society has taken a back seat in Poland for the time being, a debate has kindled in the magazine of the daily paper Dziennik about necessary changes. Agata Bielik-Robson wrote recently that it was time to breathe a bit more life and joie de vivre into liberalism, to which the philosopher Andrzej Szahaj replied coolly: "If liberalism is considered to be wilting when it works doggedly towards the refinement of society's relations instead of demanding revolutionary upheavals; if it is wants reconciliation and compromise instead of a fight for life and death; if it is about not harming people in the name of big ideas, and maintaining a tight hold on social peace, then long may it wilt. Chin chin!"


Gazeta Wyborcza
05.05.2007 (Poland)

"One thing sets Americans apart from Europeans, and explains why the first are a nation and the second a geographical term: every year 3 percent of Americans move from state to state, while in the EU just 1.7 percent of people live outside their home country." For Witold Gadomski, that proves the following: "Without mobility, the USA would be a mosaic of nations today, all celebrating their own ethnicity and speaking different languages. Mobility enhances the dynamism and innovation of the American economy. True integration can only succeed in the EU with a great migration, one much larger than today's labour migration from Central Europe." But that required concerted effort on the part of EU institutions and national governments – especially Germany and France – Gadomski stresses.

The Warsaw film festival "Jewish Motifs" runs until May 10. "The most important topics are Jewish emigration from Poland after World War II and the wounds that endure after the anti-Semitic campaign of 1968. Politics is not at the forefront, however, but the private, emotion-packed stories of the emigrants," writes Pawel T. Felis.


The Times Literary Supplement 04.05.2007 (UK)

Does the Internet foster or eliminate inequality? Jon Garvie read "Inequality.com" by Kieron O'Hara and David Stevens with great interest: "While we are now producing annually a quantity of digital information that equates to the sum of words 'spoken by human beings in the entire history of humanity', the vast majority is banal, personal trivia. And as the West uploads holiday snaps, downloads music, and surfs pornography, political relationships between citizen, State and business are subtly but fundamentally changed. The authors argue that digital inequality does not refer merely to access or distribution. It should also connote the loss of basic liberties (chief among them the right to privacy) which we regularly endure in order to enjoy accelerated social and commercial interactions. The universality of mobile phones provides governments and corporate interests with the potential to track our movements, interpret our actions and anticipate our desires."


Die Weltwoche 03.05.2007 (Switzerland)

Urs Gehriger interviews author Lawrence Wright, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his study "The Looming Tower - Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" (excerpt). Wright is widely considered one of the foremost experts on Al Qaeda. He believes using war to fight the organisation is a fatal mistake: "We should shift our tactics and wage a strictly political battle against Al Qaeda and radical Islam. We should ask them: 'What do you have to offer?' The truth is: Al Qaeda has nothing to offer at all. It has no political agenda. In thousands of documents I haven't found a single page on politics. Al Qaeda has no economic plan, no plan for reducing unemployment, no environmental policy. Al Qaeda offers its supporters nothing other than destruction." Wright stresses that the Iraq War is only strengthening Al Qaeda: "The time will come when the Jihadists will move on from Iraq. They will go back to where they came from, and many came from Europe. They will be well-trained, highly motivated and well-organised."


Nepszabadsag 03.05.2007 (Hungary)

The grave of long-time Communist leader Janos Kadar in Budapest's central cemetery was desecrated last Tuesday night when unknown perpetrators opened the metal coffin and made off with Kadar's bodily remains. The culprits smeared the words "Murderers and traitors must be given no rest in the holy earth" on the marble walls of the pantheon. Members of the right-wing scene are the prime suspects. Surveys show Hungarians feel Kadar is one of the most important politicians of the 20th century, the one who made Hungary the 'jolliest barracks in the East Bloc' and accorded citizens - in comparison to other socialist countries – a relatively high degree of freedom and prosperity. Philosopher Miklos T. Gaspar comments on the desecration: "Hungarians are struggling with their dead. The remains of historical personalities who died as emigrants are brought back home, and controversial monuments are carefully renovated - or destroyed. Other Eastern European countries are also struggling with their past, even if not as fiercely as we are here... Soviet monuments turn to dust, yet the spectre of the Leninist system still returns, despite million-fold humiliations. The Right is too cowardly to struggle with it openly. It remains hidden, attacking only at night, and then with the same instrument that was used in the mid-20th century: fascism."


Literaturen 01.05.2007 (Germany)

Dieter Thomä reviews Ulrich Beck's "Weltrisikogesellschaft" (world risk society) and Cass R. Sunstein's plea for liberal paternalism "Laws of Fear," and finds they couldn't be more different, either in style or the answers they give. But they do react to the same phenomenon, the primacy of the future, Thomä writes: "Nowadays the future has almost replaced the present as far as its role in people's minds goes. The demographic configuration of society in the year 2050 is just as much a matter of concern as sea levels at the end of the 21st century. Politicians' ability to show they are forward-looking is not measured in their visions, but in the data they present. And their actions are also starting to change. Earlier the future tended to get the short end of the stick, a mixture of chance and projections. Now the future is gaining primacy over the current agenda. This abasement of our own self-importance will take some getting used to."


The New Statesman 07.05.2007 (UK)

The magazine sums up in several articles Tony Blair's term in office. For Suzanne Moore, the end result is a fragmented society that has lost all understanding of itself. "Our lack of trust in all institutions has risen. Yes, we know about the huge sums of money eaten up by the National Health Service, but most of us experience brilliant emergency care and pitiful aftercare. Our schools, even those financed by maverick millionaires, have succumbed to endless targeting, testing and pressurising of young children that has little to do with learning. The damage inflicted by the disaster of Iraq on the Labour Party, on the ideal of humanitarian intervention and on democracy itself needs no rehearsal in these pages. I would simply say that the catastrophic repercussions of the war on terror mesh with many other cultural trends to form a national mood of distrust and insecurity. Trust only yourself. Thus, the confessional, the emotive, the blogger, the personal continue to dominate. If we cannot speak for anyone but ourselves, then we will speak only of ourselves. We are now entrepreneurs, all selling our unique personalities, incessantly spinning on behalf of ourselves."
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