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Features » Magazine Roundup


29/05/2007

Magazine Roundup

The New Republic | The New Yorker | Trouw | Le point | Al Ahram Weekly | The Boston Review | Tygodnik Powszechny | Die Weltwoche | Asharq al-Awsat | Nepszabadsag | Literaturen | The New York Times


The New Republic 28.05.2007 (USA)

Paul Berman writes a mammoth essay about Tariq Ramadan. He asks all the questions that Ian Buruma omitted to address, or addressed only superficially in his Ramadan portrait for The New York Times. With extreme patience and exactitude (the printed version is 47 pages long!) he examines clues, contradictions and possible interpretations. At the end he comes to the Bruckner-Buruma debate lauched by signandsight.com and its sister site Perlentaucher, and identifies a "reactionary turn in the intellectual world." The comment refers to authors - among them Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash - who have polemicised against Ayaan Hirsi Ali. "Something like a campaign against Hirsi Ali could never have taken place a few years ago. A sustained attack on an authentic liberal dissident crying out against injustices in remote parts of the world and even in the back streets of Western Europe, a sustained attack that appears nearly to have erased the very mention of women's oppression and the struggle for women's rights from discussion - no, this could not have happened yesterday, except on the extreme right. This is a new event."


The New Yorker 04.06.2007 (USA)

Peter Schjeldahl visited the Neo Rauch exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and tried to sound out the message behind the masterpieces: "Not that noticing the stylistic echo profits a viewer anything. The more observant you are of erudite allusions in the show (some male figures display particular airs and dress styles of nineteenth-century German Romanticism), the more acute will be your frustration in trying to make sense of it all. If Rauch's work is nightmarish, as some critics have asserted, the effect pertains not to its dramas but to their mockery of understanding. They are not mysterious, because mysteries imply solutions. Rather, they convey that we may know plenty but our knowledge is useless. There is a highly contemporary sting in this."


Trouw 26.05.2007 (Netherlands)

"Are women more attracted to the life of a desperado than men?" asks sociologist Jolande Withuis in her essay "Suffer, fight, become holy" on radical women Muslims. She sees their motivation in the promise of complete devotion. "Faith offers radical women Muslims a 'total' identity that isn't limited to certain occasions and which is considerably more serious than anything else. It demands effort and renunciation, yet offers fulfilment and peace of mind. Boring or tiresome rules, such as covering oneself or not being allowed to eat certain foods, become a source of self-awareness. They are like anorexics, who derive satisfaction in overcoming hunger, even if it is harmful to their health. Correspondingly, these women occupy themselves to the point of absurdity in trying to determine whether things are 'haram' or 'halal' – and this occupies their time and gives them the pleasant feeling of pursuing a meaningful life."

Further articles: Onno Blom offers a portrait of the writer and recent winner of the P.C. Hooft Prize Maarten Biesheuvel, focusing on the neighbourhood in which he grew up. "Biesheuvel was a celebrity for us school children. When he was in a good mood, almost anything could happen. He could launch into a song by Schumann while walking down the street or lean on the hood of a car to listen whether 'the cylinders were still running.' One day he came up to us and politely asked in his typically nasal voice if we were interested in a 'glass of lemonade.' We didn't wait to be asked twice, because the writer and his wife owned a goat that lived with them in their living room. Biesheuvel said only, 'Come along, I'll introduce you.'"


Le point 24.05.2007 (France)

The appointment of Bernard Kouchner, the founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres, as foreign minister, is like giving the job to one of the nouveau philosophes. In his Bloc notes, Bernard-Henri Levy outlines his high hopes for the new man. "And if he only manages to get one thing done, to succeed in bringing the Islamists in Khartoum to reason and twisting the arm of their Chinese allies by threatening them with a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games, then he will have already won."


Al Ahram Weekly 25.05.2007 (Egypt)

After sitting out several years in prison for numerous attacks, leading members of the Islamic Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya (which previously had Sadat murdered) have now made their political debut. Abdel-Moneim Said takes a wary look at the party's idea of democracy, which has no place for a separation of powers and places high priority on seeing that the Sharia is applied correctly. But Said also points to other lacunae in the party's programme. "Al-Gamaa has told us about the requisites of jihad, correct modes of corporal punishment, causes for insurgency, and other scary matters. What it hasn't yet addressed are the country's basic problems. Al-Gamaa has nothing to say about education, health and administration. Do we need to run the country in a centralised or decentralised manner? What can we do to improve competitiveness? Al-Gamaa members are obsessed with keeping Islamic dress codes, putting the Copts in their place, and fighting the West. Do they have anything else to say?"

Nehad Selaiha presents a very engaging dramatist: Mustafa Saad, "the only playwright I know of who has written plays with no other purpose than to dramatise his theory of what theatre should be and do. His 'Masrah Al-Istifham' (theatre of enquiry), of which the current '3-1' is the 11th and most extreme illustration, conceives of theatre as a communal activity whose primary function is to train the audience to think critically, question what they see and draw their own conclusions away from any ready-made answers. In his author's note to the play, he says: 'After years of research and enquiry, I have come to the conclusion that our problem in the Arab world (whether as subjects or rulers) is not the lack of good theories or their misapplication, but the way we are programmed by our upbringing to copy and repeat what has been handed down to us by tradition and authority. As a result, we tend to think and speak in cliches that simply reiterate our problems rather than analyze them to find solutions.'"


The Boston Review 01.05.2007 (USA)

The magazine publishes a long essay by Iranian intellectual Akbar Ganji, who has been released from Evin Prison last year after years of imprisonment. Ganji now travels the USA and Europe seeking support for a new Western policy toward the mullahs, demanding not war, but support for change from within: "In response to such international support, leading Iranians, Iran's freedom lovers, and the Iranian people in general must continue to pressure the regime to abandon its nuclear dream. Even if the Iranian regime only pursues nuclear energy, given the country’s poor technology and weak control, the Iranian people and neighbouring countries will be in constant danger of human and environmental disaster. If Iran's nuclear program becomes focused on creating weapons, the dangers will be much greater. But external pressure that would inflict hardship on Iranian men, women, and children is unacceptable."


Tygodnik Powszechny 22.05.2007 (Poland)

Hungarian writer Peter Esterhazy, whose new novel "Harmonia caelestis" has met with huge media resonance in Poland, grinds his teeth in an interview when asked about national identity. "What does it mean to be Hungarian? When I hear this question I want to bang my head against a wall. From a French perspective, one cannot even pose the question. It is, however, a very German and Polish question." The scion of an old aristocratic family, Esterhazy has a much greater affinity for European identity. "European thought is very aristocratic – noble families live in a supranational sphere, as do Jewish families. One simply doesn't think in a national framework."


Die Weltwoche 24.05.2007 (Switzerland)

Franziska K. Müller provides a glimpse into the exclusive Le Rosey boarding school on Lake Geneva. Here, the heirs to the Aga Khan, the al-Fayeds, and the Rockefellers are taught hard work, discipline, and good manners, so they don't end up in the glamour gutter like Paris Hilton. "The boarding school administration guard against youthful exuberance with a full programme of activities, and take precautions against critical thinking on world affairs through a ban on newspapers, television, and political discussions. At best, the no-nonsense teenagers might associate the notion of 'underground' with the underground church. Do they fight for anything? Of course – for equality on the Nutella front. Previously, the girls were forbidden from eating the chocolately sandwich spread. And they have also They also insist upon meals being served in the future by the staff instead of by the students."


Asharq al-Awsat
23.05.2007 (Saudia Arabia / UK)

In an interview on the prospects for a dialogue between civilizations, the France-based Algerian philosopher Muhammad Arkoun (French website) criticized the conception of history prevalent in the Arab world. According to Arkoun, Arabs have been "striving for a 'unified Arab nation' since the time of Nasser. This quest has failed to recognize that the history of Algeria, for example, has developed differently from that of Morocco – even though North Africa is one geographic region. From my point of view, this is a very important point typical of this illusion. We yearn for things without taking into account their various levels of complexity. We ignore the different historical and sociological facets. All of these countries have adopted Arabic as their official language and the Arabic language plays an important role in communications between them. This doesn't mean, however, that their history, with which we as a society are connected, is a single, common history."


Nepszabadsag
21.05.2007 (Hungary)

The catastrophically bad, yet legendary East German Trabant car is now 50 years old. Hungarian fans celebrated the great day in style, writes Zsigmond Falusy. "If only Honecker had lived to see it! GDR flags were fluttering in the wind, Trabants were everywhere, and the young people were wearing trendy GDR T-shirts. (...) The Trabant is more than just a passion. It symbolizes the whole of Eastern Europe, our utterly wretched life, the horn combs of the East Germans, the wheeling and dealing of the Poles, the poverty of the Bulgarians, the plunger pump that I bought from a group of Soviet tourists, the cheap beer in Prague, wrangling for dollars on the black market, cadre, Honecker and Brezhnev, Flammkuchen (Alsace pizzas), and potato noodles. It was funny and sad at the same time."


Literaturen
01.06.2007 (Germany)

The June edition of Literaturen focuses on "Journeys to Italy." There is also an online interview with the literary scholar Dieter Richter, in which he discusses the perception of Naples among travellers to Italy during the 18th and 19th centuries. "Naples was always the most beautiful city in Italy – some even considered it the most beautiful city in the world. At the same time, it possessed an uncanny and demonic side. The courtesans in Naples were regarded as the most seductive. Even travel accounts from the 19th century report that the women there were "better disposed" towards visitors. Marquis de Sade's "Juliette" features a small group travelling through Campania. One of the women compares the boring landscape of the north with the 'admirable' and 'criminal' countryside of the Vesuvius region. The natural surroundings of Campania evoke passions that are suppressed by society. August von Platen truly relished being able to find men and boys in Naples without being punished."


The New York Times 27.05.2007 (USA)

Christopher Caldwell writes a long reportage for the New York Times Magazine about the problem of integration in Germany, interviewing Necla Kelek and Seyran Ates, among others. One thing he's amazed at is the major success enjoyed by the memoirs of Muslim women in Germany: "Just why Germans are consuming these books in such numbers is unclear. This has always been a culture with an insatiable interest in other cultures, as the role of Germans in founding the modern social sciences and the thick concentration of museums in the centre of Berlin both attest. It may also be that Germans have so deeply internalized the ethics of repentance for World War II that they lack the confidence, or the inclination, to make sweeping and critical value judgements about other cultures. They now require non-Germans or semi-Germans or new Germans to say such things." Caldwell himself is preparing a book about Islam in Europe.

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