Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

DU | The New York Review of Books | London Review of Books | The New Republic | Merkur | Folio | De Groene Amsterdammer | The Times Literary Supplement | Elet es Irodalom | Asharq al-Awsat | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Economist | Le Figaro | The New York Times

DU 01.06.2007 (Switzerland)

A fantastic issue about the Danube! Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk travels from his village in the Carpathians over two hills to the Danube, and then southwards. When he gets to the abandoned village of Kopacevo he thinks about Vukovar, just thirty kilometres away: "I could easily imagine the corpses in the shallow water. That's what the Danube is like: it rises in the Black Forest and waltzes through Vienna, then it carries corpses. On the next day I left it, continuing on my journey to the south. But even in Bosnia you can't stop thinking about it, because the majority of the country's water flows through the Sava, Vrbas, Bosna and Drina rivers into the Danube. And the blood flowed the same way. That's how our thoughts should flow as well, whenever we cross a bridge in Budapest, Bratislava or Vienna. At least we can do that."

Other stories online - as usual all listed one on top of the other - include Irene Mettler's travels on a cargo ship from the Wallsee region in Austria to the Handelskai in Vienna. And Zsuzsanna Gahse tells how the real Danube connoisseur knows the river wherever he meets it, although it's not always called the Danube: "And it's not necessarily always feminine. It's 'die' - that is feminine in gender - in German, it's true. But in Hungary the same water is neuter... and even lower down in the Slavic region the river is masculine."
The New York Review of Books 14.06.2007 (USA)

France may have economic difficulties, but nothing that can't be resolved. The election of Nicolas Sarkozy as president removes a much more important problem, as William Pfaff sees it: "Just before the student revolts (and accompanying events) of May 1968, Le Monde famously wrote that the country had become bored - 'la France s'ennuie'. That boredom returned to France during the years leading up to this election. This is essential to an understanding of what has happened. The presidential campaign and election have now relieved the French of their boredom. No one can say that Nicolas Sarkozy is boring, nor is Segolene Royal. Nor is France itself boring any longer; it could become quite exciting."

Jonathan Freedland considers the muddled foreign policy situation of the USA and sees the country poised before a choice of either hanging on to the Roman Empire and losing the Republic, or – like the Britons – giving up the empire to save democracy.

In addition, Ian Buruma checks out new books about Leni Riefenstahl by Steven Bach and Jürgen Trimborn; James Lardner casts an eye on new publications in the American book market; Lee Smolin reads biographies of Einstein by Walter Isaacson and Jürgen Neffe; and John Leonard presents Michael Chabon's new novel, "The Yiddish Policemen's Union."

London Review of Books 07.06.2007 (UK)

Thomas Laqueur really lays into the memoirs of historian Fritz Stern - "Five Germanys I Have Known." Just about every big shot that Stern ever met is listed here, Laqueur groans. And all the lectures delivered! He finds it odd that Stern has received far more recognition in Germany than other Jewish historians who have confronted the German past on at least as high a level: "This raises one of the most fascinating questions posed by this book: the nature of this welcome." Laqueur suggests: "Germany needed its returning Jewish refugees for moral legitimacy, but not everyone would do. Stern was perfect. (George) Mosse – homosexual, shy, drawn to new homes in Israel and England – was not viable. Neither was the Communist Eric Hobsbawm, one of the 20th century’s greatest historians, who, though Austrian, was living in Berlin when he was expelled."

In other articles: Peter Campbell, in "At the National Gallery" focuses on the presentation of hands in potraiture. Mark Greif discusses two new books on Walt Disney and another that deals with animation unions. Bee Wilson reviews a biography of Lola-Montez. And Geoffrey Wheatcroft pulls out all the stops in his criticism of the book by British Prime Minister designate Gordon Brown, "Courage: Eight Portraits."

The New Republic 04.06.2007 (USA)

Paul Berman (who has written a book about Joschka Fischer) presents a lengthy portrait of Bernard Kouchner, France's new foreign minister and former "Doctor without Borders," whom he sees as a parallel figure to Daniel Cohn-Bendit. The two produced a book together in 2004. Kouchner was for the Iraq war, and Cohn-Bendit was against it: stuff for a long debate. The book is called "When You Will Be President." "Vaclav Havel has written about "the postmodern politician"--the politician who doesn't take his own power too seriously, who refuses to be seduced by the illusions of his own lofty position. 'I am not the state' is the motto of a postmodern politician. Kouchner and Cohn-Bendit, by this standard, were ideal postmodernists. The cover of their book showed them already laughing--Cohn-Bendit with his cherubic face and still-red hair, Kouchner with his vigorous nose and sculpted chin, seated on cartoon-like overstuffed red-leather chairs incongruously set on a weedy lawn. But the dominant note in their discussion was not really merry or mocking."

Merkur 01.06.2007 (Germany)

Author Martin Kloke describes how forty years ago, with the Six Day War in 1967, the German Left suddenly distanced themselves from history and took an anti-Israeli turn, in spite of all Arab threats to wipe Israel off the map. And, writes Kloke, people on the Left have not abandoned this Anti-Israeli stance, which is part of an enduring trend, namely that of "a circuitous form of communication in which guilt is pushed and shoved and traditional anti-Semitism is kept distinct from anti-Israeli resentment. In Germany there is a mantra-like invocation of the question of whether and how much criticism of Israel is allowed. Observant newspaper readers know that for decades now, there has been no taboo surrounding the criticism of Israel and the Israeli government. Prime Minister Sharon was heavily criticised up until his stroke at the end of 2005 – sometimes more heavily than his predecessors Menahem Begin and Benjamin Netanyahu in the eighties and nineties. The key question is therefore not whether one should be allowed to criticise Israel in Germany, but whether the media, politicians and creatives are painting a fair or twisted picture."

Folio 04.06.2007 (Switzerland)

The NZZ magazine gets money minded this week with its series "My First Million." Christof Moser portrays kebab king, Erdogan Gökduman, who went from plate washer to millionaire, and now owns eleven fast food restaurants in Switzerland, among them the "New Point" in Zurich. "The manager of 'McDonald's' on the Langstraße would certainly have plenty to complain about, but he refrained from comment. His words would anyway only have confirmed what everyone else is saying: that while his burgers are getting soggier and soggier in their polystyrene packaging, the 'New Point' customers are queuing up outside on the pavement to get into 'New Point'. It's a bloody battle of slaughteryard products, and for the vanquished party, there's no ignoring the victory cry hailing from the other side of the street: 'All the extras, hot sauce?' The man from 'McDonald's' winces."

Peter Haffner dreams up a few get-rich-quick plans of his own. One idea is a universal remote control to shut off the world's mobile phones (Handy B-Gone) Or the Peedristo – a pee-drip-stopper. "However well one shakes, twists and turns it – a drop will miraculously break free as soon as it's back in one's glaring white underpants, and thanks to the vitamin B tablet swallowed earlier, this will then spread to a bright yellow stain which is enough to utterly humiliate a grown man in the gym or in the presence of women. A small sponge might do the job, like the ones designed for teapot spouts."

De Groene Amsterdammer 03.06.2007 (The Netherlands)

The Dutch are trailblazers in euthanasia. A "euthanasia law" has been in effect in the Netherlands for five years now, which legalises active euthanasia. Rightly so, psychiatrist and euthanasia champion, Boudewijn Chabot, proclaims in an interview. "Most people associate a 'good death' with passing away peacefully at the end of a long life, surrounded by one's family.' In line with this definition, says Chabot, euthansia aids a 'good death'. 'Moreover, in recent years people are increasingly expressing the desire to stay conscious as long as possible. And this is achieved by delaying 'social death' with the aid of palliative medicine, for example, or by accelerating 'biological death' through (auto) euthanasia. People don't want to spend days or weeks unconscious and utterly defenceless, having lost all their dignity, as they set out en route to their forebears."

The Times Literary Supplement 01.06.2007 (UK)

Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong, read the hair-raising history of Montenegro, "Realm of the Black Mountains," and delivers his opinion on the life there: "You would have been well advised not to pick a fight with a Montenegrin. There were beheadings, poisonings and blindings as warlords, prince-bishops and kings struggled for power. One ruler had his brother nailed to a cross and sawn in half. Heads rolled and were used for football or sent gift-wrapped to Sultans. Converts to Islam were massacred. (...) No wonder that the Carnegie Report on those regional wars recorded the use of terror against civilian populations, justified by nationalist ideologies, to drive people from their land. This is a wretched tactic that continued into the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Moreover, Montenegrin behaviour did not seem to have improved very much."

Elet es Irodalom 04.06.2007 (Hungary)

Peter Esterhazy, Imre Kertesz, Peter Nadas – most of Hungary's leading writers have spent at least one year on a DAAD stipend in Berlin. Berlin has an openness towards Eastern Europe, which one would be hard pushed to find in Paris or Vienna, writes critic Tamas Jozsef Remenyi. "A stay in Berlin offered the opportunity to charge up the intellectual batteries, attain international visibility, and breathe freely. And doing the latter was not only vital to Hungarian authors prior to 1989. Breathing freely is not just a political category, it is also brings a feeling of cultural breadth, peace and existential security. It is absurd that established Hungarian authors are only able to work in peace abroad. This is not only a financial issue, but also one of attention and recognition. Budapest should learn to love its writers. We should be ashamed of ourselves that Germany supports our authors in a way they would never expect from us. Are German readers more interested in us – and in their mirror image in our literature – than we are ourselves?"

Asharq al-Awsat 04.06.2007 (Saudi Arabia / UK)

As in Germany, people in Turkey are annoyed at the outcome of the recent Eurovision Song Contest in Helsinki. Samir Saliha reports: "Unfortunately, many states were very narrow-minded in according their votes, which goes against the spirit of the competition and it's true intention - namely bringing European states closer together culturally, artistically and in the media. As proof some Turks point to the fact that over many years Ankara has unhesitatingly given its votes to Greece, Greek Cyprus, Armenia and Israel - while these states tend to be much more tight-fisted with their own points. Last year Turkey gave Armenia 10 points and this year it even gave it 12. But all that came from the Armenian side was a goose egg, even though the Turkish contestant is a professional artist who was greatly admired, and who came fourth in the competition, with 163 points."
Gazeta Wyborcza 02.06.2007 (Poland)

An Internet service run by amateur translators has attracted considerable attention in recent weeks with its Polish subtitles for old and new films. Film distribution companies, among them the Polish Gutek Film, filed a complaint with the police who lashed out violently and liquidated the company. Jaroslaw Lipszyc places the case within the broader global campaign to interpret copyrights ever more rigidly and uphold them using police force. Moreover the case exposes "the frontline in the fight to shape the information society. This is not about adhering to laws, nor it is about the publication of subtitles – it is about the language in which we formulate the principle of information transfer. Information per se."

Literary critic Andrzej Werner regrets that fewer and fewer films today are based on literary motifs: "The alliance between literature and film is a thing of the past. Just take a look at the figures: films inspired by contemporary literature - especially by young filmmakers using young literature - are few and far between. And even these exceptions to the rule don't prove a thing, although they often have a lot to say." For Werner, the reason for this is that current Polish prose says little about reality, and has more to do with the subjectivity of the author and language as goal in itself. "Of course literature shouldn't serve just anyone, but an association between the two narrative forms would be an advantage for culture as a whole. And if our culture is lacking an authentic debate about reality, what can you expect from politics and society?"

The Economist 01.06.2007 (UK)

Acting Prime Minister Tony Blair takes a future-oriented look at his term in office under the title "What I've learned". Among other things, he warns explicitly against underestimating Islamic terrorism: "This new terrorism has an ideology. It is based on an utter perversion of the proper faith of Islam. But it plays to a sense of victimhood and grievance in the Muslim world. Many disagree with its methods. But too many share some of its sentiments. Its world view is completely reactionary. But its understanding of terrorism and its power in an era of globalisation is arrestingly sophisticated and strategic."

Le Figaro 01.06.2007 (France)

Will science refute atheism? Philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville ("L'Esprit de l'atheisme, introduction a une spiritualite sans Dieu", more here) and mathematician, palaeontologist and founder of the Universite interdisciplinaire de Paris, Jean Staune ("Notre existence a-t-elle un sens?", excerpt) engage in a lively discussion on the question. Compte-Sponville roundly rejects Staune's idea that philosophy cannot be conceived of without science. "That's a platitude or a mistake! Aristotle and Epicure are endlessly more illuminating than my friend Jean Staune. Simply because in metaphysics there is no such thing as progress. That means, by definition the major metaphysicians cannot be surpassed. Yesterday's science is dead and gone. The major philosophers will never be refuted by science, because they will always remain alive." For Staune, on the other hand: "Science does away with all the philosophical constructs based on the idea that the universe is 6,000 years old, or that the earth is the centre of the universe! In my opinion that's also true of philosophies based on the exclusive self-sufficiency of matter, and that puts in question a good many philosophical systems, past and present."

The New York Times 03.06.2007 (USA)

Was Jesus fed magic mushrooms at the Last Supper? Dick Teresi discovers wild blossoms of cultural history in Andy Letcher's book "Shroom" on hallucinogenic mushrooms: "The myco-mythologists use the same goofy logic as today's neo-Darwinists: if something could have happened, it did happen. Terence McKenna, for instance, who believed shrooms are the 'portal to a shamanic realm,' said that when our hominid ancestors left the African forests for the plains, they ate psilocybe mushrooms growing in cattle dung. This sharpened their visual acuity and conferred an evolutionary advantage. At medium doses, shrooms worked as an aphrodisiac, and improved their reproductive success, and at high doses these protohumans began to speak. One assumes their first words were 'Oh wow.'"

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