SignAndSight.com

Features » Magazine Roundup


03/07/2007

Magazine Roundup

London Review of Books | Outlook India | Gazeta Wyborcza | Prospect | Al Hayat | The New Yorker | Il Foglio | Merkur | The Spectator | Nepszabadsag | Al Ahram Weekly | Die Weltwoche | Magyar Narancs | The New York Review of Books | ResetDoc


London Review of Books 05.07.2007 (UK)

Chaohua Wang remembers an events which no one is permitted to remember in China: the murder of the Tiananmen demonstrators. Wang recounts a telling anecdote. "On 4 June this year, a strange incident occurred. In Chengdu, the capital of the province of Sichuan, a city with a population of 11 million, the small-ads pages of an evening newspaper contained a short item that read: 'Salute to the steadfast mothers of the 4 June victims.' The entry was noticed by some readers, scanned and uploaded onto the internet, where it rapidly circulated. The authorities jumped to investigate. Within days, three of the paper’s editors had been fired. How had the wall of silence been breached? The girl in charge of the small ads, born in the 1980s, had called the number given by the person who placed the ad to ask what the date referred to. Told it was a mining disaster, she cleared it. No one had ever spoken to her about 1989. Censorship devours its own children."

Further articles: Alastair Crooke looks at new literature on Palestine. The eminent and nearly ninety-year-old literary critic Frank Kermode perused a volume of letters by the eminent Latin scholar and poet A.E. Houseman, which clearly don't belong to the most thrilling of their genre. "But if one struggles on to the end, the reward is a moving close-up of the great man in his last years." Kermode also struggeled with the book's tight binding which requires you use both hands to hold it down.


Outlook India 09.07.2007 (India)

Priyamvada Gopal, professor of postcolonial studies at Cambridge, accuses Salman Rushdie of only criticising Islam. "As though there aren't Jewish fundamentalists also opposed to exactly the same things [freedom of speech, a multi-party political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable governments, Jews, beardlessness, evolution theory, sex] with the addition of Palestinian existence! Is America a shining example of a multi-party political system and accountable government? Rushdie's list of 'what matters' mentions 'a more equitable distribution of resources' but stresses 'kissing in public places, bacon sandwiches and cutting-edge fashion' - preoccupations quite specific to metropolitan glitterati."


Gazeta Wyborcza 02.07.2007 (Poland)

"Where are the limits to the anti-German phobias of the Polish government and its crazy policy towards what was, up to now, its most important international partner?" asks political scientist Piotr Buras in an article for the weekend edition of Poland's largest daily. The criticism of Germany in the run up to the Brussels summit could be read as an attempt to apply pressure, but the attacks by Prime Minister Kaczynski afterwards seem to illustrate that he is the only person not to understand that Berlin cannot be side-stepped in Polish foreign policy. "While in Germany there is a growing conviction that it's unlikely there will be a more anti-German govenrnment in Poland in the foreseeable future, we can be sure that in the years to come, there won't be a more pro-Polish government in Germany. (...) One can only hope that either our government comes to its senses or that someone else will soon be at the helm. And then the Germans will see that it is possible to talk sensibly with Poland – about common and opposing interests."

Modern architecture
in post-1989 Poland is seen as the ugly legacy of the communist era. Gradually however, an understanding of its cultural historical importance is starting to gain currency. Now an exhibition on the subject has opened in the Warsaw Centre for Contemporary Arts. Anna Zymer writes: "The exhibition shows how life organised in the pre-fab socialist housing blocks influenced Polish culture. (...) It shows the 'concrete deserts' as a melting pot, in which artistic ideas continue to bubble away. The unwillingness of the sponsors to display their logo in the context of the exhibition shows how strong the negative stereotype of the socialist housing block still is today."


Prospect 01.07.2007 (UK)

The covers story focusses on the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown who, as the first intellectual to take office in, well, donkey's years, is being scrutinized closely in a six-part symposium. John Lloyd is highly impressed by Brown's erudition, although his reading doesn't extend into all areas: "On one of the few occasions I have met Brown, I responded by recommending 'The Leopard', the great postwar Sicilian novel by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, which I was then re-reading. Brown grunted, and dropped the subject. I got the impression that novels were not among his priorities."

Other articles include Daniel Johnson's rather more sceptical assessment of Brown's intellectual prowess, and Iain McLean's brief history of British intellectuals in power. Ben Lewis scowls at Damien Hirst's diamond-studded skull in his mind's eye as he ponders "how to tell the difference between a banal work and one whose theme is banality."


Al Hayat 01.07.2007 (Lebanon)

Lebanese author Dalal al-Bizri writes bitterly about the events in Gaza: "The 'victory' celebrations are continuing in our country. Now it's Gaza's turn. These were the words (the political leader of Hamas) Khaled al-Mashal used in Damascus to describe the 'victory of Islam' in Gaza. A victory brought about by slaughter, destruction, butchery, by throwing people from buildings, by attacks on the remaining Christians and their churches." Unlike past victories of the Islamists, who, like the Nazis in Germany, established themselves through elections, the seizure of power by Hamas in Gaza was a putsch by armed militias. "But what does Hamas really want?" asks Bizri, and points to an interview which Mahmoud Zaha, a leading Hamas member, recently gave Spiegel Online: "In this interview, he confirmed that Hamas 'naturally want to establish an Islamic state, but with the backing of the entire people.' Which means, when they have won control of the hearts and minds of the population."

And Muhammed al-Haddad also reports on the growing importance of Islam in local fighting: "In colonial times, religion was a factor which helped preserve identity, but no one was striving to set up a religious emirate in the wake of colonialism. The slogan that went out to unify the people was 'independence' without any religious objectives. There is not one Arab society whose liberation from colonialism was brought about by a religious movement. All Arab societies were freed by political movements under the slogan of unity and national belonging."


The New Yorker 09.07.2007

Alex Ross has written a very readable essay portraying the Finish composer Jean Sibelius and his music. "Composing may be the loneliest of artistic pursuits. (...) Nameless terrors creep into the limbo between composition and performance, during which a score sits mutely on the desk. Hans Pfitzner dramatized that moment of panic and doubt in 'Palestrina,' his 1917 'musical legend' about the life of the Italian Renaissance master. The character of Palestrina speaks for colleagues across the centuries when he stops his work to cry, 'What is the point of all this? Ach, what is it for?' Jean Sibelius may have asked that question once too often."

Further articles: In a lengthy reportage, Jon Lee Anderson reports on the opium war being waged by the Taliban in Afghanistan.


Il Foglio 30.06.2007

Benny Lai was a correspondent in the Vatican from 1951 to 1978. Few people can tell so many anecdotes and stories from the world's smallest state. Stefano di Michele greatly enjoyed Lai's memoirs of "Il 'mio' Vaticano" and quotes large chunks here and here. "To those coming to the Vatican from the outside, it will seem very large. Those who live there feel the exact opposite. Everyone knows what you are doing, what you are eating, whether you got out of bed late... The smell of the priests is unfathomable: it is a sweet, sleepy smell, a bit like old meat and bodily fluids. Their clothes are saturated in it and thus preserved. Some women like it, it is a male smell after all. When not wearing his long black robe, the priest has only the smell of his caste."


Merkur 01.7.07 (Germany)

Siegfried Kohlhammer describes how China's Communist Party is using nationalism harking back to its suffering at the hands of the Japanese as an ideological means for suppressing opposition and fighting Western "spiritual pollution." As opposed to Mao's victorious struggle of the Chinese people against imperialism, "the new Chinese nationalism is a 'nationalism of victimhood,' in the words of South Korean historian Jie-Hyun Lim. Yet such a victim's nationalism should not be confused with pacifist or docile policy. It can awaken and fan resentment, hatred and the desire for revenge. And it can serve as an aggressive justification of Chinese policies, even aggressive ones, under the motto: can victims do wrong?"

Further articles: Hong Kong-based sociologist Carsten A. Holz tells how his fellow Sinologists allow themselves to be ideologically and financially corrupted by the powers in Beijing. Karl Heinz Bohrer sets us straight: an independent mind need not be a subversive one. And zoologist Josef Reichholf decries the xenophobia of German biologists who fear local species may be threatened by an influx of foreign species: "What threat can there be from foreign infiltration when 90 percent of the country has long been home to species that would never occur there naturally in the first place?"


The Spectator 30.06.2007 (UK)

Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, who was awarded the Man Booker International Prize a few days ago, tells Clemency Burton-Hill about his special connection to The Spectator. "I was working at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation and I had a subscription to the magazine. One day, I saw an advertisement for a manuscript typing services firm in there. I had written this novel, so I sent them the only copy in the world. I didn't hear back from them. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. They stopped taking out their advert in The Spectator, which really scared me. Fortunately, I told my boss, a no-nonsense Englishwoman, what had happened. She went back to England on leave, armed with the name and address of the typing company. Shortly afterwards, they sent back my manuscript. The novel was called 'Things Fall Apart'."


Nepszabadsag 28.06.2007 (Hungary)

A study conducted by the World Bank predicts that in 20 years' time the average age of the populations of the countries of Eastern Europe will be the highest in the world. The drop in the birth rate is so dramatic that it threatens economic development. The authors of the study, Arup Banerji and Gordon Betcherman, conclude that this transformation in Eastern Europe's demographics constitutes a social revolution akin to the fall of communism in 1989: "There are currently 400 million people living in the former socialist countries. By 2025 the proportion of over 65-year-olds will be much higher than today. Over the coming two decades their population will shrink by almost 24 million... They are in a unique position worldwide because these countries have a much worse starting position in the battle against the age problem than Western Europe. Other countries that have rapidly aging populations don't have to worry simultaneously about developing modern economic and political institutions."


Al Ahram Weekly 28.06.2007 (Egypt)

After the days of violence in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon, political scientist Amr Hamzawy, Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, submits a downright depressing essay on the chances for democracy in the Arab countries: "Our societies are in a true crisis. They helplessly oscillate between positions of wavering and absolute decisiveness lacking legitimacy (meaning popular acceptance) with regard to major questions about the relationship between the individual, group, and the state, the role of religion in politics, the limits of a civil orientation for politics, and, fundamentally, the system for balancing majorities and minorities. Here, the dominance of an extreme culture of violence and the consequent lack of mechanisms for a peaceful construction of harmony is at once a cause for incapacity and an entrenched result of it." His conclusion: "This time my mind refuses to search for analytical exits or essential formulations that can bring back hope, no matter how limited."


Die Weltwoche 06.07.2007 (Switzerland)

Beatrice Schlag paints a dour picture of the "oyster" Hillary Clinton, the presidential contender with "all the emotion of a parking meter." Nothing is left of the devotion with which she defended her husband's honour during the Lewinsky affair, she writes: "Having your husband make you look like a gullible fool in the public eye is more than most women would endure. Not everyone understands why she stayed with him. But there's no one who remained unmoved by the spectacle. Nine years later, Hillary Clinton is an experienced senator and the first woman in the history of the US to be the favourite Democratic contender for the presidency. This comeback was unimaginable after the Lewinsky scandal, and Clinton deserves our respect for it. But what's harder to grant her is our admiration. When she's standing up for her own cause, Hillary Clinton is – oh woeful and widespread women's illness - as reserved and prim as she was unreserved and passionate in the service of her husband. You listen to her and watch her and feel - nothing."

Author duo Sami Yousafzai and Uhrs Gehriger have tracked down and met the military head of the Taliban, Mansur Dadullah, who didn't fail to make use of the interview to send a threat westwards: "Sitting on a stony floor, an AK-47 leaning against the wall behind him, Mansur Dadulla, who gives his age as 35, says he's continuing the work of his brother. Mullah Dadullah was the legendary 'slaughterer from Urusgan,' who brought the Taliban back into the headlines with filmed beheadings and suicide attacks. He was shot by coalition troops after a nine month manhunt. Mansur announces he will 'lead a new front of suicide attackers,' stressing that there's no lack of volunteers."


Magyar Narancs 28.06.2007 (Hungary)

Since 1996, Cologne artist Gunter Demnig has been installing "Stolpersteine" or "stumbling stones" in pavements to remind people of those persecuted, deported and murdered during the Nazi era. By the end of 2006 he had installed around 9,000 stones in over 190 locations around Germany, and the project has received widespread attention. Now the idea has reached Hungary, where Szabolcs Molnar accompanied the artist around the country: "In Szolnok an old man stood beside us. Barna Szabo, for whom we were just laying a stone, was the most interesting journalist in the city, a legendary figure in the literary cafes and his father's best friend, he said. In Szeged we were surprised by an elderly woman who put a pebble on our freshly laid Stolperstein. For her, the daughter of the murdered Laszlo Müller, it's a very special present to have a tangible memorial in the city, she said." After the first 50 stones were laid, the Hungarian civilians now want to take over the project: "The engraved brass stones have to be approved by the building authorities in each location, which has gone without a hitch until now. But bureaucracy could soon put a damper on things, fears Laszlo Böröcz of the gallery 2B, the project's Hungarian partner."


The New York Review of Books 19.07.2007 (USA)

Jamey Gambrell describes how Russia's President Putin is stepping up his efforts to stifle the media: "Murdering journalists is simply the most visible manifestation of the constant campaign against the press. Far more effective are the economic, judicial, and administrative measures being used systematically to quash human rights and information-gathering organizations and other genuinely independent members of civil society. Frequent tax audits and expensive, time-consuming re-registration procedures have been among the weapons of choice. In recent months there have been raids on news organizations to confiscate 'illegal software'; top-level management reshuffles between government-controlled and 'private' national television stations that provide most Russians with their news; managerial directives to present 50 percent 'positive' news; 'stop lists' of politicians and activists not to be mentioned on the air; and an end to live, on-the-scene reporting and live talk shows."

A special literary supplement features writers on writers: Anita Desai writes about Primo Levi, Al Alvarez about Ian McEwan, Tim Parks about Elfriede Jelinek, Hilary Mantel about Mischa Berlinski, Claire Messud about Andrew O'Hagan, Francisco Goldman about Roberto Bolano and Joyce Carol Oates, finally, about novels of amnesia.


ResetDoc 03.07.2007

The new edition of Reset.doc has collected together the contributions to a conference on al-Jazeera and the new Arab media which took place in May in Santa Barbara. Courtney C. Radsch describes al-Jazeera's pioneering role in the establishment of non-state media. "Using Egypt as a case study, this paper argues that Al Jazeera has provoked changes in the media ecology of the Arab world, creating a new imperative of competition in the news industry which has changed the nature of the Arab news media. Al Jazeera's influence has been instrumental in terms of altering the rules of journalism, increasing professionalization, and modifying audience expectations. In adapting to these changes Egypt is developing a media logic that has put pressure on the political system to conform to it and elevated the importance of news as a form of soft power."

Further articles: Patricia Kubala examines the role of religion in the Egyptian media, which doesn't feature at all in the secular-state channels, a fact which is more than compensated for in the private ones.And there are some comments on Yigal Carmon, the former colonel in the Israeli army who later founded the worthy Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri).
signandsight.com - let's talk european