Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Elsevier | The New Yorker | Europa | The Spectator | Gazeta Wyborcza | Al Hayat | The Economist | Il Foglio | Magyar Hirlap | The New York Times

Elsevier 06.08.2007 (The Netherlands)

"Where do these street terrorists come from?!" asks the outraged political journalist and jurist Afshin Ellian in the Elsevier blog. His anger is directed at three unknown persons who last weekend brutally beat up 22-year-old Ehsan Jami, PvdA, member and co-founder of the Dutch "Council of Ex-Muslims". "This is the third time now that Jami has been attacked by young Muslims. Why is he such an easy target for Muslim violence? Because he is not being given police protection. And they've known for the past fortnight that his private address and telephone number were circulating on an Islamist website. Jami told me this himself. My goodness, we forget so easily. Wasn't Theo van Gogh murdered here in Holland too? ... What do you say at such a time? What do I tell a twenty-two year old who has grown up in a European country? Should I say welcome to Gaza, Teheran, Cairo – where in the middle of the day people who think differently are murdered and the state does nothing?!"

The New Yorker 13.08.2007 (USA)

Until the title of "The Black Sites" Jane Mayer examines the secret interrogation programme of the CIA. Her reportage unfolds around the case of Al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who is being held responsible for the death of the American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. "The programme has been extraordinarily 'compartmentalised,' in the nomenclature of the intelligence world. By design, there has been virtually no access for outsiders to the CIA's prisoners. The utter isolation of these detainees has been described as essential to America's national security. The Justice Department argued this point explicitly last November, in the case of a Baltimore-area resident named Majid Khan, who was held for more than three years by the CIA. Khan, the government said, had to be prohibited from access to a lawyer specifically because he might describe the 'alternative interrogation methods' that the agency had used when questioning him. These methods amounted to a state secret, the government argued, and disclosure of them could 'reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage.'"

Europa 04.08.2007 (Poland)

In the magazine of the daily Dziennik Agata Bielik-Robson has a fascinating conversation with the writer Adam Zagajewski. Among other things they discuss the enormous challenge faced by writers of the younger generation, who must redefine what it means to be Polish. "Just as French culture was influenced by the field of tension between Montaingne and Pascal, the new definition of Polish culture leads back to the sparring between Czeslaw Milosz and Witold Gombrowicz. The question now is whether this tension can be maintained. Can the young generation continue this conversation which raised Polish culture to a high level?"

The Spectator 03.08.2007 (UK)

Amelia Torode, the digital editor of The Spectator, is pleasantly surprised to discover that far from than being digital Luddites, "the retired are wired" and setting trends. "My parents-in-law do not consider themselves technophiles, but they were the first people I know who downloaded Skype.(...) Next they added a webcam as they wanted to be able to video-chat with their three young grandchildren in Paris. After quizzing my friends about their experiences with their own parents, I realised that digitally savvy grandparents are increasingly becoming the norm whereas none of us urban young professionals are using anything like webcams. But Skype was just the beginning for my in-laws."

Gazeta Wyborcza 04.08.2007 (Poland)

On 1 January 2008, Poland and other states of Central Europe will join the Schengen zone, making border controls between these countries and Western Europe unnecessary. For the Ukrainian poet Mykola Rjabtschuk this conjures up fears and hopes. "For the first time in years I went back to the Ukrainian-Slovakian-Hungarian border station at Chop. It was oppressively empty... I grew furious – once again they want to close the borders and seal themselves off from this amorphous and politically schizophrenic entity in the East, the Ukraine. Only now we will discover how far away that foreign country is which had always seemed so near. And how near the places are that start on the other side of our Eastern border and stretch up to Semipalatinsk and Ulan-Ude. The virtual reality which was created in Moscow once upon a time can materialise again."

The lower Silesian city of Wroclaw is booming. Plans plans for a 400 million euro city not far from the historical centre have been presented by the Spanish consortium "Grupo Pasa," and other investors are announcing projects for new high-rises. Agata Saraczynsk compares the boom with that of the 1920s, when architects like Max Berg, Hans Poelzig and Erich Mendelsohn gave the city - then the German Breslau - a modern face: "The many banks, hotels and office buildings that have gone up recently are not a patch on the pioneering constructions of those years. Not a single building constructed after 1989 is based on drawings by an architect known throughout the world, or even throughout Europe. And none is really unique in terms of style." The new "Hilton" is now supposed to change all that.

Al Hayat 05.08.2007 (Lebanon)

Yasin al-Hajj Salih observes a dominance of politics and religion over culture in 20th century Arab societies. Culture as a human product has retreated in favour of the naturalistic ideas of nationalism and Islamism. Yet countries which lose sight of their cultural bases are threatened with disintegration into smaller parts which could also lay claim to being "natural", he writes. Resorting to such naturally-given ideas of society "makes it on the one hand impossible to understand the development of the nation as a reflected, human process. On the other hand it opens the door for really 'natural' political forms, for politics of identity and blood, politics based on family, clan and confession. Perhaps the tensions between modern Arab states and culture lie in the presumption that states derive from nature."

The Economist 04.08.2007 (UK)

A fast-paced novel from today's Saudi Arabia? Yes, there is such a thing, prohibited, it's true, but well worth the read, writes the magazine: "Samizdat or Saudi chick-lit? Both, as it happens. Rajaa Alsanea's novel 'The Girls of Riyadh,' set in the form of a gossipy internet blog about four upper-middle-class Saudi girls and their calamitous love lives, was officially banned in Saudi Arabia when it was published in Arabic two years ago (and a lawsuit was briefly filed against the author, fortunately away in America studying dentistry). But the book was still read, eagerly. Now, translated into English, it is easy to see why."

Il Foglio 04.08.2007 (Italy)

Edoardo Camurri gets such a kick from the book "They Call Me Naughty Lola: The London Review of Books Personal Ads," put out by David Rose, that he sees a new literary genre being born. His favourite: "Allele, anatta, arrear, arrere, bedded, bettee, breere, caccap, ceesse, cobbob, cocoon, deesse, dolool, doodad, effere, emmele, emmene, ennean, essede, feyffe, gaggee, giggit, googol, gregge, hammam, hummum, hubbub, jettee, kokoon, lessee, lesses, mammal, mammee, mossoo, mutuum, nerrer, ossous, pazazz, pepper, perree, pippin, powwow, reeder, reefer, reeffe, refeff, retree, seasse, secess, seesen, sensse, sessle, settee, sissoo, tattee, tattoo, tedded, teerer, teeter, teethe, terrer, testee, tethee, tetter, tittee, treete, unnung, veerer, weeded, zaarra. Six-letter words with one occurrence of one letter, two occurrences of another letter and three occurrences of another letter. By Christ, I need a woman. I'm 41, but if you've got a pulse, cable TV and a smoothie-maker you'll do. Box no 4290."

Magyar Hirlap 31.07.2007 (Hungary)

In Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II, members of the German and Hungarian minorities were declared public enemies under the Benes Decrees. They were expelled and expropriated. Janos Havasi declares it scandalous that the victims have still not received compensation. "The Hungarians expelled in the course of the so-called exchange of peoples should receive compensation from the Hungarian state under the current agreement. Since the collapse of communism every successive government has remained silent about the fact that in the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947 and in bilateral agreements signed since with Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, Hungary promised to pay compensation to Hungarians expelled by their Czech comrades... What can a citizen do when the state refuses to give him back his assets? When a private individual doesn't use money entrusted to him in accordance with the owner's wishes this is called embezzlement. If the state does the same this is a breach of the constitution."

The newspaper writes that although there is no longer official censorship in East European countries, the mentality of censorship is still very much alive in the heads of people. Press freedom has not yet been fully realised, the newspaper contends. "Although the censorship authorities have long been abolished censorship still exists: it has infected people's souls and is still haunting them. The forces through which censorship functioned back then are still working through politics and the economy without the aid of institutions... A few weeks ago, 400 employees at Hungary's public radio station were sacked, partly owing to their alleged 'political ideals'. This is also a form of censorship. Unfortunately the phenomenon is not confined to our country but can be observed in the entire region. Censorship can live on in a latent form in all the countries of the former Eastern Bloc because there are still enough people with a mentality of subservience who are willing to submit to it."

The New York Times 05.08.2007 (USA)

Political scientist Michael Ignatieff has left Harvard to go into politics in Canada. In a noteworthy essay for The New York Times Magazine, he demonstrates that this is no dumbing-down move. On the contrary, he subjects himself to a painful self-interrogation about the mistaken Iraq war, which he had previously supported, and impresses upon himself the need for the politician's sense of reality: "The lesson I draw for the future is to be less influenced by the passions of people I admire — Iraqi exiles, for example — and to be less swayed by my emotions. I went to northern Iraq in 1992. I saw what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds. From that moment forward, I believed he had to go. My convictions had all the authority of personal experience, but for that very reason, I let emotion carry me past the hard questions, like: Can Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites hold together in peace what Saddam Hussein held together by terror?" - let's talk european