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14/08/2007

Magazine Roundup

Outlook India | The New Yorker | Al Ahram Weekly | Il Foglio | The Economist | Magyar Narancs | Le Figaro | Asharq al-Awsat | Nepszabadsag | The Times Literary Supplement


Outlook India
20.08.2007 (India)

The magazine devotes its entire issue to the country's sixtieth birthday after the liberation from British colonial rule. Without glossing over persisting problems, Vinod Mehta comes to a positive conclusion. "In the past 10 years, India's tentative steps into the brave new world of economic reform and globalisation have yielded handsome results. All the talk of attaining 'economic superpower' status may be premature and pompous, but the boost to the country's self-confidence (best summed up in that awful phrase: 'India can do it') means the Indian middle-classes can travel the world with their heads held high, even though they may still have to wait like trembling Boat People at international airports."

A multitude of other articles look at India's past and present from many perspectives. Social philosopher Martha Nussbaum stresses the importance of education and complains of the soullessness and lack of imagination in existing educational institutions in the country. Khushwant Singh recapitulates the history of Indians writing in English. Ian Jack wonders what post-Independence India meant for England. The magazine gives an annotated list of sixty heroes, and another of eleven villains. A photo essay recalls unforgettable love stories. And the magazine turns its eye to religious fanatism and its victims, sex slaves and military and para-military violence.


The New Yorker 20.08.2007 (USA)

Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick has achieved classic status, as is testified by a four-volume book published by the "Library of America". Adam Gopnik pays tribute to the genre writer and his posthumous success: "Of all American writers, none have got the genre-hack-to-hidden-genius treatment quite so fully as Philip K. Dick, the California-raised and based science-fiction writer who, beginning in the nineteen-fifties, wrote thirty-six speed-fuelled novels, went crazy in the early seventies, and died in 1982, only fifty-three. His reputation has risen through the two parallel operations that genre writers get when they get big. First, he has become a prime inspiration for the movies (...) But Dick has also become for our time what Edgar Allan Poe was for Gilded Age America: the doomed genius who supplies a style of horrors and frissons. (In both cases, it took the French to see it; the first good critical writing on Dick, as on Poe, came from Europe, and particularly from Paris.)"

In another article, Paul Simms tells about a rather comic, if not necessarily real near-death experience. And David Denby went to see the films "Superbad" and "Delirious".


Al Ahram Weekly 13.08.2007 (Egypt)

Rania Khallaf praises the essays collected by Safinaz Kazem on major female figures in Egypt's recent past, even though she doesn't share the political attitude of Kazem, a well-known columnist. "Of course, Nabawiya Moussa's attitude to the veil - a fervent if not fanatical return to which has accompanied the author's relatively recent religious and political rebirth - is especially emphasised: 'It was Moussa who established the Banat Al-Ashraaf (Daughters of the Descendants of the Prophet) schools for girls in Alexandria, participated in the 1919 Revolution and famously departed, together with Hoda Sharawy and Seza Nabarawy, to the International Woman's Convention held in Rome in 1923. But when she came back, she did not throw away her Islamic dress and step on it the way Hoda and Seza did. She clings to her veil to the last minute of her life.' Had she not donned the headscarf and stopped shaking hands with men herself, one wonders, would Kazem have had so much to say about Moussa?"


Il Foglio 11.08.2007 (Italy)

Italy's biggest hero is still good for a headline. "Garibaldi's Thousand (Sorrows)" is the title of Nicola Fano's article - alluding to the revolutionary's legendary troops - which chronicles the three marriages of the otherwise disciplined patriot. "A thousand mistakes. One thousand, that seems to have been his magical number. Shortly before he assembled his army, which led him to triumph from Quarto and Marsala up to Naples, he committed the most serious human mistake of his long life: he pursued a marriage contract, for which he had to pay dearly. I am a convinced Garibaldian, but in order to maintain the purity of my adoration, I must tell this not very edifying story. When you have finished it, you will understand that Garibaldi was a man and an Italian. Which does not diminish his heroic status."


The Economist 10.08.2007 (UK)

Political Scientist Robert Gellately of Florida State University has written a study in comparative dictatorships about "Lenin, Stalin and Hitler." The magazine lauds Gellately for expertly engaging "in one of the most closely fought historiographical battles of past decades, the Historikerstreit (to give it its German name). Was the bacillus of totalitarianism that infected Germany first bred in Russia? Some German historians, notably Ernst Nolte, have argued that Hitler's crimes were both a distorted copy of atrocities already committed under communism and to some extent a defensive reaction to them. To caricature the argument: Germany declared war on Jews because Jews (at least communist ones) had declared war on Germany. Mr Gellately has no time for Mr Nolte, who he says is guilty of an 'astonishing and reprehensible replication of Nazi rhetoric.' Just because many communists were Jews does not mean that there was anything remotely rational in Hitler's constant conflation of 'Jewish-Bolshevism.' Nazi anti-Semitism, he insists, was 'rooted in German nationalism'."

Other articles deal with Olivier Roy's book "Secularism Confronts Islam"; the Film Festival in Locarno; the play "Masked" by Israeli author Ilan Hatsor, which has been hugely successful in New York; Peter Abbs' volume of poetry "The Flowering of Flint" and Rosemarie Hill's biography of Augustus Pugin, builder of 19th century Gothic cathedrals (pictures here, here and here).


Magyar Narancs 09.08.2007 (Hungary)

The founding of the parliamentary group "Hungarian Guard" by the extreme right wing party Jobbik has excited worries in Hungary. The small party was one of the forces behind the riots of last autumn, as well as brutal attacks on peaceful demonstrators at the Budapest Gay Pride parade in July. Zsolt Besenyei is worried that Jobbik is aiming to found the parallel state Hunnia, and create separate media, military and schools. "It is following the example of Northern Ireland, in establishing parallel institutions, renaming the country ('Ulster' for Northern Ireland, 'Hunnia' for the Hungarian Republic) and founding its own paramilitary organisation (such as Sinn Fein and the IRA). The small party campaigned together with the extreme right wing MIEP in the parliamentary elections of 2006, and has a new leader and a new strategy.... It is attempting to integrate all forces right of Fidesz: every anti-Semitic, xenophobic, Roma-hating, anti-communist group, organisation and group."


Le Figaro 09.08.2007 (France)

Historian Elisabeth G. Sledziewski complains that the French know as good as nothing about the Warsaw Uprising, which took place 63 years ago. Most people confuse it with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 16 months earlier: "This confusion is part of a much deeper lack of knowledge of the War in Poland. The French only know one aspect of it - the extermination of the Jews. This ignorance borders on denying the historical reality of the eradication of the insurgents in 1944 after five years of barbarian occupation by the Nazis, and the cynical treachery on the part of the Stalinist 'ally'. It's as if the horror of the Shoah in the occupied and partially annexed Poland entirely effaced the sufferings of the Polish nation, which was held in slavery from the 1st of September 1939 onwards. The Poles don't understand this denial, and suffer from it."


Asharq al-Awsat, 08.08.2007 (Egypt)

Muhammad Ali Salih recalls a speech given by Laura Bush a month after the onset of the anti-terror war in Afghanistan. "The war against terror is also a war against the oppression of women," Bush had said. For Ali Salih, this war has failed. He reminds readers of two objections brought against Bush by the Palestinian American sociology professor Laila Abu-Lughod: "First of all, the Western countries colonised many Islamic countries for a long time, and could have done something for the 'development' of women (for example by opening girls' schools). The West therefore bears part of the responsibility for the 'backwardness' of women in Islamic countries. Secondly, rather than a 'military solution,' it would have been possible for the Americans to offer a 'human solution.' They were in a position to provide Muslim women with education and healthcare. They were in the position to break the tyranny of the rulers, not only over Muslim women, but also over Muslim men."


Nepszabadsag
08.08.2007

At this year's Venice Biennial for the first time there's a pavilion dedicated to the art of a minority - the Roma - who live in several European countries. Among those whose work is on display is British artist Daniel Baker. In an interview with Agnes Bihari he talks about his identity and his art. "I am a Roma, there's no doubt about that, but at the same time I'm an Englishman. But that's how it is for everyone, isn't it? Our identity is composed of several elements, one of which pushes itself to the fore... I paint on mirrors, not canvases. The mirrors point to an imaginary place which society has allocated to the Roma. We're never seen as we really are. We're perceived either as a social problem or as romantic, slightly mysterious figures holding violins or some other such prop."


The Times Literary Supplement 10.08.2007

Christopher Coker has read P. D. Smith's "Doomsday Men" with a shudder. The book - inspired by Stanley Kubrick's "Dr Strangelove" - tells the story of the search for the wonder weapon, from Edward Teller to Wernher von Braun and Herman Kahn right through to the Doomsday-Machine supposedly held by the Russians: "Fearing that a sneak attack by American submarine-launched missiles might take Moscow out in thirteen minutes, the Soviet leadership had authorized the construction of an automated communications network, reinforced to withstand a nuclear strike. At its heart was a computer system similar to the one in Dr Strangelove. Its codename was Perimetr. It went fully operational in January 1985. It is still in place. Its job is to monitor whether there have been nuclear detonations on Russian territory and to check whether communications channels with the Kremlin have been severed. If the answer to both questions is 'yes' then the computer will conclude that the country is under attack and activate its nuclear arsenal. All that is then needed is final human approval from a command post buried deep underground."

In other articles: The magazine reviews philosopher John Gray's book "Black Mass," which exposes modern politics as "a chapter in the history of religion," and Thierry Savatier's history of Courbet's painting "L'Origine du Monde."
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