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30/10/2007

Magazine Roundup

Outlook India | Prospect | Merkur | The New Yorker | Literaturen | Plus - Minus | Nepszabadsag | The Economist | Al Ahram Weekly | Le point | Gazeta Wyborcza | Die Weltwoche | The New Statesman


Outlook India 05.11.2007 (India)

After his election victory in Louisiana on October 20, Bobby Jindal will take office in January as the first Indian American governor in the history of the USA. Although many in India look to him with pride, Ashish Kumar Sen wonders if such feelings are justified: "'Bobby is a conservative Republican, and most Indian Americans aren't, so there are a lot of mixed feelings about him,' says Toby Chaudhuri, IALI [Indian American Leadership Initiative] spokesman. 'It is hard to accept him when you scratch the surface. He has proved Indian Americans can achieve great things, but he doesn't represent our community.'" And his diverse conversions don't exactly encourage confidence: "He started life as Piyush but took the name Bobby from a character on the TV show The Brady Bunch. His conversion to Catholicism is just another example of what critics perceive as a shrewd move to further his political ambition. Joe Melookaran, former White House commissioner on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, admits that 'being a Catholic made it a little easier' for Jindal."


Prospect 01.11.2007 (UK)

William Sidelsky has read the latest novels by Philip Roth ("Exit Ghost") and JM Coetzee ("Diary of a Bad Year") - and finds the parallels between the two books almost uncanny: "The two novels, then, conclude at almost identical points. Though in reality little has happened, a world is posited where something does - where some kind of relationship between the older man and the younger women occurs, or is at least desired. There are two ways of looking at this. The first is depressing: this is simply the fantasy of a sad old man with nothing but an imaginary affair to console him. The other is more positive: the fictional affairs that the two (fictional) writers create for themselves are evidence of the consoling powers of literature. But whichever you favour, it is hard to avoid feeling that with these novels, both Roth and Coetzee have reached some kind of end point."


Merkur 01.11.2007 (Germany)

Thomas Speckmann investigates how French foreign policy, which enjoys opposing American interests, is actually constituted. The rhetoric of power and its reality don't always coincide here. "What the dollar still is for the world, the CFA franc is for Africa. In no small part, it forms the basis of France's hegemony in the Francophone countries south of the Sahara. The franc zone was maintained even after independence from Paris in order to continue to determine their fate. The result is that some of the poorest countries in the world help to finance the French budget deficit. The balance sheet of this 'partnership' is correspondingly one-sided. France secures a large market for its products and a permanent supply of cheap raw materials. The Africans, by contrast, have to struggle with weak trade, a shortage of funds, high interest rates, a massive flight of capital, and a mountain of debt, the repayment of which prevents greater investment in education, training, health care, the production of food stuffs, housing construction, and industry."


The New Yorker 05.11.2007 (US)

Anthony Grafton writes a lengthy and thought-provoking piece on the advantages and disadvantages of a digital universal library, and introduces us in passing to a couple of predecessors to websites like ours. "The Renaissance, during which the number of new texts threatened to become overwhelming, was the great age of systematic note-taking. Manuals such as Jeremias Drexel's 'Goldmine' - the frontispiece of which showed a scholar taking notes opposite miners digging for literal gold - taught students how to condense and arrange the contents of literature by headings. Scholars well grounded in this regime, like Isaac Casaubon, spun tough, efficient webs of notes around the texts of their books and in their notebooks - hundreds of Casaubon's books survive - and used them to retrieve information about everything from the religion of Greek tragedy to Jewish burial practices."


Literaturen 01.11.2007 (Germany)

The current issue is dedicated to "world thinkers," those who, as the editorial states, are concerned with "models of a totally different kind of globalisation." Meant here are Naomi Klein, Saskia Sassen, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Ulrich Beck. In Rene Aguigah's portrait, we discover what Appiah, author of the study "Cosmopolitanism," has against cultural relativity and why it can still be sensible to deal with ghosts. "He brings together positions that at first glance seem strictly irreconcilable. Bit by bit, he gauges where the differences can be toned down, where they remain firm, and where persistent differences don't matter all too much. Appiah, true to British tradition, pleads for the priority of practice over theory. 'It is not principles, but rather practical actions that enable us to live together in peace.' Discourse, therefore, doesn't necessarily have to lead to consensus. It is possible to just come to some sort of arrangement."


Plus - Minus 29.10.2007 (Poland)

"Literature shouldn't reflect politics. It should deal with death, God and private problems," states Russian writer Viktor Erofeyev in an interview with the magazine of the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita. Trained in literary history, Erofeyev is hard on Russian literature in general and some well-known authors in particular, but nevertheless declares: "I believe in literature, and am well aware of all it can accomplish. I know it can be great, and true - with the exception of books by contemporary authors, that is."


Nepszabadsag 27.10.2007 (Hungary)

Poet and critic Akos Szilagyi states that asymmetrical wars are becoming ever more typical of our time, and are also increasingly characterising the political agenda. "An asymmetrical war is a war of the hopelessly weak against the incredibly strong. The attack is initiated by the weaker party and debilitates the opponent (whether the state, superpower, or military alliance) by forcing it to adopt security measures that limit various freedoms. Such a war is asymmetrical because the aggressor cannot be fought in the usual manner. On the other hand, a contravention of rules on the part of normal, legitimate authorities is viewed as an offense and a sin for which those authorities must be held responsible, as opposed to their foes, who don't adhere to the rules." If, however, asymmetrical war is then "taken to the streets, initiated by aggressive political parties and approved by fanatical intellectuals, and followed by the creation of paramilitary forces, then war will no longer be fought against some government policy, but rather waged against democracy and the republic."


The Economist 26.10.2007 (UK)

The title story paints an urgent picture of the cultural revolution faced by the American army: "Precisely because America is so powerful against conventional armies, [US Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates expects its enemies to rely on asymmetric warfare. In other words, America must expect to fight protracted, enervating counter-insurgency wars that offer no clear-cut victories and risk the prospect of humiliation. A new manual on counter-insurgency co-authored by the man now in charge of the war in Iraq, General David Petraeus, overturns the notion that America doesn't 'do nation-building'. Counter-insurgency, it says, is 'armed social work'. It requires more brain than brawn, more patience than aggression. The model soldier should be less science-fiction Terminator and more intellectual for 'the graduate level of war', preferably a linguist, with a sense of history and anthropology."


Al Ahram Weekly 25.10.2007 (Egypt)

Hala Sakr reports in great detail about a television series that puts the former Egyptian monarchy - which was abolished over fifty years ago - and above all the last monarch, King Farouk, in a much more positive light than officially desired: "An avalanche of praise for the monarchy took the country by surprise, prompting one weekly magazine often detracted for being close to the regime running a special supplement this week entitled 'Long live the republic'. Therein senior commentators and contemporaries of the monarchy sought to extol the virtues of the republican system over the monarchy. They address a generation who view any history written in the last 55 years with scepticism at best, rectifying a popular wisdom that found in the serial confirmation of 'the truth about Egypt's maligned king' who abdicated to prevent bloodshed."


Le point 25.10.2007 (France)

On the occasion of the publication of his essay "Zorn und Zeit" (Anger and Time) in France (Colere et temps, Maren Sell/Libella), philosopher Peter Sloterdijk gave an interview explaining his thesis. Starting with the observation that the reception given to Maoism in Europe was the ideological scandal of the second half of the 20th century, he provides an outline of France's role in this context. "One could say that France was the ideological reactor from which arose some of the greatest aberrations in contemporary thought, as well as, to be fair, movements that have sought to correct these aberrations. After all, France is not a country ruled by lunacy. Yet it does produce a remarkable quantity of it, enough for export as well as for domestic consumption."


Gazeta Wyborcza 29.10.2007 (Poland)

Pawel Smolenski recalls the history of the Polish underground publishing house NOWA, founded 30 years ago. "Russian samizdat had existed previously, but, after initial technical difficulties, Nowa achieved unrivaled print runs of over ten thousand copies of quality printing. As an underground press, it was naturally political, but it also published literature, poetry, and drama. And it also published authors from other socialist countries, thereby cutting through the border fence." In 1980, NOWA was the only Polish press that published the books of the Nobel Prize winning author Czeslaw Milosz. Josef Brodsky once stated that nowhere else were his books published in such high print runs. Only with independent Polish publishers was he assured "that readers would truly read his books and not merely decorate their shelves with them."


Die Weltwoche 25.10.2007 (Switzerland)

"I was sitting together with two of Bhutto's bodyguards in the cabin of a truck some 50 meters behind Benazir's caravan when the bombs went off." Urs Gehriger was also in the hospital where the injured and dead were taken, as well as at the press conference held by Benazir Bhutto 17 hours after the attack. "'Wasn't it reckless to go ahead with the procession despite all the warnings?' asked a journalist. 'Aren't you partially responsible for the death of over a hundred people?' Bhutto admits neither to making a mistake nor to bearing any guilt. 'Why were the lights turned off?' she asks instead. 'We could have caught the perpetrators, but we couldn't see them.' She, as well as anyone else present at the front of the procession, knows that this assertion is absurd. Bhutto needed the procession to accentuate her claim to power. (...) The longer Bhutto talked, the clearer it became how she had already caught up with destructive reality in this torn country. Her ideals are closest to Western thinking, yet, paradoxically, she employs jargon similar to that of her arch-enemies, the Islamists, including the worship of her father as a 'martyr,' her morbid willingness to die, and also her readiness to use her followers as cannon fodder against the enemies."


The New Statesman 24.10.2007 (UK)

Black British actor and dramatist Kwame Kwei-Armah is delighted that people are finally discussing the exodus of black actors and actresses from Britain: "The overwhelming majority of black actors of my generation have found that their only hope of a career lies in America (an old maxim states that 'in Britain, white actors have careers and black actors have jobs'). Rather than passing on tips about auditions, my contemporaries exchange advice about the '01 visa', the document that 'provides admission into the United States of persons with ... extraordinary achievement in motion picture and television production'. I once read a very interesting comment referring to the former US general and later secretary of state Colin Powell. 'It is his good fortune that they [his Jamaican-born parents] took the New York rather than the Southampton boat. If they had, he might have made sergeant.'"
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