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13/11/2007

Magazine Roundup

Nepszabadsag | Commentary | Il Foglio | The Economist | L'Espresso |Vanity Fair | Elet es Irodalom | Le point | The New York Times

Nepszabadsag 11.11.2007 (Hungary)

The image Hungary's journalists give of their country is even bleaker than the reality, sociologist Elemer Hankiss writes: "In today's critical situation, evil must be exposed, those responsible must be denounced, and lies and corruption must be uncovered. If the press did all this in an objective, disciplined, investigative way, with serious analyses and no clap-trap, much would be accomplished. But that's not how journalists work here in Hungary, and when they try they get stuck half-way. They sketch the ills facing us, then hand the problem over to their readers. They see just the problems, but have a hard time pointing to solutions. After all, they say, that's the politicians' job. But such an allocation of roles is wrong even in countries where politicians recognise the tasks facing them and manage to accomplish them. Even there, it's also the business of the press - along with all other rational citizens, communities and organisations - to offer solutions to problems and have a hand in shaping the future. In a country where the politicians aren't efficient, this applies all the more. Of course it's not a question of promising readers a rosy future. But the presentation of problems should always be accompanied by the search for solutions. And in view of the indolence of politicians, it's up to the press and society to stop bellyaching and - no matter how hackneyed it may sound - shape the future. Because alongside the limitless difficulties we face, there are also countless possibilities. These must be championed with a new energy, serious work and a good dose of civil courage."

Commentary 12.11.2007 (USA)

Terry Teachout remembers the music critic and cricket reporter at The Guardian, Neville Cardus, whose autobiography would not be forgotten "in a better-regulated world", where it would stand alongside H.L. Mencken's "Newspaper Days" and A.J. Liebling's "Between Meals." As Teachout doesn't forget to mention, Cardus, the son of a part-time prostitute, went to school for just four and a half years: "When he writes that Arturo Toscanini's conducting of Brahms sounds like a sort of gigantic musical wheel revolving in a ruthless groove,' or that Fritz Kreisler's violin playing 'reminds me of a beautiful face that would be even more beautiful if it were lined or wrinkled,' you take his point at once, and relate it effortlessly to your own memories of the performer in question. No doubt, Cardus wrote that way not only because he could but because he had to. His musical training consisted of a year's worth of voice lessons, and the flipness with which he dismissed 'score-reading critics' leads the attentive reader to suspect that his own abilities in that line were severely limited."


Il Foglio 10.11.2007 (Italy)

Rome's mayor Walter Veltroni, chairman of the centre-left Democratic Party, has successfully used the glamour of the Rome Film Festival for his own personal advancement. Yet his cultural ambitions are dividing the left, writes Marianna Rizzini. "Rome has clear-cut adversaries: Massimo Cacciari, the mayor of Venice who fulminated against the rebellious Rome, Felice Laudadio (director of the Taormina Festival), who complained about the distribution of subsidies in Rome's favour, and finally Francesco Rutelli, the culture minister who attempted to remain neutral but in fact backed Venice. It's clear when one considers the three festivals of Venice, Rome and Turin in the context of the cities' three mayors, Cacciari, Veltroni and Chiamparino, that the confrontation is not over by a long shot."

Maurizio Stefanini sets great hopes by Egyptian media entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris, who hopes to give the top dog Al Jazeera a run for its money with his allegedly more tolerant Otv. "If a film is unacceptable because of its costumes, or because of how it deals with tradition, we don't broadcast it,' he assures. 'But once we do decide to show it, we can't then turn around and start censoring it.' A very different position from that of most broadcasters in the Middle East, which cut Western films to the point of being unrecognisable. Sawiris also promises to reduce drastically the 'high dose' of religious content."


The Economist 09.11.2007 (UK)

The magazine reviews a book by Gregory Rodriguez on the history and growing importance of Latinos in the USA. "By 2001 Latinos, most of them Mexicans or descended from Mexicans, had become the second-biggest ethnic group in America. This worried African-Americans, who were thus relegated to third place. It also alarmed some whites, who felt that Latinos were failing to conform to American mores. In an influential book 'Who Are We?' published in 2004, Samuel Huntington, a Harvard University professor, argued that Mexicans threatened Anglo-Protestant traditions. 'Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds' is a much shrewder, less paranoid work. Yet, in some ways, it reaches a similar conclusion."

This issue gives a special focus on the growing significance of technology in India and China. Topics covered include e-business in China, the growing popularity of mobile phones (coupled with a reserve toward PCs) in India, and the - to many - unexpected backwardness of the Indian and Chinese economies.

L'Espresso 09.11.2007 (Italy)

Umberto Eco's books have been translated into twenty languages. Heartened by their success, his Chinese publisher is putting together a collection of his Businte di Minerva columns from the year 2000. But there are problems of understanding, and the translator is bombarding him with questions, Eco reports. For example, who on earth are Tiscordi and Zozzogno (a corruption of music publisher Ricordi e Sozogno by the comedian Toto)? "I have the feeling that in this globalised world where it's so easy to get the impression that everyone sees the same films and eats the same food, there are still profound abysses and insurmountable gaps between individual cultures. And how are two cultures ever supposed to understand each other if one of them doesn't know someone like Toto?"


Vanity Fair 12.11.2007 (USA)

Not since Herbert Hoover led America into the Great Depression has a US president impacted the economy as catastrophically as George Bush, economist Joseph Stiglitz writes woefully. "A tax code that has become hideously biased in favor of the rich; a national debt that will probably have grown 70 percent by the time this president leaves Washington; a swelling cascade of mortgage defaults; a record near-850 billion dollar trade deficit; oil prices that are higher than they have ever been; and a dollar so weak that for an American to buy a cup of coffee in London or Paris -or even the Yukon - becomes a venture in high finance. And it gets worse. After almost seven years of this president, the United States is less prepared than ever to face the future. We have not been educating enough engineers and scientists, people with the skills we will need to compete with China and India. We have not been investing in the kinds of basic research that made us the technological powerhouse of the late 20th century."


Elet es Irodalom 09.11.2007 (Hungary)

In recent months Hungary has been caught up in the so-called "little critical debate" (after the "big" one in 1996) which is a spin-off of the blogosphere "explosion". Literary bloggers and also a number of young authors and publicists are accusing mainstream criticism of talking only about itself, wallowing in jargon and of losing sight of its readers who in turn are losing interest due to the inability of the critics to deliver clear value judgements and who now, thanks to the blogosphere, are having their say. Critic Tibor Barny sees in this debate a chance to redefine the duties of contemporary literary criticism. "A very real problem in literary criticism is, for example, ... that no real critical debates are taking place: critics do a solid job, journalists present interesting interpretations, but there is no comparison of the rival standpoints. And it is here that the Internet public could help the situation but for this to happen the texts in the literary blogs would have to function as quality criticism of the newspapers, and the critics would have to respond to the commentaries which reference their reviews."


Eva Cs. Gyimesi, a literary academic living in Transylvania has discovered the Romanian magazine Foaia Transilvana which started last year to focus on everything European in Transylvanian history, its ethnic diversity and its unique culture. At the same time she is surprised that the magazine has found such little currency among the Hungarian minority in Romania. "As if the image of the enemy created in the Funar era (more) was more important to us. The Hungarian magazines give the impression that the horizon of the Hungarian public has not moved a finger width. For decades suspicion and frustration and the contempt for the Romanian people have resulted in an isolation with which Hungarians in Transylvania cut themselves off from a greater whole and send themselves off the map. And to think that in the past so many Transylvanians were hugely proud of their cultural diversity and religious freedom, which is precisely what this Romanian magazine addresses."


Le point 08.11.2007 (France)

This is a book that may one day be studied as we study Plato's "Republic" today, predicts Le Point. "L'Avenement de la democratie" is the book in question, by philosopher Marcel Gauchet, the first two volumes of which ("La Revolution moderne" and "La Crise du liberalisme, 1880-1914") were published by Grasset this week. In an interview the author responds to the question of whether he has at last shed light on the secret of democracy. "Let us say that I am attempting to decode the genome of this strange organism named democracy and to determine the true substance of its dynamics. To some extent I am taking up Tocqueville's question and extending and refining it. However social equality is only one aspect of the phenomenon. The thing that distinguishes it most completely is the 'end of religion'. Not that of religious belief, but a more general shift in the organisation of the human and social world through the break with the form given to it by religion."


The New York Times
12.11.2007 (USA)

In the Book Review Neil Genzlinger presents Aine Collier's history of the condom, which he concludes, "if nothing else, will make all you condom users appreciate what a wonderful time this is to be alive. If this were ancient Rome, you might find yourself wearing a fur condom made from the mane of a she-mule. In the Islamic world around the turn of the first millennium, your device might have been fashioned of tar or liquid lead.... Birth control, a minor annoyance these days, was for centuries more akin to torture. 'You want to have sex using that?' either partner might well have said way back when. 'Are you kidding me? That thing's made of tree bark. I'd rather just have a baby.'"


Other reviews: for Richard Brookhiser Christopher Hitchens' book on Thomas Paine is actually a discussion about two books, Paine's "Rights of Man" and Edmund Burke's "Reflections of the Revolution in France". Jed Pearl reviews the third and penultimate volume of John Richardson's Picasso biography which covers the years 1917 to 1932. Jay McInerney introduces Pierre Baynard's book on how to speak about books you've not read.
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