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18/12/2007

Magazine Roundup

Elet es Irodalom | HVG | The American Interest | Itogie | Plus - Minus | The Economist | Il Foglio | Przekroj | The New Statesman

Elet es Irodalom 14.12.2007 (Hungary)

A few days ago some three hundred fascists of the "Hungarian Guard" marched in formation through the small village of Tatarszentgyörgy (more), protesting against "gypsy crime." Chief editor Zoltan Kovacs reprehends the country's president Laszlo Solyom, who limited his criticism to a letter read out by his spokesperson. Kovacs would have liked to see the president take a stronger stand, because as he writes, false interpretations of civil liberties have a long tradition in Hungary: "In the 1990s, when anti-Semitic, racist slogans were chanted in football stadiums and the hooligans were allowed back even after mass fighting, it became clear that anything goes in this country. This 'culture' has precipitated into the mass demonstrations and is creating a confusion concerning civil liberties hitherto unknown in people's heads. This could be stemmed, however, if those in high offices spoke out clearly from time to time about what such rights as the freedom of opinion truly mean, and what it can lead to when they are abused."


HVG 15.12.2007 (Hungary)

Journalist Pal Reti, by contrast, would prefer to see more engagement among the Hungarian populace. If he were a Roma he would not be reassured by draft laws of statements by the president. "What might calm my fears, however, would be if the 200 uniformed demonstrators were met and sent packing by 2,000 non-uniformed citizens in my village. Because then my people may not have been promised two aid programmes – but I would think, it's better to have two programmes that never get off the ground than a pogrom in full swing."


The American Interest 17.12.2007 (USA)

The Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa celebrates the mestizaje – the advance of racial mixing in Latin America. And then he says something that many a European, Asian, African or Arabs would do well to take to heart. "Despite Latin America's universality, one of its recurring obsessions has been defining its identity. In my opinion, this is a useless enterprise, dangerous and impossible, because identity is something possessed by individuals and not collectivities, at least once they've transcended tribal conditions. Only in the most primitive communities, where the individual exists only as part of the tribe, does the idea of a collective identity have any raison d'etre." Artists have long overcome this way of thinking, Vargas Llosa says, if only the politicians would follow suit...


Itogie 15.12.2007 (Russia)

Russian crime writer Boris Akunin explains in an interview that he likes to travel to France, where it's always so calm and peaceful! "It's interesting to live in Russia, but you can't work here. You're continually confronted with intelligent people full of enthralling conversation, amusing company in which you can rest and recuperate, or crazed characters who are fascinating to observe. But in my job there are always periods when you long for peace, to talk to no one and be disturbed by nothing. That's why I keep going back to France."


Plus - Minus 15.12.2007 (Poland)

After Chrsitian Estrosi, one of Nicolas Sarkozy's closest aides, visited the tomb of the last French Emperor Napoleon III in an abbey in England, rumours are spreading of plans to return the emperor's remains. The abbey has refuted the claims, however. "Napoleon III is not the sole French monarch buried abroad. Charles X lies in a Franciscan monastery in Slovenia – will his remains be repatriated as well? If things go on like this, soon planes carrying dead French kings will be crisscrossing Europe." This new discussion does go to show, however, that Sarkozy's France doesn't cling so tightly to the idea of republicanism, Piotr Zychowicz comments.

The Economist 15.12.2007 (UK)

A linguistic analysis carried out by the University of Nice shows that Nicolas Sarkozy also uses language differently from his predecessors. He is a verbaholic and indeed the word used most commonly in his speeches is "I" followed by "want". Moreover, "of all the novelties of France under President Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the more arresting is the decline of the abstract noun. In the past, no French leader would make a speech without liberal doses of destiny and history. In one speech Mr Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac, squeezed 13 abstract nouns - unity, liberty, humanity and more - into a single sentence. (...) The contrast with the wordcraft of Mr Sarkozy is instructive. In his first big foreign-policy speech, he managed in 18 pages to utter neither the word glory nor the word grandeur." Could it be, the Economist asks, that Sarkozy is changing the French tradition of conceptualism?

And there is a wonderful obituary of Karlheinz Stockhausen, the man "who kept on looking and finding tones that had never been heard before." "His most famous piece, and possibly his most popular - though he was never popular - was 'Stimmung', or 'Tuning' (1968), a sextet for unaccompanied voices on a six-note chord of B-flat that sounded sometimes like a digeridoo and sometimes like blowing across the top of the bottle, and in which the most beautiful harmonics would be interrupted by this:
'Pee peri pee pee: right over my tree
Let it gently run down
God is that warm.'
Small wonder that Sir Thomas Beecham, asked if he had conducted any Stockhausen, said no, but he thought he might once have trodden in some." A concert of Stockhausen's works in available online at BBC until 22 December.

There are also reviews of Karen Armstrong's biography of the Bible, Benjamin J. Kaplan's history of religious tolerance in Early Modern Europe, of Denise Affonco's book about her survival under the Khmer Rouge and of a collection of Noel Coward's letters.


Il Foglio 15.12.2007 (Italy)

"People are speculating in Frankfurt, shuddering in Essen, home of the Krupp enterprise, and dying in Turin." Shortly before Christmas, the otherwise rather conservative Foglio demonstrates solidarity for employees of the Krupp steel mill in Turin, where four workers died in a fire a week ago. Investigations into possible security violations are currently underway. Stefano Cingolani uses the occasion to relate a few stories about Krupp's involvement with the Nazis during World War II, before delving into the fanatical society of sworn-in Kruppianers, or Krupp employees: "True Kruppianers accept their fate, to the bitter end. Not like the Italian workers, who aren't real Kruppianers and never will be. Dying in the steelwork in Turin is not the same as dying in Essen, where for more than a century, no matter under which government, the group's employees were cared for from cradle to grave."


Przekroj 13.12.2007 (Poland)

Just days before Poland implements the Schengen Agreement, Katarzyna Jaroszynska reports from the new eastern border of the EU. With EU aid, Polish border police now have state of the art equipment, and receive lessons in following people's trails from Native Americans. "It's an endless game of cat and mouse: the border guards dress up as fishermen, the smugglers play confused tourists. Both sides are particularly active at night. And both sides are excellently prepared. Ultramodern equipment, GPS receivers and fast cars are standard. Success requires enormous concentration, huge amounts of time and patience, as well as untold hours spent in the woods at night."


The New Statesman 13.12.2007 (UK)

"I must say I'd rather wish you 'Happy Christmas' than 'Happy Holiday Season' writes of all people arch-atheist Richard Dawkins, clearly no fan of full blown secularism: "Americans coyly wish each other 'Happy Holiday Season' and spend vast amounts on 'Holiday' presents. For all I know, they hang up a 'Holiday stocking' and sing 'Holiday carols' around the decorated 'Holiday tree'. A red-coated 'Father Holiday' has not so far been sighted, but this is surely only a matter of time.… Fortunately, this is not the only choice: 25 December is the birthday of one of the truly great men ever to walk the earth, Sir Isaac Newton. His achievements might justly be celebrated wherever his truths hold sway. And that means from one end of the universe to the other. Happy Newton Day!"
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