Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Outlook India | Odra | ADN cultura | The New Yorker | Nepszabadsag | The Economist | L'Espresso | The New York Review of Books | The Independent |

Outlook India 04.02.2008 (India)

The magazine prints an abridged version of a speech given by Indian writer Arundhati Roy in Istanbul one year after the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. Roy admits that if she'd been in Turkey at the time, she would have accompanied Dink's coffin through the streets to commemorate the long history of genocide and expulsion in Europe and India. "With the possible exception of China, India today has the largest population of internally displaced people in the world. Dams alone have displaced more than 30 million people. The displacement is being enforced with court decrees or at gunpoint by policemen, by government-controlled militias or corporate thugs. (In Nandigram, even the CPI(M) had its own armed militia.) The displaced are being herded into tenements, camps and resettlement colonies where, cut off from a means of earning a living, they spiral into poverty."

And Bhaichand Patel has observed a rise in the numbers of sex attacks on white women in India. This is a racist phenomenon he says, firstly because white women are commonly assumed to be willing to go to bed with any old fool and secondly - here his article takes a curious turn – because Indian women are clearly shown that they are less sexy to Indian men than white women.

Odra 28.01.2008 (Poland)

"When it comes to energy policy, we still think in terms of gigantic coal or nuclear power plants," writes environmentalist Ludwikiem Tomialojc with regret. In his view, Poles are still deeply rooted in socialism as far as ecology goes. Anti-environmentalist hysteria is widespread, backed by lobby groups. Tomialojc cites as an example the discussion surrounding the country's first nuclear power plant: "It would be the biggest present we could give a French or American company. We'd have to buy the technology and materials, bring in engineers from these countries and import the raw material from Russia. Then we'd be faced with the problem of storage and many other difficulties. For the same cost we could develop safe - and just as effective – renewable energy technologies."

ADN cultura 26.01.2008 (Argentina)

Chilean journalist Luis Harss explains to author and journalist Tomas Eloy Martinez how a literary canon is born. Forty years ago, Harss more or less single-handedly set off the worldwide explosion of interest in Latin American literature with his book "Los Nuestros" portraying ten authors: "It was a 'Mafia'. That's what Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortazar and Mario Vargas Llosa called the network of writers between Mexico City, Paris and Buenos Aires. It was a circle of friends who read and admired each others' works, and its boundaries were constituted less by a given country than by the Spanish language… Julio Cortazar was the first one I met. He said to me: 'Just around the corner lives a guy called Mario Vargas Llosa. He's published one book, hardly anyone knows him, but he's a fantastic writer. I recommend him highly.' I visited Vargas Llosa in his dark little room and we sat down in front of my tape recorder. That's how it was with the others, too. I called them up or knocked on their doors and said: 'I've been told you've written a great book.'"

The New Yorker 04.02.2008 (USA)

Interesting but a little on the trendy side is Joan Acocella's verdict of "God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe" a study on the Muslim conquest of Spain by US historian and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Levering Lewis. The book should be read in the dual context of postcolonialism and the history of terrorism, the latter being at least in part a result of the ignorance and arrogance of western history writing. Lewis "clearly regrets that [after Spain] the Arabs did not go on to conquer the rest of Europe. The halting of their advance was instrumental, he writes, in creating 'an economically retarded, balkanized, and fratricidal Europe." This is too ideological for Acocella. She foresees "a time when another matter important to us, the threat of ecological catastrophe, will prompt a historian to write a book in praise of the early Europeans whom Lewis finds so inferior to the Muslims. The Franks lived in uncleared forests, while the Muslims built fine cities, with palaces and aqueducts? All the better for the earth."

Further articles: Evan Osnos reports on the increasing popularity of boxing which was banned under Mao and the its new rising star Zou Shiming (1,70 tall, 48 kilos). Alex Ross profiles Jonny Greenwood, the guitarist of the British band Radiohead who has written a filmscore and an orchestral work.

Nepszabadsag 26.01.2008 (Hungary)

Aside from the pending governmental reforms the Hungarian public sphere is wrestling with a breakout of "dog-whistle politics." The term refers to politicians' use of ambiguous language to cloak messages in their speeches that have a specific meaning only for a targeted subgroup in the audience. Political scientist Csaba Gombar reflects on the use of "dog-whistle politics" which lies halfway between the politeness of political correctness and the honesty of public hate speeches. "The language is seemingly neutral and full of weighty historical phrases, but among the select group who understand the intended meaning it produces feelings of comfort and sympathetic gazes aimed at the politicians who use it and who are almost impossible to take by their word. What is so problematic about 'dog-whistle politics?' On the surface, it does no one any harm. The intended meaning is almost impossible to prove as there are always mutliple meanings. One could almost say that 'dog-whistle politics' goes in the direction of political correctness. But the question remains as to whether there is a difference between politeness and deceitfulness. And although this question might also be difficult to answer, one can confidently say that 'dog-whistle politics' is only a form of and a silky precursor to full-blown hatred – and as such it represents a threat to our reputation and our souls."

The Economist 26.01.2008 (UK)

The Economist describes the thwarted attempts of Rupert Murdoch to conquer the Chinese media market. "The Chinese let him invest lavishly in internet and programming companies, thus giving them precious technical know-how. They particularly admired Mr Murdoch's management structure because it was like theirs: a Sun King at the centre with acolytes all around. The Chinese were excellent businessmen, but they wanted China's profits for China. Even with investments in groundbreaking television production in China, Mr Murdoch could not win for himself the concessions that usually came with publishing favourable editorials for presidents and prime ministers in the West. The Murdoch charm had beguiled the highest levels of government in Australia, America and Britain. In China, it failed."

L'Espresso 25.01.2008 (Italy)
Umberto Eco shares his amazement with an imaginary conversation partner "from outside" about the peculiarly combative nature of Italian politics. "You seem different from other countries, my friend says. It would seem that since the elections the sole aim of the opposition has been to bring down the government. And it is so consumed by the desire to realise this plan that not a day goes by without some reference to or announcement about it. But every opposition wants to bring down the government, I say. Absolutely not, at least not where I come from, counters my friend. In a democracy where the government has been voted in after all, the aim of the opposition is to stay close on its heels, day in day out, to ensure that it does not overstep its mandate. If however the opposition is constantly cooking up plans to bring down the government, it will have no time to inspect draught laws it should be opposing."

The New York Review of Books 14.02.2008 (USA)

While leading German newspapers are demanding stricter internet legislation in the face of abusive readers' comments and blogs (more here), people in North America take a lighter view of things. Sarah Boxer reviews the lively American blogger scene which reports from Iraq (Informed Comment) and from an intermission at the Met (Parterre). These blogs can bring down journalists (Little Green Footballs) or politicians (Atrios), Boxer writes, and are now known by mainstream media as pyjamaheddin. But the very best thing about them is that they're amateurs: "Bloggers are golden when they're at the bottom of the heap, kicking up. Give them a salary, a book contract, or a press credential, though, and it just isn't the same. (And this includes, for the most part, the blogs set up by magazines, companies, and newspapers.) Why? When you write for pay, you worry about lawsuits, sentence structure, and word choice. You worry about your boss, your publisher, your mother, and your superego looking over your shoulder. And that's no way to blog."

Ehud Olmert may not be Israel's strongest premier, but he is the first in a long line of prime ministers to genuinely seek peace with Palestine, claims Israeli writer Amos Elon in a lengthy analysis of the current situation. "Olmert's idea of Israel is not the replay of a biblical vision but a secular modern state with a booming economy, integrated into global commerce and closely linked to Europe. This does not mesh well with what God and Abraham discussed in the Bronze Age. Sharon spoke of a long and difficult struggle. Olmert says Israelis are "tired of war, tired of being victors." When he speaks, as he often does, of two states, Palestine and Israel, the hard-liners are full of rage. Olmert may be the most pragmatic Israeli leader since 1967. One hopes he does not come too late. "

Further articles: Historian Anne Applebaum explains why Andrzej Wajda's film "Katyn" about the murder of 20,000 Polish officers by the Red Army is so important. The reviews cover David Rieff's memoirs of his mother Susan Sontag, "Swimming in a Sea of Death," the Gustave Courbet show in New York Metropolitan Museum. And you can also read the speech Tony Judt gave on receiving the Hannah Arendt Prize in Bremen.

The Independent 28.01.2008 (UK)

With obvious excitement Johann Hari paints possible future scenarios involving the impact of the internet on our lives and brains. The dangers he predicts do not come from readers or blogs, but from the cable providers who are lobbying powerfully in the USA and Europe for a two-lane data freeway. One for moneyed customers like Microsoft and Nike (or newspapers) whose websites will then run at super-speed, and a standard lane which is cheaper and accordingly slow. "Under the new model, we would no longer compete in a somewhat open market of ideas; instead, arguments would be rigged even more grossly in favour of the rich. As the internet reshapes our minds and souls in ways we are only beginning to comprehend, we have to fight to keep it equally open to everyone. Otherwise, tomorrow's world will become a corporate-controlled world, with inequality built into the cables that connect us all." - let's talk european