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22/04/2008

Magazine Roundup

London Review of Books | Die Weltwoche | Gazeta Wyborcza | Vanity Fair | L'Espresso | Nepszabadsag | The Times Literary Supplement | L' Express | The Boston Globe | Outlook India | The Economist | The Times | Al Ahram Weekly | Le point | The New Yorker
London Review of Books 24.04.2008 (UK)

T.J Clark has experienced the joy of painting and is still almost lost for words: "Once or twice in a lifetime, if you are lucky, the whole madness of painting seems to pass in front of your eyes. It felt that way to me in New York this spring, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where two great exhibitions – one exploring Nicolas Poussin's role in the invention of the genre we call 'landscape', the other an endless, stupendous retrospective of Gustave Courbet – are happening a few corridors apart. I stumbled to and fro between them day after day, elated and disoriented. They sum up so much – too much – of what painting in Europe was capable of, and they embed that achievement so palpably in a certain history. Behind the glistening meadows and the huntsmen in the snow one catches the smell of autocracy and public burnings, of permanent warfare and bankers with impeccable taste."

Further articles: Perry Anderson gives a very, very comprehensive introduction to Cyprus' history and its current EU situation. Thomas Jones writes – before the elections – about the political situation in Italy. And Slavoj Zizek posts a long letter on the western news coverage of Tibet which he finds under-complex. There are reviews of the Alexander Rodchenko exhibition in London's Hayward Gallery in London and Adam Mars-Jones' novel "Pilcrow".


Die Weltwoche 17.04.2008 (Switzerland)

At the opening of his boutique for luxury menswear in Zurich, designer Tom Ford ponders the subject of body hair. "I talked to my father about it, he's 76. And he can't understand the world any more. Everyone is shaved everywhere. When a woman is naked, you should see lots of hair, he thinks. And he's right. That's natural, pure, animalistic. But that's my personal taste. It is something that really preoccupies me though... We were doing a photo shoot with a big group of naked men, all heterosexuals between the ages of 19 and 60. The older ones had full, natural pubic hair, the under-40s were strarkly trimmed, and a few had none at all. I asked the younger ones why they were shaved all over and they replied: because my girlfriend likes it. ... It's a hairless generation, their sexual socialisation happened with porn films that showed no pubic hair. I grew up in the seventies where porn films were still porn films, it was sweaty and hairy."

For ten years now, scientists have been trying to develop a viagra for women, but their search has been fruitless, reports Kai Michel. "Things are definitely changing. 'Women used to come to us with orgasm problems,' explains Claus Buddeberg. This rarely happens today. 'Many women have become sexually emancipated,' he says. 'They understand their own reactions abilities. And they less likely to feel pressured into having to have an orgasm.' Instead over fifty percent of his patients complain about a low libido. According to Buddeberg there are three main factors behind this loss of lust : the ubiquitousness of sexual stimulation in public life. If perfect naked bodies jump out at you on every corner, disinterest is a reaction to the manipulative marketing of erotic fantasies. Secondly, individual experiences with sexuality leave their mark. And thirdly, partnership plays a decisive role: 'And there we often see a desert,' Buddeberg says.

Further articles: In an interview, David Rockefeller remembers two famous economists Friedrich August von Hayek and Joseph A. Schumpeter. Julian Schütt praises J.M. Coetzee's "Diary of a Bad Year" as a fascinating attempt to banish a political present with literary means.


Gazeta Wyborcza 19.04.2008 (Poland)

Poland has just celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In a moving conversation Marek Edelman, one of the resistance leaders talks about the (almost) forgotten silent heroes of the ghetto. "Janusz Korczak is a towering figure, a symbol for all those who refused to leave the children on their own. But there was also a woman called Hendusia Himelfarb, 21 years old and Arian in appearance – who could have saved herself but chose instead to go with the children into the trains. That's a true human being!"

One of the most exciting projects of the Year of Polish Culture in Israel was a Chopin concert in Bethlehem. "Six years ago Israeli troops besieged the Church of the Nativity where Palestinians were hiding, and since two years the city has been surrounded by a security fence – who would want to listen to Chopin's Mazurkas here?" writes Roman Pawlowski. But as the last strains of a traditional 16th century Christmas carol fade and a Muezzin starts up the call to evening prayer, "time stands still, the cultures interweave, and lost in the music we fail to notice that an entire hour has passed."


Vanity Fair 18.04.2008 (USA)

"Happy newspaper families are alike, and, it seems, unhappy newspaper families are alike, too: in the end they all lose their papers," Michael Wolf presages gloomily in his article about the New York Times, for whose independence the Sulzberger family continues to fight, however unhappily. "But it isn't just business. A resurgence in the paper itself - in its influence, stature, and authority - would surely make it a more difficult, and better defended, target. The family must be discouraged by the Times' diminishing … Timesness. Bill Keller, the runner-up editor who got the job after Sulzberger's first choice, Howell Raines, was forced to resign, has never seemed to quite have his heart in it - his has been a soft, hesitant, often odd, seldom necessary New York Times. On the other hand, Keller seems protected in his job, because the prospect of whom Sulzberger might otherwise choose is even more worrisome. Anyway, resurgence - either from a rising share price or as a result of renewed journalist confidence and panache - is a fairly unlikely outcome anytime soon."


L'Espresso 18.04.2008 (Italy)

The newspaper has sunk to the level of the gossip mongercomplains Umberto Eco, whose comments on the elections won't arrive until the next issue due to the magazine's early submission policy. "The paper has degenerated into a family evening, where Grandma tells for the umpteenth time the story of the nightly bombing raids and Father mutters truisms about the state of the economy. It's nothing bad, it's a wonderful opportunity for social contact, but this was not the reason why, long ago, newspapers were created. They should throw open a window onto something unexpected every morning. But we should not view this shift in journalism through self-righteous spectacles, it's no one's fault, it is just a fact like the hole in ozone layer, a side-effect of technological progress. But it's embarrassing just the same."

Nepszabadsag 19.04.2008 (Hungary)

"It is a rare and hopeful event: an important phenomenon in contemporary art has come to Budapest not decades later, but as part of contemporary history," media scientist Peter György writes excitedly, about the exhibition of the New Leipzig School in Budapest. "Moreover much of the Leipzig phenomenon belongs to the cultural area and connecting system to which we also belong: the world of post-communist countries based on ruins, suppression, horror, nostalgia and traces of memory that are difficult to decipher. And the most important task of culture and art today is to understand this virtual geographical area. [...] There might be multiple reasons for the success of the Leipzig painters, but an important one is closely related to the marginalisation of the Budapest art scene: Hungarian art today pays no attention whatsoever to the analysis of the relationship between contemporary art and the identity of society. For the Leipzig painters, this analysis means – alongside other aspects and archaeological layers – dealing with the very recent past. This is not about confronting the past but about an aesthetic programme which constructs connections between society's existence and painting."


The Times Literary Supplement 21.04.2008 (UK)

It has taken two hundred years for not only the "sentimentalised" blue-flower Novalis to enter the English-speaking world, but also Novalis the philosopher. For Jeremy Adler, who now introduces a series of new translations, this is a minor epiphany. "The new Novalis more than confirms Thomas Carlyle's view of him as 'the German Pascal'. Both men had practical talents, yet they both evinced a radical purity that drove them to treat the infinite as the only measure, and hence to redefine the thinking of the age; moreover, they both pursued a trajectory from mathematics to theology and did so with such intensity that their precocious beginnings could perhaps only be fulfilled in an equally premature death; while the search for a higher, absolute truth ended in fragmentary utterance. Yet if Pascal's Pensees were the anguished conscience of the neoclassical age, Novalis's Fragmente were rather the electrifying consciousness of modernity."

And another German classic is causing excitement: Timothy Hyman admires the "brilliant intelligence" of Lucas Cranach, whose life work has been shown for the first time in England at the Royal Academy. And available in the print edition only are articles on the Weimar Republic and Stefan George.


L' Express 02.04.2008 (France)

In an interview, Maurice Levy, one of advertising's most influential figures, explains why there needs to be a fundamental re-evaluation of the criteria and methodology used in advertising. Having a finger on the pulse is no longer enough. Consumers are not passive any more and have seized power, which is why a new ethics is required. "The economy can lead to excess, which is why it is necessary for the business world to be able to correct itself and consider criteria which have nothing to do with the economy. This is why I was always aware of both human rights and ethical issues. Today these questions have come to dominate. (...) It's not enough to announce that products are being sold at a fair price. You have to ensure that they have been manufactured under the best conditions. This means without harm to either the workers or the environment. An industrialist who is concerned with nothing but profit is doomed to fail."

The Boston Globe 20.04.2008 (USA)

In a detailed essay Francie Latour introduces the sensational thesis of a young researcher, and one that has already provoked heated debate among American historians. The man is Nathan Nunn (Harvard website) and he claims, in an essay in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (here as pdf), that he can provide statistical proof that African countries which are poorest today were those that were hit hardest by the slave trade between 1400 and 1900. And the transatlantic slave trade was the most rapacious of all. "Research already strongly suggests that the raiding of Africans by Africans triggered deep ethnic splits, wide-scale corruption, and a collapse of state systems. But if the countries identified by Nunn as having the biggest slave exports experienced a kind of nuclear dose of this, and his initial testing indicates they did, his theory might offer some road maps for development. For one, it seems to support arguments long held in some development camps that the best use of foreign aid dollars lies not in conventional relief efforts - the food drops and water wells and antimalarial nets - but in long-term investments to rebuild economic and political institutions."


Outlook India 28.04.2008 (India)

As the spat rages on about the Olympics in China, India should reflect on its own human rights situation, warn Rohit Mahajan and Ashish Kumar Sen in a deeply self-critical cover story in the lead up to India's staging of the the Commonwealth Games in 2010. "Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch, New York, also has her gloves off while slamming India. 'India has its own, extremely serious human rights problems. ... Primary among them is the culture of impunity. The government's failure to publicly prosecute officials or security forces that commit human rights abuses has led to discontent and anger. In Jammu and Kashmir or in the Northeast, the army has been responsible for serious crimes such as torture and extra-judicial killings."

In a review which occasionally aims below the belt, Khushwant Singh complains about the "verbal diarrhoea" in Salman Rushdie's new book "The Enchantress of Florence."

The Economist 17.04.2008 (UK)

Takashi Murakami is known as Japan's Andy Warhol but, the Economist says, even he never went so far: "Among the many rooms that make up this [New York] grand retrospective of the work of Takashi Murakami, Japan's best-known contemporary artist, one is especially provocative. It is not the gallery with the wide-eyed cartoon-like figures in bizarrely erotic poses. Nor is it the atrium, with its towering sculpture of a colourfully grotesque, pointy-headed alien, surrounded by adorable marshmallow-like sentries. The biggest buzz is about the space right in the centre of the Brooklyn Museum's 18,500 square-foot (1,700 square-metre) show: a fully operational Louis Vuitton shop, where visitors can buy their very own luxury handbag covered in Mr Murakami's playful designs for upwards of 650 dollars."

Further articles include reviews of Tony Judt's collection of critical essays "Reappraisals" and three new books on Basra, the war in Iraq and Britain. The cover story addresses the "silent Tsunami" of the growing global food shortage.

The Times 21.04.2008 (UK)

The English breakfast is a killer, rants Giles Coran, and particularly the so-called "Olympic" English breakfast now being dished up on England's motorways in Little Chef restaraunts. No wonder that the "whey-faced generation of feckless British fatties" don't bring any Olympic gold medals. "The fried English breakfast was conceived during the Industrial Revolution (probably) as a form of fast fuel for a working class that actually worked. They ate 3,000 calories in the morning, then they burnt 3,000 calories by lunchtime. Or died when the mine collapsed. But you don't burn 3,000 calories driving a forklift truck, or answering the phone at Argos, or fiddling your disability benefit." Corens tells them all to switch to porridge.

"Hands of my sausage, Coren" snaps Ross Anderson further down the page. "I am not about to be lectured on what I eat by a man who gets paid for feeding his face. The Times restaurant critic has a masterful way with words and a witty turn of phrase, but strip away the etymological pyrotechnics and what do you have? Preaching, that's what - and preaching of the worst sort: as practised by the nanny-state control freaks currently turning this country into a joyless puritan hellhole run by cyclists who knit their own tofu, where a glass of wine is a unit and lighting a fag risks summary execution for killing babies."


Al Ahram Weekly 17.04.2008 (Egypt)

Rania Khallaf profiles the Russian photographer Xenia Nikolskaya, who worked in Egypt for many years: "The diagnosis is Egyptomania, evident in symptoms that comprise a series of wonderful photographs taken across Egypt and which betray an endless infatuation with the country....'I found Egypt a very peculiar place inasmuch as so many cultures intersect yet each retains its own beauty and character,' Nikolskaya says. 'There is no place like it. The country is huge and the photographer cannot just come for a short time and take some pictures and leave. It takes much more time and effort to assimilate the traces of the past and modern civilisations that co-exist beneath one sky. I always try to capture these different spirits in a single frame.'" Here a series of Nikolskaya's photographs.

Further articles: Gamal Nkrumah introduces the Egyptian painter Anna Boghiguian (some of her pictures here) who is fascinated by India and Rabindranath Tagore. Caroline Boin and Alec van Gelder explain why the rise in food prices could have positive consequences for poorer countries. Sophia Ibrahim reports on the tough verdicts handed out to leading members of the Brotherhood of Islam. Serene Assir attended a concert in Cairo of the celebrated composer, singer and Oud player Marcel Khalifa (Youtube video). Nehad Selaiha was deeply impressed by Nora Amin's play "Happiness Here."


Le point 17.04.2008 (France)

In his Bloc notes Bernard-Henri Levy reiterates his warning about not forgetting Darfur in all the interest in Tibet. "This wave of solidarity which the friends of Tibet have mobilised so successfully, the wonderful outrage which followed and which was so underestimated by the dull, forgetful bureaucrats who rule China, this new consciousness of the scandal, which as long as nothing changes, is the only way to describe the fact that the Olympics gamese are taking place in Peking. All this should serve to remind us of the forgotten martyrs of Darfur. There are two conditions which any Democrat worth his salt should set before he accepts these new games of shame: the end of the repression in Lhasa and the end of the bloodbath in Darfur. A free Tibet – agreed. But please don't forget Darfur."


The New Yorker 28.04.2008 (USA)

"Conquer English to make China stronger" This is the motto of China's "Elvis of English" Li Yang, who has been assigned with the task of teaching the Chinese English before the Olympic Games. Evan Osnos introduces the teaching methods of a man who, to his fans, is not just a teacher but "a promise of self-transformation." "In the two decades since he began teaching, at age nineteen, he has appeared before millions of Chinese adults and children. He routinely teaches in arenas, to classes of ten thousand people or more. (...) 'I have seen this kind of agitation,' Wang Shuo, one of China's most influential novelists, wrote in an essay on Li. 'It's a kind of old witchcraft: Summon a big crowd of people, get them excited with words, and create a sense of power strong enough to topple mountains and overturn the seas.' Wang went on, 'I believe that Li Yang loves the country. But act this way and your patriotism, I fear, will become the same shit as racism.'"
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