Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Die Welt | Rue89 | The New Republic | Gazeta Wyborcza | Prospect | L'Espresso | Przekroj | The New York Times

Die Welt 05.08.2008 (Germany)

The German newspapers are today full of articles about the death of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. For writer Victor Erofeyev, despite some criticism, he is still a giant. "My feelings for him are very animated – I have strong and contradictory emotions. For me, he was above all the writer of 'The Gulag Archipelago', this memoriam of all victims of Stalinism. With this book, he was not only able to bring together the testimonies of hundreds of victims of repression, but he managed, as a writer using derision and ridicule, to awaken a shocked Russia. That is a heroic deed for a writer. It caused political upheaval of European magnitude. 'The Gulag Archipelago' destroyed Euro-Communism: he dispelled the 'left's' illusions of a 'shining future'. But Solzhenitsyn didn't just see himself as the liberator of Russia. He carried with him the image of Leo Tolstoy as a teacher. He wanted to be a new Tolstoy and create his own artistic world to transfigure the Russian language. He didn't succeed in that. His book 'The Red Wheel' (an endless historical epic from the start of the 20th century), written in the spirit of 'War and Peace', didn't go anywhere, and remained uncompleted. The novel's hero turned out to be a stillborn child. His linguistic experiment with few words and folkloric expressions was painful on my ears. It is very fake and distasteful."

Rue89 02.08.2008 (France)

After centuries of the remorseless centralisation process which saw birchings dealt out to Breton children who didn't want to speak French, France has now placed its regional languages under the protection of the constitution, considering them part of the "national heritage". Whilst Elisabeth Cestor does support this decision, she also looks in dread at the situation in neighbouring Spain: "Whilst the debates about integration and official recognition of regional languages were going on in France, the Spanish government won a legal case against the Catalan government meaning that in Catalonia's primary and secondary schools, three hours of Spanish-language teaching instead of two are now obligatory, because teaching should not be exclusively in Catalan."

The New Republic 13.08.2008 (USA)

In the last few years, without anyone noticing, Chicago has become almost European, observes Alan Ehrenhalt with dismay: "In the past three decades, Chicago has undergone changes that are routinely described as gentrification, but are in fact more complicated and more profound than the process that term suggests. A better description would be 'demographic inversion'. Chicago is gradually coming to resemble a traditional European city - Vienna or Paris in the nineteenth century, or, for that matter, Paris today. The poor and the newcomers are living on the outskirts. The people who live near the center - some of them black or Hispanic but most of them white - are those who can afford to do so."

James Kirchick presents the 'Devil's Advocates' - the lobbyists who work for Africa's despots in Washington. For example the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Mervyn Dymally, briefly represented Mauritania, a country where slavery is still practised. The most infamous of them all was Edward von Kloberg III ("Shame is for sissies"!), who worked for Saddam Hussein and Nicolae Ceausescu and was even caught in a sting operation by the satirical magazine Spy, in which a writer disguised as a neo-Nazi leader of a group advocating the German annexation of Poland wanted representation.

Gazeta Wyborcza 02.08.2008 (Poland)

In search of Poland's lost lefties, Joanna Derkaczew speaks to the young theatre directors Monika Strzepka and Pawel Demirski. The pair are not thrilled by the realities faced by their generation: "My father, an intellectual, started up a company after 1989, which came to nothing. He couldn't understand it as he did everything the way he was told to. That's what most people our age do too – they do everything one is supposed to do: training, courses, work experience. And a couple of years later when they realise that nothing has changed, they panic. For they retain the belief that if they just make that little bit more effort, then everything will work out. But even if everyone were equally talented and made the same effort, it's not enough for everyone. That is one of the biggest traps of neoliberalism", states Demirski.

Anna Bikont praises Joanna Wiszniewicz's book about the "March Generation" – Polish Jews who had to leave Poland after the 1968 campaign of anti-Semitism. Many never really settled in their new homelands and struggle with their Polish-Jewish identity: "Wiszniewicz doesn't comment on anything and tries not to make generalisations. She allows her heroes to tell their story. It is an excellent piece of 'oral history' which is still a historical methodology viewed with distrust in Poland where there is more belief in documents, amongst those the documents of the Communist Secret Police, than in the spoken word. The book is also simply excellent literature.."

Prospect 01.08.2008 (UK)

To talk of "good character" is just not fashionable any more. But the British are now rediscovering character. Not as a bundle of innate qualities, but as something that can be created. Richard Reeves explains: "Since character is an unfashionable concept, it is important to be clear what it means in this public policy context. The three key ingredients of a good character are: a sense of personal agency or self-direction; an acceptance of personal responsibility; and effective regulation of one's own emotions, in particular the ability to resist temptation or at least defer gratification. Progressives are realising that, thus defined, character is intimately linked to many of their social goals—and also that it is unevenly distributed. Indeed, inequality of character may now be as important as inequality of economic resources."

Other articles: If the Fareed Zacharias and Thomas Friedmans of this world had less prejudices and would just open their eyes, they would recognise that George W. Bush has led an extraordinarily successful foreign policy, writes Edward Luttwak. Andrew Keen is worried about American newspapers which are taking a hit from publications like the Huffington Post. Stephen Chan describes the tragedy of Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has unfortunately contributed much to Mugabe's success.

L`Espresso 31.07.2008 (Italy)

Italy is sending two boxers to the Olympic Games: Clemente "Tatanka" Russo and Domenico "Mirko" Valentino. Both train in Marcianise, not far from Naples. Roberto Saviano transforms them into the ambassadors of their angry homeland in his report. "In their punches, there is the built-up rage of this region. In the streets of Marcianise they are all asking: 'When are we going to Beijing?' They don't ask 'When are you going?', but 'When are we going?' Because nobody here is merely an individual, but they are rather the sum of the many. This support gives a boost. And so only one thing is demanded of the two guys: bring back to this area that which has been taken away and show everyone what lies hidden away back here – rage, loneliness and the emptiness of the evenings. Clemente and Mirko are cut from the same cloth which doesn't exist anywhere else. They are so hungry to become something and to achieve something and emancipate themselves."

Przekroj 30.07.2008 (Poland)

The Polish magazine devotes its lead story (with a nice cover picture and the title "Europe's Ringleader"!) to Nicolas Sarkozy, "who heals his own complexes with the help of big-stage politics", but who is also "the most reputable French politician since de Gaulle". The "Telepresident" has recently raised a lot of attention for his foreign policy initiatives, above all the Mediterranean Union summit. "Looking more closely at the successes, it becomes evident that the visionary initiatives are often of cyclical nature and that Sarkozy is as much statesman as he is showman, and that his biggest ally of recent times has been pure luck."

Jarek Szubrycht looks back at 40 years of heavy metal, which was just born in the hippy year of 1968. The most interesting part of the history is that of heavy metal's reception by communist Poland – from its difficult beginnings to the silent toleration in the 1980s. To illustrate, there is the example of the band Imperator, who once had to confront the censors before a concert: "It was about the verse 'The beast comes from the deep.' The official screamed: 'What's that about?! Is it perhaps about Solidarnosc?' The musicians answered, truthfully: 'It's about Satan.' - 'OK then, you're in luck, you're allowed to play it.'"

The New York Times 03.08.2008 (USA)

"A powerful, brilliantly researched and deeply unsettling book" is how Alan Brinkley rates "The Dark Side - The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals" (excerpt here) in the lead article of the Sunday Book Review. The book by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer compiles all the facts from the darkest chapter of recent American history: the advent of torture in the "War on Terror". "There is no happy ending to this sordid and shameful story. Despite growing political pressure, despite Supreme Court decisions challenging the detainment policy, despite increasing revelations of the once-hidden program that have shocked the conscience of the world, there is little evidence that the secret camps and the torture programs have been abandoned or even much diminished." - let's talk european