Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Gazeta Wyborcza | The Believer | Magyar Narancs | The Nation | L' Espresso | The Spectator | Polityka | Elet es Irodalom | The Economist | La vie des idees | New Humanist | Folio

Gazeta Wyborcza 05.07.2008 (Poland)

Adam Michnik has kept quiet for a long time about the recent accusations that Lech Walesa worked for the Polish secret police. But enough is enough for the 'Solidarnosc' leader's companion: "Hands off Lech Walesa!" Although he, too, has criticised the ex-President, Michnik cannot accept that the Polish Transformation, for which Michnik and the Gazeta Wyborcza also stand, should be dragged through the mud. "I cannot write about this from a purely political point of view. I am simply appalled, I feel bitterness and resentment. I would never have thought that Poland would do such a thing on the 25th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize for its national hero. Don't say that you are uncovering things and want to reveal the truth that others (the establishment?) want to hide. You are lying."

Also, Dawid Warszawski welcomes an unusually positive signal from the IPN, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, who have published Bozena Szaynok's book about Polish-Israeli realtions between 1944-1968. "It is not only indispensable for anyone with an interest in Poland's diplomacy, it's also a catalogue of missed chances. Until 1967, Poland played a vital role for Israel, not only for historical reasons - the Israeli state was largely built by Polish Jews and the eilte were Polish-speaking. For Poland, trapped in the Eastern Bloc, Israel could have been a window to the world. But the mob which, fired up by the communist rulers in the wake of the Six Day War, attacked Israeli diplomats on their way out of the country, and slammed that window shut, definitively."

The Believer 01.07.2008 (USA)

The July-August issue focusses on music. Brandon Stosuy offers an informed introduction to the black metal scene in the USA. He even travelled to the birthplace of the genre, Norway, and clears up some common misconceptions about style: "A common mistake made by the uninitiated listener is to conflate death metal and black metal. I've been at a few parties or dinners or whatever where someone has asked me to describe the difference between the two. To answer involves me trying to explain a blast beat, followed by vocal impressions of a death-metal vocalist (low, deep, guttural growling) vs. a black-metal vocalist (usually higher, wispy, wraithlike, and screeched). Admittedly, sometimes it can be like splitting hairs. Black metal's gone through various shifts, but generally speaking, the guitars buzz, the drums are quick, the vocals shrieking, ghostly, and anguished. The early work had a particularly eerie, lo-fi sound. As the scene developed, and younger musicians mastered their instruments, the structures grew more complex. Black metal is generally not as straight-up technical as death; it’s usually more classically symphonic."

Also, Haruki Murakami writes three short essays about jazz (only the one about Billie Holiday is available online), Rick Moody defends Prog Rock, Andie Beta interviews the founder of the World Music label 'Sublime Frequencies'. Ange Mlinko follows up on the obscure vaudeville charm of Bree Benton. And Davy Rothbart sings the praises of the rap CDs he buys on the street.

Magyar Narancs 04.07.2008 (Hungary)

Last Monday was the third day in the trial about the dissolution of the fascist Hungarian Guard. It brought no noteable outcome and afterwards the court adjourned for the summer break. The journalist "A szerk" comments on the court's apparent inability to bring the trial to a speedy conclusion: "Infinitely dragging out the proceedings serves the interests of the Guard more than anything, who are obviously bent on a protracted trial. The longer it continues, the more people will join the ranks (even if we're only talking about a few hundred here), and the longer they can repeat their hate preaching, the harder it will be for the court to rule against them. We are not claiming that banning the Guard would 'solve' the problem of the Roma or that it would eliminate racism in Hungary. It's possible that the blackshirts will never disappear from Hungary's streets. But at least if they were banned, the law-abiding citizen would know that this is now no longer acceptable. And vital organs of the poitical system - mayors, councillors and the police - who are given the increasingly difficult task of curbing racist violence, would also have a guideline to which they could adhere."

The Nation 21.07.2008 (USA)

Contrary to all statements and promises, 75% of the total rights of six of Iraq's key oil fields will be handed to the multinationals. The logic of this, as Naomi Klein explains, is compelling: "Iraq's oil industry needs foreign expertise because years of punishing sanctions starved it of new technology and the invasion and continuing violence degraded it further. And Iraq urgently needs to start producing more oil. Why? Again because of the war. The country is shattered, and the billions handed out in no-bid contracts to Western firms have failed to rebuild the country. And that's where the new no-bid contracts come in: they will raise more money, but Iraq has become such a treacherous place that the oil majors must be induced to take the risk of investing. Thus the invasion of Iraq neatly creates the argument for its subsequent pillage."

L' Espresso 07.07.2008 (Italy)

Bombay-born author and journalist Suketu Mehta advises all tourists to India to visit a slum as well as the Taj Mahal. "Come on, just do it, no one will hurt you. Whatever might happen in South Africa or Brazil, poverty in India is not linked to street crime, to mugging or kidnapping. If you prefer, you can also take a guided tour through the slums in Bombay or Delhi, which are offered exclusively by non-Indian organisations, for tourists who want to get a more realistic image of the country. But save the tip you were keeping for the tour guide and give it instead to the slum dwellers. It's the easiest thing in the world to visit a slum. You only have to ask the porter or the chamber maid at your hotel if you can accompany them home. Then you will discover the true India, that's not incredible but the real thing."

The Spectator 05.07.2008 (UK)

Melissa Kite meets the nine-times Wimbledon winner Martina Navratilova. "Nowadays she says she is just as happy hitting paint-coloured balls on to canvases, in a technique she calls 'tennising', as playing tennis itself. Some of the balls are carefully aimed, some are bounced up and down on the spot, pre-serve style, to make an intense pattern. Some are whacked randomly to create 'more esoteric pieces'. The idea was proposed to her eight years ago by the artist Juraj Kralik, a fellow Czech. 'I was very sceptical but curious. I wanted to try new things. I thought, 'I'll try it a few times and be done with it,' but eight years later we are still making pieces and the stuff just grew.' This week the pair unveil their first commercial exhibition in London. "

The end is nigh declares Theo Hobson, and he is referring to England's good old national church. "Over the last few decades, the Church of England has increasingly presented itself as one part of the global Anglican Communion. This seemed a way of reinventing itself, of edging away from the embarrassment of being a state church. But the move has turned out to be disastrous. It has been the undoing of the C of E and has led what was once a pacific, tolerant church to its present state of exhausted collapse. On the eve of the Lambeth Conference (it begins on 16 July) we are witnessing the End Times of the C of E. The bickering factions in the worldwide Anglican Communion have simply pulled our church apart."

Polityka 08.07.2008 (Poland)

In a moving and comprehensive article, Krzysztof Burnetko and Wieslaw Wladyka portray Lech Walesa, making it quite clear that the new accusations concerning his involvement with the secret police spring from personal and political grievances: "Even in the most precarious moments of the Polish Transformation, Walesa never turned his back on the reformers – not even the more difficult ones who were alligned with the increasingly unpopular Leszek Balcerowicz. The bottom line was that he stood firm as president of the Third Republic. Which is why, to this day, he is the Fourth Republic's most hated Polish Third Republic politician. This enmity is of course fuelled by the resentment harboured by the Kaczynski brothers, who were chased out of his court like so many before and after them. But it also stems from his resistance to political scheming and manipulation, that he, like his trade union, remained so utterly independent and 'self-governing'... The normal, human sympathy of the Poles for Walesa is not on the wane, it is growing as the years go by. It was not impacted by the sensationalist revelations of IPN historians. There is a widespread feeling that he has been unjustly treated, and that to insult Walesa, one of Poland's greatest legends, is to throw dirt on one of Poland's greatest victories."

Elet es Irodalom 04.07.2008 (Hungary)

The Dutch, after the Germans and Austrians, are the third largest ethnic group to have taken up residence in Hungary. Admittedly they can rarely shake off the tag of "rich foreigners" that is automatically conferred upon them by their surroundings, and often remain part of a socially demarcated subculture - be it in the city or the countryside - because few natives speak foreign languages. However, Tibor Berczes believes that their different mentality can influence their new environment: "The Dutch are confronted with their common cultural heritage in their new culture, even if they deny it. In Hungary they realise that because of the quasi organic historical development of the Netherlands, they have a different relationship to their mother tongue (which is not a survival-kit but an everyday tool) as well as to the past (about which they speak in the past tense and not the present). The same goes for their concept of nation (a sense of nationalism only ever arises during international football championships) and even Europe. In Europe, they feel so at home, it is almost like an extension of Holland. They finish with Holland by relocating elsewhere, but they immediately reproduce it there. They adapt to wherever they are, but remain Dutch. So they set an example. Whether they'll find successors or not, only time will tell."

The Economist 04.07.2008 (UK)

India hosted its first ever Christopher Street Day parades in a number of cities. The Economist reports on the celebrations but also on the problems faced by homosexuals in a country which is still in the grips of Victorian morals. "There were no half-naked dancers, pink floats, or sailor boys locked in clinches; but India's gay-pride parade was ground-breaking enough without them. Several hundred men and women, waving rainbow flags, danced, stamped and sang their way through the city centres of Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata (Calcutta) on June 29th - the first such national event in this conservative country.(...) Many of those who paraded under heavy monsoon clouds in Delhi said one of their main motives was to campaign for the repeal of that law, Section 377 of India's penal code, which deems homosexuality an 'unnatural sexual offence' alongside bestiality."

The reviews cover a book on Lewis Carroll alias Charles Dodgson as mathematician, a collection of essays by Indian author Amit Chaudhuri, a history of communism told through its jokes, and a London exhibition of the great Danish painter of household interiors, Vilhelm Hammershoi.

La vie des idees 01.07.2008 (France)

Blaise Wilfert-Portal introduces the manifesto "Pour une litterature-monde" (Gallimard) in which, under the aegis of the publishers Michel Le Bris and Jean Rouaud, twelve authors address the question of the role and importance of the French language, or rather literature, in the globalised world. "The authors roll off a series of anecdotes which demonstrate that the main role for French literature in the world at large is to provide more or less exotic, friendly temping work which may have its uses in the resistance programme against the dominance of English. This echoes the origins of the term francophonia, which was coined at the end of the 19th century by Onesime Reclus to lend the French Republica a new punch-packing weapon in the imperial race. Language and literature were meant to compensate for France's low birth rate and its economic border expansion in the fight to outstrip the English or German rivals."

New Humanist 01.07.2008 (USA)

"Through the language of diversity, racism has been transformed into just another cultural identity," according to writer and broadcaster Kenan Malick in an article on multicultural identity politics. "If the right has embraced the grammar of diversity, liberals have adopted the idiom of racial identity. Will Kymlicka is anything but a xenophobe. Yet his pluralism leads him to adopt the language of exclusion. 'It is right and proper,' Kymlicka believes, 'that the character of a culture changes as a result of the choices of its members.' But, he goes on, 'while it is one thing to learn from the larger world,' it is quite another 'to be swamped by it'. What could this mean? That a culture has the right to keep out members of another culture? That a culture has the right to prevent its members from speaking another language, singing non-native songs or reading non-native books? Kymlicka's warning about 'swamping' should make us sit up and take notice. The right has long exploited fears of cultural swamping to promote the idea that Western nations should pull up the drawbridge against immigrants whose cultural difference makes them unsuitable?"

Folio 07.07.2008 (Switzerland)

This month's Folio magazine enters the desert emirate of Dubai, which is run like a major corporation by its ruler His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as Victor Koch explains: "Insiders are concerned about how long the Sheikh general director, will be able to keep track of things in his rapidly growing state corporation, and maintain command structures. To control public life the ruler has had a comprehensive state-of-the-art surveillance system which can flash up every last corner of Dubai onto a screen. The ruling house also keeps close tabs on strategic property to prevent it falling into the wrong hands. The city's largest families are kept sweet with trading monopolies such as import licences for luxury cars." - let's talk european