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15/07/2008

Magazine Roundup

Observator Cultural | The New Statesman | Elet es Irodalom | Nepszabadsag | Magyar Narancs | Semana | Mediapart | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Guardian | Le Monde diplomatique | L'Espresso | The Spectator

Observator Cultural 14.07.2008 (Romania)

The Romanian magazine launches an ambitious translation project. Important authors from the country are to be translated into no less than seven languages, from Polish to Spanish, and English too. In the first edition, Paul Cernat portrays writer Stefan Banulescu (1926-1998) who "stands among the most distinguished Romanian writers of the post-war period" and characterises his works thus: "Although he sets out from a point that might be called 'the heart of the real' and although he doesn't avoid a reportorial tone, or a diarist's or memoirists either, Banulescu is not a realist, nor is he (to the end) a writer of the fantastic. His prose nevertheless contains a dose of the self-referentially ineffable. Call it mystery. One might say that Banulescu desires to emphasize the unsaid. His characters speak allusively, talk in circles full of pregnant pauses."

Also, there is a translation of an excerpt from the first volume of the unfinished project of 'Men In Winter: The Boars Were Mild'.


The New Statesman 11.07.2008 (UK)

Vic Motune describes the difficulties of female Muslim rappers like Neelo fer Mir, Muneera Rashida (more here), Poetic Pilgrimage, Lady Dizzla, Angel MC Shay, Lyrical Lailah or Deeyah, a Muslim girl born in Norway. Despite huge success in Norway, she had to leave the country after she and her family were threatened because she is seen as a bad role model and dresses too provocatively. "She came to London, hoping that things would be different, but the problems were soon to return. When the video for her single 'Plan of My Own' was aired on an Asian music channel, featuring the singer dancing seductively with a man, the death threats and harassment started again. She is now based in the US and needs the constant protection of bodyguards. 'People have said to me, if you wore more modest attire, toned your act down a little, you'd be OK. Well, you know something? I've tried wearing traditional costumes onstage and I'm still the whore.'"

Also: Ryan Gilbey is bored by the Abba musical film "Mamma Mia!" And Roger Scruton recommends the Schönborn Riesling.


Elet es Irodalom 11.07.2008

Christopher Street Day in Budapest ended in fighting. Stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown at homosexual marchers and at least eight people were injured. Why weren't the paraders in London and Madrid beaten up, asks Istvan Vancsa and concludes that Hungarian Nazis are ahead of their European colleagues in some things: "Are there no hooligans in London? You bet there are, they are an English invention after all. Have Spain's upright fascists just disappeared? On the contrary, they are in good health, and if one wanted to count up their different groups and parties, we'd soon answer that question. How is it then possible, that the homosexual processions provoked no resistance in either London or Madrid ? It is possible because the links to patriotism in England and the related idelogical basis in Spain are missing," scoffs Vancsa. Only in Hungary do people believe that homosexuals are not fighting for their own rights, but "to bring down Hungary".


Nepszabadsag 12.07.2008 (Hungary)

Aside from the unparalleled violence against homosexuals, the worst thing about the Christopher Street Day parade for media studies expert Peter György, was that so many of those who protested against it were from Hungary's middle classes. György tells his interviewer Dora Matalin: "These are consolidated people with families and jobs who went on to the streets on Saturday afternoon to humiliate others. Their problem is not that people are gay. No problem, they can be gay if they like, says the Hungarian, but they shouldn't be so happy about it, let alone proud. Because this annoys anyone who is frustrated and the the Hungarian middle classes are pretty frustrated. They are frustrated because they live in permanent fear of poverty after losing their former security. Because they once lived in a closed, culturally comprehensible country whose standards have now collapsed. Which is why this Hungary can only tolerate otherness as long as it keeps itself hidden."


Magyar Narancs 11.07.2008 (Hungary)

In the wake of the violence against homosexuals in Budapest, Hungary's Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany is now calling for society to close ranks in defence of democracy. He also announced a large demonstration for the autumn to protest against the insufficient protection for minorities provided by institutions and the law. The weekly periodical Magyar Narancs agrees with this diagnosis, but is sceptical about the proposed treatment. "The legal stance on incitement to hatred in Hungary gives a long rein to hate speech. It is permissible as long as it does not lead directly to violence or that no clear or present danger of this violence exists. But the courts' interpretation of the criterion 'clear and present danger' is extremely narrow. If one demands accountability from them, they point to the legislators, the legislators point to the constitutional court, and the constitutional court points to somewhere behind or above them, who knows." But it is not the job of civil society to protect others from violence. "On the contrary, the problem is precisely that a section of civil society wants to impose "law and order" itself: for a while now it has claimed the right to exercise violence unpunished and unchallenged - while the republic's institutions shove the blame back and forth" and do nothing.


Semana 12.07.2008 (Columbia)

"I don't believe that newspapers will disappear," explains Juan Luis Cebrian in an interview. Cebrian is the co-founder of El Pais, the president of the PRISA Group, and the most powerful man in the Spanish-language media world. "But they will certainly be pushed from their current dominant position further to the margins. If I had to found El Pais again today, I'd do it on the Internet, and I'd publish a paper edition based on the online edition. Why? A daily newspaper in print is still something that you can't get online. The digital society tends to eliminate any kind of mediation process and it will stay like that for a long while yet. But mediating between reality and citizens, interpretations and analysis, that will all come back. I still believe that a journalist is someone who tells other people what is going on."

"After the kidnapping, the next drama begins." Ana Maria Catano Blanco gives an account of a soldier who was taken hostage for several years by the FARC as an example of the insufficient psychological care afforded to many Columbian soldiers after their liberation.


Mediapart 12.07.2008 (France)

Not since Empress Eugenie has a premiere dame so preoccupied the French like Carla Bruni. The new French internet paper Mediapart even abandons its strict subscriptions-only policy to give free access to an article about her. In her analysis, which is full of quotes, links and videos, Marine Turchi is astounded by the mixing of the spheres that Bruni has caused in French politics. Salt was added by Bruni's CD about her 30 lovers before Nicolas. Turchi sees a mixing of "private and public, music and politics, information and PR, weighty dossiers such as the founding of the Mediterranean Union on 13 July with lighter events on the 14 July, and the Order for Ingrid Betancourt right through to celebrity events like Carla Bruni's record release on 11 July." Turchi also decries the gleeful cooperation of the media from state TV to the Liberation: "Carla Bruni is not selling her record, but her spouse, the president." (Eugenia - painted here by Franz Xaver Winterhalter also had a talent for such things.)


Gazeta Wyborcza (Polen), 12.07.2008

Sixty-five years after the massacre in Volhynia the wound between Ukrainians and Poles is still gaping. At the end of WWI, Poland signed the Riga Peace Agreement with the Soviet Union on a new Eastern border. This gave the Polish state areas which were inhabited by a Ukrainian majority whose subsequent attempts to gain independence were suppressed by the Poles. The Germans occupied East Poland in 1941 and in 1943-44 Ukrainian nationalists massacred the Polish civilian population - mainly in Volhynia - claiming as many as 50,000 lives. This resulted in acts of retribution by the Polish Home Army which left several thousand dead. (More here and here) The murders have not been forgotten. Lviv historian Taras Wozniak writes: "The Ukrainian elites have been very serious about discussing their own history." But in Poland, "remembering the events in Volhynia seems to have become ritualised. The historical context, the reality at the time is forgotten. There is no search for causes, for understanding. It just remains the Ukrainian crime."


The Guardian 12.07.2008 (UK)

Author Adam Thirlwell has reread "Les Miserables" and come to the conclusion that its length, slowness and endless digressions are not a drawback but the book's existential foundation: "When the book was finished, Hugo tried - and failed - to write a preface. The preface would have begun like this: 'This book has been composed from the inside out. The idea engenders the characters, the characters produce the drama, and this is, in effect, the law of art. By having the ideal, that is God, as the generator instead of the idea, we can see that it fulfils the same function as nature. Destiny and in particular life, time and in particular this century, man and in particular the people, God and in particular the world, this is what I have tried to include in this book; it is a sort of essay on the infinite.'"


Le Monde diplomatique 11.07.2008 (Germany / France)

Colette Braeckman sends a reportage from Congo's Katanga province where investors from round the world are descending upon its deposits of copper and cobalt: "Every month new shops open in Lubumbashi, fast food stalls and shops selling cheap Chinese goods and a rotgut liquor which is cheaper than beer. But in the poorest areas of Kenya, people are still dying of cholera. The air is filthy. Everybody coughs perpetually. Since the government banned the export of raw materials to Zambia, the tiniest businesses are shooting out of the ground like mushrooms. The owners come from China, India or the Gulf states. They have often bribed officials to avoid the lengthy licensing procedures."

Raf Custers reports that a number of countries in Africa have agreed to change their legislation on the extraction of raw materials: "There is much at stake: 57 percent of the world's strip-mining cobalt, 46 percent of its diamonds, 39 percent of the manganese, 31 percent of the phosphate, 21 percent of the gold and 9 percent of the bauxite come from Africa. And prices have been rising steadily since 2002. The states themselves rarely see the profits, let alone their populations. Worse still, the natural resources mostly mean these countries get a low ranking in the Human Development Index of the UN Development programme, the UNDP."


L'Espresso 11.07.2008 (Italy)

Umberto Eco returns, after half a year's consideration, once again to Pierre Bayard who claims in his book 'How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read' that reading a book is at least as creative as writing it and that there are therefore as many versions as Emma Bovary as there are readers. Eco disagrees. Of all places, in the world of fiction, relativism has its limits, he thinks. "It's just like this: the stories as they are, are accepted by the readers as immovable truths, naturally always within the realm of possibility of a novel. That is also the terrible beauty of every story. Emma Bovary dies at her own hand, and however much one loathes this fact, we cannot do anything about it. We could naturally write another novel in which Bovary is murdered, as Doumenc has done, but what constitutes the appeal (or dilemma) of this alternative literature is indeed the fact that we are all agreed - and Bayard can say what he likes - that in Flaubert's world, the poor girl commits suicide, and that we are all talking about the 'same book'."


The Spectator 12.07.2008 (UK)

Charles Leadbeater nominates the Internet as the planet's most conservative power because more things are archived than ever before. The outsourcing of our memory to hard drives and social networks also carries unknown risks: "The expansion of our shared memory in millions of mini-archives should be an unalloyed good, especially for an ageing society in which millions of people will be losing their memories and, as a result, their sense of themselves in the decades to come. Yet a growing group of thoughtful sceptics - the neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, the technology critic Nicholas Carr - argue that far from supporting our minds, the web is rotting them, including our capacity for memory. Carr argues that the web is engulfing us in a culture of distraction in which it becomes impossible to focus and think clearly."

Recently, two of England's "pillars of society", the Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams advocated the introduction of certain aspects of sharia law. But the majority of British Muslims don't want that at all, explain Stephen Schwartz and Irfan Al-Alawi, who have just carried out a field study on the subject: "The overwhelming majority of our sample - we estimate a minimum of 65 per cent - brusquely repudiated the imposition of sharia in Britain and even expressed resentment at the interference of individuals like the Archbishop in British Muslim affairs."
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