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02/09/2008

Magazine Roundup

The New York Review of Books | Prospect | Le point | L'Espresso | Gazeta Wyborcza | Elet es Irodalom | The Times Literary Supplement | Folio | Al Ahram Weekly | Rue89 | The Nation

The New York Review of Books 25.09.2008 (USA)

Putin's invasion of Georgia has not altered the balance of power in the Caucasus, writes George Friedman, this happened long ago. "Far more importantly, Putin's invasion revealed an open secret. While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts, and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. In July, the Czech government signed an agreement with the United States to set up a ballistic missile defense installation in the Czech Republic, and in August, days after the conflict in Georgia began, the Polish government announced that it has agreed to allow the Americans to build an anti-missile base in Poland. (...) The Russians knew that the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior US leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk."


Prospect 01.09.2008 (UK)

The best way to gauge Russia's desire to feel like a superpower is to look at its politics of memory. And nowhere are these better illustrated than in a new history book for Russian schoolchildren that was a pet project of Putin's, as Arkady Ostrovsky reports in the cover story."'The Soviet Union,' the new textbook explains, 'was not a democracy, but it was an example for millions of people around the world of the best and fairest society.' Furthermore, over the past 70 years, the USSR, 'a gigantic superpower which managed a social revolution and won the most cruel of wars,' effectively put pressure on western countries to give due regard to human rights. In the early part of the 21st century, continues the textbook, the west has been hostile to Russia and pursued a policy of double standards." None of this is coincidental, Ostrovsky concludes. There is no trace of liberal society in Russia today; instead Stalin is defended, if not celebrated outright.


Le point 28.08.2008 (France)

Having reaped heavy criticism both for his report from the war zone in Georgia and his article for Liberation written in conjunction with Andre Glucksmann, Bernard-Henri Levy lists the conclusions he feels should be drawn from "this summer's aggressions", and firmly positions himself on the side of the Georgians. What outrages him most about the Russian government is "the unimaginable cheek of these people. Take their use of Kosovo as a precedent. As if you could lump together the case of a Serbian province that was martyred, destroyed and beset by appalling ethic cleansing, with the situation of Ossetia as the victim of a 'genocide' which according to the latest reports (Human Rights Watch) claimed 47 lives... The Olympic gold medal goes to Monsieur Putin for cynicism and distortion of the facts!"


L'Espresso 28.08.2008 (Italy)

The fire under the melting pot of New York has long flickered out, writes Indian author Suketu Mehta. Today's immigrants live in self-sufficient communities. "Immigrants no longer feel the need to adopt an American Way of Life, however imaginary and idealised such a thing might be; they can live in America more or less as they did before moving there. If, on a cold January morning, you walk under the bridge of Manhattan, you might come across hundreds of young Mexicans running around brandishing pictures of Jesus, wearing T-shirts featuring the saint of their hometown Puebla. This is a ritual procession called Antocha, and originally it was the pilgrimage from Mexico City to Puebla in honour of the saint, except that these young people are running from the centre of Manhattan to a church in Brooklyn."


Gazeta Wyborcza 30.08.2008 (Poland)

Alina Kilian remembers the fate of the Polish Danzigers. Before 1945 they were discriminated against and publicly persecuted by the Nazis, and after the war they were despised by many Polish new arrivals as "Volksdeutsche" which prompted many of them to flee – to Germany. "Printed reports of their experiences were seldom paid any heed in Poland. Most of today's knowledge about pre-war Gdansk stems from Günther Grass's books. In his works about the city, however, Grass never left his petty bourgeois milieu, and he has never mentioned the Polish population in an interview. The 'Danzigers' have been erased from memory."


Elet es Irodalom 29.08.2008 (Hungary)

According to the Dutch cultural attache and organiser of the Dutch LOW cultural festival in Hungary, Jan Kennis, the Hungarian cultural scene is not a patch on its Dutch counterpart. This is mainly because Hungarian culture is stewing in its own juices and it lacks the proper networks for innovative initiatives. What Hungary needs is an "Operation Paprika", something akin to the "Action Tomato" of 1969, where students in Amsterdam protested for a complete rehaul of the theatre establishment. "Compared with the musty atmosphere in the Netherlands at the end of the 60s, Budapest is much better off. But the city must open its doors to the international cultural elite. It should be standard policy for Hungarian institutions to work with foreign institutions... As a foreigner, I would be interested in finding out how this situation came about. It is the result of conscious policy. Pure disinterest? Or is it down to a lack of networks?"


The Times Literary Supplement 29.08.2008 (UK)

"Imagine Balanchine watching a bunch of cheerleaders and you've got this book in a flash," writes Clive James in his review of Joseph Hororwitz's research into the impact of exiled European artists on American culture, "Artists in Exile". Schönberg, who played ping-pong with his neighbour Gershwin is a classic example: "He actually had to concentrate quite hard to stay unpopular, cursing himself whenever he lapsed from the atonal back into something that a non-expert audience might have liked. Not even the basket cases could honestly say that they had fallen among Philistines. They had fallen into a larger competitive market than the one that they had been driven out of, and even if they failed in it they would have liked to succeed. Korngold's success might have seemed silly and Weill's meretricious, but the possibilities were there: more possibilities than most of them could handle."


Folio 01.09.2008 (Switzerland)

In a fond farewell to the holiday season, the editors have dedicated this week's magazine to dream journeys. Peter Haffner portrays the New York Explorers Club whose 3000 members worldwide have to have more under their belts than a subscription to the Club Med newsletter. "One vitrine, which is dedicated to the recently deceased Himalayas conqueror and honorary president of the club, Edmund Hillary, explains that every British expedition since 1933 was equipped with Ovomaltine. The next displays a collection of skulls and books with titles such as 'Six Came Back'. Over the door of the auditorium hang the skis of the North Pole expedition undertaken by Matthew Henson and Robert Peary in 1909 – other club members from an era that formed the epilogue to the age of discovery. In those days there were still places that were untouched by human feet. But the club had plenty of members to fix that – Peary in the North Pole, Roald Amundsen ain the South Pole, Edmund Hillary on Everest, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh at the Mariana Trench, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on the moon."

Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalyov, who has spent more time in orbit than any other human being, talks to Ulrich Schmid about the smell of the universe. "Incomparable. It smells like nothing on Earth. I hope you understand, I am not talking about the smell of the capsule, or the spacesuit. I am talking about the universe. I know this is impossible. You can't smell the vacuum of space. But strangely all cosmonauts say the same thing. We all long for this peculiar metallic smell. It's hard to explain. Perhaps it's particular gases, or particular ions that change their structure in the vacuum. It's fascinating."


Al Ahram Weekly 28.08.2008 (Egypt)

Egypt has been trying for some time now to encourage its citizens to read. Opinions diverge as to the success of the initiative, as Dina Ezzat reports: "Official estimates of the number of readers who make use of public reading facilities also vary. Some officials suggest that close to 20 million people - including those who visit the libraries to read and borrow books and those who buy subsidized copies - benefit from the wide network of public libraries and the 'Reading for All' campaign every year, while others suggest that this number does not exceed a mere three million. On state radio and TV reading is extensively promoted. In promotion spots appearing on television, for example, Mrs Suzanne Mubarak calls on every family member to join the campaign. Film and sports stars also appear in the advertisements. Nevertheless, for the most part the public libraries, especially the Mubarak Libraries - the larger libraries that will soon number 12 across Egypt - and the culture centres still serve more as places to learn foreign languages and to do summer activities than they do to engage in serious reading."


Rue89 27.08.2008 (France)

Rue89 features a small dossier on the final report by the Mucyo Commission (here as pdf) published at the start of August, which examines the French role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Gabriel Peries and David Servenay introduce excepts from the report. An official statement on the report has yet to be released in France, although there has been some talk of "unacceptable allegations" at the French Foreign Ministry.

In a follow-up article the two writers examine the extent to which, between 1990 and 1994, France conducted a secret war in thr form of an indirect strategy based on the doctrine of revolutionary war that was used by French officers in Indochina in 1953. "You might ask what all this has to do with Rwanda? The parallels are so numerous that they stretch beyond harmless coincidence... The French soldiers never lost their knowledge. In spite of the ban on teaching this doctrine in the French motherland, which was decreed by de Gaulle after the putsch des generaux (1961 in Algeria), in spite of political alternatives, the special forces (troops from the marines, the legion and the police) held fast to this achievement, particularly in Africa."


The Nation 15.09.2008 (USA)

New Orleans is in a bad way, and this has nothing to do with hurricane Gustav. Lizzy Ratner reports on the attempts by the wealthy and the white, particularly wealthy whites, to redraw the colour line. "Barely two months into the recovery, St. Bernard's governing council passed a twelve-month ban on 'the re-establishment and development' of multifamily dwellings, stalling the reconstruction of affordable housing complexes. But the council truly distinguished itself in September 2006 when it passed an ordinance that, critics said, danced about as close to legalized segregation as perhaps any law since 1972, the year Louisiana finally deleted its Jim Crow laws. Known as the 'blood relative ordinance,' this law prohibited homeowners from renting their properties to anyone who was not a bona fide blood relation without first obtaining a permit - a loaded concept anywhere, but particularly in St. Bernard, where the white majority owned 93 percent of the pre-storm housing." The website also features a letter from Michael Moore to God about Gustav.
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