SignAndSight.com

Features » Magazine Roundup


30/09/2008

Magazine Roundup

The Nation | Literaturen | The American Scholar | L'Express | The New Yorker | HVG | Prospect | Rue89 | The Times Literary Supplement | Nepszabadsag | The Economist


The Nation 26.09.2008 (USA)

A few days ago economist and Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz expressed the hope that the American bailout plan – filling the hole in the ecomomy left by toxic mortgages with 700 billion dollars of tax payers' money – would not pass Congress. His wish has come true: 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted against the plan. Stiglitz's main argument is that the people who drew up this plan are untrustworthy. "Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and others in Wall Street are claiming that the bailout is necessary and that we are in deep trouble. Not long ago, they were telling us that we had turned a corner. The administration even turned down an effective stimulus package last February - one that would have included increased unemployment benefits and aid to states and localities - and they still say we don't need another stimulus. To be frank, the administration has a credibility and trust gap as big as that of Wall Street."


Literaturen 01.10.2008 (Germany)

For the cover story (only partially available online) Sigrid Löffler accompanied the Austrian writer Josef Winkler on a trip to the village where he grew up as a son of a farmer. Winkler took the precaution of packing a pepper spray and bringing his 'bodyguard' because his relationship to his place of birth is strained to say the least. At the age of 55, Winkler is Kamering's most famous son: this autumn alone he won the Georg Büchner Prize and the Grand Austrian State Prize – the greatest honours available to writers in the German-speaking world. And at the same time he is Kamerling's blackest sheep, thanks to the heady mixture of fact and fiction with which he describes the village's inhabitants in his novels, creating life-long enemies for himself in the process: "Winkler pulls out a letter, written in immaculate schoolgirl handwriting, from a woman whom he refers to in one book as 'Raudi Miklau'. In it, the incensed village woman threatens to sue the author for what he has written about her in his book. And in his novella 'Roppongi' we read: 'A year before his death my ninety-eight year old father in Klagenfurt rang me up and yelled into the telephone:<Sepp! [short for Josef] What kind of pig are you, a pig dog you are! What have you been writing again about Frido of Lemmerhof. That his wife threw him into the pigsty, that he was drunk, that the pigs chewed off his balls while he was passed out in the dirt? Nothing but lies! I heard this all from the Lemmerhofer on the garden bench. What kind of man are you! I've only one thing left to say to you! When I leave this earth, I don't want you coming to my funeral!>' His father's curse was obviously deeply upsetting to his son."


The American Scholar (USA), 01.10.2008

Chinese-American writer Ha Jin describes the cunning methods used by the Chinese censorship authorities to get rid of undesirable books, films etc. without attracting too much attention. One key factor is the separation of the elite from the rest of the population. "After Tiananmen, the Communist Party adopted a relatively conciliatory position toward intellectuals, who can be vocal, resourceful, and troublesome. On the whole, the party has succeeded in buying off the intellectuals, who live much better than the people in the lower social strata. By not punishing Jiao and Zhang harshly [a professor and a novelist who protested against censorship], the party could avoid incensing the elite class. As long as China's brains do not join forces with the rebellious masses, the country will be easier to control."


L'Express 29.09.2008 (France)

Under the title "The black book of publishing", the periodical features an interview with French historian Jean-Yves Mollier about his book, "Edition, presse et pouvoir en France au XXe siecle" (Fayard) which takes a look at the behind-the-scenes machinations of the French publishing industry in the 20th century, starting with the Occupation. In the interview, Mollier explains that in 1940, at the beginning of the German Occupation, the French publishing industry was largely anti-Nazi. However: "Parisian publishers are pragmatic businessmen and were keen to accommodate German demands. Because the occupying forces quickly expressed their wish for a list of forbidden books, the so-called 'Otto list'. This comprised 1060 titles, among them the works of National Socialism opponents such as Thomas Mann, Stefan Zweig, Romain Rolland, and Jewish authors like Henri Bergson or Freud... In actual fact, it was the French publishers who compiled this list. As of May 1940 they all, Flammarion, Albin Michel, Grasset, Gallimard and Payot, made few bones about the fact that they were drawing up their own "pro-lists". These books were promptly collected together by the transport company working for Hachette, which delivered to book distributors in France and owned vast warehouses, where the outlawed books were pulped. All that remained for the German authorities was to sign a censorship agreement with the publishers' association. Their work had been done for them."


The New Yorker 06.10.2008 (USA)

The magazine dedicates a full 38 pages to letters written by Norman Mailer in which the writer, who died last year, vents his spleen about US politics. The selection which spans from 1945 to 2006, includes letters to family members, to the literary critic Irving Howe, the president's wife Jackie Kennedy and the conservative author and journalist William F. Buckley jr. The latter is the subject of a letter from December 1962 addressed to the editor of Playboy magazine: "Dear Sir, I wish you hadn't billed the debate between William Buckley and myself as a meeting between a conservative and a liberal. I don't care if people call me a radical, a rebel, a red, a revolutionary, an outsider, an outlaw, a Bolshevik, an anarchist, a nihilist, or even a left conservative, but please don't ever call me a liberal. Yours, Norman Mailer"


HVG 25.09.2008 (Hungary)

Communication has always been a central and unavoidable focus of European philosophy. Now, in the context of today's explosion in technological communication, we are attempting to re-formulate the questions traditionally asked in philosophy," according to philosopher Kristof Nyiri, the man behind a conference in Budapest on 21st century communication and the mobile information society. When asked by Ivan Bedö, to elucidate on this new formulation, Nyiri said: "Man was originally a communicating being. The philosophers of the 19th century were still very aware of this fact, then in the 20th century it went out of fashion for a number of decades and now in the era of the mobile phone, we are seeing ourselves confronted with the idea again. We are witnessing a re-evaluation of the idea of personal contact. This is part of man's most basic nature, but during the centuries of book printing, the technologies of lonely thinking, this was forced into the background. Today we seeing a return to this primordial world of thought."


Prospect 01.10.2008 (UK)

In his obituary of the writer David Foster Wallace, Julian Gough gets down to the nitty-gritty. He blames the university for preventing this author from writing more and better books. On the one hand, because his bread-and-butter job of teaching creative writing took up too much of his time, but also because of the deformation professionelle which Wallace developed: "A life in academia formed, deformed and almost ruined Wallace's writing. 'Infinite Jest' is nearly a thousand pages of exhausting, inexhaustible, hugely flawed and brilliant novel. It is followed by almost a hundred pages of endnotes (his editor made him cut as many again). The endnotes have footnotes. Wallace was, on one level, aware that he was cut off from ordinary America, but the knowledge put his prose into a hyper-analytic death spiral. Like so many academics, he became obsessed with the white whale (or pink elephant) of the authentic. He spent much of his time attacking forms of language of which he disapproved (pharmaceutical jargon, advertising, corporate PR). This was literary criticism disguised as literature - grenade attacks on a theme park."


Rue89 27.09.2008 (France)

Judith Sibony reports on a critical storm that has been sparked by Jacques Attali, an economist and former advisor to Francois Mitterand. He has written a play which has raised the heckles of a number of experts on the history of the Shoah. "Du cristal a la fumee" (published by Fayard and staged at the Theatre du Rond Point) centres around a Nazi meeting organised by Hermann Göring two days before the so-called "Reichskristallnacht". Attali claims that "95 percent" of his material stems from the original wording of the meeting and that his play therefore reveals a "secret truth": that it was actually here that the final solution to the Jewish question was developed – a good two weeks prior to the Wannsee Conference which is considered to be the birthplace of the Holocaust. "One more historical untruth which will be propagated unpunished," rages the historian Annette Wieviorka ("Auschwitz Explained to My Child"). And Elisabeth de Fontenay, president of the Commission Enseignement au Memorial de la Shoah, writes: "To tackle material like this, you must either a great writer or a historian. Allali is neither of these and the combination which he undertakes here is catastrophic. He opens the way for gross misunderstandings and shows enormous disrespect for the dead."


The Times Literary Supplement 26.09.2008 (UK)

Born in 1895, Archduke Wilhelm Franz von Habsburg-Lothringen, a grandson of Kaiser Franz Joseph might have been a reckless bisexual loser, but he was also a hero of the Ukrainian liberation movement, for which he took up arms. Timothy Snyder's study of this minor Hapsburg royal, "The Red Prince" is packed with rhetorical flourishes as Christopher Clark describes: "The archness of tone is unusual in historical biography, but perfectly at home in the world of fable, in which characters are used to illuminate predicaments and generate insights. The real subject matter and moral burden of this book, visible behind the translucent skein of the life-narrative, is the volatile chemistry of nation-building in modern Europe. In Eastern and Central Europe, the nation was the compact, monocultural answer to the multicultural polities of the old empire. In Central and Eastern Europe, the history of nation states is marked out in tracks of blood. Today, Snyder suggests, the multi-ethnic commonwealth of the Habsburg Empire has been reincarnated in the form of the European Union, while the absolutist experiments of ultranationalism have at last fallen by the wayside. The excellent brewery on the former Habsburg estate at Zywiec is now owned by the multinational Heineken. And out of the ruins of the twentieth century has risen, improbably, a new Ukraine. Wilhelm's life was lived in the pursuit of a lost cause, but his mistakes were instructive and sometimes it is the losers who have the last word."


Nepszabadsag 27.09.2008 (Hungary)

Media scientist Miklos Almasi comments on the 700 billion dollar rescue package earmarked by the US government to rescue the financial markets - that has just been rejected. "If all goes to plan, this will create a part-state, part-independent financial system and rehabilitate the state as authority with the power to regulate and intervene and ultimately save the day. And we can only hope that a number of regulations find their way into the dance routine of the financial world and that this casino business quietens down a little... That was the American financial architecture in whose glory days the market and the economy was ruled by the dictates of giant investment banks (and powerful hedge funds, private equity groups). The crisis has washed away these mammoth firms and made it very clear that this Anglo-Saxon capitalism model is finished. The slogan 'the market regulates everything' has led to the state having to foot the bill. The neoliberal myth is being replaced by some sort of hybrid. The global world needs a global system of rules. If it doesn't go to plan and everything remains the way it was – then in the midst of the chaos, billions will come in from the Golf States, or state funds from China. I am not optimistic."


The Economist 26.09.2008 (UK)

In a detailed and highly critical article, the magazine describes how the secret services in a number of countries are openly practising excessive and sometimes completely uncontrolled data mining, also known as "pattern recognition" This means that unusual behaviour of any kind swiftly raises suspicion – and innocent citizens can find themselves on surveillance lists. "The staggering, and fast-growing, information-crunching capabilities of data-mining technology broaden the definition of what is considered suspicious. In June America's Departments of Justice and Homeland Security and a grouping of American police chiefs released the 'Suspicious Activity Report - Support and Implementation Project'. Inspired in part by the approach of the Los Angeles Police Department, it urges police to question people who, among other things, use binoculars, count footsteps, take notes, draw diagrams, change appearance, speak with security staff, and photograph objects 'with no apparent aesthetic value'."
signandsight.com - let's talk european