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Features » Magazine Roundup


04/11/2008

Magazine Roundup

L'Espresso | New York Times Magazine | New York Review of Books | Observator Cultural | Le Nouvel Observateur | The Spectator | Polityka | The Huffington Post | The New Statesman | Nepszabadsag


L'Espresso 31.10.2008 (Italy)

O Italia! "The Wind of Hate" by Roberto Cotroneo is a novel Umberto Eco can recommend to anyone who wants to get to know Italy's dark underbelly. It takes place in an imaginary but scarily realistic perma-fascist Italy, where death and death-wishes abound. And Eco can well imagine suicide attacks taking place in Italy. After all: "There was a suicidal impulse in our terrorism too, 'an irresistible death pull, death which can be dealt out to others but which can also come over us too'. And when one of the protagonists watches a policeman dying after shooting him in the neck, he says: 'We didn't do it because we wanted a better world, but because we were the one who wanted to die, because I saw myself in these eyes, my anxiety, my fear, my view into the void in there, this hate of an unsaved land.'"


New York Times Magazine 02.11.08 (USA)

In the magazine, Susan Dominus portrays the president of Bravo Media, Lauren Zalaznick, a 45-year old former film producer, (Tom Kalin's "Swoon", Larry Clark's "Kids"), who today writes concepts and produces reality-based TV series such as "Project Runway", "Real Housewives", "Top Chef", "Blow Out" that appeal to "competitive, urban, coastal professionals - the gymgoers, the restaurant patrons, the trendy shoppers, the interior decorators" – in short, an advertiser's dream, whose world these shows persiflage, document and deconstruct. And in such an environment, product placement unproblematic. "Insult our intelligence with product placement? Impossible, since we know that they know that we know exactly how this business works. (...) Consider the hairstylist Jonathan Antin on the defunct show 'Blow Out' being filmed making a commercial for his new hair-care line. The plot is that he's a diva. The dialogue is Jonathan Antin saying over and over, as he films different takes for his pitch, some variation of the following: 'Shampoo is an incredibly important first step for your day.' He is laughable, this statement is laughable. And yet, if you sell shampoo, could you ask for a better advertising environment?"

Further articles: Iran is perhaps the only country in the world that the USA has failed to get at. One man, however, has developed a strategy which just might work, writes Robin Wright. Stuart Levey, the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, managed, last year, to convince countless banks around the world to stop doing business with Iran. And now that China is producing two-thirds of all the world's pharmaceutical drugs,Gardiner Harris asks whether Chinese manufacturers are safe, because both American and European quality controls are anything but airtight.


New York Review of Books 20.11.08 (USA)

If we understand Zadie Smith correctly, Joseph O'Neill's novel "Netherland" has the same target audience as Lauren Zalaznick's TV shows. "It's a novel that wants you to know that it knows you know it knows". Balzacian lyrical realism, whose hero Hans, a Dutch stock analyst, has an authenticity problem. Smith describes a scene in which Hans is arguing with his wife about the Iraq war – this is to say, she is arguing, his thoughts are swiftly elsewhere. Smith quotes: "Did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction that posed a real threat? I had no idea; and to be truthful, and to touch on my real difficulty, I had little interest. I didn't really care." For Smith "this conclusion is never in doubt: even as Rachel rages on, Hans's mind wanders repeatedly to the storm, its specks of snow like "small and dark...flies," and also like "a cold toga draped [over] the city." The nineteenth-century flaneur's ennui has been transplanted to the twenty-first-century bourgeois's political apathy—and made beautiful. Other people's political engagement is revealed to be simply another form of inauthenticity." Smith prefers Tom McCarthys "Remainder", a novel that follows in the tradition of Robbe-Grillet.

Other articles include J.M. Coetzee on Irene Nemirovsky, Ian Buruma on Patrick French's Naipaul biography and Daniel Mendelsohn on the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy.


Observator Cultural 01.11.08 (Romania)

The Observator Cultural has compiled a new dossier on the writer Mircea Nedelciu. Born into a farming family in 1950, he spent 39 years in a totalitarian regime. The remaining ten years of his life he spent fighting Hodgkin's lymphoma. In an introduction to Nedelciu's work, Sanda Cordos quotes from his text "Horizontal Man" in which he confronts death. "The confrontation is inevitable. You have to fight and not try to get out of it. (...) From this point of view, the position of horizontal man can even be an advantage: you cannot fall; you can only advance or retreat (strategically, of course). We'll see where all these strategies lead, but I can say, I have now discovered a number of tricks. With certain opponents, there is no point in fighting without tricks. For example, to describe in detail a healthy foot, the toes that waggle freely up and down, the mobility of a fine ankle, the play of the shins and thighs in dance - all these things place my hideous adversary in a real crisis of uncertainty. It knows already that my legs belong to it, but I am talking about different legs. There are and will be so many!"

Read excerpts in English, Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Dutch, Spanish, French and Italian from "The Controlled Echo Effect".


Le Nouvel Observateur 30.10.2008 (France)

Jonathan Litell recommends the essay "Les elections presidentielles aux Etats Unis" by Roger Persichino (Folio Actuel) which addresses the business of US presidential elections in general. Littell writes: "If, as it seems likely and as we wanted, Barack Obama, is voted into office, many of us will want to understand the nature of the logic and obligations which sway his decisions and determine his capacity to act. Which is why I am convinced of the impossibility of analysing an historical or political phenomenon without a precise understanding of its underlying mechanisms.And Persichino's book communicates precisely this understanding in lucid, pointed and didactic prose, that is of value to Americans and French alike. The next president will be mainly defined by the election campaign which got him into power: to understand that, the hows and the why, is crucial for the aftermath."


The Spectator 01.11.2008 (UK)

Elliot Wilson profiles the China Poly Group, an arm of the People's Liberation Army which is part munitions manufacturer, part real-estate agent. And it also acts as China's de facto ministry of culture, where it is settling restitution issues at a break-neck pace. "While the PLA exerts simple heft, Poly wields a softer form of power. It quietly sponsors Chinese art exhibits that tour the world. When any Chinese art auction takes place, Poly representatives are there to outbid the private buyers. The job of scouring local and foreign markets for China's scattered cultural inheritance is the purview of 41-year-old chief archaeologist Jiang Ying Chun, who works at Poly Culture and Art. His job is to seek out the few remaining Chinese tapestries, vases, sculptures and bronzes in private hands, then buy them with cash raised by selling arms to countries such as Zimbabwe, Sudan and Pakistan. Poly also dips into China's vast foreign exchange reserves - £980 billion as of June 2008. 'If Poly needed £100 million to buy up all of the world's best remaining bronzes, they would,' says Colin Sheaf, chief China art appraiser at Bonhams auction house in London. 'If they needed a further £100 million, that wouldn't be a problem. It's a bottomless pit.'"


Polityka 29.10.08 (Poland)

In a series of talks commemorating 20 years of transformation in Poland (we reported here on an interview with Tadeusz Mazowiecki), the former finance minister and inventor of economic "shock therapy", Leszek Balcerowicz, talks about his motivation. "No one knew exactly what was happening at the time, but it was clear that capitalism was our only chance to catch up with the West. Everything had to happen very fast. (...) I was fully aware that this was an historic moment of change and that we had to grap the opportunity. Which is why I assumed, that if I was going to make mistakes – which was likely – that it was better to be too radical than not radical enough. You always have to choose which mistakes you most want to avoid."


The Huffington Post 23.10.2008 (USA)

Eight days before his death last Friday, Studs Terkel, "the man who interviewed America", gave his own last interview. Edward Lifson phoned him to find out what he would ask Barack Obama were he to interview him. The ailing Terkel, who was hanging in there to see the first African-American president, then shouted into the phone: "I'd tell him, 'don't fool around on a few issues, such as health care. We've got bigger work to do! (...) The free market has to be regulated. And the New Deal did that and they provided jobs. The government has to. The WPA provided jobs. We have got to get back to that. We need more reg-u-la-tion.I was just watching Alan Greenspan, he's an idiot, and by the way so was Ayn Rand! Community organizers like Obama know what's going on. If they remember. The important thing is memory. You know in this country, we all have Alzheimer's. Obama has got to remember his days as an organizer." At the end Terkel adds "I'm very excited by the idea of a black guy in the White House, that's very exciting," Studs said as we said goodbye. "I just wish he was more progressive!"


The New Statesman 30.10.2008 (UK)

Alice Albinia traveled to Kashgar, the capital of the Chinese Xingjian province with its Sunni-Muslim Uighur majority. Peaceful coexistence here is nothing but propaganda. "Today, if you visit the Id Kah Mosque, you will find state policy displayed in broken English on a signboard: 'All ethnic groups live friendly together here. They co-operate to build a beautiful homeland ... and oppose ethnic separation and illegal religious activities.' Unsurprisingly, given the level of interference by the state, many Uighurs see the Chinese as invaders who threaten their culture and religion. While Beijing remains intent on importing Han people and commerce to Xinjiang, in the streets north of the mosque there is still quiet resistance. Here, where old men play chess in ornately painted teahouses and stallholders sell a teeth-cracking sweet made from crushed walnuts, it is common to meet old women who speak no Mandarin, artisans who consider China a foreign land, and traders who refuse to follow Beijing time." And men who complain that women are not forbidden from wearing headscarves in schools or government jobs.


Nepszabadsag 31.10.2008 (Hungary)

Eastern Europeans are either blaming the finance crisis on each other (the Poles are blaming the Hungarians and the Romanians the Bulgarians), on the west ("they've abandoned us again"), or their own incompetent political elites. For Eszter Babarczy, this reaction has dangerous echoes of German Nazi rhetoric: "Of course the Eastern Europen tendency to pass the buck will not lead us into a world war, but it does lead to the feeling that we are constantly at the mercy of 'outside' circumstances and so every crisis comes as a surprise. If you constantly blame the others, you will never learn anything, nor will you learn to solve problems alone."
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