Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

New York Review of Books | Outlook India | HVG | Observator Cultural | Elet es Irodalom | Gazeta Wyborcza | London Review of Books | Polityka | Lettre International

New York Review of Books 11.12.2008 (USA)

The New York Review of Books publishes the "Charter 2008" which has been signed by over 300 Chinese intellectuals, among them government officials. It is intended as an homage to the Czecheslovakian "Charter 77" and was deliberately launched on December 10th, Human Rights Day. Liu Xiabo, one of the initiators, and several other signatories were arrested last Monday. The charta lists an entire catalogue of demands for democratising China: "Authoritarianism is in general decline throughout the world; in China, too, the era of emperors and overlords is on the way out. The time is arriving everywhere for citizens to be masters of states. For China the path that leads out of our current predicament is to divest ourselves of the authoritarian notion of reliance on an 'enlightened overlord' or an 'honest official' and to turn instead toward a system of liberties, democracy, and the rule of law, and toward fostering the consciousness of modern citizens who see rights as fundamental and participation as a duty."

Outlook India 21.12.2008 (India)

Don't look at Pakistan or at the Muslims, look in the mirror, Arundhati Roy urges her fellow Indians. There is no excuse for Islamic terrorism but, she maintains in her highly informative survey of – not always Muslim – terrorist attacks and the reaction of the politicians and the judiciary, war or Hindu terrorism are not the answer. Because terrorists, whatever their provenance, all have one thing in common: they need victims from their own ranks. This was proven again by the terrorists behind the Mumbai blasts: "If the men were indeed members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, why didn't it matter to them that a large number of their victims were Muslim, or that their action was likely to result in a severe backlash against the Muslim community in India whose rights they claim to be fighting for? Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye on the Big Picture, individuals don't figure in its calculations except as collateral damage. It has always been a part of - and often even the aim of - terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden fault lines. The blood of 'martyrs' irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims."

HVG 13.12.2008 (Hungary)

Hungary's Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has announced tough new measures to combat corruption. Good idea, writes the lawyer Andras Schiffer, in view of Hungary's poor performance in the Transparency International ratings where it has dropped from 39th to 47th position. It is just a shame that the new clamp-down has nothing to do with clearing up the chronic bout of corruption now underway. "Instead there will be anti-corruption lectures for the government - the fourth lot since 2003 – and a hotline where people can ring in to report corruption. And the most draconian measure is a sort of deal which will allow anyone informing the authorities about suspected corruption cases to obtain a share of the resulting revenue which goes to the state. This concept, which has been plucked from U.S legislation, suggests that the government has a peculiar idea about the people: they are not moral beings who might be prevented from informing on corrupt politicians out of fear, hopelessness or the lack of transparency, but they are greedy profiteers who think they deserve their cut. This view is particularly explicit in the introduction to the draft bill. The fight against corruption, it says, 'is of the utmost importance from the perspective of competitive capabilities of the Republic of Hungary and its interational image.' But there is not one reference to the quality of the democracy."

Observator Cultural 15.12.2008 (Romania)

Ovidiu Simonca talks to the writer Mircea Horia Simionescu, who turned 80 this year. When accused of misogyny he blithely replies: "You couldn't call me a skirt chaser but I've always had a way with the ladies. I was constantly in love." But it was the tragic experiences that were better for business. "I don't want to have to tell you again how useful the experience of infidelity is...for writing. I was hungry for knowledge: femininity and women were an object of study for me. A person is not complete if they haven't lived through these things. I also survived a train accident. And then there was the time when I was chaperoning two girls in the mountains. They were in my care, nothing else, and as we approached Piatra Arsa, we hit a blizzard. We looked into the abyss. We could have died, all three of us. Everything that happened to me was useful for my writing. All the adventures, all the accidents, the suicide attempt. Everything. Don't you think that's crazy?"

Elet es Irodalom 05.12.2008 (Hungary)

Looking back, Janos Szeky can't believe that Janos Kadar, the "legendary" General Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, was held in such high esteem right to the end of his term in office. And not only in the West (where his campaign of revenge against the insurgents of 1956 was never mentioned), but also at home where he was considered a perfectly acceptable politician – as if no one had noticed what an intellectual lightweight he was. He himself admitted to being "a primitive person". Szeky writes: "The masses were delighted with someone who had as poor a command of the Hungarian language as they did, speaking in nothing but truisms. None of this worked against him, it actually increased the dictator's unquestionable popularity. It seems to be a golden rule that obvious intelligence in not a trait that people want to see in politicians. But it is alarming what an effect the primitiveness and the mental decay of the former general secretary had on political behavioural patterns in Hungary after the fall of Communism – a complex sentence with a hint of irony in it is seen as proof of transgression and arrogance. This ties in with the terrible anti-intellectualism so prevalent in the media, which to a large extent is the fault of the legislators who in turn grew up with the Kadar model."

Gazeta Wyborcza 13.12.2008 (Poland)

Russia might have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in the credit crisis but Victor Erofeev is not satisfied yet! "There is a general feeling of fear that something is going to happen. We just don't know what it is or how bad it will be. It might come in the form of social unrest, because of all the job losses, but whether it will be enough to force through change, is unclear. Until now, our elites have only recognised that it is better to take capital out of the country. You could say that Russia is waiting for its Tsunami," the Russian writer said in an interview.

London Review of Books 15.12.2008 (UK)

In a "Diary" column the writer Tariq Ali gives a sober description of a number of terrible "honour killings" in Pakistan. At the end of the article we found out how he was affected personally: "In the last week of October, my uncle's granddaughter, Zainab, barely 18 years old, was shot dead by her brothers, Inam and Hamza Ahmed. Zainab apparently had a lover and despite repeated warnings refused to stop seeing him. She was on the phone to him in her grandfather's house when her brothers pumped seven bullets into her body. I don't know whether her mother, Ghairat’s oldest daughter Roohi, whom I last saw when she was about ten, was part of the plot. Whether or not she was involved, I find it deeply shocking that my uncle allowed the young woman's body to be buried that same day without at least insisting that a First Information Report be lodged at the local police station, let alone demanding an autopsy."

Polityka 11.12.2008 (Poland)

Throughout the nineties, Kazimiera Szczuka regrets to inform us (here in German), Polish women writers were either ridiculed, published in series entitled "for the handbag" and "with the broom" – or written off by the critic Przemyslaw Czaplinski as petit-bourgeois. But things have changed, writes Szczuka. "Like Izabela Filipiak whose book 'Absolutna Amnezja' attracted so much critical attention, today Bozena Keff and other women writers of the youngest generation are attempting to refresh the national paradigms. The language has changed, as have the times and the literary institutions, but the basic question is as burning as ever: where is women's place in history? Who has the right to construct a collective narrative? Dorota Maslowska's play 'Misdzy nami dobrze jest' (We Have It Good), Keff's 'Utwor o Matce i Ojczyznie' (A Play about Mother and Homeland), an oratorio or poem which has actually been recognised as a masterpiece by Maria Janion and Przemyslaw Czaplinski, and finally the brilliant debut collection of short stories by the renowned anarcho-feminist Sylwia 'Dervish' Chutnik 'Kieszonkowy atlas kobiet' (Pocket Atlas of Women)."

Lettre International 16.12.2008 (Germany)

If, in the Eastern Bloc, you ordered "young onions, fresh Alpen butter, radishes if you have them, and two soft-boiled eggs", the waiter would bring "on a lovely old tray" three old onions, their outer skins removed, and a salty old black radish with caraway seeds. For Peter Nadas this was a sign of simulation at work: "In those years the grand idea that this society had come up with for the purposes of self-preservation was improvisation, mimicry, simulation. What could be replaced with what, and what could be swapped with what, what could be covered up or coated with what, how could something be renamed, disguised and above all: What could you secretly appropriate? And because the people whose vocation it was to name things would never call things by their names, or rather were constantly and unpredictably giving them other names than those to which they were naturally entitled, words in conversation functioned merely as cautious allusions, not as descriptions. It went so far that in essence, the difference between yes and no disappeared." - let's talk european