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12/10/2009

Magazine Roundup

El Pais Semanal | The Spectator | The New Republic | Lidove noviny | Elet es Irodalom | Tygodnik Powszechny | Le Monde diplomatique | Przekroj | The New Statesman | Al Ahram Weekly | The New York Times


Pais Semanal
11.10.2009 (Spain)
The El Pais weekend supplement prints the affidavit of the American death row inhabitant Romell Broom - who has now been granted a temporary reprieve following 18 failed attempts to administer him the lethal injection on 15 September. "(...) 15. After applying the towels, the nurse tried to access my veins, once in the middle of my left arm and three times more on the left. After the third attempt to access the veins, the nurse said the heroin had damaged my veins. That comment upset me because I have never used heroin and other drugs intravenously. I replied to the nurse that I never had used heroin.16. The nurse kept saying that the vein was there but could not get it. I tried to work helping to tie my own arm. A prison officer walked over, patted my hand to indicate that he also saw the vein, the nurse tried to help me locate it. 17. The chief enforcement officials said they would do another break and returned to tell me to relax. 18. Then I broke down. I began to mourn because I ached and my arms were swollen. The nurses were clicking needles into areas that were already swollen and bruised (.) 23. After a while, the director, Terry Collins, entered the room and told me they were going to suspend the execution. Collins said that he appreciated my cooperation and taking note of my attempts to help the team. He also expressed confidence in the team performance and professionalism. The director told me that Collins would call Governor Strickland to inform of the situation."


The Spectator 12.10.2009 (UK)

Racism is not the problem in Britain, writes Samir Shah, it's "cultural cloning". And this occurs at every level of society: "Parents from certain Muslim groups, for example, have a tendency to bring up their children in such a way that they never interact with members of other cultures — restricting the ability of their children to get ahead." On the other hand, being right-wing can be a handicap in an industry like the media where all the decisions are made by people who are "white, middle-class, metropolitan, liberal, male — who all think that the best people for the job are, er, white, liberal, metropolitan, middle-class and male. To describe this phenomenon as 'institutional racism' (as many are inclined to do) misses the problem by a country mile. The real problem is what I call 'cultural cloning' — the human tendency to recruit in one's own image. Recruitment, instead of being about picking the best people, becomes a process of finding people like the ones already there. The overwhelming need for a kind of cultural comfort blanket takes precedence over every other consideration — and rules out those whose backgrounds don't quite fit. This is what a 21st-century Equalities Commission should have in its sights. Cultural cloning is, in my opinion, the main source of discrimination in Britain today."


The New Republic 21.10.2009 (USA)

In principle, writes Lawrence Lessig, political transparency is a good thing, but it can have unpleasant side-effects. Naked transparency on, say, donations to politicians would only increase voter cynicism, provoking questions on the amount of cash in play for every single decision made. Would it not be better to eliminate the problem pre-emptively? "A system of publicly funded elections would make it impossible to suggest that the reason some member of Congress voted the way he voted was because of money. Perhaps it was because he was stupid. Perhaps it was because he was liberal, or conservative. Perhaps it was because he failed to pay attention to the issues at stake. Whatever the reason, each of these reasons is democracy-enhancing. They give the democrat a reason to get involved, if only to throw the bum out." Lessig belives that donations should be allowed, but capped at 100 dollars per citizen per cycle.

Further articles: Jeffrey Rosen describes in graphic detail the fight for net neutrality. And Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has a plan that will end genocide forever.


Lidove noviny 12.10.2009 (Czech Republic)

One year ago the magazine Respekt publicly accused Milan Kundera of informing on a Western agent, Miroslav Dvoracek, in 1950's Stalinist Prague (more the background here.) Dvoracek subsequently spent 14 years doing hard labour in a uranium mine. Dvoracek's wife, Marketa, was interviewed about the affair. "We have absolutely no reason to doubt the authenticity of the Kundera document (an internal police report) because the other documents, interrogation protocols for example, were unquestionably authentic. In view of Kundera's Stalinist past, it didn't surprise us. ... Neither my husband nor I have any plans to forgive or forget."

Zbynek Petracek complains that Kundera's accusation failed to spark a proper debate about the involvement of Czech intellectuals with the regime. "Ivan Klima and Günther Grass have come out about their involvement with totalitarian regimes - after various periods of delay - but Kundera is still refusing to talk."


Elet es Irodalom 02.10.2009 (Hungary)

Editor-in-chief Zoltan Kovacs can't understand why anyone would want to defend Roman Polanski. Because of his films? "The director does penance through his films, was the argument used in 2006, when Istvan Szabo's informant past was brought to light – as a way of humiliating the whistle-blower. Of course this is extremely unfair, but it does point to the superiority status of intellectuals when it comes to furthering their own interests. A carpenter cannot free himself of his psychic burdens however many beautiful built-in cupboards he makes. These cupboards are really wonderful, the family says with a little sigh, what a shame that Franz had to steal ten years ago. And Franz has no hope of mercy, he will rot in sin."


Tygodnik Powszechny 11.10.2009 (Poland)

Roman Graczyk is annoyed by the culture and media types who are leaping to the defence of Roman Polanski: "When I hear people defending Polanski I get the feeling that this some 'Dreyfus case' fantasy. But since nothing of the sort is happening, it has to be manufactured. People are always on the look-out for candidates to fit this role - and now it's been filled by Roman Polanski."

Tygodnik's editor-in-chief Adam Boniecki writes in his obituary for Marek Edelman: "All his life Edelman was 'the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising'. This was not easy for him, especially since he never wanted to take on the role of the deserving veteran. How are you supposed to live if you are historical figure nolens volens? Jacek Kuron wrote of Edelman's worldview: 'For him all persecuted people are Jews, irrespective of when or where they are persecuted. He judges the present from the perspective of the level of commitment to the persecuted and the weak.' That sounds wonderful but it is incredibly difficult." More articles in a special dossier.

Further articles: Andrzej Stasiuk's new novel "Taksim" contains nothing new, claims Dariusz Nowacki. "At least you can say that the author has made sure that the novel can be read in different ways, including one that runs contrary to the realist tradition in which it was written. This prospect is most attractive - decoding the symbols and metaphors is certainly more interesting than some attempt to tame its moody plot. The magazine also features an interview with Stasiuk. Finally: on 10th October, a parade of atheists and agnostics marched through a Polish city - conservative Krakow of all places, where Karol Wojtyla was Archbishop. Tomasz Poniklo elucidates the motivations of the event's organisers and the opposition.


Le Monde diplomatique 09.10.2009 (Germany/France)

The Cologne-based journalist Shi Ming describes the hermeneutic acrobatics required by China's cultural to reconcile the middle classes with the revolutionary youth in the literary and entertainment industry. For the TV series "Hu Xueyan, Salesman with the Red Hat Band", the green light was even given to a story line from a novel by Taiwanese author Gao Yang. "The heroic salesman was no wealthy heir, but had worked his way up from money lender to modern banker... It was not greed but recognition of social need that motivated Hu in his pursuit of money. It was not the killer instinct that drives bankers to compete that propelled him, but the desire to fight screaming injustice with his own weapons. With so many "achievements" under his belt, he deserved a few extravagances - status symbols, concubines and nepotism. In the end the tragic hero fails, but not because of miscalculations like Thomas Buddenbrook and his grain business. No, out of patriotism Hu financed the imperial war in Xinjiang against the rebellious Uigurs who were backed by the Russian imperialists; his companion, General Zuo left him in the lurch and never repaid the money Hu lent him for soldiers' wages."

In the editorial to this very sparse edition Serge Halimi mentions that the Monde Diplo is having to tighten its belt.


Przekroj 09.10.2009 (Poland)

In response to Herta Müller's Nobel win, the magazine republishes two older articles. In an interview from 2005, the Romanian-born German writer says of her identity: "I am torn between two poles. I come from Romania, but I also come from a German minority. My books are received with great enthusiasm in Romania. People are ask themselves what they have in common with my particular case, with my work, because I am not one of them. Either in Germany or Romania. In Romania people think that because I'm German, I can tell their story much better that anyone who has always lived in Romania. In Germany, the people ask how much I am 'one of us'. Some people earn money asking those sort of questions but that doesn't bother me."

And the writer Dorota Maslowska, who was 20 at the time, wrote, in a characteristically candid 2003 review of "The Land of Green Plums: "Before repatriating to Germany, Herta Müller was given no chance to publish in communist Romania - and from the point of view of the authorites, I can quite understand. If people are born and live in hell, it doesn't mean that they have to know about it."


The New Statesman 09.10.2009 (UK)

Britain has just republished Philip K. Dick's "Man in the High Castle". John Gray celebrates the novel (the Nazis won the war but the fight is on to find a successor to a syphilis-riddled Hilter) as Dick's most subtle. And he follows with a hymn to Dick's writing in general: "Like Borges and Calvino, Dick uses fiction to do more than portray the all-too-familiar ambivalences of human emotions. More ambitiously, he is challenging the ideas by which we interpret our experience. We think we are embodied minds, which conceive and execute plans of action; we believe our lives reflect these plans. We imagine that the theories we frame about the world are not only useful, but also true. These highly questionable suppositions are Dick's subject matter, and in freeing us from the false certainty that goes with the ruling view of things, he is one of the most liberating writers of the 20th century."


Al Ahram Weekly 08.10.2009 (Egypt)

A few days ago the American theatre director Richard Schechner opened the Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre (CIFET), and in his speech he attempted to define the avantgarde today. Nehad Selaiha wonders how he would categorise a number of contemporary Egyptian productions. For example a two hour production of "Faust" "seamlessly staged by Christoph Graf and performed in the tradition of Eurhythmy (the art of movement Rudolf Steiner initiated in 1912) by the [Heliopolis] Academy members, with the help of one professional, Hamada Shousha, and a few German guest artists. (...) Would the culturally mixed, Egyptian/German cast and crew automatically consign this Faust to Schechner's intercultural avantgarde category? Or would you say that since it draws on an art form developed at the beginning of the last century, and one which has a spiritual core and centers on a belief that the inmost nature of the human being can be revealed through movements of the arms and hands, it would better/also fit into Schechner's tradition-seeking avantgarde?'"


The New York Times 11.10.2009 (USA)

In the NYT magazine, Alex Witchel is won over by the hyperactive charms of England's millionaire missionary cook, Jamie Oliver, who has now set his sights set on the American waistline. He explains his (sorry) recipe for success: "'The key to life is to surround yourself with lots of women,' Oliver said. 'Men would just lie to me. Girls say, 'Give me half an hour and I'll find out.' They're intelligent, more loyal and they make things happen. Everything I do is about team, really. So 90 percent of my team are women.'"
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