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16/03/2010

Magazine Roundup

The New York Times | Salon.eu.sk |Gazeta Wyborcza | El Pais Semanal | Le point | Przekroj | Le Monde diplomatique | The New Yorker


The New York Times 14.03.2010 (USA)

Luc Sante shows plenty of sympathy for David Shields, whose manifest "Reality Hunger" (excerpt) describes a gap which old literary models like the novel can not longer fill. And yet, Sante writes, "we continue to crave reality, because we live in a time dominated by innumerable forms of extraliterary fiction: politics, advertising, the lives of celebrities, the apparatus surrounding professional sports - you could say without exaggeration that everything on TV is fiction whether it is packaged as such or not. So what constitutes reality, then, as it affects culture? It can be as simple as a glitch, an interruption, a dropped beat, a foreign object that suddenly intrudes. Hence the potency of sampling in popular music, which forces open the space between the vocal and instrumental components. It is also a form of collage, which edits, alters and reapportions cultural commodities according to need or desire. Reality is a landscape that includes unreal features; being true to reality involves a certain amount of wavering between real and unreal."


Salon.eu.sk 10.03.2010 (Slovakia)

Now that we have accepted that only individual truths exist, why do we demand of a reporter that he present objective truth, asks Andrzej Stasiuk in the debate about Artur Domoslawski's Kapuscinski biography: "Everything is being worn out, broken and ageing, we are bombarded with new models of things, new models of behaviours, new models of ideas. This is the world we have created. Truth also has to be perfected, tuned and face-lifted, otherwise nobody will give a damn about it. Kapuscinski, just like all of use, had his own truth. He had his own truth of Africa and South America, of the poor and the rich, of life. He did everything he could to convince us he was right. At the same time it is the reader's God-given right not to believe a single word an author has written. Or to believe him only in parts, to take what we need to fit into the world. One can also believe the author absolutely, but that is the worst solution of all. And this is precisely what I find most fascinating about the book 'Kapuscinski non-fiction' - the making of a writer's vision, the mixing of the real and the unreal that emanates from a writer's head, entering the world and somehow managing to alter it, in spite of everything." (Salon has translated Stasiuk's article from the Gazeta Wyborcza into English.)

Strangely enough, since the collapse of communism cultural communication between Austrians and Slovakians has slowed rather than gathered in pace, according to the Slovakian writer Michal Hvorecky. He remembers Alma Münzova, who translated the first volume of Robert Musil's "Man Without Qualities": "The name of this lady, perhaps the most significant translator from German (Nietzsche, Hegel, Jung, Zweig, Lorenz, Flusser) disappeared from libraries during the years of so-called normalization. Despite being under investigation by the State Security she continued to meet with banned writers, translating for the drawer and writing. In spite of a life in isolation she managed to keep abreast of developments in Austrian culture through cracks in the iron curtain. In her flat in the Bratislava Old Town, filled with paintings by the modernist Imro Weiner-Kral, Mrs. Münzova played host to several generations of key figures in Slovak culture. This is where she translated 'The Man Without Qualities', a polyphonic dialogue novel unprecedented in German-speaking literature. It was people like Alma Münzova who formed a link between the forgotten old Pressburg and a still to be discovered new Bratislava." (This article, originally published in Sme, was also translated into English by Salon)


Gazeta Wyborcza 13.03.2010 (Poland)

In a number of de-industrialised regions in Poland the so-called "poor-shafts" have become a symbol of social decline. These are self-dug mine galleries, where the poor are digging for coal. The ethnologist Tomasz Rakowski, who has studied the phenomenon, explains: "We look at poverty and we see only passivity and state support. This is how the media and the politicians see and judge it. From the point of view of the social sciences, which like to see society as a well-oiled machine, this might be true. But it not only stigmatises these people, it also ignores the changes that are happening. If we change our perspective, we notice that the activities of the poor are rational and culturally grounded. They are extremely resourceful – when you could make a living from scrap metal, they collected scrap metal, when there was coal to be mined, they worked underground; when there was money in collecting herbs and blueberries, they did that. These hunters-gatherers are all working hard to restore their sense of self-worth, and that is why they have survived."


El Pais Semanal 14.03.2010 (Spain)

"Is there such thing as a Spanish miracle?" asks Javier Cercas. "The answer is yes: Jabugo ham. But that's also it. And yet, until recently, everybody was talking about the Spanish miracle. Who thought up this idea? The foreign press, of course, which knows as much about what's going on in Spain as the Spanish press does about what's going on abroad. The difference is that in England or France no one acknowledges what the Spanish press has to say about their respective countries, while we jump at the chance to cover our front pages with what the English or the French press is saying about us. Or can you picture the British Secretary for Trade and Industry calling up the El Pais editors to try to convince them that the British economy is not doing nearly as badly as that paper seems to believe? But the Spanish Minister for Economic Affairs really did visit the Financial Times to feed them her spin on the Spanish economy. With the effect that the Financial Times that only two days before had painted a dismal picture of the Spanish economy, suddenly announced that it was thriving. This just shows how much the Financial Times knows about the Spanish economy."


Przekroj 09.03.2010 (Poland)

The writer and journalist Krzysztof Varga might have just published a new novel but this has done nothing to still his pessimism about the future of his profession: "The voice of the so-called literary critic no longer carries much weight. A glowing review in the leading newspaper won't motivate people to go out and buy a book. The opinion makers have gone elsewhere and the literary work cannot waken the interest of the people by itself. We have entered the age of the biography – an author now has to have lived an interesting and unusual life, instead of being a talented and hard-working pen pusher."

It took an English music journalist to document the punk rock rebellion in communist Poland. The resulting film "Beats of Freedom" has just come out in Polish cinemas. "It is a solid educational film which contains no sensational new discoveries. It was made for audience that did not know People's Poland. Foreigners in particular, who are unfamiliar with and life of that time (...) But it is also a film for young Poles who were born in the 80s or later."


Le Monde diplomatique 12.03.2010 (Germany / France)

For three years now, industrialised nations have been trying to fight product piracy with the new ACTA treaty. Florent Latrive describes the aim of the talks which have taken place in secret, without the participation of democratic bodies: "The anti-piracy treaty is the next step in the development of an international law that moves away from classical copyright and patenting legislation. This was put in place to protect inventors and artists and ensure industry transparency and consumer protection. Now the emphasis is on intellectual property rights. And although they might be saying otherwise, this tightening of the regulations is laying down an international division of labour which consigns agriculture and industry to the South, and reserves creativity and added value for the North: fashion accessories are designed in Paris and produced in Tunisia; computer are developed in Silicon Valley and build in Asia. And strict controls at borders and on the internet guarantee that the market is not flooded with 'fakes'. If this stops legal copies and generic drugs being passed on, or internet users copying music or books for private use, then they're hardly going to complain."


The New Yorker 22.03.2010 (USA)

Over the course of a month, Alex Ross listened to thirteen international symphony orchestras, including the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra of St. Petersburg and the New York Philharmonic. His evaluation: "National idiosyncrasies remain - the edgy attack of German clarinets, the peculiarly pungent Russian brass, the unforced weight of the Dutch en masse - but the similarities outnumbered the differences. You had the impression of a cultural industry operating in peak condition. Yet I couldn't help thinking back to Furtwängler's complaints about orchestral playing - his critique of overrehearsed performances, of 'evenly accomplished perfection in all the details of a piece.' He spoke of the dying out of improvisatory playing, by which he meant collective risk-taking, a sense of music unfolding in the here and now. More than once in recent weeks, I wanted a little less polish, a little more grit."

Further articles: What can politics learn from happiness research? Elizabeth Kolbert looks to two new publications for an answer. Sasha Frere-Jones reviews the new album by Sade. David Denby watched Noah Baumbach's musical comedy "Greenberg" and Marco Belocchio's film "Vincere" about Mussolini's lover Ida Dalser and her son Albino. There is also a short story "The Pura Principle" by Junot Diaz and poems by Richard Wilbur and Robert Pinsky.
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