Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Elet es Irodalom | Le point | Gazeta Wyborcza | The New York Review of Books | Prospect | Le Monde | 3 quarks daily | MicroMega | Guernica | The Economist | Polityka | The New York Times

Elet es irodalom 09.04.2010 (Hungary)

The founders, members and sympathisers of the far-right Jobbik party, which won 17 percent in yesterday's elections in Hungary, included significant numbers of humanities, history and law students. This would probably not be the case, according to historian Istvan Rev, director of the Open Society Archive in Budapest, had Hungarian universities taken a different path after 1989. These young humanists were taught by the same historians who pushed Marxist reading before the fall of communism: "How could such people possibly hope to undertake a genuine reassessment of the past, pitting themselves against the discourse of the far-right? We have allowed ourselves to debate pointless matters instead of clarifying critical historical questions and allowed a sugar-coated version of Hungarian history to be taught at Hungarian universities and schools. Subsequently our young people have no idea about Hungarian history; it is a thing of the past for them. 1944 is a long time ago, 1956 is a long time ago, even 1989 is a long time ago, no one remembers it any more and people say what they like."

Le point 08.04.2010 (France)

Was Godard an anti-Semite? Bernard-Henri Levy cannot quite accept the idea, although some of Godard's statements during his Maoist period, which can now be heard in the nine-hour video conversation that has just been released on DVD, give him cause to wonder: "There is no doubt that Godard's relationship with Judaism is complex, contradictory and ambivalent, that his support for extremist Palestinian positions in the seventies in his project 'Ici et ailleurs', for example, is problematic, and that there are passages in this 'Morceuaux de conversation' with Alain Fleischer (2009) which shook me to the core. But to conclude that Godard was an anti-Semite and to cling to this alleged anti-Semitism to disqualify his entire oeuvre is an insult to a formidable artist. And it is toying with a word – anti-Semitism – that should be handled with utmost caution."

Gazeta Wyborcza 10.04.2010 (Poland)

The Polish media is officially in mourning for the tragedy in Smolensk. In the Gazeta Wyborcza, Adam Michnik, who accompanied the deceased president throughout his career, initially in the anti-communist opposition and latterly as his political opponent, pays his respects. "Lech Kaczynski influenced Polish history throughout his life. Historians will later weigh up the balance of his achievements. Today is not the time for such things. Today is the time for mourning and positive memories. Kaczynski served Polish independence and freedom since 1968. He would often say that at that time, he chose the path of resistance against the dictatorship, and I will always hold this decision in my memory with great respect and sentiment." In an emotional video message, Michnik expresses his admiration for Kaczynski's patriotism and says he will reread everything he has written about the president to reassess whether his criticism was overly harsh.

On the positive side, Jaroslaw Kurski writes, the whole world now knows what "Katyn" means, and the Russian reaction could pave the way for reconciliation with Poland. "Russia is opening up to Poland and to itself, to its history and its position on Stalinism, which caused the deaths of several tens of millions of Russians and people of other nations in the Soviet Union. If these two nations cannot forgive one another at a moment like this, when can they? There will never be another opportunity like this. We cannot let it go to waste."

The New York Review of Books 29.04.2010 (USA)

In an excerpt from his new book "Ill fares the Land", historian Tony Judt condemns the growing gap between rich and poor, particularly in Britain, and states: "If it is to be taken seriously again, the left must find its voice. There is much to be angry about: growing inequalities of wealth and opportunity; injustices of class and caste; economic exploitation at home and abroad; corruption and money and privilege occluding the arteries of democracy. But it will no longer suffice to identify the shortcomings of 'the system' and then retreat, Pilate-like, indifferent to consequences. The irresponsible rhetorical grandstanding of decades past did not serve the left well."

Further stories: Russell Baker introduces Gerald Boyd's book "My Times in Black and White", his settling of scores with the New York Times, which threw him out when he was managing editor – he says, on racist grounds. Tim Flannery introduces a series of zoology books from which he learned, among other things, that chimpanzees show no negative reaction to signs of ageing in females. The British Foreign Secretary David Milliband explains how he expects things to progress in Afghanistan. There are also reviews of Masha Gessen's biography of the notoriously antisocial Grigory Perelman, and of Lydia Davis' "Collected Stories".

Prospect 12.04.2010

Sex, even at its most crude, barely raises an eyebrow in British theatre. But this does not mean that censorship or self-censorship is a thing of the past, as John Nathan reports. The playwright Richard Bean has experienced on a number of occasions, what theatres have learned to fear:"The first was in 2006, during the Muslim protests against the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad. Bean's play 'Up on Roof' was in rehearsal at the Hull Truck theatre. Set in a prison where there is a riot, the play - whose characters include Jesus Christ - contained two or three references to Muhammad. 'It wasn't anything contentious,' he says. 'They [the theatre] were just utterly scared shitless. Bradford [with its large Muslim population] is only half an hour away. I love Hull Truck. It's my hometown. I didn’t want to upset them. It wasn't an important part of the play.' And then, with a note of what sounds a little like shame, he adds, 'So I changed it.'"

Le Monde 10. 04. 2010 (France)

In a deeply pessimistic article about the French banlieues, Tahar Ben Jelloun describes the bleak prospects for the first generation of immigrants who are now approaching old age. "They live or survive and watch their lives collapse around them. They had children to feel less alone, to be like the others, and now realise that they have no control over anything. Neither over their offspring nor over the passing of time. They feel abandoned. Some have made their peace with the situation and are happy, others can only hope that fate will take care of them. Then, when they hear that their son has been killed in a fight or some crime, they fall silent. The sky falls on their heads."

3 quarks daily 12.04.2010 (USA)

3QD publishes the transcript of a long and fascinating radio interview (here as mp3) in which Brian Reynolds Myers, professor of international studies at Dongseo University, South Korea, talks to Colin Marshall about his new book "The Cleanest Race" (excerpt) on North Korean nationalism and racism. For Myers, the regime is comparable with Nazis and Stalinists alike – and the people have been royally duped: "The people are kind of working with the regime. It's not as if this is a very hard sell. Those average North Korean citizens have no desire to find out they have been working their whole lives just to keep one family in Pyongyang happy. That's a truth, I think, that would devastate them, and they don't want to find that out."

Micromega 10.04.2010 (Italy)

Paolo Flores d'Arcais, a doyen of Italian intellectuals, outlines in no uncertain terms "why Ratzinger and Wojtyla are responsible for the paedophile plague". Instead of censuring the cases in their sermons, the only fitting path of action for the former pope and his cardinal, Flores d'Arcais argues, would have been to hand over each and every case to the courts. Instead they actively prevented this from happening – here he cites a number of documents from the Catholic church. "Not the Church itself, but its hierarchies have bound the bishops, priests, and lay personnel by solemn oath, exclusively to inform their superiors about cases of paedophiles within the clergy, but never to go to authorities of the state."

Guernica 01.04.2010 (USA)

When Edith Grossman was asked to translate "Don Quixote" she felt overwhelmed by the "dark sui generis clouds of intense trepidation, vast areas of apprehension and disquiet peculiar to this project". But rescue came in the form of the Spanish writer Julian Rios, who told her that since Cervantes was Spain's most modern writer, she could translate him as she had other contemporary authors, himself included. She could then start enjoying herself: "On occasion, at a certain point in the translation of a book, I have been lucky enough to hit the sweet spot, when I can begin to imagine that the author and I have started to speak together — never in unison, certainly, but in a kind of satisfying harmony. In those instances it seems as if I can hear the author's voice in my mind speaking in Spanish at the same time that I manage to find a way to speak the work in English. The experience is exhilarating, symbiotic, certainly metaphorical, and absolutely crucial if I am to do what I am supposed to do — somehow get into the author's head and behind the author's eyes and re-create in English the writer's linguistic perceptions of the world."

The Economist 08.04.2010 (UK)

One area of society that stands to be revolutionised by wireless communication and social networking is the health system. McKinsey estimates it as a 60 million dollar market. The Economist lists a number potential applications for the technology in the not-so-distant future: "Some are overtly clinical in nature: Medtronic, a devices giant, is developing a bedside monitor that wirelessly tracks the blood sugar levels in diabetic children sleeping nearby. General Electric has come up with 'body sensor networks', tiny wireless devices that track the vital signs of those who wear them. The most successful gadgets may be, as Eric Dishman of Intel puts it, 'surreptitious'. His firm, a big chipmaker, is investing in devices to track the health of the elderly, such as 'magic carpets' that sense erratic movements and thus can predict a fall."

Polityka 08.04.2010 (Poland)

Marek Ostrowski's commentary on the Polish-Russian memorial ceremony was rather overshadowed by the tragedy in Smolensk. But his call for the the Russians to come clean about their history remains pertinent. "Putin and Medvedev are progressing very slowly indeed with their reassessment of the Stalinist past," writes Ostrowski, because "history in Russia has a surrogate function in politics. This means that modernisation and the strengthening of the state always has an autocratic dimension, which underscores the 'holy' character of power.... The country's politics of history are so bound up with the myth of the victorious wars of the fatherland, that they cannot accomodate the 27 million victims and the crimes against its own citizens and those other nations, the Polish among them. This is a jedwabne on many levels."

Further articles: Edward Said's "Culture and Imperialism" has just been published in Poland. Waldemar Kuligowski notes that the Polish take pride in never having had colonies and therefore feel no obligation to share the guilt of European imperialism. Structurally however, the findings of 'postcolonial studies' can be applied to the Polish descriptions of its former Eastern territories or Kresy, in the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. "Had Said been familiar with 'With Fire and Sword', his criticism would have been even more damning." Said would have branded Henryk Sienkiewicz as Poland's greatest Orientalist, on the basis of his descriptions of the Cossacks, Tartars and Ruthenians. But since his writings are still compulsory reading, his conviction that Poland should carry western civilisation to Eastern Europe is still at work today.

New York Times 10.04.2010 (USA)

Don't listen to the climate sceptics, is the advice Paul Krugman gives in an epic article. "Building a Green Economy" is its title and it is written from the following standpoint: "If there is a significant chance of utter catastrophe, that chance — rather than what is most likely to happen — should dominate cost-benefit calculations". Yet he remains optimistic: "Like the debate over climate change itself, the debate over climate economics looks very different from the inside than it often does in popular media. The casual reader might have the impression that there are real doubts about whether emissions can be reduced without inflicting severe damage on the economy. In fact, once you filter out the noise generated by special-interest groups, you discover that there is widespread agreement among environmental economists that a market-based program to deal with the threat of climate change — one that limits carbon emissions by putting a price on them — can achieve large results at modest, though not trivial, cost."

Also in the New York Times Book Review: "Don Quixote" translator Edith Grossman, whom Harold Bloom dubbed the "Glenn Gould of translators", gives an empassioned explanation of why translation matters (excerpt). Richard Howard, himself a translator, raises his hat to her, in view of the "drastic inadequacy of the treatment generally offered to translated literature in this country". There is also an short interview with Grossman. And a review of Ian Buruma's new book "Taming the Gods – Religion and Democracy on Three Continents" (excerpt). - let's talk european