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Magazine Roundup

Al Ahram Weekly | The New Republic | | Rue89 | Nepszabadsag | The New Statesman | L'Espresso | Dawn | Granta | London Review of Books

Al Ahram Weekly 30.09.2010 (Egypt)

Mohammad Shoair collects reactions to the news that the Kuwait Book Fair, has banned 120 Egyptian books – among them works by Gamal El-Ghitani, Khairy Shalaby and Alaa al Aswani. The publishers responded with reserve; the writers with indignation: "Galal Amin, for one, feels that the banning of his autobiography may be understandable in the light of its content: 'In my book I spoke of the years I spent in Kuwait, and perhaps they are sensitive about this.' Yet there is never any justification for banning a book, he insists. 'Such custody over the minds of the people is unacceptable.' Yet the novelist Khairy Shalaby is even more incensed: 'What is there in my book that could offend the censor? What is there in Ibrahim Aslan's book 'Two Rooms and a Hall'? It is about the relation between two spouses: the wife dies and the husband remains alone.' For Shalaby a book fair that bans this many books gives up its credibility as a book fair."

Further articles: Ati Metwaly reviews a production of "The Marriage of Figaro" at the Cairo Opera (with an angry aside to the director Abdalla Saad: This opera is "witty; it pulsates with motion; it is full not only of satire and laughter but also of intelligence!")

The New Republic 01.10.2010 (USA)

Exercising the sort of self-control one would expect from a professor of law, Lawrence Lessig takes a scalpel to the Facebook film "The Social Network". The writer Aaron Sorkin, who boasted in interviews about having no clue about the Internet - has missed the point about the Facebook story. It's not about the boy wonder Mark Zuckerberg, it's not even about the idea of a social network. It's about the fact that Zuckerberg could set the thing in motion for less than 1,000 dollars and without having to ask permission from providers, universities, institutions or commercial companies - because the Internet is free and open. "The tragedy - small in the scale of things, no doubt - of this film is that practically everyone watching it will miss this point. Practically everyone walking out will think they understand genius on the Internet. But almost none will have seen the real genius here. And that is tragedy because just at the moment when we celebrate the product of these two wonders - Zuckerberg and the Internet - working together, policymakers are conspiring ferociously with old world powers to remove the conditions for this success. As 'network neutrality' gets bargained away - to add insult to injury, by an administration that was elected with the promise to defend it - the opportunities for the Zuckerbergs of tomorrow will shrink. And as they do, we will return more to the world where success depends upon permission. And privilege. And insiders. And where fewer turn their souls to inventing the next great idea."

Similar frustrations about the film are expressed by Nathan Heller in Slate and Jeff Jarvis in the Huff Post. 18.09.2010 (Slovakia in English)

The Slovenian author Drago Jancar explains in the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza (translated into English by Salon), why the Slovenian critique of Andrzej Wajda's film "Katyn" was either non-existent or extremely restrained. Because the film touches on a Slovenian trauma: the murders of thousands of Slovenians by the communists shortly after the end of WWII. "It's true that members of the Slovenian territorial army, notorious nationalists and anticommunists, were driven by their opposition to communism to collaborating with the German occupying forces during the war. Many would have deserved to be prosecuted and punished. But those of us who claim allegiance to the anti-Fascist and resistance tradition cannot accept the pointless and horrible belief, still surviving in a part of Slovenian society, that the murdered ones received 'just' punishment. As early as in the 1970s, after the poet Edvard Kocbek was almost lynched for having publicly spoken about these horrific events and expressing a very public remorse, the Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Böll said in Kocbek‘s defence that nothing can justify unlawfully committed mass murder."

Rue89 04.10.2010 (France)

Ghizlaine Khairi reports on the end of the Moroccan weekly Nichane, which opened in 2006 as the Arabic arm of the magazine TelQuel. Alongside the legal persecution of critical journalists, it was a year-long advertising boycott that signed the death warrant for the magazine. "The crippling advertising boycott against Nichane is by no means unique in the Moroccan media world. The strategy is essentially a government policy which is used against any publication that is regarded as 'disruptive' ... The message is clear: every publication which crosses the 'red line' will be blocked. If at the start of the King Mohammed VI's regency a number of observers talked about a journalistic spring in Morocco, the situation today is significantly more sinister."

Nepszabadsag 02.10.2010 (Hungary)

"Hungary's liberal democracy is being turned into a totalitarian democracy in front of our very eyes," writes philosopher Agnes Heller, without a hint of surprise. Because this is the direction Hungarian democracy has been taking for 20 years. "In Romania, Poland and even Czechoslovakia, the post-communist transition was brought about through the will of the citizens... And here? Opposition and state parties sat around the round table, making agreements. And where were the citizens? Sitting at home watching TV while everything passed over their heads. Why would they now regard the endangered constitution as anything to do with them? The Hungarian citizens have never learned to honour their constitution, they are not concerned about its contents, now or in the future. We are all responsible for this state of affairs. [...] Entrenchment in a political camp has become the sole criteria for political thought; blame and slander of the the opposition or their motives, a knee-jerk reaction. So why are we acting so surprised that we now have to pay the price? It is meagre consolation that the current government will also have to pay the price for its mistakes – political sins and errors have to be paid for in this world – because this price will be paid by the entire country."

The New Statesman 01.10.2010 (UK)

The Facebook film confirms Laurie Penny's suspicions that modern capitalism is the product of frustrated men who couldn't get a girlfriend in college. "'The Social Network' is the reminder that a resource that re-defined the human interactions of five hundred million people across the globe was germinated in an act of vengeful misogyny. Woman-hating is the background noise of this story. Aaron Sorkin's dazzlingly scripted showdown between awkward, ambitious young men desperate for wealth and respect phrases women and girls as glorified sexual extras, lovely assistants in the grand trick whose reveal is the future of human business and communication."

Filmmaker Erik Gandini ("Videocracy") talks in an interview with Daniel Trilling about Berlusconi and his TV state: "Italy is not a fascist country but if there is something totalitarian in our culture, it's in a very modern way. This celebrity culture has created a system of values which is actually a system of non-values where nothing really matters. I don't think Lele Mora is a politically convinced fascist, I think he's more an example of lack of ideology rather than ideology and that is even more scary because in Italy now I think the core of this culture is the pressure to always be having fun."

L'Espresso 01.10.2010 (Italy)

All hell broke loose over Sakineh Ashtani but no one said a word about Teresa Lewis. If we are against the death penalty for alleged adulteresses, then we should also have saved a woman who organised the killing of her husband and stepson, blusters Umberto Eco in his Bustina column. "I would like to know whether all the defenders of the west, among them a veritable French first lady, rushed to protest against the American death penalty as they did the Iranian one. I imagine the answer is no, if only because the death penalty is dealt out in the USA – not to mention China – with such reguarity that we have grown accostomed to it, whereas the idea of a woman being stoned to death carries much greater impact. I have to admit that when I was asked to sign the protest against the stoning of the Iranian woman, I did so immediately, without knowing that at the same time, a woman in Virginia was being killed. Would we still have protested if the Iranian woman had been sentenced to death by a peaceful lethal injection? Are we upset about the stoning or the fact that someone is being killed for violating not the fifth but the sixth commandment? I'm not sure, but I do know that our reactions are often instinctive and irrational."

Dawn 03.10.2010 (Pakistan)

Dawn reports on the dire state of the textile industry in Pakistan after the floods. Europe and America are too busy trying to save their own industries to worry about anyone else: "Pakistan has allies, including the US Chamber of Commerce, that want to expand the reconstruction zone legislation to cover the entire country, or at least the area hit by the floods. Such proposals face stiff opposition from the American textile and apparel industry, which has lost more than 250,000 jobs – more than one-third of its work force – since 2004, according to the National Council of Textile Organizations. 'At a time when America is struggling to recover from the worst economic downturn in 80 years, and with national unemployment at historic levels, the last thing that the Obama administration should consider is a proposal that destroys critical manufacturing jobs,' US textile industry groups said in a Sept. 1 letter opposing the US chamber's call for expanding the legislation in light of the floods."

Further articles: Tehmina Khaled reports on a proud moment at the Bridal Asia 2010 in New Delhi: "Where Indian designers lack innovation and style, their counterparts in Pakistan are busy creating new cuts, silhouettes and patterns. Sonya Battla's innovative draping, the flowing and seductive cuts of Sana Safinaz and Shehla Rehman, the versatile silhouettes of Rizwan Beyg and Umar Sayeed all speak volumes about creativity and talent."

Granta 28.09.2010 (UK)

New writing from Pakistan is the focus of the current Granta magazine. Online four of the contributors, Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Daniyal Mueenuddin and Kamila Shamsie inform anyone toying with the idea, how to write about Pakistan: "Pakistan is just like India, except when it's just like Afghanistan. (Has anyone else noticed how we seem to have geographically shifted from being a side-thought of the subcontinent to a major player in the Greater Middle East? Is this progress?) It will become clear whether the Pakistan of our work is Indo-Pak or Af-Pak depending on whether the cover has paisley designs or bombs/minarets/menacing men in shalwar kameezes (there are no other kinds of men in shalwar kameezes.) If women are on the cover, then the two possible Pakistans are expressed through choice of clothing: is it bridal wear or burkhas? On the subject of women, they never have agency. Unless they break all the rules, in which case they're going to end up dead. I don't think there's anything else
to be said about them, is there?"

In an essay Azhar Abidi travels through the Swat valley and tries to determine when the circle of violence in the area began. 1947? 1979? "Alexander the Great rampaged through Afghanistan in 330 B.C.; Genghis Khan laid waste to it in 1221. Timur (Tamburlaine of Marlowe) was drawing blood there five hundred years before Queen Victoria. After that, it was Brezhnev's turn, followed by Tony Blair and Bush, et al. Perhaps there is no year zero."

London Review of Books 07.10.2010 (UK)

With obvious pleasure Marina Warner reads Laurie Maquire's literary biography of Helen of Troy, which traces her manifold renderings from Ancient Greece to Hollywood: "Amid all these normative uses of Helen of Troy and her changes of shape, it’s easy to forget the irreducible strangeness of Greek stories. It remains an unfailing source of wonder – and perplexity – how brilliantly they imagined things and how ingeniously they constructed a possible reality. The egg from which Helen was hatched used to be displayed in the temple of her brothers Castor and Pollux (they came out of the second egg produced by the union of Leda and Zeus) on the island of Corfu. Pausanias tells us he travelled there and saw the shell hanging over the altar, tied up in ribbons. The only relic of Helen on earth was probably a dinosaur egg."

Further articles: James Lever, who obviously knows his Franzen, is not denying that "Freedom" is well written and has its moments of brilliance. The overall effect, however, is of TV: "a pleasantly classy mini-series, taking its time, with mild cliffhangers". David Runciman reads Tony Blair's memoirs as the self-confessions of a man who failed by trying to control something he believed he could control but which could never be controlled. There is also a review of Abbas Kiarostami's new film "Certified Copy" starring Juliette Binoche, which was pure torture for Michael Wood even it was intended that way (three excerpts). - let's talk european