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20/07/2010

Magazine Roundup

Mediapart | The Nation | Osteuropa | The Guardian | Caffe Europa | Babelia | 3quarksdaily | Frontline | openDemocracy | London Review of Books


Mediapart 17.07.2010 (France)

The French magazine Mediapart played a leading role in the recent exposure of political corruption in France (Bettencourt cash to Sarkozy and the state secretary's 12,000 euro expenses bill for cigars). But the rest of the nation's media has taken umbrage. Liberation even published an article complaining that too many political scandals would play into the hands of the Front national. Mickael Marie responds to this accusation in an article that is also available to non-subscribers: "Much louder than the loud and very legitimate outrage is the denial of the misconduct - and it is this that fuels the far right's fire. If politicians and the media give the citizens the feeling that some sort of corporatist solidarity is at work here – then the rhetoric of the Front national will only get louder."


The Nation 01.08.2010 (USA)

The publisher Colin Robinson has a bone to pick with Amazon: firstly because its giant book data bank is leading ever greater numbers of people to read an ever smaller number of books. And secondly, because the internet booksellers with their stranglehold on market share are dictating prices: "Of course, everyone loves low prices, but as with breadth of choice, the matter is more complex than it first appears. To achieve such low prices retailers must seek ever deeper discounts from publishers. A decade ago the average wholesale discount for a book was in the region of 40 percent. Today it's more like 50 percent, and for many of the large outlets it can be 60 percent or more. Amazon clearly anticipates that the trend of deeper discounts and lower prices will continue. One prominent British publisher told me his sales director returned from a visit with Amazon at which he had been forced to grant better terms. 'The good news,' he reported back, "is they said I don't have to go in and see them again for eighteen months.'

Osteuropa 13.07.2010 (Germany)

The new Osteuropa magazine is entirely dedicated to remembering the Jewish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, who left Poland for the Soviet Union after the German invasion, and became a protege of Dmitri Shostakovich. "It is a mystery that one of the most creative composers of the 20th century could have been ignored for so long," write Manfred Sapper and Voker Weichsel in the editorial. Weinberg's first symphony was dedicated to the Red Army, later his works were performed by Mstislav Rostropovich and David Oistrach. He eventually fell out of favour with Stalin and was thrown into prison.

The British musicologist David Fanning argues that Weinberg's work should not be smothered by his Soviet past: "Weinberg's works often refer directly to the outside world, particularly in reaction to the Second World War and its consequences. And just as many of his works deal with love, desire, mortality and the quest for meaning. It is as hard to capture in words as it is uplifting in the concert hall. However tempting it might be to present Weinberg as a sort of moral lodestar, his message had nothing to do with communism or political engagement of any sort. The only label he he would have been comfortable with is "anti-fascist". His message, if you can call it that, is about what it means to be a human and an artist among the turbulences of the 20th century."

Here Rostropovitch play the cello concerto



Further articles: the Auschwitz survivor Zofia Posmysz, whose novel "The Passenger" inspired one of Weinberg's operas, remembers her time in the concentration camp, her work on the book and Weinberg's remoteness. Reinhard Flender writes about the friendship between Weinberg and Shostakovich. Stefan Weiss addresses the persecution of Soviet composers and Verena Mogl introduces Weinberg's film music.


The Guardian 19.07.2010 (UK)

Charles Rosen the pianist and author of the musicology classic "The Classical Style" has written a new book "Music and Sentiment". Simon Callow was swept off his feet: "What is astonishing, given the rigour of the analysis and the apparent technicality of the approach, is how moving the book is. His account of the first movement of Mozart's String Quartet in G major, K387, revealing what he characteristically calls its 'variety of affective nuances', closely analyses every dynamic contrast, the alternation between diatonic and chromatic harmony, 'the hidden and symmetrical contrast of sentiments'. It gives a profound insight into a work that has always stirred me without my ever comprehending why."

The paper also publishes two other music-related articles of note: Nicholas Wroe meets the impresario Victor Hochhauser who brought the Bolshoi Ballet to London at his own risk and, back in the day, took in Mstislav Rostropovitch who had just emigrated to the West. Richard Williams talks to Manfred Eicher, the founder of the famous ECM jazz label.


Caffe Europa 10.07.2010 (Italy)

Is she grasping at straws or coming to the rescue of Western values in Italy? The philosopher Franca D'Agostini has written a book about the manipulative powers of the media in the 21st century, turning for help to a comrade who died 2,350 years ago. In his review Alessandro Lanni wishes her well: "The spin doctors of today, the author writes, are clearly the heirs of the sophists of antiquity. Those 'democrats' whom Plato once opposed, cultivated a type of reasoning which paved the way for the totalitarianisms of the future. It was those champions of relative truth who were torn to shreds by Plato's Sophist Dialogue, the Dialogue which formed the foundations of Western metaphysics and with it, the possibility of truth. Franca D'Agostini's handbook is aimed at finding a cure for such Karl Roves avant la lettre, the 'poisoners of public discourse. 'Using the Socratic prescription' to teach people how to differentiate between good and bad arguments, and sophistry from genuine thought. These are new rules to help us form a conscience of our own and tools we can use to proctect ourselves from the stuff streams out of our TV sets every day."


Babelia 17.07.2010 (Spain)

The Argentinean writer Martin Kohan talks to Leila Guerriero about his new novel and his love of obsession: "I am fascinated by obsession on so many levels. In literature it drives me express the same thing in different ways and different forms every time, to get as close to the things as I possibly can – I find this irresistible. This excessive attention to detail, this passionate harping on about one and the same thing inevitably means you lose touch with your surroundings a little. To dwell on each individual word, to select every single word by carefully weighing it up, to savour the intensity of the lettering – this is the way I like to write. The idea that what I experience and what I am and what I am writing all coincide is not so interesting to me – I like literature as contrast, as compensation, as another place and a place of others, a place where I can rest from myself and my experiences."


3quarksdaily 19.07.2010 (USA)

For 3quarksdaily Colin Marshall conducts an epic interview with David Lipsky, the author of "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace" (excerpt) about exactly that: "He had this great thing, which I think about literally every day a couple of times, he just said that what modern life is about now is being on one end or the other of electronic data transfer, which is so brilliant. That's how it feels when I'm working. That's how it feels when I'm answering e-mail or sending e-mail or going on Twitter or going on Facebook. I think, 'God, he nailed it, and he nailed it in 1996.'"


Frontline 19.07.2010 (India)

T.K. Rajalakshmi reports that India's government and police are increasingly coming under criticism for doing too little to end to the widespread practice of "honour killing". It is not only couples from different religions who are targeted but also those from different castes. Rajalakshmi reports on a triple murder in the newly prosperous village of Wazirpur near Delhi: "It was in this setting that Kuldeep, a Rajput boy, and Monica, a Gujjar, decided to tie the knot four years ago. They were the first couple to have married out of caste in the 400-year-old village. On June 21, two of the girl's cousins, in their early 20s, killed them in the name of honour. The next day, another girl, a cousin of Monica, too, was found murdered. The boys, who confessed to the crime, said they could not bear the taunts of the villagers after the girls had supposedly 'shamed' them, one by marrying out of caste and the other by aspiring to be a model."


openDemocracy 15.07.2010 (UK)

The Russian poet Tatiana Shcherbina voices her exasperation at the verdict pronounced by a Moscow court against the two curators of the Forbidden Art exhibition, Andrei Erofeev and Yuri Samodurov. "As always, no one is clever enough to be able to see what this process is doing to the country. They can't see the historical precedents. It's all interconnected and this petty evil is threatening, or completely destroying, the vast potential of future international development. But we’re so carried away by 'being ourselves' that we’re unable to grasp that the unter-Soviet widow is writing herself out of the world context. Just like in the good old days when they used to say 'I haven't read any Pasternak, but I can tell you about him', when Brodsky was on trial for parasitism and an exhibition was razed to the ground by a bulldozer."

Sara Silvestri complains that the burqa ban, which is gradually making its way across Europe, does not take into account the often paradoxical reasons why Muslim women cover up: "One young niqabi told me that she felt the need to put on her face-veil and long black robe because otherwise people (i.e. non-Muslims) would not be interested to hear her opinions!" And Andy Williams describes the decline and of the two Welsh newspapers, the Daily Post and the Western Mail.


London Review of Books 22.07.2010 (UK)

James Meek ploughs through a pile of books about the life, writings and death of Leo Tolstoy and resists the urge to sing the great man's praises too excessively in the resulting, detailed report. Here, he writes about the media feeding frenzy surrounding the deathbed of the poet and visionary, as recounted in a book by William Nickell: "The room in the stationmaster’s house in Astapovo where the dying Tolstoy was lodged was the eye of a news hurricane. A horde of reporters elbowing their way through crowds of onlookers sent out their despatches in thousands of telegrams to hundreds of newspapers, some of which gave over half their editorial space to a kind of frozen proto-blog. 'Please delete that Tolstoy ate two eggs, incorrect: drank only milk tea,' one telegram reads. The cameras were there, and the cinematograph. You can see Tolstoy on YouTube."

Renewed violence broke out in Kashmir recently. Security forces shot at the demonstrators leaving eleven dead – and the whole tragedy was as good as ignored by the western media. Tariq Ali reports on the history of the repression of the Muslim majority in Kashmir, up to the present day, and explains why this looks unlikely to change:"Public opinion in India is mute. The parties of the left prefer to avoid the subject for fear that political rivals will question their patriotism. Kashmir is never spoken of, and has never been allowed to speak. With its Muslim majority it wasn't permitted a referendum in 1947 to determine which of the two countries it wished to be part of. In 1984, when Indira Gandhi was the Indian prime minister, I asked her why she had not taken advantage of the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 ... and allowed a referendum. She remained silent. ...These days the very suggestion seems utopian."

Further articles: Daniel Soar wonders about the point of the ten Russian spies in the U.S. who have just had their covers blown. Michael Wood watches Godard's "Breathless" on its 50th birthday. Peter Campbell visits the "Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries" show in the National Gallery. Andrew Cockburn reads a book on the sanctions against Iraq from 1990 to 2003.
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