Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Magyar Narancs | Elet es Irodalom | Blätter f. dt. u. int. Politik | La regle du jeu | Slate | Tygodnik Powszechny | The Times Literary Supplement | Nepszabadsag | Przekroj | Prospect | Polityka | The New York Times

Magyar Narancs 15.07.2010 (Hungary)

Hungarian novelist Noemi Kiss celebrates Herta Müller's book "Everything I Own I Carry With Me" (excerpt in English) which has just been translated into Hungarian: "As in her earlier work the writing is characterised by the most unique poetry; it is never smooth and always acts as a thorn in the side of conventional speech. The language and the subject matter are always in such overriding harmony that the combined effect is deeply unsettling. Through her incomparable imagery and portmanteau words she creates her own poetry – and with it a German 'dialect' to describe the helplessness and homelessness of a minority which has been forced to the periphery."

Elet es Irodalom 23.07.2010 (Hungary)

Author Zsolt Lange was deeply moved by Herta Müller's novel which writes about survivors of the Russian Gulag: "It is difficult to describe the humiliation because in so doing you realise that it was nothing like what you are describing. The sentences sound weightless. You feel ashamed for the shame that is being described, you feel ashamed about the lies. [...] The characters in this book make the most poignant efforts to find a home for themselves and after a while the camp becomes their home. But when you return home after five years in a camp you will feel completely lost and will only feel at home when immersed in the memories of the camp. He feels a compulsion to write everything down. If it was up to him he would spend his entire time talking about what it was like and what happened. The intensity of the moments he experiences are relived as the most beautiful poetry, as incredibly beautiful plastic poetry which can be touched and felt."

"The Third Republic is dying", writes Gabor Halmai a professor of constitutional law who has read the writing on the wall. The government is taking control of the media, having denounced the past two decades as a "chaotic era of transition" which must now be overcome. The office of president and other vacant positions in the constitutional court are being filled with party soldiers and trusted companions of the ruling Fidesz party. The tragedy, Halmai says, is that popular opinion is in favour of this process which could see Hungary heading down the same path as Latin American and Russia. "As in these countries the majority of the population does not value rule of law. In a recent survey here the majority of the respondents showed ' no signs of democratic thinking'. Seventy-five percent were in favour of 'a government that has a tight hold on the reigns and doesn't permit party debates', and 52 percent believed that in the current situation 'one strong party which speaks for the whole country' is what was needed. As a university professor I cannot say that the prospect looks any rosier in academia either."

Blätter f. dt. u. int. Politik 01.08.2010 (Germany)

In a speech held recently in Frankfurt, Jürgen Habermas called for an extension of the concept of human rights to encompass human dignity and for an introduction of more socially-oriented basic laws, into the province of human rights. The experience of violated human dignity creates an understanding of the importance of protecting human dignity: "With regards to intolerable social living conditions and the marginalisation of impoverished social classes; with regards to the inequality of men and women in the workplace, the discrimination against cultural, linguistic, religious and racial minorities; also with regards to the suffering of young women from immigrant backgrounds who have to free themselves from the violence of traditional codes of honour; or regarding the brutal deportation of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers. In the course of historical challenges other aspects of the meaning of human dignity will come to light; these specific aspects of human dignity which have arisen from diverse circumstances can also lead to a further-reaching extension of the normative nature of traditional human rghts as well as to the discovery and construction of new basic rights."

La regle du jeu 26.07.2010 (France)

Predrag Matvejevitch one of Croatia's leading intellectuals could be behind bars this time tomorrow. His only crime was to describe an ultra-nationalist Croatian poet as the "Catholic Taliban" whereupon he was promptly sued for libel. In his blog La regle du jeu, Bernard-Henri Levy has brought together a string of prominent authors including Umberto Eco, Claudio Magris and Salman Rushdie to voice their protest. Maria de Franca outlines the case: "Matvejevitch regards his punishment as unjust and unworthy of a constitutional state. He is arguing for freedom of expression and is rebelling against what he calls a 'punishable metaphor'. This is why he will not be filing an appeal. The prime minister is aware of the rising indignation from abroad and has spoken out against the sentence.... Is it acceptable that a country on the brink of EU accession can treat someone like a criminal for taking a public stand against an ultra-nationalist poet? La RDJ has also published a translation of Matvejevich's text which cost him his freedom.

Slate 23.07.2010 (USA)

Ron Rosenbaum puffs out his chest to announce the next big Nabokov controversy. It all started when he was shown a mock-up of a stand-alone edition of the 999 line poem "Pale Fire" which forms the centrepiece to the novel of the same name. The publishers of what he describes as "this unique object, part book, part artwork, part literary manifesto" are challenging the world to completely rethink what is "arguably Nabokov's greatest work". "Perhaps Nabokov saw 'Pale Fire' and Pale Fire as both separable and inseparable. Perhaps he wrote the poem first, intending it to be taken on its own terms, and only then had the idea of creating a novel around it in order to give us one of his greatest characters, Kinbote." The only information about the project on the Ginko Press website, however, is a drawing by Joan Holabird.

Tygodnik Powszechny 25.07.2010 (Poland)

The literary magazine of the Polish weekly focusses on a new wave of Polish interest in Fyodor Dostoevsky. In a blandly titled but otherwise excellent essay "Dostoevsky: Reloaded" the literary academic Przemyslaw Czaplinski considers the Russian writer's relevance today: "There are few problems of our time which Dostoevsky did not address: freedom, the consequences of the existence or non-existence of God, the sacrifice of the individual for the common good, revolution as the annihilation of human purpose. We can try to understand the dilemmas we face today by trying to understand his novels." Dostoevsky, he says, confronted the modern world as it gathered momentum with all its horrors, utopias and godlessness, with the Christian concept of forgiveness.

The novelist Inga Iwasiow casts an ironic glance at the Polish reception of the great Russian writer: "The envy is combined with our ambivalent feelings about Russian culture: we love it, we hate it, we admire it we mock it. We love it so much because we can always play it down by pointing to all the horrors, the standard of living, the contempt for human life, the sins committed against smaller nations. Poland is full of books that say that Dostoevsky hated Poland but could speak Polish. We find this reassuring because nothing is more hurtful to us than a lack of sensibility towards the charms of our language. The oh-so-great Dostoevsky was familiar with our culture and even secretly admired it, he read Mickiewicz and might even have copied him." When asked about a Polish Dostoevsky, Iwasiow suggests that only one writer, Zofia Nalkowska, could come close to his ability to understand and portray the tragedy of existence at the close of the 19th century.

Other articles: Grzegorz Jankowicz tells the story of Vladimir Nabokov's criticism of Dostoevsky and his type of writing.

The Times Literary Supplement 23.07.2010 (UK)

In Sheila Rowbotham's book "Women who invented the twentieth century", Daphne Spain discovered that "adventurous dreamers had marvellous names. ... The American anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre, whose father named her after the Enlightenment philosopher, was an ardent proponent of free love. One should 'never allow love to be vulgarized by the common indecencies of continuous close communication', she maintained, nor was she keen on children, mocking the maternal instinct and defending the childless. Then there was the British author Margaret Storm Jameson who wrote forty-five novels before dying at the age of ninety-five. And Elsie Clews Parsons, an American, who wrote articles about sex before anyone discussed it in polite company. The British social reformer Clementina Black declared that the bicycle 'was doing more for the independence of women than anything expressly designed to that end'; noting that chaperones and maids could be left behind on cycling trips."

"If Koestler was always a snob, he didn't have the behavioural uniformity of one," Jeremy Treglown concludes after reading Michael Scammell's Arthur Koestler biography. Roger Cardinal welcomes the first complete works of Lautreamont, which include his "noxiously seductive" "Chants de Maldoror" whose deeper purpose "is to sabotage the central clauses of the writer–reader contract, if not the protocols of literature at large."

Nepszabadsag 24.07.2010 (Hungary)

"Tararabumbia" is the name of a theatre performance conceived by Dmitri Krymov to celebrate Anton Chekhov 150th birthday in Moscow. It is an homage to the playwright in which over 80 actors in more than 300 costumes take to an on-stage conveyor belt as characters from Chekhov plays – alongside "delegations" from the neighbouring land of Shakespeare and the carnival of Venice. The poet and critic Akos Szilagyi watched the performance at the ninth Chekhov festival and read it as a parable of Russia. "'Tararabumbia' is more than just the theatre paying disrespectful respect to Chekhov. It is an historico-philosophical parable which places Russian on the conveyor belt of history. The conveyor belt gets ever faster, but Russia stands still, or rather marches on the spot. Even when it moves its legs as fast as it can. Because it is never society, the people, which speeds things up, it is always the state. And the state can only make the conveyor belt move faster. The costumes and the sets change but the conveyor belt and the absurdity of the movement that never goes anywhere remains the same. Russia is not yet able to get down off the conveyor belt but without it, there would be no movement at all and rot would set in. So it must keep moving, propelled by the state. Russian only moves when it is being carried. When it is being carried along by the conveyor belt. But the conveyor belt is moving in only one direction: downwards."

Przekroj 20.07.2010 (Poland)

The Wroclaw "Era New Horizons" film festival, which began this week for the tenth year in a row, is gradually establishing itself on the international festival circuit. The thematic focus this year is Turkish film which, Lukasz Wojcik writes, falls into two categories: that of the "better" more cosmopolitan, Europe-oriented Turkey, and the "Asian" Turkey which is authentic but unpredictable. "This second Turkey, although it represents the majority, only features in Turkish cinema as a synonym for religiosity (backwardness), conservatism (violence in the family) and grime. The 'superior' Turkey holds sway over the 'inferior' to the extent that the latter produces no cinematography capable of showing the world its version of events." What the west gets to see, as in the films of Ümit Ünal or Pelin Esmer, is a land straight out of the books of Orhan Pamuk. As a result, internationally recognised Turkish filmmakers are creating their own image of the country, Wojcik says, and the power of description remains firmly in the hands of the European-oriented elites.

In the print edition only: an interview with Krzysztof Wodiczko an installation artist who has developed his projects about Iraq war veterans to tie in with the festival. His interest, he explains, is not in art but in changing lives. And after making enough money in copy writing, Rafal Betlejewski began his career as an artist. At the beginning of the year he launched the much discussed project "I miss you, Jew". His latest project, which involved burning down a barn on the 69th anniversary of Jedwabne, has attracted heavy criticisism. "A performance like this which is broadcast live on TV does not make anyone reflect on what the victims experienced. You cannot express the truth about being burned alive at an art picnic," one representative of the Jewish community said. But Betlejewski is at least touching on a taboo, because most Polish artists avoid the subject of the Holocaust like the plague.

Prospect 21.07.2010 (UK)

Peter Jukes portrays the left wing social democrat and ex-Zionist historian Tony Judt, whose ALS paralysis has probably made him even more productive. It is based on a fascinating email interview which can be read here in its entirety. The conversation touches on many subjects including the role of the public intellectual: "Paradoxically, public intellectuals are best when they are grounded in a particular language, culture, debate. Thus Camus was French, Habermas is German, Sen is Bengali, Orwell was deep English. This made their cross-frontier ventures plausible, in the same way that Havel or Michnik today have street cred because they started out as courageous dissidents in a very particular time and place. The opposite is the ridiculous Slavoj Zizek: a 'global' public intellectual who is therefore of no particular interest in any one place or on any one subject. If he is the future of public intellectuals, then they have no future."

The New York Times 25.07.2010 (USA)

The Internet never forgets. Every drunken photograph, every idiotic comment is there to stay. And this is a big problem, according to the journalism professor Jay Rosen, because it violates the cherished American belief in self-reinvention. "We've known for years that the Web allows for unprecedented voyeurism, exhibitionism and inadvertent indiscretion, but we are only beginning to understand the costs of an age in which so much of what we say, and of what others say about us, goes into our permanent — and public — digital files. The fact that the Internet never seems to forget is threatening, at an almost existential level, our ability to control our identities; to preserve the option of reinventing ourselves and starting anew; to overcome our checkered pasts." Rosen describes the new spyware is in the pipeline and the counter strategies. Not that he believes they can help... - let's talk european