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07/09/2010

Magazine Roundup

Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik | London Review of Books | The Guardian | Le Monde | Salon.eu.sk | The Boston Globe | Das Magazin | Elet es Irodalom | The Economist | Liberation | NZZ Folio | Magyar Narancs | Vanity Fair

Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 01.09.2010 (Germany)

For Patrick Bahners, Islam critics like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Necla Kelek and Ralph Giordano are the Treitschkes of today. In 1879, historian Heinrich von Treitschke proclaimed: "Right up into the most educated circles, among men, that is, who would deny any hint of confessional intolerance or national pride are intoning in unison: the Jews our misfortune!" His fellow historian Theodor Mommsen responded one year later: "Herr von Trietschke is a powerful speaker; but he himself could scarcely have believed that his allocution would inspire the Jews, as he put it, to suddenly all become German. And if not, what then?" It is precisely this question, Bahners believes, that should be put to Islam critics today: "Perhaps not in unison but ever louder voices are proclaiming that Islam is the problem. What were the people behind this slogan hoping to achieve? Ralph Giordano and Henryk M. Broder are powerful speakers. But they could scarcely have believed that all Muslims of German nationality would suddenly abandon their faith after reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's autobiography. And if not, what then?"


London Review of Books 09.09.2010 (UK)

Jenny Turner has read "C", the new novel by the furious anti-realist Tom McCarthy, in which he propels his hero Serge Carrefax through the discourses of the first half of the twentieth century. And even if Turner did not immediately understanding everything in the overwhelming whirlwind of references and citations - her enjoyment was unabated. " I had a whale of a time with this book, propped on my laptop, Wikipedia open in one window and in another, the OED. It was like being a guest at the dream-party of an extremely well-read host: things read a long time ago and more or less forgotten, things never read that I always meant to, things I certainly will read now, having seen how McCarthy can make them work. He sometimes talks about his job as a writer as being like that of a DJ or curator, plugging one set of material into another: the analogy is a good one, so long as it doesn't suggest the work is unwriterly, because it's not."

Further articles: In his "Diary", Jonathan Steele lays out the known and unknown unknowns about the Taliban, who have avoided the western media for almost ten years. Tony Wood reports back from the Siberia on permafrost, "frozenology" and the broad spectrum of Russian scientific opinion on climate change. Michael Wood re-watched Bob Rafelson's semi-classic "Five Easy Pieces" on the big screen. Mary-Kay Wilmers looks back over the life of the late critic and author Frank Kermode who brought the London Review into being.


The Guardian 04.09.2010 (UK)

Comparative literature professor Gabriel Josipovici, who recently described contemporary British authors such as Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Martin Amis as limited, arrogant and self-satisfied, has written a book "What ever happened to Modernism?" Tom McCarthy receives it with open arms: "In cultural terms, we live in deeply conservative times. Editors at several major publishing houses have to run novels' synopses past reader focus groups before being allowed to publish them; 'literary' festivals feature newsreaders and other media personalities. We shouldn't imagine, though, that things were that different in the golden age of modernism. 'Ulysses' was printed, in 1922, on a small, private press in Paris, in a run of 1,000; Kafka's 'Metamorphosis', on its small-press publication in 1915, sold 11 copies – of which 10 were bought by Kafka. Yet can anyone, now, name the successful middlebrow writers of 1922 or 1915? Of course not. That alone should give Josipovici comfort."

And: Alberto Manguel celebrates Daniel Kehlmann's novel "Fame" which has just been published in English. Author Giles Goden derives scant pleasure from V.S. Naipaul's latest book "The Masque of Africa": "He never writes of Africa with anything remotely approaching love." Teeth gritted, Stephen Moss admits that Norman Lebrecht's book "Why Mahler" is not only "breathless and information-packed" but also better than much of what he has written himself.


Le Monde 01.09.2010 (France)

The Roma are Europeans and Europeans are free to travel, writes Andre Glucksmann, on the popularist deportations of the Roma in France: "The smiling face of rootlessness are the 300,000 French expats who line their pockets in the City when the stock market booms. And the tragic face are the travelling people who are chased from one wild campsite to the next and robbed of their rights to travel and beg. The Roma are frightening. To hide the Roma is to hide our brothers in rootlessness, and they are an unavoidable and frightening part of our destiny. The fear of the Roma is an unacknowledged fear of ourselves."


Salon.eu.sk 04.09.2010 (Slovakia in English)

A furious row has erupted in Poland over a cross that was hung in front of the presidential palace shortly after the plane crash in Smolensk in memory of Lech Kaczynski and the other 95 victims. It was only intended to hang there provisionally but now a group calling themselves the "crusaders" are preventing it being moved to the church of St. Anna as intended. "Welcome to Poland, the New Middle Ages", this is the slogan that should greet tourists, scoffs Magdalena Sroda in Wprost (translated by Salon into English). Forget Disneyland, this is the real thing. "
The Ministry of Education - under every government from left to right - has done everything to ensure that a state of complete ignorance is maintained in matters of ethics and contemporary moral issues. Most recently a new spokesperson for civic rights (for the New Middle Ages) has been specially picked to guarantee that ethics curricula would be drawn up in consultation with the Church. New generations have been growing up in the knowledge that there is no greater evil than abortion and homosexuality and no greater good than John Paul II, because that’s what the Vatican has decreed.


The Boston Globe 05.09.2010 (USA)

Cities have always aspired to "smart growth". But for the first time in global history, city populations are shrinking. Forward-thinking urban planning is all about "smart shrinking". Not only in East German but also in America, Drake Bennett reports. "Over the last 50 years, the city of Detroit has lost more than half its population. So has Cleveland. They're not alone: Eight of the 10 largest cities in the United States in 1950, including Boston, have since lost at least 20 percent of their population. But while Boston has recouped some of that loss in recent years and made itself into the anchor of a thriving white-collar economy, the far more drastic losses of cities like Detroit or Youngstown, Ohio, or Flint, Mich. - losses of people, jobs, money, and social ties - show no signs of turning around. The housing crisis has only accelerated the process."



Das Magazin 04.09.2010 (Switzerland)

Peter Haffner reports from Braddock, a small town in Pennsylvania whose decline started with the end of the steel industry. People continued to move away in droves, the houses collapsed and drug use rocketed. In 2005 it elected a new mayor, the 6'8", 370-pound, shaved-headed, goatee-bearded John Fetterman, a Harvard graduate from a well-do-family. "People today are talking about Braddock because Braddock saw something in it which everyone else overlooked. Instead of complaining about what it didn't have, he started promoting something it had in copious abundance: living and working space for artists with no money, for young entrepreneurs who needed to save start capital, for urban pioneers who preferred the raw to the ready. And for outsiders, like himself, who wanted to stay that way. 'It doesn't matter how much you pay me,' he says. 'I'll never move to move to New York and spend my life padding out my nest."
On the website of radio PBS Fetterman explains his policies in a video interview. One of his projects was a partnership with Levi jeans who used Braddock as the backdrop for an ad campaign in return for a chunk of cash for the community centre. The film which can be viewed on YouTube in 3 parts is not bad and it introduces some of the folks from Braddock.


Elet es Irodalom 03.09.2010 (Hungary)

The Budapest gallery Klauzal 13 is currently showing the Israeli painter Uri Asaf. The essayist Laszlo F. Földenyi stands before this "hazy world of colour with its nebulous agglomerations and undefined contours” and attempts to establish why he is so attracted to it. "Uri Asaf paints like a man who has little time left and who therefore gets straight to the point. He is only interested in what is important to him existentially. An attitude like this will always catch you unprepared. Which is why his paintings are able to engage you so immediately. [...] Asaf tries to introduce the imperceptible into the realm of the perceptible. As a painter he feels completely at home in sensuousness. Yet the further he delves into this sensuousness the finer and more distant his images become, until you realise that at a certain point, the limit of perception is the imperceptible. What that is I cannot say. I could call it immaterial or spiritual but these terms are too insubstantial. I know only that even in the depths of the most sensuous phenomena, sooner or later you encounter something that can only be described as a 'puzzle' or 'mystery'. I look at Uri Asaf's paintings and allow myself to be sucked into this puzzle."

A stable democracy requires a stable civil society and this is precisely what Hungary lacks, writes political scientist Zoltan Fleck. "Over the past two decades the sentence 'we are part of Europe' has become an empty slogan and despite all institutional compatibility, only fragments of Europeanisation have penetrated deeper into society. The flight from freedom today is stronger than the desire to become a European citizen. The latter demands civic activity, a critical attitude, the spirit of freedom and a republican morality. The illusion that these values could spontaneously emerge from our thousand-year tradition has now been replaced by the negation of all these values by the current government. These competing, mutually enforcing strategies are blocking every opportunity this country has of developing into a modern democracy."


The Economist 03.09.2010 (UK)

In a dossier on the cover story "The Web's New Walls", the Economist picks through the latest Internet trends and shifts. The issues under discussion include the hurdles in the way of convergence of film, Internet and TV (Netflix is expected to come out on top, as an online DVD rental company which also streams movies); the question of net neutrality or rather the balkanisation of a net that once unified people; and – most interestingly perhaps – the dystopian possibilities opened up by new technologies for data interpretation: "Broadening data mining to include analysis of social networks makes new things possible. Modelling social relationships is akin to creating an 'index of power', says Stephen Borgatti, a network-analysis expert at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. In some companies, e-mails are analysed automatically to help bosses manage their workers. Employees who are often asked for advice may be good candidates for promotion, for example… Or a loan applicant may be a bad risk, or even a fraudster, if he plans to launch a type of business which has no links to his social network, education, previous business dealings or travel history, which can be pieced together with credit-card records… Some insurers reduce premiums for banks that protect themselves with such software."


Liberation 03.09.2010 (France)

While Germany is caught up in its debate about Muslims and immigration, France, led by Bernard-Henri Levy, continues to campaign against the planned stoning of the Iranian woman Sakineh Ashtiani on charges of adultery and murder. For Liberation, Levy conducted a mobile phone interview with Ashtianis son Sajjad, a bus conductor, who reports on the latest harassment of his mother. Then comes the following passage. "Sajjad: my mother who has done nothing, is being threatened with stoning. While the real murderer, Taheri, walks free…. Levy: Because you forgave him. Sajjad: Yes. He has a three-year old daughter. He cried a lot while talking to us. My sister and I did not want to be responsible for his execution." Ashtani's execution has been suspended. But, Liberation reports, Ashtani has since been sentenced to a further 99 lashes.

Levy's blog La regle du jeu continues to collect letters from prominent figures to Ashtani. Those who have written so far include Isabelle Huppert and Roberto Saviano.


NZZ Folio 06.09.2010 (Switzerland)

NZZ Folio had the wonderful idea of asking nine writers: to send them a story about the future. Yoko Tawada, Milena Moser, Judith Hermann, Wilhelm Genazino, Dorothee Elmiger, Anton Grünberg, Leon de Winter, Lars Gustafsson Brigitte Kronauer kindly obliged (all links here).

In Brigitte Kronauer's story, the future appears to three friends Franz, Hans and Heinz over an evening game of chess, in the form of Herr Fendle. Here's how it begins: "Sometimes Herr Fritzle, Fritzle of the standard roses near the pedestrian underpass, really has to pull himself together playing chess. Only moments ago he was sitting quietly over a glass of Genever with his friends and another guest at the table, he still is in fact, but his composure has evaporated. Fritzle suddenly sensed someone standing outside, peering in through the window at the four of them, sitting there so snugly. This someone was doing no harm, but he was staring at them most disgracefully. Fritzle, this is the uncanny bit, suddenly saw himself, his two friends and good old Gadow, through the hungry sockets of the onlooker's eyes, gruesomely exposed, stripped of their protective coating. Fritzle, so much is clear, would never let this person, this vermin, inside, even if his nose started bleeding from pressing at the window! Of course Fritzle doesn't utter a word about all this. He just breathes a sigh of relief when the inspection from the night is over for the time being."


Magyar Narancs 26.08.2010 (Hungary)

Since September 11, the secret services have returned to their Cold War practices in many respects, according to the philosopher Attila Ara-Kovacs. In many western statea the response has been to try to fight the domestic consequences of this policy. But this can go very wrong, Ara-Kovacs says, citing the recent Wikileaks publication of secret documents: "This experiment is an attempt by the children and grandchildren of the former pop generation to deny the state the right to protect society at any cost. In the end Julian Assange, the father of Wikileaks, published only secret documents relating to the self-defence of the West – he never said a word about the Islamist ties of the Turkish or Pakistani leadership, about Tehran's nuclear plans, about the corrupt economic machinations and torture by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard, or Putin's secret weapon plans in the Caucasus and the Arctic. In this respect Assange is no better thab Lenin's 'useful idiots' who between 1920 and 1950 passed on secrets not to their own democratic states but to the Soviet Union, that inhumane object of their illusions, and still felt their actions were justified when the consequences had destroyed every last illusion."


Vanity Fair 01.10.2010 (USA)

Michael Lewis sends a devastating report from Greece. The country has only itself to blame, he concludes, for the disastrous state of affairs. "Our people went in and couldn't believe what they found,' a senior I.M.F. official told me, not long after he'd returned from the I.M.F.'s first Greek mission. 'The way they were keeping track of their finances - they knew how much they had agreed to spend, but no one was keeping track of what he had actually spent. It wasn't even what you would call an emerging economy. It was a Third World country.' As it turned out, what the Greeks wanted to do, once the lights went out and they were alone in the dark with a pile of borrowed money, was turn their government into a pinata stuffed with fantastic sums and give as many citizens as possible a whack at it. In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms-and that number doesn't take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year."

Full of admiration for his subject David Kirkpatrick profiles the internet genius Sean Parker, who by the age of 16 had hacked into the systems of multinationals, at 19 helped found Napster, and aged 24, helped build Facebook in 2004. David Fincher has now made a film about him: "The Social Network" with Justin Timberlake playing Parker. "As crafted by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, Parker comes across as a pushy, greedy-and, yes, visionary-schemer. 'A million dollars isn't cool,' Parker says at one point in the movie. 'You know what's cool? A billion dollars.' Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, comes across as cocky, angry, and somewhat sex-obsessed."

Christopher Hitchens makes it clear that despite the most well-meaning prayers, he stands very little chance of recovery, but he expresses his gratitude for the medical help from the outstanding and devoutly Christian doctor Francis Collins.
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