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30/11/2010

Magazine Roundup

openDemocracy  | Rue89  |  Literaturen  | The New Yorker | Elet es Irodalom | spiked  | The Guardian | Le point | The Boston Globe | HVG | Eurozine | Prospect

openDemocracy 26.11.2010 (UK)

The Russian TV journalist Leonid Parfyonov used a live broadcast award ceremony speech, which could not be interrupted or censored, to launch an attack against the Russian state TV. OpenDemocracy posts the video and a translated transcript. Here an excerpt: "Following some genuine and alleged sins in the 1990s and 2000s, 'federal' television was nationalized with two aims – first in order to eliminate the media oligarchy and second to create a united front in the war on terror. Media stories, and with them all of life, now fall into two immutable categories: those that can be broadcast on television and those that cannot. Every politically significant broadcast is read as an indication of the state's goals and intentions, of its mood and attitude, its friends and foes. Institutionally this is not even information but rather state PR or anti-PR.


Rue89  28.11.2010 (France)

Rue89 is nervously biting its nails. Pascal Riche and David Servenay turn to demographer Emmanuel Todd to find out whether the future's all Right from now on. "The likelihood seems high. Europe has swerved sharply to the right. But we are not the worst off. The average age in France is 40, whereas in Germany it's 44. Germany is the most advanced senile democracy which means that the over 70s have the economic advantage. But 'new oldies' are on the way, who have had harder working lives and whose income will drop once they hit retirement age. The golden post-war era was just a parenthesis. What do things look like for 'new oldies' like myself? I'm not terribly optimistic."


Literaturen 29.11.2010 (Germany)

In what looks like a Spiegel Christmas special, Jesus Christ himself graces the cover of Literaturen magazine. In the accompanying interview, theologian Gerd Lüdemann takes the Lord down a peg or two. In his opinion, 95 percent of Jesus' words in the New Testament are mumbo-jumbo, the Gospels are anti-Semitist and holiness does not enter into it: "Everything suggests that Jesus was essentially a healer and an exorcist. And these two things are connected because illness in Jesus' day was linked to demonic possession in popular belief. The oldest miracles recorded in the gospels are all about casting out demons, and the majority of theologians regard these exorcisms as historically authentic. Not that this means they believe in demons. I imagine that Jesus had strong psychosomatic powers of empathy, special healing abilities, which would have seemed magical to both himself and his peers."


The New Yorker 06.12.2010 (USA)

Kelefah Sanneh introduces a number of books on a previously under-charted poetic genre: hip-hop and rap, among them Adam Bradley's "Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop" and Jay-Z's "Decoded". The latter is "a prestige project - it will be followed, inevitably, by a rash of imitations from rappers who realize that the self-penned coffee-table book has replaced the Lamborghini Murcielago as hip-hop's ultimate status symbol. In his early years, Jay-Z liked to insist that rapping was only a means to an end - like selling crack, only safer. 'I was an eager hustler and a reluctant artist, ' he writes. 'But the irony of it is that to make the hustle work, really work, over the long term, you have to be a true artist, too.'"


Elet es Irodalom 26.11.2010 (Hungary)

In 1996 Polish writer Slawomir Mrozek returned to Krakow after many years in exile and lived there for a decade before moving to Nice in 2008. He never felt at home in Poland again, he tells Catalan Slavist and translator Josep Maria de Sagarra Ange: "At the time I had no idea how much I had lost contact with Poland, it only hit me later. Of course a lot of changes and developments have happened and they weren't necessarily to my liking. The development process took place without my involvement and I had lived away from home for too long to be able to live there again."


spiked 23.11.2010 (UK)

Brendan O'Neill recounts what happened to him when at New Jersey airport at "six o'fucking clock on a Sunday morning" he refused to go through the body scanner. Instead, a very large security guard gave him the "Diana Ross treatment" - a thorough frisking of every individual body part. "All I could think was: 'Thanks a lot bin Laden.' Thanks a lot caveman with kidney problems for making me have my balls touched in front of a hundred groggy-eyed air passengers."
 
Tim Black also discusses scanning and patting. And Jesse Adelman's article in McSweeney's is written by from the perspective of the body scanner: "I am here to measure your penises and believe me, I am very precise."




The Guardian 27.11.2010 (UK)

Gillian Slovo raves about "The Road", a book of short stories and essays by Vasily Grossman translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler who also translated his epic "Life and Fate". The collection is "a treasure trove that lends the reader an insider's understanding of what it was like to live through the Soviet era, at the same time as it introduces us to Grossman's enduring preoccupation with the wonder and terror of humanity. (...) Almost until the end of his life, Grossman retained, as Robert Chandler calls it, his 'revolutionary romanticism', and it is this that gives his writing its sting. When he lights on the word 'merry' at a time when the Stalinist slogan 'life has become better, life has become merrier' was being used to conceal the increasing numbers killed in the purges, that sense of a ruptured society springs off the page."

Houellebecq in poetry is pretty similar to Houellebecq in prose, says author Paul Bachelor in his review of "The Art of Struggle", but you'd better read it in the French original: "We lose the sense of Houellebecq challenging the reader, berating us for expecting the consolation of rhyme while throwing a few crumbs our way. Or does his submission to poetic convention strike a defeated note? Either way, such engagement is not possible in the unrhymed translation."

Further articles: Giles Tremlett was deeply moved and inspired by Hector Abad's memoir of his father who was assassinated in Colombia in 1987. Margaret Atwood talks at length to Robert McCrum about global warming and her love of birds and Twitter. Alan Hollinghurst warmly recommends a book of Mick Imlah selected poems, some of which he transcribed himself at Oxford.


Le point  26.11.2010 (France)

Here's one to get people talking: A young French jurist Florent Gallaire has just posted the full text of Michel Houellebecq's latest novel "La carte et le territoire" on his blog, with the explanation that it contains passages that are copied directly from the free online encyclopaedia Wikipedia whose content is licensed by the Creative Commons, reports Julie Malaure. Gallaire's creative conclusion "'following his legal analysis of the work' is very simple: since Houellebecq copied free content from Wikipedia, Houellebecq's text had taken on its characteristics, becoming free itself. This curious line of argument, this 'virality' justified, to Gallaire's mind, his posting the novel without permission from either the author or his publisher". Even the chairman of French Wikipedia finds Gallaire's justification "absurd".


The Boston Globe 28.11.2010 (USA)

There's nothing new about information overload, writes Ann Blair, author of a book on the subject. People were shaking their fists at the sky when the printing press entered our lives. Erasmus of Rotterdam proved to be an early media critic: Printing presses, he said " fill the world with pamphlets and books that are foolish, ignorant, malignant, libelous, mad, impious and subversive; and such is the flood that even things that might have done some good lose all their goodness." But, says Blair, "to confront this new challenge, printers, scholars, and compilers began to develop novel ways to manage all these texts - tools that listed, sorted under subject headings, summarized, and selected from all those books that no one person could master."


HVG 20.11.2010 (Hungary)

Once upon a time the ruling Fidesz party called itself a "middle-class party", but its recent reforms (nationalisation of the private pension system, retroactive taxation of up to 98 percent on all financial settlements above of a certain level, curtailment of the constitutional courts etc.) tell a very different story. The philosopher Agnes Heller, however, has not abandoned hope: "When the need arises, forces will come together to meet these needs. The need for a middle class Hungary could be met by forces that I would describe as 'conservative liberal'. Where are they now? Partly within Fidesz, perhaps among the Christian Democrats – primarily among their sympathisers – partly in the former MDF, in the former SZDSZ and perhaps even among the socialists. There are many people who are starting to despise the spreading spirit of populism, and who want to know that their property and their rights are secure. There are many people who are increasingly prepared to concede much more room to the free market than it has today, in order to reduce the power of the oligarchs and monopolies. There are many people, who recognise that the system of control mechanisms, of division of powers, of rational debate and compromises are the prerequisites for the stability of the law."


Eurozine 17.11.2010 (Austria in English)

Since October the people of Stuttgart have been protesting angrily against the costly conversion of the railway station in their city centre. Tim Engartner provides an insightful overview of the pro and cons of "Stuttgart 21" a prestige project by Deutsche Bahn  - Germany's last big public company which receives billions of taxpayers' money annually. "Talk is now of 'Merkel's mess', while the political future of Baden-Württemberg's Minister President, Stefan Mappus (CDU), depends on the project being seen through. This goes to show how Stuttgart 21 is seen by many as a symbol of the failure of rail policy at the federal level. Although around 90 per cent of all train journeys are made on local rail, it attracts only 10 per cent of all transport-related investments. Nine out of 10 euros are invested in the development of long-distance travel – despite stagnating passenger revenue. (...) The back-down from blanket rail coverage accompanies the targeting of a specific clientele: business passengers who, as (potential) first-class customers, want WLAN connections and mobile telephone reception as well as exclusive service in the DB 'lounges'. After the appointment of former DB managing director Hartmut Mehdorn in December 1996, the self-styled 'company of the future' gave up on blanket rail coverage that democratizes fast travel for all, instead of monopolizing it for a small minority."




Prospect 17.11.2010

David Goodhart sums up the debate surrounding Thilo Sarrazin's book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany abolishes itself) in which the SPD politician attacks Germany's failed policies for integrating Turkish immigrants. Sarrazin "is no right-wing populist in the image of Jörg Haider", writes Goodhart. Indeed, he is more likely to prevent the rise of one: "As the book complains, German public debate has, for obvious historical reasons, been more constrained by various kinds of taboos about national culture than any other big European country. (...) Nowhere in Europe is the gap between public opinion and published opinion as wide as in Germany. And nowhere has public policy been more influenced by a 1960s generation, post-national, society-is-to-blame kind of liberalism. Yet this 'official' liberalism has never reflected the way people live and think, even in the German chattering classes.  When I lived in the country, 20 years ago, it felt far more socially conservative than the similar circles I had come from in London."

One for the road:

Jezebel reports, that this year's Bad Sex Writing awards have just been announced over at the Literary Review. This year's prize goes to Rowan Somerville for likening love-making to "a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect" in his novel "The Shape of Her".
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