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Magazine Roundup

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Eurozine 23.09.2011 (Austria)

Are only true witnesses allowed to write about the camps, war, and extermination? Has "the age of the Gulag literature that took our breath away" now passed along with Levi, Shalamov, and Kertesz, as Zeit editor Iris Radisch claims in her critique of Herta Müller's novel "Atemschaukel" (soon to be published in English as "Everything I Possess I Carry with Me"). Swedish author Steve Sem-Sandberg, whose novel "The Emperor of Lies" was recently published in English, vehemently counters this opinion: "Instead of talking about the war, and the actual victims of war, we restrict ourselves shamelessly to our own way of relating to what happened, often with self-flagellating phrases along the lines of: 'who am I to talk about...', 'what right have I to...' etc, as though the whole discussion of what made the Holocaust possible only becomes tangible when it can be linked back to some psychological problem within ourselves. This is cowardly. We demand of every testimony that it shall be authentic. But by insisting that only those who personally experienced something have a right to tell the story, we are saying that we are not at heart touched by it, that it is possible to draw a line between us and them. Because they are victims, and thus by definition beyond our own horizon of understanding, then the only attitude demanded of us is that of noncommittal genuflection."

Le Monde 24.09.2011 (France)

The left is no longer the left, complains the sociologist with the wonderful name of Geoffroy de Lagasnerie in an essay for Le Monde that is well worth the read. And the left, from the moderate left to the radical and fashionable philosophy a la Badiou, gives itself away with its anti-liberalism, which it presents as a critique of neoliberalism. For Lagasnerie, what is actually at work is a hidden authoritarianism: "And so it is that the logic of the market and personal interest develops at the cost of a faith in morals, religion, the state, politics, et cetera. These guiding forces are losing their binding power. And widespread disobedience is then seen as having catastrophic consequences." In response Lagasnerie demands: "We must firmly position ourselves on the side of disorder, dissonance and emancipation."

Polityka 23.09.2022 (Poland)

Polish youth are becoming more and more like their western counterparts, reports (here in German) Wawrzyniec Smocznyksi after reading the governmental report "Mlodzi 2011". They are individualist, hedonistic – and unemployed. In Poland, too, joblessness among the youth is twice the average; the majority of young people work with short-term contracts or have unpaid internships: "Whereas young Poles still have hopes of wealth and upward mobility, their peers in France, Spain, and Greece are slowly giving up such dreams. The threat of a lost generation is looming over developed countries, the first generation since World War II to be potentially less prosperous than the one before it. Heralding this social crisis are the disturbances where young people have taken part: burning Parisian suburbs, street battles in the heart of Athens, mass demonstrations in Madrid and, most recently, the riots in London. Warsaw is not threatened by such scenes, but Poland is turning the same corner into a dead-end situation."

L'Espresso 21.09.2011 (Italy)

Umberto Eco takes a stand for the universities, which in his opinion are being subjected to an unparalleled defamation campaign by the head of government, Silvio Berlusconi. "If you want to see how much the universities annoy the premier you should take a look at There the Italian government vehemently rails against the university, an institution that, after all, does at least partly rely directly on the government. It's as if the government were to attack the military...The debates on the particulars of the reforms of (Education Minister) Maria Stelli Gelmini and the incomprehensible but nevertheless daily attacks on the courts by Berlusconi have made us forget that Berlusconi is also waging battle against the universities, refuges of critical thinking that bother him. The budget cuts are crippling the universities, and everywhere they are bombarded by terrible reports about professors who give good grades to the students they are sleeping with, while others are putting their sisters, wives, and lovers at the head of the lecture halls. This is accompanied by international rankings in which Italian universities are dropping to the level of Burkina Faso."

Berliner Zeitung 26.09.2011 (Germany)

At the Berlin Maxim Gorki Theatre Armin Petras has produced a play of Jonathan Littel's controversial Holocaust novel "The Kindly Ones" (more here). Ulrich Seidler, who frankly considers the novel highly problematic, found the evening surprisingly "tolerable": "Instead of juiciness and identification Armin Petras opts for aestheticisation and reflection. A huge mirror, tilted slightly towards the seats closes off the arch of the stage. In the mirror, logically, it's us, the audience. And also Peter Kurth as Max Aue, who was able to flee after assuming the false identity of his friend, killing and mutilating him in the process...In front of the mirror, on a raised not very deep platform is where young Aue (Max Simonischek) and vaguely identified, sketchy minor characters play their parts. This allows for a mental ping-pong of shifting identities and times: he/we, then/now – everything is taking place at the same time; the perspectives intersect. Later the mirror folds down to create a crevice offering a view into the depths of the stage, where a Scythian death wagon circles."

Telerama 23.09.2011 (France)

In the summer of 2010, before the "Jasmine Revolution" and the fall of dictator Ben Ali, Tunisian film director Nadia El Fani used her camera to put forward a risky suggestion – the introduction of laicism. Mathilde Blottiere discusses the documentary "Laicite inch'Allah", which the filmmaker comments on in three selected excerpts. In the minor everyday encounters that she documented without hiding her camera the filmmaker's approach is confrontational: "When I mention the topic of Ramadan I notice that the taxi driver responds positively. I turn on the camera and tell him that I am an atheist. In Tunisia this is a subversive confession, but as a filmmaker I am willing to engage in this provocation. My purpose is not to smooth the ruffles of society but to stir things up and incite new ideas."

Highlights from the Anglo-American press

The Morning Call reports how Amazon's low prices are paid for in sweat. New Republic asks whether ebooks are continuous works-in-process.  In The New York Review of Books, George Soros adds his two cents about the future of the euro. The New York Times reviews Neal Sephenson's new novel that includes a Chinese hacker and a British jihadist, and the magazine reports extensively from Libya on how fast opinions change once Gaddafi is out of the picture. - let's talk european