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11/10/2011

Magazine Roundup

L'Espresso 03.10.2011 (Italy)

After the Italian Wikipedia shut down in a sensational online-protest against the planned changes in legislation (more here), Umberto Eco jauntily continues to taunt the government. He draws his ammunition from the catalogue of a second-hand bookshop, which contains a number of curiosities, and places Silvio Berlusconi in close comparison to Napoleon, not only in terms of height. "The book title that really struck me, because it seems so current, is 'The Weather Vane Dictionary' by Aymery Alexis. The complete title of the second edition from 1815 reads: 'The Lexicon of Turncoats...A work containing discussions, statements, songs, and excerpts from published texts on the rulers of the last 25 years and noting the positions, favours and titles received under a variety of circumstances by politicians, authors, generals, artists, bishops, prefects, journalists, ministers and so forth.' It is an immense biographical lexicon extending from Fouche to Murat (who swore loyalty to the Republic only later to become king of Naples under Napoleon), Chateaubriand and other famous opportunists, who had no problems whatsoever in shifting their loyalties in the period from Napoleon to the Restoration. In other words, nothing new under the sun."


Berliner Zeitung
07.10.2011 (Germany)
"A courageous, wise and definitely welcome decision" is how Dirk Pilz lauds the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. In praising the temerity of this choice he falls right into a list of negative affirmations: "Giving a poet the Nobel Prize? This poet, who makes no literary compromises? Who has never once written a coquettish verse, nor a narcissistic, inflated, pain-dulled or crudely romantic line? Poetry has hardly any lobby and it still remains under the inane suspicion of being vainly unworldly, errantly abstract or cheaply romantic."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
08.10.2011 (Switzerland)

Why have Icelanders been writing books since the 12th century, at a time when the rest of Europe was just about able to scrawl letters onto gravestones? Author Einar Karason has two answers: First they had nothing better to do. And second, they wanted to counter the prejudices of their neighbors that "the first Icelandic settlers were nothing more than thieves, criminals, ne'er do wells, traitors and the like, who could not show their faces in the rest of Europe."


Magyar Narancs 29.09.2011 (Hungary)

"If we want to reinstate democratic rule of law, consolidate the free market and reestablish social solidarity, we have to take a look at when and why the developments in the first 20 years after the end of Soviet rule got off track," says Hungarian philosopher Janos Kis in an interview with Istvan Bundula. Kis, an emblematic figure of the political transformations of 1989, is convinced that there is still a way out of this impasse - even if Viktor Orban's positions currently only seem to be threatened by the radical right, to whom he regularly makes concessions: "Let's face it, it is costing the country dearly that the majority of Hungarians gave Orban a free hand to strip the constitution bare and ruin the economy...But we have gained one thing in the process: in the last few years the proponents of the end of Soviet rule were forced into the defensive and were only able to defend the democratic rule of law and capitalistic economy with circuitous explanations - if at all. Now the situation could change fundamentally. After the horrible adventure of the 'Voting Booth Revolution' the ideas of the political shift of 1989 can now again be formulated in simple, easy-to-understand slogans: No wealth without freedom. No protection of the law without independent courts. No justice without observance of the law. No democracy without the freedom of the press. It's that simple."


Babelia 08.10.2011 (Spain)

The Spanish philosopher Javier Goma Lanzon (more here) has good advice, not only for the Social Democrats and the Greens: "For centuries people were expected not to be honest, but virtuous. In the 18th century, however, these people, Rousseau and Goethe among them, decided that their only duty was to be 'themselves'. Since then the most shameless and impertinent individuals enjoy almost complete impunity by openly advertising that they simply are what they are, and the rest of us are forced to patiently endure the consequences of their eager confessions. Moliere made fun of the excesses of this stance in "Misanthrope". I agree with him, today more than ever. We need therapeutic dissimulation, the occasional buckling and relenting, the pious lies that make life endearing, because they let us believe that both sides face each other benevolently. I certainly prefer the philanthropic lie to misanthropic honesty. If in the future some unsympathetic person addresses me with the words "Look, Javier, speaking honestly..." I will cut him off there and say: "Stop! If you want to know the truth, I would prefer you lie to me."


La regle du jeu 10.10.2011 (France)

The magazine continues with its five-week-long ode to meat, in which every day self-professed meat aficionados have their say. More contributions have been added to those of last week: Jean-Louis Oliver describes, in a contribution titled "The Three Days of the Pig", how sows used to be slaughtered in the countryside. The Breton poultry farmer Paul Renault sings the praises of Coucou de Rennes chickens, which he began raising at the encouragement of three top French chefs. "Together with the people from Eco Musee Rennes we researched in the archive how to raise Coucou de Rennes hens, how to prevent the degeneration of the breed through inappropriate cross breeding and how to maintain its beautiful grey speckled feathers that resemble the breast of a cuckoo that is its namesake. We were able to preserve its morphology and breeding. The cockerel should weigh three kilos, the hen two and a half."


Die Zeit
06.10.2011 (Germany)

In an interview with Katja Nicodemus, Jean-Luc Godard speaks out against capitalism and the technology craze, but also, interestingly, against intellectual property: "Artists have no rights, only responsibilities. And I am against artistic rights as private property, which allow someone to decide whether a film may be shown or not. For example, the grandchildren of Matisse are allowed to decide whether a picture may be viewed or not."


And here Chaos Computer Club's English press release on its sensational find of a German government spyware.


Highlights from the Anglo-American Press

The New York Review of Books features the first publication of Saul Bellow's 1988 lecture "A Jewish Writer in America". Smithsonian magazine celebrates MoMa's retrospective of Willem de Koonig. And The New York Times tells the story of the 388 days during which the British couple Rachel and Paul Chandler were held hostage by Somali pirates in a Sunday Magazine report illustrated by comic book artist Wesley Allsbrook.
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