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Magazine Roundup

Le Monde 25.11.2011 (France)

The Arab World needs a second go at it, writes journalist, author and dramaturge Driss Ksikes, now editor-in-chief of the Moroccan edition of Tel quel. Tocqueville taught us that even a successful revolution is no guarantee for a clear break with the old autocratic order. If the economic and intellectual elites actually stood for modernised politics, now would be the time to fight for their ideas, and they would have to start a second, slower and more patient round of revolt in order to defend against the cultural and religious autocracies. "Will they summon the courage or the will to do so? I strongly doubt it. And I fear, in view of the prevailing cowardice, that the democracy which our country has been promised will become a mere marketing slogan - if it isn't already - with no cultural anchorage, brandished only for each new election. The mountain of 'the indignant' will have given birth to a mouse. Nothing more!"

Die Welt 24.11.2011 (Germany)

Cosima Lutz watched Lech Majewksi's film "The Mill and the Cross", a filmic reflection on Breugel's "Christ Carrying the Cross", in which Breugel is played by Rutger Hauer! "Breugel is asked why he wanted to hide Jesus in his painting. Because he's 'the most important part' the painter replied. The things that really change the world and survive, he continues, mostly go unnoticed by the people around them."

Elet es Irodalom
25.11.2011 (Hungary)

Political conditions are only partly to blame for the appointment of self-professed right-wing radicals György Dörner and Istvan Csurka to the top positions at the Budapest Uj Szinhaz (New Theatre), writes theatre critic Tamas Koltai. The other reasons are the antiquated attitude of the Hungarian theatre scene in general (independents excluded) towards "public theatre", as well as the opportunism with which, over the past two decades - obviously out of fear of losing its role as a moral compass on the free market - it has let itself be overly influenced by politics (a similar opinion was expressed recently by Arpad Schilling, founder of the independent Kretakör Theatre). Dörner and Csurka's future "Hinterland Theatre" is the first fruit of this opportunism", writes Koltai. "You could say we deserve it [losing a theatre to the far right]. We certainly share the blame that it has come to this. Perhaps this disgrace was necessary to allow us to see the light."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 26.11.2011

Gustav Seibt pours scorn on Jürgen Habermas' new essay "On Europe's Constitution" which pins its hopes on state institutions and the European citizen: "You find yourself asking which parts of Europe Habermas actually knows first hand, as in how life is lived there on daily basis. It can't be Italy or Greece. There the state is seen by large swathes of the population as enemy and prey, and certainly not as guarantor of freedom and justice." Read more about Habermas' essay in a two-part profile at der Spiegel's English site.

El Pais Semanal 28.11.2011 (Spain)

Juan Diego Quesada talks to Candido Lopez, the son of Spain's last executioner, Antonio Lopez Sierra. Candido himself is currently homeless and living on the streets of Madrid. One of the most tragic executions his father performed was of anarchist Salvador Puig Antich on 2 March 1974 . "My father was a tough old dog, but every time he had to execute someone he would get drunk first, believe me." His father - who actually volunteered to join the Blue Division - also worked as a street sweeper in Germany earlier in life, feigning syphilis to avoid having to pay his own way back to Spain, his son recalls. Since there was no such thing as an "apprenticeship" to become an executioner, Candido's father was taught the secrets of the trade by an Andalusian executioner who wrote poetry, attended mass daily and envied his victims for their passing into eternity. "Would you have taken over your father's job?  - Yes, and my hands would not have trembled. I prepared for it from a young age."

Merkur 01.12.2011 (Germany)

Merkur's publishers and editors Karl Heinz Bohrer (79) and Kurt Scheel (63) are bidding farewell to the magazine. In their last joint issue they look back over almost three decades in which they taught aesthetics and politics to the nation.
Bohrer, for example, on his first progammatic essay on "The Aesthetic of the State": "The motto of this essay was a quote from Albert Camus who said: 'No nation can live outside beauty.' It was certainly intended as a polemic because it seemed to be that this Federal Republican society and above all its intelligence was indeed living outside Camus' principle. And so my essay was also an ironic-utopian parable about the 'opulence, provincialism and conformism' of the old Federal Republic."

Scheel for his part writes about authors and their work: "I wanted to belong to this circle of noble people, that was my 'Society of the Tower' [a group of enlightened individuals referred to in Goethe's 'Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship'] - and I had to make the painful experience that the more you admire an author, the more frustrating it is to get close to them. There are exceptions, and the best one in my Merkur life was Robert Gernhardt... Remember this: you should read the authors you love, but don't touch them."

Rue89 27.11.2011 (France)

He would be quite happy if his books could be illegally downloaded online and read all over the world, Umberto Eco explains in an interview. "No new technology has entirely wiped out its predecessor: photography did not replace painting, aeroplanes did not wipe out trains. Which is why I have no trouble imagining a future in which people read from their iPads. The survival of the book will be linked to its physicality. When you find your childhood books in the cellar, they are still full of all your fingerprints and scribbles. The book is an object which reminds you of your childhood! The book on a USB stick that you find in the cellar will never have this degree of meaning."

L'Espresso 28.11.2011 (Italy)

"Paolo Lopriore, who was recently awarded the Premio Internacional Lo Mejor de la Gastronomia in Alicante, won the jury over with a recipe closely reminiscent of an Italian classic: spaghetti pomodoro e basilico", reports L'Espresso. But his preparation of it has to be seen to be believed - watch the video here on his the Espresso website.

Magyar Narancs 17.11.2011 (Hungary)

Israeli writer Etgar Keret was one of the principle coordinators of the mass demonstrations in Israel this summer. The demonstrations, he says in an interview, will not have immediate effect on politics but they have already changed the social fabric: "The politicians exploit our fear of survival to justify every form of injustice. The greatest success to come from the wave of protests has nothing to do with achieving concrete objectives, it is about changing the discourse. It was fantastic to see university professors out demonstrating with their students, and that homeless people were also among their ranks. Many people in Israel belong to strong communities, but the so-called majority, the secularists, do not share this sense of community. Now they have turned to face one another and have started talking. This will also force through change in party politics, because it will no longer be possible to win an election simply by using scare tactics about Iran."

Highlights from the Anglophone press

Moroccans are no less hungry for freedom than Tunisians, activist Hisham Almiraat explains in openDemocracy. In the New Statesman, Fawaz A. Gerges asks whether the Muslim Brotherhood slogan "Islam is the solution" also applies to the unemployment problem. The LRB travels to Greece. The New Yorker examines fantasy literature's sense of loss. - let's talk european