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Magazine Roundup

Der Tagesspiegel 10.12.2011 (Germany)

Andre Glucksmann writes about Vladimir Putin's embarrassing election defeat and the impact of unbridled Russian corruption on both Russia and Europe. "The mountain of manna from gas and oil revenues has not led to Russia's re-industrialisation... The vast fortunes are invested elsewhere. As if 50 percent of the Russian population were superfluous, designated for a life of misery, condemned to alcoholism, prostitution, tuberculosis and AIDS with no prospect of treatment. And where does the legendary treasure that is not invested in Russia go? To us. In the hands of despots and oligarchs, in other words, lies an incredible power to do damage. Corruption is an infectious disease, Putinism a plague without limits. We have to look the Russian evil in the face, our future is at stake."

Il Sole 24 Ore 11.12.2011 (Italy)

The mammoth encyclopaedia Classici Ricciardi attempts to list all the books written by Italians on Italians over the past 150 years. Carlo Ossola uses his review to ponder the justification for the written word in the multimedia age. "Books have survived precisely because of their written core. A large percentage of our collective identity today is influenced by arts and media other than the written word: cinema, TV, the internet, video communication via mobile phone. It would be ahistorical to ignore these processes but also lazy thinking to see this as the only source of our identity: La Costituzione, Se questo e un uomo, Le citta invisibili, none of these have been adapted for TV, film or comics; their vital power lies in the word, in their inscribed permanence and in the non-representational, the proximity and the infinity for one and all: not offering action but an appeal to the conscience. Quite simply, as Luigi Pintor would say, for the past and for the future: Servabo."

Letras Libres 11.12.2011 (Spain/Mexico)

The Argentinian writer Martin Caprarros is over the moon about his Kindle, "the Robin Hood of books". Some objects are so complete that we can't imagine anyone actually inventing them. For thousands of years, steps were the best way of getting from one level to the next. The book is the step of texts: for years it has been the perfect form for storing and spreading the word. But today we have lifts - someone who wants to get to the 38th floor is unlikely to think of taking the stairs first. Yet the Kindle has nothing futuristic about it: it is the radical present of the book and that means something. Whereas today a fridge is designed to double up as a TV, a telephone as a camera and a laptop as an ersatz world, the Kindle stubbornly insists on being about reading and nothing else. Any remaining doubts I might have had were recently driven out on a train by a young man serving snacks: with his grubby face, gappy teeth and tousled hair, the boy looked admiringly at my Kindle: "Wow, man, a computer. - No, it's a book. - Oh right (deeply disappointed), a book.'"

HVG 30.11.2011 (Hungary)

The journalist Laszlo Seres talked with the Berlin-based Hungarian writer György Dalos about the situation in Hungary and asked him whether the country's intellectuals could help solve the problems. Today, Dalos says, "the intellectuals play a minor role. On one hand the end of Communism brought with it the end of a state-guaranteed culture and they became tradesmen. On the other hand their intellectual distinction was also terminated, which is why, if they do express their opinion on politics, they no longer do so from the elevated position of earlier times, but just as private individuals. The days when a writer would say something and the government would gather the next day to discuss it are over. We live at a time where grave financial decisions are being made without seeking advice from experts. Why, then, would they think to ask the opinion of a poet?"

Polityka 09.12.2011 (Poland)

Adam Krzeminski can't face having to see another caricature of Angela Merkel in a spiked helmet. Like Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski in his historical speech in Berlin (here in English), Krzeminski wishes that Germany would take on more responsibility for the republic of Europe. "Anyone who fears that an EU federation will be 'German' should not only look at the positive trade balance between Poland and Germany and our recent - EU-backed i.e essentially backed by German money - civilisational boom, and they should also pay close attention to German debates on the future of Europe... Europe will not become German, not even if it adopts 'German budgetary discipline'. The consolidation of the EU does not mean the diminution of the sovereignty of Poland, France or Italy to the benefit of Germany, but to the benefit of all nations, inclusively - and perhaps first and foremost - it means the diminution of Germany to the benefit of the EU, the executive in Brussels and a democratic European parliament."

Le Monde
11.12.2011 (France)

Late in his life Cioran fell hopelessly in love with a young German woman named Friedgard Thomas. The book of their correspondence was published in Germany in 2001 and subsequently banned because permission to publish was withheld, reports Pierre Assouline in his blog, and nor does this correspondence feature in the new Pleiade Edition. Assouline cites instead from the diary of Cioran's friend Gabriel Liiceanu, which has just been published in Bucharest in French. "I was immediately astounded by Cioran's amour fou. Primarily because it was happening to a professional skeptic who believed himself to be free of all illusions.' The lengthy excerpts from Liiceanu's diary leave no doubts as to Cioran's torments (these can be paraphrased only as direct quotation is prohibited): Cioran wanted to put his head under her skirt forever.... The letters are of such pitiful tenderness, the fragility of their author so apparent: 'Cioran could only be the victim and tragic hero of this story which was spun from the start by the young German woman', according to Gabriel Liiceanu, who saw the whole thing as one big misunderstanding: he was looking for total unification with his beloved, she was after a few aphorisms from the master."

Highlights from the Anglophone weeklies:

Everything has changed in the past 30 years, except fashion, art and music, according to author Kurt Andersen in Vanity Fair. Sometimes things change underground, according to a fascinating article in NYT Sunday Magazine on N'Ko, the new West African text message alphabet. In the LRB Jenny Turner sings a lengthy dirge for feminism. Guernica introduces the LagosPhoto festival. In The Nation the Mexican author Jorge Volpi analyses the liberalism of Enrique Krauze's new book "Redeemers. Ideas and Power in Latin America". - let's talk european