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Magazine Roundup

Letras Libres 14.01.2012 (Spain / Mexico)

Angel Jaramillo talks to legendary New York journalist and author Pete Hamill, who lived in Mexico City for many years: "The cultural effects of tragedy should not be underestimated. Since September 11 the people of New York have become a lot friendlier in my opinion. And violence has dropped considerably. (...) The situation in Mexico, on the other hand, is like a mafia film by the Marquis de Sade. (...) I find it intolerable that so many innocent people have to die on the other side of the border just so Charlie Sheen and Paris Hilton can be kept in cocaine. Anyone here in the US who boasts about how much cocaine they consume should - and I'm only partly joking - be sent to Mexico and charged as an accomplice to murder. And yet it would be completely wrong, by focussing on all the drug war excesses, to overlook the enormous social progress that Mexico is making, and its democracy is getting stronger. Mexico is certainly not there yet, but it's better than ever."

Le Monde
14.01.2012 (France)

Parliament is not a court", explains the lawyer and former Minister for Justice, Robert Badinter, in an article on the planned law to punish denial of the Armenian genocide. He rejects the law as "excessive and unconstitutional". Unlike the Holocaust, the genocide of the Armenians has never been confirmed and tried by an international or national court. "Does French legislature really have the authority, in the absence of judicial process, to proclaim the existence of an Armenian genocide in 1915? Can the French parliament stand up as the court of world history and declare that the authorities of the Ottoman Empire committed the crime of genocide over a century ago, although no French citizens were involved, either as victims or perpetrators. The constitution has never granted parliament the authority to write history. This is a matter for historians and it should be left to them alone."

Nepszabadsag 14.01.2012 (Hungary)

Do Hungarians believe in authority more than other nations, Gabor Miklos asks  Hungarian dramatist György Spiro. No, it's not that simple, comes the response. "In Eastern Europe, to which we belong, adjusting to the various form of authoritarian power has given rise to the same attitudes that could be observed in Western Europe from the beginning of feudalism until the end of the Second World War... Here in Eastern Europe, 19th and 20th century European conditions are still in place. We keep falling backwards. And Western Europe is also  contributing actively to maintaining our backwardness. But we are also to blame for being backward even though it is not in the interest of the Hungarian majority. If we want to know what's in store for us in the coming years, we should study Western European history from the first half of the 19th century. Above all I recommend French history from 1830 to 1870."

Lettre International
01.12.2011 (Germany)

Are Hungarians marching towards a nationalist-authoritarian state, one that is nipping the newly achieved democracy in the bud? Peter Nadas lays out in long, lucid sentences the various layers of Hungarian society which have formed in the course of "150 years of Turkish sultanate, 300 years of Austrian imperial rule, a few hard months of German occupation in combination with the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party and 40 years of Soviet dictatorship", which are making the formation of a democratic spirit so difficult.  And yet he is not pessimistic about the future. "If, looking at the ominous signs, someone were to say that for Hungary now, this is an era of strong, totalitarian, dictatorial, all-powerful state, they would be wrong; that person will have to satisfy themselves with dull, essentially small-holder authoritarian rule. Pay close attention to the hand of the magician or see only darkness. In the traditional logic of Hungarian societal development, modernisation has had priority for more than 200 years and despite the risky politics of the nationalist-conservatives [Viktor Orban and friends] there is still hope that the process of modernisation will be completed successfully. I understand that this is painful for the socialists and liberals, who like to regard modernisation as their territory; for myself, I find the chronic blindness of the socialists and liberals painful." Read a longer excerpt of Nadas' essay in English over at

Frankfurter Rundschau / Berliner Zeitung 16.01.2012 (Germany)

On Sunday Emine Sevgi Özdamar was awarded the Alice Salomon prize for poetry. Harald Jähner praises the linguistic talents of an author who only started learning German at the age of 19. "This author show what a boon for literature a language learned late in life can be, a 'language without childhood', without fully automatised reflexes. If you can look as closely and imagine things as she does, then you will never be in the right film. You see foreignness, no matter where and when you achieved citizenship."

From the blogs 10.01.2012 (France)

It's difficult to be lesbian without also being communitarian, secularist, without being linked to far-right tendencies, and to be against Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine, without losing sight of Tariq Ramadan, writes Caroline Fourest in a lengthy blog post, that nicely sums up the mood in France. She clings to the following conviction: "I am against the lack of clarity in the term 'Islamophobia' (which equates any criticism of religion or fundamentalism with racism) but I also oppose any sort of racism against Muslims. And I will always oppose those who hijack secularism for racist ends." Fourest's in-depth TV portrait of Marine Le Pen is very worth watching and is available on Youtube.

Highlights from the Anglophone press
In the Guardian Arab authors - Hisham Matar from Libya, Laila Lalami from Morocco, Alaa Abd El Fattah from Egypt, Nouri Gana from Tunesia, Joumana Haddad from Lebanon, Samar Yazbek from Syria, Tamim Al-Barghouti, Mourid Barghouti and Raja Shehadeh from Palestine reflect on the Arab Spring and share their hopes for the future.

Awl was at the 130th conference of American Funeral Directors to look at how the sector is responding to waning religiosity among Americans. Green is the answer: "The newest, greenest thing is called 'alkaline hydrolysis,' a process that uses sodium hydroxide (basically, lye) and extremely hot, highly pressurized water to rapidly speed up the process of natural decomposition. The body is placed in a large tube with a square control base (upon seeing a picture, a friend of mine commented that it looked a lot like a bong, and it kind of does), bathed in chemicals and highly pressurized, and in a few hours all that is left is liquid and ash."

openDemocracy translates into English a 3-part public discussion that took place just before the last Moscow demonstration on December 24 between author Boris Akunin and blogger and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny. Read part 2 here and part 3 follows soon. - let's talk european