Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Il Sole 24 Ore  19.02.2012 (Italy)

Is Ai Weiwei a hero or a freeloader, Angela Vettese wonders at an exhibition in Stoccolma Magasin3. "The artist's work is also on view in the digital section of the exhibition, where the viewer can participate in things happening elsewhere in Stockholm, via Twitter and various microblogs. The curator has tried to demonstrate that there is a divide between Weiwei's object-based works and those he makes for the infosphere, which are primarily concerned with the struggle for a new status for the individual." Also in Italy, the transcript of Ai Weiwei's blog has just been published by Johan & Levi. "He is almost certainly a rascal too, but Ai Wewei does seem to be made of the same stuff as Andy Warhol: he's an untiring worker, a media connoisseur, and a cynic in a bad world. He has the ear and perhaps even the trust of the audience. Whatever you think of the man, he is charting the abuses that China has to remedy before it can come into its own."

Le Monde  18.02.2012 (France)

The writer Tahar Ben Jelloun makes a - literary - attempt to enter the mind of Syrian president Bachar Al-Assad. Having negotiated around "at least seven blockades" he's in: "His head is not particularly big. It is full of straw, needles and razorblades. Why, I have no idea. His mind is calm. No stress, no nervousness. I have no idea how he manages to be so calm." Jelloun comes up with one explanation by having Assad think the following: "My father taught me that in politics you need a heart of bronze. I have trained mine never to break. No feelings, no weaknesses. Because I am risking my own neck and the lives of my whole family. The crooks who are destroying Syria are only getting what they deserve. People talk about the 'Arab Spring'! Who are they kidding? Where do you see spring? Just because a few clueless rabble-rousers are occupying a square or two doesn't mean the seasons have changed their rhythm or direction. If I have anything to do with it, the Spring you are referring to is not going to happen."

Further articles: a joint review by Elisabeth Roudinesco of a biography, an essay and a novel about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose hero, Sherlock Holmes, she celebrates as a "Freudian investigator".

Elet es Irodalom  17.02.2012 (Hungary)

Was Spain's fascist dictatorship properly eradicated? On first appearances, yes, but unsolved conflicts still overshadow the present, as was shown recently by the case of judge Baltasar Garzon, who has been convicted of wiretapping during his investigations of Franco-era crimes. One advocate of a systematic working through of the past is historian Mirta Nunez Diaz-Balart, professor at the Complutense University in Madrid. In an interview she explains the dangers of keeping things under wraps in the long term: "The roots of Francoist propaganda have grown deep in society since the 1950s and there was huge economic growth in the country that started in the 1960s, creating a middle class that went from strength to strength. There is a part of society that has failed to grasp how much this has cost the country and the conditions under which it happened, and as a result  it identifies with the 'values' of the Franco regime. [...] On top of this a large segment of the population refuses to confront the past, because it believes that it will reopen old wounds and generate conflict. This is only whitewashing the problem because the wounds – thanks to the total silence that surrounds the Franco dictatorship, which continued carried over into the transition to democracy – never healed."

Eurozine  17.02.2012 (Austria, in English)

It would be foolish to compare the Russian protests against Putin with the Arabellion, write Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev in a razor sharp analysis of the power situation in Russia (originally published in iwmPost) in which they otherwise assess Putin as rather weak. "Putin is much younger than Mubarak – he has been in power for eleven years compared to Mubarak's thirty – and the Russian population is much older than the Egyptian one and less charmed by the promise of democracy. The chances that the Russian army will side with the people are slight to non-existent and the Russian opposition lacks the organizational strength of the Islamists."

Magyar Narancs  16.02.2012 (Hungary)

Now that Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban is giving EU values a good kicking, the EU needs to find a legal basis for its criticism of Hungary. But since the EU is keen to close the Hungarian file as quickly as possible and Victor Orban is reliant on money from both EU and IMF, compromises are inevitable on both fronts, according to the former liberal politician Matyas Eorsi: "Meanwhile half of Hungary feels that the EU is interfering in Hungary's domestic affairs without reason or justification, while the other half feels abandoned by the readiness of the EU Commission to compromise. I would like to say to the latter half that Brussels will force Orban to give in on several issues. But it is not the Commission that must force Orban to change but Hungarian democrats."

La vie des idees  16.02.2012 (France)

Thirty years ago in the city of Hama the Syrian regime killed thousands of anti-government protestors and the international community never picked up the story, Nora Benkorich recounts in an article that throws a light on the current situation in the country. The basic situation in the country then was very different, she writes, because the current protests are mostly peaceful. "The victims of February 1982 slaughter were jihadists who wanted to install a theocracy... The tragedy of Hama did not emerge out of nowhere. It is the climax of an armed struggle that began in 1976 and which sprung from a jihadist underground movement by the name of 'Armed Avant-garde of the Muslim Brothers' although it really had nothing do do with the Muslim Brotherhood." Hama was also known as the Syrian stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood and this was how it was erased.

Rue89  19.02.2012 (France)

Thierry Bresillon shows a certain amount of sympathy in his blog Tunisie libre in rue89 for the imprisonment of two journalists in Tunisia for publishing a photo of the footballer Sami Khedira with his arm around his naked girlfriend. The editor of the newspaper Ettounsiya is now being held in custody for violation of moral customs. "What's the photo of a naked woman doing on the front page of a newspaper? And more precisely, why is veiling or unveiling the female body such a central question in Tunisian society? To understand the origins of this obsession we have to go back to Frantz Fanon who, in 'Year V of the Algerian Revolution', writes about the fervour of the colonisers to unveil the female Algerian population: 'If we want to meet the Algerian society, in their will to resist, then we must conquer the women.' The unveiling ceremonies (in which the Muslim women publicly discarded their veils - ed) such as in May 1958 were the symbol of the terrain of a backward society that had been conquered by France. This terrain needed to be 'civilised' and removed from the grasp of Algerian nationalism."

The New Republic 01.03.2012 (USA)

The editors of the New Republic are disturbed about the war against women's rights that is gaining force in the US. Abortion has been under attack for decades but now the right has set its sights on eliminating health care for HIV testing, pap smears, contraception and more. "The rhetoric from Rick Santorum - now leading in the Republican polls nationwide - has been almost casually ugly. Not content to merely demand that all abortions be criminalized, including in cases of rape and incest, he also smothers his prohibitionist ideology in smug condescension. A woman who has been impregnated by rape, in Santorum's description, is someone who should 'make the best of a bad situation.' Taken individually, these incidents all seem like isolated events. Taken together, they start to look like a disturbing trend. Increasingly, what we are seeing from the right when it comes to women's issues is not conservatism but radicalism: a bid to roll back the gains and freedoms that feminism has managed to earn for women." - let's talk european