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05/07/2005

Magazine Roundup

Plus-Minus | Foreign Policy | Gazeta Wyborcza | London Review of Books | Folio | Outlook India | Le Figaro | Merkur | Elet es Irodalom | Der Spiegel | Al Ahram Weekly | Nouvel Observateur


Plus-Minus, 02.07.2005 (Poland)

Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg) is celebrating 750 years since it was founded by a German order of knights. And the only neighbours of the Russian exclave, Poland and Lithuania, were not invited to the festivities. The Russian government is swaying as usual between the desire to co-operate with the West and mistrust of its European partners. This has its consequences for life in the Kalingrad area, reports Maja Narbutt. "Even the most preposterous theories gain some level of credibility here. Predicting the future of the exclave is like reading tea leaves. Will it become a Russian Hong Kong or a military zone armed to the teeth?" Moscow also seems to lack a uniting concept, which only increases the frustration and resentment towards the "head office" among the people of Kalingrad.

"Putin celebrates 750 years of Kaliningrad. I didn't know Kalinin was that old", jibes writer and journalist Stefan Bratkowski. The Russian celebrations for this city with its multi-cultural history seem to be more like a preposterous usurpation which Schröder and Chirac are supporting as if they still hadn't understood that by doing so, they are deceiving the Eastern European countries, Bratkowski fumes.


Foreign Policy, 01.07.2005 (USA)

According to a recent BBC survey, 62 percent of French, 59 percent of Germans and 34 percent of Britons have a negative opinion of the USA. We know who the anti-Americans are, says Anne Applebaum, but what about the pro-Americans? According to statistical sources, they are middle-aged Eastern Europeans and South Asian men with good career potential and a slight tendency towards machismo. Or as Applebaum puts it: "The British small businessman, son of a coal miner, who once admired Thatcher and has been to Florida on holiday. Or the Polish anticommunist intellectual, who argued about Reagan with his Parisian friends in the 1980s, and disagrees with them about the Iraqi war now. Or the Indian stockbroker, the South Korean investment banker, and the Philippine manufacturer."

Or the future French president? Marc Perelman can hardly contain his amazement about Nicolas Sarkozy "a pro-American free marketer who threatens to undermine not only France's economic model but also the secular fabric of French society (...) Although he is careful to stress that he does not see eye-to-eye with President Bush on many issues, he is unabashedly pro-American. 'I like America and the Americans a lot and I say it. Do I need help, doctor?'"


Gazeta Wyborcza, 04.07.2005 (Poland)

"Pardon, Poland!" begs the former French cultural minister, Jack Lang, in the Gazeta Wyborcza. He is shocked and bitter about the "leftist chauvinism" which came to the fore during the discussion about the EU constitution referendum. Lang, a presidential candidate in the French elections of 2007, wants to make the French socialists "cosmopolitan, internationalist, solidary, and pro-European again". On the subject of the EU crisis and Tony's Blair's EU presidency he says. "It's important to support Blair in everything he does well. The French have basically handed over the control of the continent to the Anglo-Saxons, so it's only right that Blair should lead Europe."

"Left-wing politicians and cultural critics have lost the ability to develop alternative scenarios, which is why Slavoj Zizek suggests studying Lenin," states sociologist Maciej Gdula in an article on trendy Slovanian philosophers. The most irritating thing for Central Europeans free at last from Marxism-Leninism must be that the former leaders of the democratic opposition in Yugoslavia now view capitalism as the only valid social system, writes Gdula. She quotes Zizek who says, "To put things in Marxist-Messianic terms, it is our mission as post-Communist states to create a new form... I'm not joking, ok, I am joking, but in all seriousness, a new form of society, which will not repeat the mistakes of the old one. Maybe we can save the world." Zizek also recommends looking at the Solidarnosc programme of 1981. "It had nothing to do with capitalism, it was about dreaming together."


London Review of Books, 07.07.2005 (UK)

Hilary Mantel recommends Neil Belton's novel "A Game with Sharpened Knives" (Wiedenfeld) about Erwin Schrödinger, the Austrian physicist who left for Oxford in 1933, then moved back to Graz before settling in Ireland. "It is Neil Belton's great achievement in this novel to create a convincing facsimile, in the imprecise and duplicitous words that are all we have for our use, of the inner world of a man who thinks in symbols and translates them into precise formulae. (...) It is a truism that science does not teach us how to live, and Schrödinger does not know how to live; he knows how to prevaricate, how to compromise, how to defer and how to conceal. This is testing ground for any maker of fictions; as Schrödinger himself said, there is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog-banks."


Folio, 04.07.2005 (Switzerland)

Already had breakfast? This week's edition focuses on steaks and drumsticks. Andreas Heller goes in search of the best meat in the world. He starts with premium Swiss Kabier beef, hand-massaged and marinated in beer (more), before moving on to French lamb, which is a world in itself (here an introduction to the different parts of the sheep). One of Heller's favourites "comes from Pauillac, the famous wine region in Bordeaux, home of Chateau Latour and Mouton-Rothschild. Like a fine wine, the region's lamb matures slowly. It's mother grazes near the Atlantic on salt-covered grass, which she passes to the young sheep in her milk. More spicy is Sisteron Lamb from Provence, which feeds on wild thyme and rosemary. Very delicate is the lamb from the Pyrenees, above all valued for its tender shoulder." The leg is traditionally used for Daube Provencale.


Outlook India, 11.07.2005 (India)

Author Pankaj Mishra reviews Amarys Sen's book "The Argumentative Indian", explaining how Sen's approach to India differs from that of V. S. Naipaul: "Naipaul sees India as damaged by Muslim invaders and emasculated further by an otherworldly and hierarchical Hinduism - a wounded civilisation that has only recently been revived by contact with Western political philosophy and industrialism. Sen points instead to an old tradition of reason and scepticism, which, beginning with the Vedas, was upheld often by India's Muslim rulers, and which he thinks forms the basis of Indian democracy and secularism."


Le Figaro, 01.07.2005 (France)

Figaro litteraire magazine publishes a focus on Germany with the title "The eagle folds its wings". Germany specialist Edouard Husson reviews "Der lange Weg nach Westen" (the long way West) a history of the German unification by Heinrich August Winkler, praising Winkler's comprehensive approach and narrative talent. "The classic interpretation is to say that the deviations in German history, from Bismark's accession to Hitler's suicide, come from giving more primacy to unity than to the establishment of liberty. But the second volume, dedicated to the years after 1945, shows that the success of the Federal Republic cannot be explained solely by the desire to set freedom on a firm footing. The reunification was possible because for the first time a German state was emerging from the unclear boundaries common to every imperial construction."


Merkur, 01.07.2005 (Germany)

"Is there a disposition to lose?" Christopher Baethge does a deep (Oedipus) and sport-historical (Jana Novotna!) analysis of why some are always defeated by certain opponents, or by themselves. He voices the suspicion that defeat must not always entail humiliation, for example when he witnesses the abandonment "with which English soccer fans support their team when they've once more lost a close match, like with the penalty kicks against Portugal, or how they lost a home game in 1996 against the Germans. In fact English teams have a more than coincidental record of failure in penalty kicks. Of the last five penalty decisions in international competitions, the English lost five. And yet the fans give the players such rousing support that have to wonder if the British don't enjoy defeat at least as much as victory."


Elet es Irodalom, 01.07.2005 (Hungary)

Historian Tamas Laszlo Papp is annoyed that the Benes Decrees, which deprived Germans and Hungarian living in Czechoslovakia of their rights and property, are still valid in the Czech Republic: "In our region, any and every little city has come up with its own salvific history and conspiracy theories that contradict the historical interpretations of their neighbours. In these myths, the role of victim is always played by the author, while another ethnic group is demonised and put entirely in the role of perpetrator." Most Hungarians see themselves "welcomed them with open arms" by the Slovakians and the Czechs. The Czechs, for their part, see themselves as "a small, courageous folk, fighting against Habsburg, Nazi and Hungarian revisionism". For Papp, the EU should have demanded that the Czechs abolish the Benes decrees, and that the Turks start an honest appraisal of the genocide of the Armenians. "So we shouldn't be surprised if the EU isn't able to become a respectable moral community."


Der Spiegel, 04.07.2005 (Germany)

The war with the Camorra, which has recently broken out again, cost 142 lives last year. Alexander Smoltczyk reports from Naples, where "the gang war is now in its second year, and Naples is back where it always was, in the gutter. Naples is a peculiar place, as the monk Don Vincenzo de Gregorio says, a city 'obsessed with faith and blood.' There are around 40 blood relics here, and in the sulphur mines at Pozzuoli on the city's outskirts is a stone that regularly sweats red drops. Naples is addicted to miracles, because it's got nothing else to hope for. Church ossuaries have had to be closed because little old ladies used to steal bones for lack of official relics, and put them in their homes. Then they'd lie down in bed and wait for the lotto numbers to come to them in their dreams."


Al Ahram Weekly, 30.06.2005 (Egypt)

In the first of a series of articles on literature in the Internet, Rania Khallaf looks at Egyptian e-book websites, speculating on whether e-books will be more successful in the Arab world than in the West, because they are not just another format but the only form available to readers. She quotes Internet publisher Kotobarabia Rami Habeeb: "With e-publishing, the works of even the least known Arab writers including first-time authors can receive worldwide exposure – instantly." For Habeeb, India and China show that e-books can also be financially successful. "The secret behind the success of e-publishing in Asia is that books were not available to large numbers of readers for one reason or another. So once they were made available, profit followed suit."


Nouvel Observateur, 30.06.2005 (France)

At this year's Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Patrice Chereau is directing Mozart's opera "Cosi fan tutte". In an interview, Chereau admits he hasn't been to the theatre since he was a child and explains why he can't stand comedians. "I don't want anything to do with these people. I have met far too many of them on stage in the course of my life. They're generally completely infuriating, trying to be funny at any cost and all of the time. It cripples me. (...) The singer Michel Senechal, who took part in 'Hoffman's Tales' wouldn't stop making the choir laugh and playing pranks. The choir was shaking with laughter. I certainly wasn't. So I took it out on the choir."
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