Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

L'Espresso | Al Ahram Weekly | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Guardian | Polityka | Folio | The New York Times Book Review | Weltwoche

L'Espresso, 11.08.2005 (Italy)

"Belgrade is a strange city," writes Andrzej Stasiuk, who went there for an event being held in the name of his famous colleague Danilo Kis. "The gathering that was intended to honour one of the greatest Serbian writers was being watched over by Serbian police. The participants feel a bit like the members of a forbidden religion, meeting in the catacombs. The audience is made up mainly of friends. On the walls are photographs of graves full of corpses but the speakers talk of poetry, metaphors and the phonetics of texts whose shared feature is the narrative of paranoia and the perversion of power which is nourished by death and massacres."

Al Ahram Weekly, 04.08.2005 (Egypt)

Amr Hamzawy explains that, due to a well-rehearsed duo, necessary reforms are going to proceed very slowly, if at all, in Saudi Arabia. "The ruling elite monopolises the government and national revenue while the Wahabi religious establishment controls schools and universities. Their power is exercised and perpetuated within the framework of a mutually beneficial relationship whereby the latter confers religious legitimacy upon the ruling elite while the former protects the Wahabis' absolute authority to regulate society. This reciprocal arrangement works to curb any reformist drive, giving both sides of the equation the ability to determine the nature and pace of political change. Against this binary power structure the influence of other political forces in society, from the liberal, secularist, enlightened Islamist to the hardline fundamentalist, pales. Whatever hopes they entertain are pinned either on manoeuvring themselves into positions whereby they can obtain the ear of those who monopolise power, or else on mobilising the public in support of their demands, so enhancing their room for manoeuvre."

Gazeta Wyborcza, 06.08.2005 (Poland)

Miroslaw Czech and Jerzy Chmielewski engage in a debate on the situation in Belarus. In the last two weeks, several speakers representing the Polish minority in Belarus have been arrested.
Lukaschenko has accused them of being a raiding patrol of the EU, trying to instigate an orange revolution. Czech said in an interview, "Warsaw must not be silent if the rights of the Polish minority are being violated, but Lukashenko's regime can spin this as a western intervention in the country's domestic politics. For this reason, one must try to represent the problem as a violation of elementary human rights and not as a bilateral conflict. We have to make it clear to the Belorussians that this also has to do with their rights. To do this, the representatives of the Polish minority and the Belorussians in Poland should be brought together – solidarity of the minorities against the dictatorship!" Chmielewski, himself a representative of the Belorussian minority in Poland, warns, "We regret the situation but we have little influence on it. Poland should be more careful in its statements so that the Belorussians don't get the feeling that they are being talked down to by their western neighbours. I only hope that the present conflict does not result in separation and animosity – we must get to know and understand each other better."

The Guardian, 06.08.2005 (UK)

The writer Blake Morrison goes to bat for editors – key figures in the world of literature who are characterized as know-it-alls but whose existence is now seriously threatened, as their work is increasingly regarded as superfluous. Particularly in England, cutbacks have meant that publisher's in-house editors are no longer able to supervise all their authors, meaning that either freelancers are engaged or novels are published in their raw form. "Perhaps I've been unusually lucky, but in my experience, editors, far from coercing and squashing writers, do exactly the opposite, elucidating them and drawing them out, or, when they're exhausted and on the point of giving up (like marathon runners hitting the wall), coaxing them to go the extra mile. And yet this myth of the destructive editor - the dolt with the blue pencil - is pervasive, not least in academe." Today it still pertains: "Those who can, write; those who can't, edit - that seems to be the line. I prefer TS Eliot. Asked if editors were no more than failed writers, he replied: 'Perhaps - but so are most writers.'"

Polityka, 03.08.2005 (Poland)

Adam Krzeminski writes on the 60th anniversary of the Potsdam Conference, commenting that in contrast to the celebrations marking the end of World War II on May 8-9, no country was making a big thing of the day. No wonder: "Potsdam was a 'day of reckoning'. And one of the judges was a criminal comparable to Hitler. Yes, the Allies agreed to drastic solutions, like the massive 'transfer' of the German populations living in Central and Eastern Europe, solutions which complied with no existing intergovernmental arrangements. But these were also exceptional times. You can't declare war on two continents, wage it in the most criminal way, and then go home as if you'd lost a football match. What should the Allies have done? Cut Germany into little bits, turn it into one big potato patch, require it to pay an additional ten billion dollars in reparations?" But, Krzeminski insists, the Potsdam model must be declared an isolated historical event, one that could not serve as an example.

Folio, 02.08.2005 (Switzerland)

The weekly magazine of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung is all about men. English ethnologist Nigel Barley takes a look at "new laddism". "I called another friend, a psychologist, and asked him what he thought about it. He sounded irritated. 'Baloney', he grumbled. 'Laddism is nothing but a new name for egoistical retarded development. By the way, did I tell you I'm getting a divorce and moving into a new place? I've realised that in fact I don't really want children. I have enough of them all day long at work. Where was I? Oh yeah, you're barking up the wrong tree. The real problem of laddism doesn't lie with men, but with women! Today they all act the same way, they go on binges, eat fast food, burn the candle at both ends... Have you seen how girls walk around these days? That says it all. I can't imagine any man letting it all hang out like that. It's nauseating."

In his Duftnote column on fragrances, Luca Turin calls for great perfumes to be conserved for eternity. Current scent museums do not deserve the name, he writes. "Most of them (one in Paris and several in Grasse) consist of collections of bottles and end up in a shop. There the frustrated visitors who were not allowed to smell a thing for half an hour are set loose among an arsenal of multicoloured soaps they can take home and give to relatives and other un-loved ones. The biggest museum in Grasse used to have a glass wall behind which you could see a perfumer at work, just like a panda bear in a zoo. And just like a panda, the poor guy spent most of his time holed up in a back room."

The New York Times Book Review, 06.08.2005 (USA)

Rachel Donadio visits the "irascible prophet", writer V.S. Naipaul, at his home in Wiltshire. The author does full justice to his reputation, and rails against French authors like the "tedious" Proust and the "infuriating" Stendhal with as much gusto as he denounces the "philosophical shrieking" of Islamist holy warriors. And he announces the end of both modernity and fiction: "'We've changed. The world has changed. The world has grown bigger.' Which brings us back to the limitations of the novel. The writer must leave the sitting room and travel abroad into the active, busy world. It is the tragic vision only a novelist can reach: that the world cannot be contained in the novel." Listen to excerpts from the interview here.

Weltwoche, 08.08.2005 (Switzerland)

Urs Gehriger and Simon Brunner quote from blogs, homepages and Internet forums by American soldiers stationed in Iraq. "We sat tight, my humvee was in flames. Everyone else from my truck was wounded, and my machine gunner, Lance Corporal Cisneros, was dead. He'd saved our lives when a rocket hit the roof of the transporter and exploded downwards. He took the whole brunt of the explosion and protected the rest of us." One amateur porno forum features a big archive with films and images taken by soldiers while deployed. The key to its success: anyone providing material from Iraq gets free access to the pay-to-view pages. - let's talk european