Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Le Nouvel Observateur | Le Figaro | Le Monde | Der Spiegel | The Economist | Outlook India | Al Ahram Weekly | The Spectator | Tygodnik Powszechny | Elet es Irodalom | L'Espresso | Polityka .

Le Nouvel Observateur, 18.08.2005 (France)

The French magazines are all talking about Michel Houellebecq's new novel, "La Possibilite d'une Ile" (published in French by Fayard), which will hit the bookshops on August 31. The English title will be "The Possibility of an Island". The Nouvel Obs prophesies the book could be the "absolute hit" of the fall season. The science fiction story about a character called Daniel and his clones will be released with 200,000 copies. The expected sales have prompted other releases, for example an unauthorised biography of Houellebecq by Denis Demonpion, who writes for Le Point. Eric Naulleau's "Au secours, Houellebcq revient!" (Chiflet & Cie., more here) pans Houellebecq's work, calling him a "literary crash". Finally, Cherche Midi publishers have put out a "defense" written by Spanish author Fernando Arrabal, a friend of Houellebecq's. The title of Houellebecq's new book comes from a line of poetry by Arrabal.

Le Figaro, 18.08.2005 (France)

In the Figaro litteraire, author Angelo Rinaldi reveals a little about the content of Houellebecq's book: "It's about a future in which people are cloned, frozen and then thawed out when needed. In this way they are always being born again. The narrator is Daniel, who "is cloned very often". "When cloned for the 25th time, Daniel wanders over a planet where the axis of rotation has been changed. It is populated by 'neo-humans', old-model individuals who escaped the laboratory experiments and are now nothing more than Neanderthal-like gnomes with grumbling stomachs. People shoot at them for enjoyment. Wasn't it Cocteau who spoke of the 'deathly boredom of immortality'?" After panning the book, Rinaldi wonders whether the entire novel "doesn't attest to a sense of humour that's only appreciated by a few insiders." His judgement: "Laughable", and: "A dud."

Le Monde, 20.08.2005 (France)

In Le Monde, Michel Houellebecq himself gives some personal information about his book, and confesses to be a "militant Schopenauerian, and so an anti-Hegelian". In his view, Nietzsche "has effectively blocked access to Schopenhauer". Yet he thanks Nietzsche for his first "public appearance". During a German class in high school Houellebacq contradicted Nietzsche's text on the "last human". "I was kicked out of the class, which I left with the dignity of a martyr. Then I discovered Schopenhauer, and saw that Nietzsche only deals with a tiny part of his thinking."

Der Spiegel, 22.08.2005 (Germany)

Romain Leick has read Michel Houellebecq's new novel, "The Possibility of an Island" and is thrilled. Of course, writes Leick, "Houellebecq, the depressive, the exhausted, chivvied scandalous sex addict, the embodiment of world-weariness" is, in truth, an "incurable romantic." Leick can also clear up another misunderstanding: Houellebecq's critics simply have no idea and are "in truth, mostly envious, hate-filled persecutors. Just because Houellebecq describes a flat, decaying world with sexy flatness doesn't mean that the result itself is flat and hollow. His motif is modern trash, a concept which pervades all spheres of today's superficial, fun-seeking society. But that doesn't mean his novel is trash as well."

The Economist, 18.08.2005 (UK)

The title of the Economist was quoted on Thursday by the online edition of Der Spiegel, and that evening chancellor Gerhard Schröder held it up on a talkshow. It read: "Germany's surprising economy", showing a gracefully muscle-bound eagle. After the restructuring of the major businesses and the union agreement to longer hours and pay cuts, the German economy is on the verge of an upswing, writes the magazine – "if the politicians don't ruin everything after the federal elections next month." Unfortunately the article is not online.

But there is a Special Report drawing parallels between the bomb attacks by anarchists in the 19th century and those by Islamists today. There is also a critical review of Howard M. Sachar's "A History of the Jews in the Modern World".

Outlook India, 29.08.2005 (India)

The history of the modern suicide bomber dates back to 1972, when a member of the Japanese Red Army sprayed bullets and grenades around Tel Aviv's Lod airport before blowing himself up. In the current climate of Islamic terrorism, the cult of the suicide bomber has unleashed a flood of conflicting explanations. One explanation, summarises Ashish Kumar Sen in this week's issue, sees the bombers as under the influence of "apocalyptic visions of violent cultural change over the worldwide web." Others, for example, Robert A. Pape in his book "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism" , argue that suicide bombers have secular, strategic motives. The attacks are carried out to "to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory which suicide bombers view as their homeland."

Currently in India the cultural and political elite are preparing to celebrate one of its greatest authors. Munshi Premchand, born 125 years ago, brought the rooted, traditional world of Hindi literature into the modern age. In the course of the celebrations, though, we discover the big loser in the story, which fate brought to the core of Premchand's literature - India's poor. Anuradha Rama reveals why.

Al Ahram Weekly, 18.08.2005 (Egypt)

Political scientist Abdel-Moneim Said rebukes all those who see the cause of Islamic terror in colonial humiliation: "Take China, for example. It is a country of roughly the same area as the Arab world, and its population similar in size to that of the Muslim world. The Chinese once thought they were the centre of the world and the most civilised of nations." Then came the British, who demanded acces to the emperor and the Forbidden City, and began the Opium Wars. In the end the Chinese empire broke apart, Said writes. The Chinese had to sign the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, which granted the British immunity, even if they committed crimes on Chinese territory. Opium was legalised, and at the same time thousands of Chinese were made slaves. "Similar things happened to the Arab and Muslim worlds, though nothing as extreme as opium and slavery. And yet the Chinese did not kill people in London. Instead they went about acquiring the elements of strength needed in a modern world."

The Spectator, 20.08.2005 (UK)

Douglas Davis is surprised by the new alliances forming "in the fight against the fight against terror": red leagues of Islamic fundamentalists and western Marxists, like the 'International Campaign Against US and Zionist Occupations' (more here), for example. "Possible differences between the far left wing and radical Islam, on, among others, issues like democracy, human rights, xenophobia, freedom of speech, homosexuality, abortion – should pose a insurmountable barrier for such a union. But they don't. The barriers are simply removed in the interests of matching hate agendas towards America, Israel, globalisation, capitalism and imperialism. And not much below the surface you also find anti-Semitism shining through."

Tygodnik Powszechny, 21.08.2005 (Poland)

Author Andrzej Stasiuk has travelled to Albania once more, to the "black hole of Europe", as he calls it. "This was where feudal Turkey reigned for 600 years, before a short paroxysm of freedom between the wars, then a catatonia of tribal communism. I don't know why I've come here. There is nothing exotic about this place. All those exotic things, the smells and all the rest, you can get elsewhere. Here, they are merely transcended, multiplied and challenged like cheap perfume in a small, cramped room."

Joachim Trenkner tells the story of Roland Jahn, an East German rebel who openly supported the Solidarity trade union in the 1980s. "He wasn't afraid of the Stasi. Even though he was persecuted for years, thrown out of university, often beaten and put in solitary confinement, he remained a rebel. He was one of the most unusual opponents in the history of East Germany. A wilful individualist, an enfant terrible of the peace movement in Jena."

Elet es Irodalom, 19.08.2005 (Hungary)

Literary scholar Laszlo Szigeti interviews Canadian author and Booker Prize winner Yann Martel on why the identity is more complex than the national and linguistic pigeon-holes it is often stuffed into: "My culture is French, but I write in English. You know, today we look at every kind of complexity with a certain distrust. But the identity is a very complex thing... Our identities are formed by our race, culture, religion, sex, even our face. Some more corpulent people integrate this state into their everyday self-image. But when you get up in the morning, you don't think about whether you have the identity of a fat person, a vegetarian, a homosexual, a secular Catholic, an Italian or a Canadian. You simply experience the morning... I agree with Chomsky that language is nothing other than a sophisticated grunt. Whether we grunt in Hungarian, German or English is irrelevant. The real tragedy is not knowing a single language really well, because then the richness of all languages remains hidden to you. But which language you know makes no difference whatsoever."

L'Espresso, 25.08.2005 (Italy)

Marco Müller, director of the Venice Film Festival which starts next week, defends himself in an interview with Alessandra Mammi against the accusation that this year's choice of films is too conventional. Film festivals are not there to bolster media stars like Michael Moore, he argues, rather to bring films to the big screen that would otherwise be lost without a trace. "Roberto Benigni's film is not at Venice because he doesn't need it. But Ang Lee's homoerotic western, 'Brokeback Mountain', about two cowboys in love with each other, must be shown. Without Venice, Laurent Cantet probably wouldn't have got the attention he deserved for a film ('Vers le Sud') which so strongly described the sex tourism of wealthy, mature women, on the hunt for gigolos in Haiti."

For this month's cover story, Andrea Visconti asks the British-born, US-based journalist Tina Brown what she thinks is so great about "American Women", a subject to which the prominent photographer Bryan Adams has already dedicated an entire book. "In the United States, women have utter self-conviction. For them there is no limit to what they can achieve. As the English women – who I know just as well as the Americans – get older, they start to lose the sense of security they felt when they were in their twenties."

Polityka, 17.08.2005 (Poland)

Pope Benedict XVI will certainly be the star of the World Youth Day in Cologne, writes Anna Tyszecka. Only – how is the head of the Church perceived in his homeland? "For the Poles, having a countryman as Pope was a reason for pride and balm for the soul. In Germany, the land of the Reformation, rebellious theologians and empty churches, the relationship to the Papacy is ambivalent. What the Poles see with delight – the continuation of the conservative doctrine of John-Paul II – is met with resistance in Germany, even within the Church." Perhaps that is why Lech Walesa had the idea of granting Benidict XVI with Polish citizenship. - let's talk european