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30/08/2005

Magazine Roundup

Die Weltwoche | Literaturen | Le Nouvel Observateur | Outlook India | L'Espresso | The Spectator | Litera | Al Ahram Weekly | Prospect | Tygodnik Powszechny | Gazeta Wyborcza | Plus - Minus | The New Yorker | Clarin | The New York Times Book Review


Die Weltwoche, 25.08.2005 (Switzerland)

"I confess here no secret when I say I thought it was the stumbling of a rider who will quickly recover, and which would have put an end to things," says Abu Massab al-Sarkawi, Iraq's most infamous terrorist. His comments were a response to the criticism of his former mentor, Abu Mohammed al-Makdisi who declared in an interview that beheadings and kidnappings were wrong path for Jihad. Weltwoche prints extracts from Sarkawi's eleven page reply. "I warn you, in God's name, do not follow the way of Satan, otherwise you will go under. Beware, our righteous sheikh, the pitfalls of the enemies of God. Have you not noticed the fervent media interest of this unhappy conversation you venerable sheikh? Have you never thought that a microphone that is bought never supports what is right and never fights injustice? In fact, you are pitting yourself to split the Muslim ranks and add poison to the honey."


Literaturen, 01.09.2005
(Germany)


Ingeborg Harms met with Michael Houellebecq in a cheap, austere Paris hotel room, to argue about the disagreeable vision of the future in his new novel "The Possibility of an Island". Harms has to abandon any hope of having a proper discussion, since Houellebecq shares a certain coolness with his newest model of the future. Just as his 'Neo-humans' avoid natural reproduction, being replaced by a clone on their death, Houellebecq's views and promulgations have remained almost identical over the years. But Houellebecq goes one step further with his serial cloned 'Neos'. Each new incarnation has only a faint memory of his or her predecessor, so that awareness during the reincarnation increasingly recedes and switches to become a kind of carnal Nirvana - a vision, which for Harms is rather unbelievable. "I'm not convinced by these homo sapiens surrendering without a fight. Whilst I formulate my doubts, I become excruciatingly aware of the Germanic staccato of my protest. Houellebecq, though, never thinks to help out my schoolgirl French with a little English of his Irish alter ego. ... 'As long as they have to die,' I argue, 'the Neos cannot be indifferent to death'. 'I lay worth on less,' answers the author. 'Survival has many forms. Everything for the Neo-humans is less intensive, less painful, not absolutely different.' 'But survival isn't relative,' I exclaim, confused. 'Yes it is,' says Houellebecq. 'That's exactly what it is.'"


Le Nouvel Observateur, 25.08.2005 (France)

France is not at all through with Michel Houellebecq, whose most recent book "La possibilite d'une Ile" (translated into English as "The Possibility of an Island") will hit the bookshops on Wednesday. The Nouvel Obs dedicates six more articles to the book and its "anticipated success – and scandal." In an interview, Houellebecq describes himself as an "amateur prophet". He speaks about his research into the Rael sect (website), whose idiosyncratic ideas he deals with in his book. When he travelled to a meeting of the sect on their 30th anniversary in the Swiss mountain resort of Crans-Montana, the newspaper Le Monde found out and insinuated he was a supporter of the guru Rael. "That's not true. I just like the guy. And his ideas are interesting for a science fiction fan like me." Houellebecq says his research on the book led him to find out a lot about sects, and "finally to decide in favour of the ones that struck me as the most intelligent. These people are not about to commit mass suicide or anything like that. This is a modern movement, they don't exert moral pressure of any kind, and above all they promise immortality."

On the opinion page, Wole Soyinka talks about the idea behind his newest book "Climate of Fear", published in French by Actes Sud. "There's a climate of fear in the world. The reasons are manifold. But the most important is that the Third World and the Middle East in particular, has become aware of the injustice in its relations to the major political and industrial powers. Foremost of these is the USA, which exercises political and technological dominance in the world."


Outlook India, 05.09.2005 (India)

Globalisation continues its eternal grind against the people. Forty years ago, Indian Sohan Lal came to London, without speaking a word of English. Within a week she'd got a job with a Heathrow catering firm. Now she is protesting alongside 670 colleagues against job losses to cheaper Polish and African workers, reports Sanjay Suri: "The Heathrow strike might just have come as a reminder that the Indian world at Heathrow and around is beginning to come apart. 'Our youngsters anyway don't want to do these jobs. They don't want to load trays and wash dishes,' said Sohan Lal. 'Many of us who came from India also don't want it. We want to take our pensions and go. These new Europe 'vaaley', these Somalis, they are willing to do any job for long hours, and they don't complain. They do what they are told, they do not even speak or understand English.'"

Good actors and above all, good cricket, is on the menu with Nagesh Kukunoor's feel-good film "Iqbal" cheers Namrata Joshi. "Cricket is no longer an urban sport. You can watch the kids play it in every clearing, on the mountains, in the plains and on beaches," says former cricketer Kirti Azad. So you have Iqbal, a poor, deaf-mute bowler in the remote fictional village of Kolipad, nursing dreams of becoming a part of the India XI. He can't afford a coach and does not even own a pair of shoes. He uses twigs as wickets for target practice with his father's buffaloes filling in as audience as well as fielders." Click here for what's new in Bollywood.


L'Espresso, 01.09.2005 (Italy)

Considering the impressive stock market success of Chinese Internet search engine, Baidu, Carlotta Magniani declares China to be the new golden land of the New Economy. Forbidden city or Silicon Valley – at least the market propaganda sounds similar. "'Baidu does not limit itself to just searching for things,' believes its founder Robin Li. 'An Internet site's success is dependent on its utility. In order to further expand ours, we don't just want to concentrate on the technology, but rather focus on communicating the right interaction with it. The usefulness for many Baidu users lies in the fact that the site tolerates the live sharing of pirated files.'"


The Spectator, 27.08.2005 (UK)

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher may have sown the seeds for al-Qaeda, writes Brendan O'Neill in a very provocative piece. But other people are responsible for the fact that this small guerilla organisation grew to become a nihilistic, transnational terror network. And he doesn't mean Bush, Blair or the neo-conservatives! "In a nutshell, in the 1990s al-Qaeda became the armed wing of Western liberal opinion. The mujahedin may have been set up, supported and armed to the hilt by the right in the 1980s, but they fought alongside the Left in the early to mid-1990s. This was the period of the mujahedin’s second outing, when hundreds of them moved from Afghanistan following the final withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1992 to Bosnia, to fight alongside the Bosnian Muslims in a holy war against the Serbs. They moved there under the approving eye of the Clinton administration and were armed and trained by Clinton’s allies in the region, the Army of Bosnia Herzegovina (ABiH)."


Litera, 23.08.2005 (Hungary)

The writer György Szerbhorvath comments on an article by Andrzej Stasiuk featured in the Italian magazine L' Espresso concerning a literature conference in Belgrade in which he wrote that the conference was closely monitored by the police and the participants "felt like members of some forbidden sect". (Here our summary.) In Szerbhorvath's opinion Stasiuk completely misjudged the situation. "It is true that the Serbian police has its eye on the host of the event, the 'Centre for Decontamination' which works to combat war and nationalism. But this is not police surveillance but police protection. Because these sort of organisations have become the targets of radical Serbian groups. ... From a technical point of view it is not very hard to protect twenty writers collected in a catacomb. Whoever they are meeting to honour, whatever they are saying about the authorities is of no interest to the police, nor to the thugs. All they are interested in is targeting outsiders, the enemies within and without. It of no consequence whether they are writers, Roma or guest workers. ... Stasiuk took whatever he was told or witnessed at face value. The readers of L'Espresso and Perlentaucher will now believe that writers are at least still important somewhere because they are under surveillance. But writers are at most important for the thugs and then only as bodies to beat up."


Al Ahram Weekly, 29.08.2005 (Egypt)

Al Ahram has brought out a small literary supplement on the occasion of the Cairo International Book Fair. Among other articles it contains a story on the travel accounts of French poet Gerard de Nerval in Egypt. Nerval travelled to the Orient in 1842, because le tout Paris believed he was insane. His description of the Egyptians (excerpt), especially the Muslims and women of all colours, abound with racist clichees. But Fayza Hassan is taken by the author's poetic charm: "Nerval, however, colours his observations with his very special poetical gift. The costumes are a topic demanding great verbal accuracy; the women glimpsed behind the mashrabiya or the veil are a pretext for controlled lyricism. A Coptic street marriage, the arrival of the Mahmal, the whirling dervishes, the Dozeh ceremony, are the occasion to display his extraordinary mastery of words. The scenes, described a hundred times by others are suddenly clothed in a new brilliance, as many jewelled miniatures on offer for the first time." And the reader, "lulled by the music of the words and the richness of the imagery they conjure up, suspends critical judgment for a fleeting moment." Here a link to Nerval's most beautiful poem.

Further articles: Amina Elbendary notes in astonishment that the autobiography of Egyptian historian Raouf Abbas, "Mashaynaha khuta", has become a bestseller. The book deals with corruption and religious descrimination in the universities and – names names! In addition, one book on the policies of NGOs in Egypt and two on relations between Japanese and Arabs in general and in particular are reviewed.


Prospect, 01.09.2005 (UK)

"This is the main idea we export in the US, and we are thinking it will work in this instance as well as all others. Here it is: you must love the short story, and you must start your own many literary quarterlies, lest we bomb you and your people, and invade your shores, and send mercenaries to fight your insurgents. To our friends we will call it a crusade. To the rest of the world we will call it liberation." Prospect is taking David Egger's threat seriously and has announced the National Short Story Prize. (An international prize would, of course, promote the short story in this sense rather more!)


Tygodnik Powszechny, 28.08.2005 (Poland)

The Polish magazines are full of stories on the 25th anniversary of the founding of "Solidarnosc", which falls on August 31. Historian and former Solidarity activist Jerzy Holzer writes that even in Poland people are not aware of the effect the Gdansk events 25 years ago had on the entire European continent. "The emergence of the free trade union was an expression of the fact that millions of people in Poland had rejected the catechism of communism. The emperor was naked – and finally people were saying it. 'Solidarnosc' was the first major movement of an emerging civil society. It was a long way off, but if we ask today what remains of Solidarnosc, the answer is that we have come the distance, and shown the other East Bloc nations the way."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 27.08.2005 (Poland)

"... never again has Poland been so congenial, never again have its people been so free, equal and fraternal." Adam Michnik, one of the most important Solidarnosc dissidents and today editor-in-chief of the Gazeta Wyborcza, refuses to let his memories of the glorious revolution be sullied by the current political conflicts. But he is bitter over how the last 16 years of transformation are besmirched by many people: "Hurt, frustrated, defiled: that's how we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the August Revolution".


Plus - Minus, 27.08.2005 (Poland)

Jean-Louis Panne asks what remains of the myth of "Solidarity" in France: "Nothing. It's a paradox, because support for the movement was the strongest and most consistent in France. It mobilised many people, from many strata and political camps. Both the Left and the Right believed 'Solidarnosc' was the confirmation of their own wishes, whereas in fact they were projecting them onto a situation they didn't understand."


The New Yorker, 05.09.2005
(USA)

This week's issue of The New Yorker focuses on food. Jane Kramer takes a very readable tour around cookbooks and admits she's "addicted" to them. "By now, I own more than a hundred cookbooks, and I am determined one day to turn a few plump oysters and some tapioca poached in cream, buried in sabayon, and topped with caviar into a dish worthy of Thomas Keller, whose 'French Laundry Cookbook' actually tells you how to do this if you happen to have six hands."


Clarin, 27.08.2005 (Argentina)

For a long time, Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater has written very successful introductions to critical thinking for young people. His new book is dedicated to the Seven Deadly Sins. N, the weekly culture magazine of the Argentinian daily paper Clarin, quotes at length from Savater's reflections on good and bad anger: "The anger of people who are choleric by nature doesn't normally reach a destructive level. By contrast, people whose threshold of anger is very high become imperceptibly charged, until finally the famous straw breaks the camel's back. They then walk out the door and throttle the porter or the first person that walks across their path. That would never have happened with an irascible type: everyone would have been warned beforehand."


The New York Times Book Review, 28.08.2005 (USA)

Now that the days of lyric poetry seem to be over, it can be analysed in peace. David Orr discovers unknown treasures in poets' letters. "Poets who write only poetry are like musicians who play only cowbell: oddly cool, but mostly just odd. More typically, poets work on their poems alongside an array of literary and quasi-literary projects, from novels (Hardy) to plays (Yeats) to libretti (Dryden) to art reviews (John Ashbery) to advertising slogans for Lay's Potato Chips (James Dickey)." Camille Paglia is present at the birth of the individual in Greek poetry, with the help of Michael Schmidt's "The First Poets" (first chapter).
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