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05/09/2005

Magazine Roundup

Le Nouvel Observateur | The New York Review of Books | Polityka | Magyar Hirlap | The Spectator | The New Yorker | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Times Literary Supplement | The Guardian | L'Espresso | Clarin | Nepszabadsag | Al Ahram Weekly | The Economist


Le Nouvel Observateur, 05.09.2005 (France)

Prominent French Arabist Gilles Kepel has, together with students at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris, completed the first ever translations of texts by four leading Jihad ideologues. Under the title "What al-Qaeda really means" Kepel provides an overview of his analysis. He attests to the "incredible Arabocentricism of the texts. This is one of the contradictions of al-Qaeda: it consistently confuses being Arab with being Islamic." Moreover the texts betray "great intellectual poverty. (...) We are a far cry from the classics of mystic Islam. These writings are aimed primarily at young people. Indeed they take great pains to emphasise that no Muslim needs to seek the permission of a superior, such as a parent or a leader, to participate in Jihad."


The New York Review of Books, 22.09.2005
(USA)

Christian Caryl straightens out the misconception that all suicide bombers are religious zealots, driven to seek death by irrational fanaticism. "Suicide bombing, it would seem, is increasingly becoming the weapon of choice for a new kind of global insurgency," writes Caryl. Not infrequently they are smart weapons: "The suicide bombers are organized men and women. A suicide attacker brings the bomb to his or her target and pushes the button; but he or she is very rarely the maker of the bomb. An organization recruits, indoctrinates, and trains the bomber; an organization picks the targets and later makes the case for the legitimacy of the attacks by distributing promotional literature or 'martyr videos', recorded by the bomber before death. Freelance suicide attacks sometimes occur (most notably among the Palestinians), but they are strikingly rare."


Polityka, 05.09.2005 (Poland)

"What remains of Solidarnosc 25 years on?" asks publicist Jacek Zakowski now that the official celebrations are over. "When I was 22 I felt like a cog in a machine which was changing the world. We were not only a hope for Poland but for Europe and even the world. What a fantastic feeling." And today, so it seems to Zakowski, the JPII generation wants little to do with generation Solidarnosc. "They missed our revolution, so they feel they've got to have their own" he comments, unperturbed, concluding that this shows "that the spirit of social resistance is blazing again. And all thanks to the wonderful myth of 'Solidarnosc'."


Magyar Hirlap, 31.08.2005 (Hungary)

The writer György Konrad looks back on the founding of Solidarnosc, which he witnessed personally in Poland. "There was a unique atmosphere on the streets of Warsaw: the people were somehow more beautiful. Slim, well-dressed and carefully made-up women, and men with narrow but high foreheads were suddenly all over the place. My conclusion was that freedom makes people beautiful, especially when all you can buy in the shops are jars of gherkins and tins of Turkish tea. (...) Two of my friends among the founders were particularly important: the recently deceased Jacek Kuron (cigarette, vodka, broad shoulders, denim shirt, strong voice, lots of charisma) and Adam Michnik, who with his pidgin French and his fiery if stuttering speech, his expressive grins and his wonderful laugh, always managed to find the right words."


The Spectator, 03.09.2005
(UK)

In an article entitled "The Price is Right", Martin Vander Weyer outlines the positive outcome of high oil prices, namely that it makes economic sense to seek other sources. "A higher oil price makes it feasible to exploit very deep non-Opec offshore deposits in the North Sea, the Caspian and the Gulf of Mexico, and to re-open small, depleted oil wells in Texas and elsewhere. It makes the remoter parts of Siberia and Central Asia look a lot less inhospitable to Western companies for oil and gas joint ventures. (...) And all of these shifts will make the industrialised world less beholden to the princes of the House of Saud, whose pivotal role in global affairs has — how shall we put it? — grown out of all proportion to their capacity for statesmanship."



The New Yorker, 12.09.2005 (USA)

The magazine features a series of articles on the consequences of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. David Remnick comes down hard and clear on George Bush and his response to the catastrophe. "During the Presidential debates in 2000, George W. Bush informed his opponent, Al Gore, that natural catastrophes are 'a time to test your mettle.' Bush had seen his father falter after a hurricane in South Florida. But now he has done far worse. Over five days last week, from the onset of the hurricane on the Gulf Coast on Monday morning to his belated visit to the region on Friday, Bush's mettle was tested—and he failed in almost every respect."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 03.09.2005 (Poland)

Europe's irrational fear of GM produce has ironically put the EU on the receiving rather than producing end of it. "A negative influence has yet to be proven, " writes Slawomir Zagorski, "but the activities of various NGOs in Europe who have instilled fear of GM products in the minds of their fellow citizens, resulted in the moratorium which lasted until 2004. Unlike in the US, there is no-one in Europe who has given the consumer an honest explanation of all the pros and cons. As a result, the EU is way behind in the development of biotechnology. But if Europe is really concerned with the health of its citizens it should not turn it's back on this development."


The Times Literary Supplement, 02.09.2005 (UK)

Sophie Ratcliffe is delighted with Zadie Smith's new novel , "On Beauty". The book is about beauty, cunning and fairness, and yet surprisingly light, Ratcliffe writes: "Smith has thought a lot about vanity, and about the way our shape defines us. When asked in an interview about the 'most defining moment' of her life, she recalled coming 'across a boy who I thought was extraordinarily beautiful. I think that partly the rapture of that, and the wanting something that I could never have, that made me start writing .... There's certainly revenge in there.'"


The Guardian, 03.09.2005 (UK)

Aida Edemariam writes a portrait of novellist Zadie Smith, digging out a text in which the author explains what natural-born-writers like her do in their youth. "If the sun was out, I stayed in; if there was a barbecue, I was in the library; while the rest of my generation embraced the sociality of Ecstacy, I was encased in marijuana, the drug of the solitary ... I wrote straight pastiche: Agatha Christie stories, Wodehouse vignettes, Plath poems - all signed by their putative authors and kept in a drawer. I spent my last free summer before college reading, among other things, Journal of the Plague Year, Middlemarch, and the Old Testament. By the time I arrived at college I had been in no countries, had no jobs, participated in no political groups, had no lovers ... In short, I was perfectly equipped to write the kind of fiction I did write."


L`Espresso, 03.09.2005 (Italy)

Arafat City
or Yassin City (more on Sheik Yassin here): It still has not been decided how Gaza will be renamed, nor what form it will take, writes Barbara Schiavulli. "Gaza today is above all a host of possibilities: one of these is as tourist stronghold on the Mediterranean with hotels, restaurants, businesses, a harbour and beachside park. Inland there will be industry, greenhouses, an airport and many, many residential buildings for people who want to leave their refugee camps abroad, or for inhabitants of the Gaza Strip who are keen to leave their overfilled accommodations. In their dreams there is work for all, a prosperous economy and a stable government. The other variant is the Gaza cell, a cage in which frustration breeds terror: a base for Hamas and a secure hideout for people like Bin Laden."


Clarin, 03.09.2005 (Argentina)

"Imaginacion y violencia" – How should we deal with personal testimony, with "autobiographical narratives" of victims of political persecution and torture, after years of deconstructivist theory and discourse analysis? In a very enjoyable interview, Beatriz Sarlo, the Grand Old Dame of Argentinian essayists, talks about the moral and theoretical problems she encountered while writing her newest book "Tiempo pasado". "For many years literary theory has questioned the autobiographical I. But the same is not true for historical reconstruction in the first person. Of course in Argentina it was only on the basis of personal reports – and forensic doctor's reports – that actions could be successfully brought against former government members for state terrorism. In my view it's more problematic when someone tries to reconstruct the past from today's perspective. Someone like Oscar del Barco, for example, talks like he had already read Levinas in 1960. Nothing could be farther from the truth: in 1960 he was reading Lenin."


Nepszabadsag, 02.09.2005 (Hungary)

Varsanyi Gyula reports on the hubbub surrounding the new novel by author Peter Nadas. Readers are so curious about "Parallel Stories" that an electronic pirated copy of the 500-page work is already in circulation. A comparable phenomenon was only seen in Hungary when the Harry Potter books were published. "The novel takes place in the middle third of the 20th century, and has a complex plot and numerous characters. So you can understand people's excitement. (...) Editor Gabor Csordas has mixed feelings about the pirated copy. Circulating the text without the author's permission is illegal and detrimental. And yet he is flattered that the work has raised as much hype as the premiere of a Hollywood blockbuster."


Al Ahram Weekly, 01.09.2005 (Egypt)

Al-Azhar is not only the oldest university in the Islamic world, it is also the highest (Sunni) authority in questions faith. Or at least it is supposed to be, writes Gihane Sahine. Because while scholars there repeat ad infinitum that Islam is a peaceful religion, terrorists situate violence against innocent people in a religious context. In the eyes of many Muslims, the time-honoured institution lost its key role in religious interpretation when it was subordinated to the Egyptian state in the last century and lost its independence. "Today, the religious institution whose edicts -- for over 1,000 years -- were respected by millions of Muslims worldwide is seen as no more than a mouthpiece for the Egyptian government." This led to the creation of alternative organisations of Islamic jurisprudence. These were then made illegal and radicalised in response. Shahine concludes, "It may be partly because of Al-Azhar's dwindling prestige that the terror problem emerged".


The Economist, 02.09.2005 (UK)

The Economist has the highest praise for Anthony Shadid's analysis of the situation in Iraq, "Night Draws Near". Shadid, whose mother tongue is Arabic, talked with countless Iraqis and concludes that the American occupation of Iraq would have been doomed to failure even without America's many faux pas. Because the energy set free after decades of dictatorship were incompatible with subservience, especially to the declared enemy. The magazine is very taken with Shadid's elucidation of the Iraqi perspective: "He writes about the Americans in Iraq scarcely at all. The reader comes to see them almost through Iraqi eyes, as distant and dangerous, their presence expressed by absence—of electricity through a burning summer, and of security, when Baghdad is ransacked as the Baathist regime folds."
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