Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

The New York Review of Books | L'Espresso | Elet es Irodalom | The Spectator | Gazeta Wyborcza | Le Figaro | Plus - Minus | Nepszabadsag | Le Monde diplomatique | The Economist | Le point | The New York Times Book Review

The New York Review of Books, 06.10.2005 (USA)

In view of the political centrifugal forces in Iraq, former diplomat Peter W. Galbraith is hoping that the constitution will be accepted by all of the population. " A few Shi'ite groups of liberal and secular orientation are already talking of a Sh'ite nationalism – as though they were an ethnic and not a religious community. They see Iraq as a collapsed state and don't want to spend their lives fighting an endless revolt in the middle of the country. If the current constitution is rejected, there will not be a further one. And a further government with a one year mandate will not be in a position to take on Iraq's political, economic and security problem. Despite all its flaws, the current constitution is the last chance to hold Iraq together. The alternative is not a more centralised state, but rather disintegration and chaos."

L'Espresso, 22.09.2005 (Italy)

Andrzej Stasiuk is on holiday in Montenegro, in chaotic Budva, which represents for him the epitome of modernity. "The summer holidays in Budva are like a carnival in hell. Especially evenings, when the beach promenade starts being convulsed by deadly mechanical music. In dozens of little shops, sausages, skewers and cevapcici are thrown on the grill. The smoke of wood fire hangs in the air. It's a party of a poor people who, until recently, were only able to eat meat a few days a year, it's a celebration of excess, a summer funfair. Between the stands are parked cars, in front of which stand sun-glassed men: BMWs and Mercedes, the longest and biggest models. The further the state coaches push into the crowds, the more shamelessly one is shoved aside by the onlookers."

Leo Sisti writes in the title story a requiem for Naples. The population is impoverished, the Camorra flourishes and thousands of disillusioned youth terrorise fellow citizens, tourists and themselves. "In August, the in thing is jumping from the hydrofoil. The target of the 13 -14 year olds are the boats that put down from Merfelina to Ischia and Capri. As the boat is docking, they throw themselves from a platform into the water, forcing the boat to maneuver itself dangerously. And more. Some walk crazily over the deck in order to fall from it into the ocean: seven or eight meters of adrenaline."

Elet es Irodalom, 19.09.2005 (Hungary)

Essayist György Petöcz summarises the attempts by Budapest intellectuals to rescue the city's historic Jewish quarter. In the new city plans, a row of historic tenements should give way to a new boulevard: "Here, in the centre of the Elizabeth quarter, is where the 'real' Budapest was born – the world of modern, cosmopolitan throngs and encounters, the birthplace of the petty traders of Pest, the literary coffee houses and cabarets, the home of many theaters and publications, a mix of bourgeois wealth and petty bourgeois poverty, of urban and village life – little pockets of the rural in the round residential courtyards, a magical collection of the West and the Balkans."

The Spectator, 17.09.2005 (U.K.)

Mark Steyn feels that the UN is so corrupt that a reform would be pointless. "What’s important to understand is that Mr Annan’s ramshackle UN of humanitarian money-launderers, peacekeeper-rapists and a human rights commission that looks like a lifetime-achievement awards ceremony for the world’s torturers is not a momentary aberration. Nor can it be corrected by bureaucratic reforms designed to ensure that the failed budget oversight committee will henceforth be policed by a budget oversight committee oversight committee."

Gazeta Wyborcza, 17.09.2005 (Poland)

In fact it doesn't matter how the elections in Germany are decided, because "the problem is the people", writes publicist Danuta Zagrodzka. "The economy is not the main problem – it is functioning relatively well. The problem is the society, which shifts all the blame onto the chancellor. With his inconsistent policies, he contributed to the Germans not having understood what the times demand of them." Even the much-touted Swedish example will not be of much help to Germany in its reforms, writes Zagrodzka. "The Germans are not as obedient as the Swedes, the chances of Germany making a breakthrough in its reforms are slim."

Le Figaro, 15.09.2005 (France)

The debate around psychoanalysis, whose representatives have considerably more influence on public debate in France than in Germany, has been rekindled with a newly published "black book". "Le Livre noir de la psychanalyse" is counting its victims, writes Paul Francois Paoli. "How many dead? That is the question that occurs to me when I read the book, which promises to spark off a major debate, and a scandal as well... but which is nonetheless disappointing. The title alone is provocative, as is the perspective of considering psychoanalysis as a major scourge of the 20th century, along with Stalinism and colonialism." The confrontation with Sigmund Freud is also somewhat suspect, writes Paoli. The book maintains that Freud "did not think", he was "naive", and stole other people's ideas. "And on top of things he was a wheeler-dealer. After he realised that his method would make him rich and famous, he excluded his competitors, persecuted Jung and Adler, and domesticated Ernst Jones and Ferenczi. A monster, this Freud! (...) The book presumably contains one or two undisputed truths, but why all the exaggeration?"

Plus - Minus, 17.09.2005 (Poland)

On the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939, historian Pawel Wieczorkiewicz comments: "If people in Warsaw had known about the German-Soviet Pact, they would have capitulated right away. Then a war wouldn't have made any sense." Wieczorkiewicz writes that Poland was seen as a potential ally of the Third Reich right until March 1939, and only rejected this possibility with Poland's alliance with Great Britain. "The British and French knew about the Hitler-Stalin Pact, and intentionally let the Polish run straight to their doom to gain time for their own war preparations."

What turns an average man of letters into such a media star, wonders Grzegorz Dobiecki while conisdering French writer Michel Houellebecq, whose latest book "La possibilité d'une ile" ("The Possibility of an Island") has made major waves in the press. "The book is reminiscent of Houellebecq's previous novels, and doesn't really have anything new to it. Once more it's a critique of modern consumer society, and once more the author uses provocative language. He doesn't want to be a thinker, he wants to be a novelist, a narrator, a sort of Candide, but a very pessimistic one."

Nepszabadsag, 17.09.2005 (Hungary)

The German elections are over. The Hungarian elections will start soon. Hungarian EU parliamentarian Katalin Levai thinks Hungarian politicians should take German politicians as a model: "As a Hungarian citizen, I am mortified by the vainglory and incompetence of Hungarian politicians. As an intellectual, I am maddened by the intellectual indolence our politicians, the low level of political debate and the way the press chums up to the political elite. As an expert in social matters, I am incensed at the ignorance with which socio-political questions and equal opportunities are dealt with. As a European politician, I am chagrined by the widespread obtuseness in public life. As a woman, I am enraged by the sexist language which is still entirely taken for granted here. As someone who is eager to learn, I am grieved by the obstinacy with which the Hungarian political elite resists and blocks new values and lifestyles. Too bad we have too few politicians like Schröder and Merkel."

Le Monde diplomatique, 16.09.2005 (France / Germany)

In a very entertaining article, historian Karl Schlögel travels through the European archipelago, which is made up not of states and capital cities, but of islands of everyday experience. They include for example circling above Heathrow airport, tanking up on the highway, a visit to Gellert spa in Budapest, the Ikea on the Leningrad Chaussee, wandering dunes of plastic garbage and the port of Rotterdam: "All major European transport lines travel through Rotterdam, and from there they spread out all across Europe, above all up the Rhine. To the Ruhr Region, Cologne, Frankfurt, Strasbourg, Basel, Lyon, Marseille, Barcelona and Milan. Rotterdam is the final station of the 'blue banana', that high-energy, high-performance zone that is now one of Europe's major thoroughfares.... If things in Rotterdam came to a standstill, if the estuary mouth were to close even for a moment, the entire continent would writhe in convulsions, the highways would grind to a halt, the display panels on the stock markets would go crazy. The tempo of Europe is dictated in Rotterdam. Every piece of merchandise begins its journey to Europe there."

The Economist, 16.09.2005 (UK)

The Economist tells why the large telecommunication firms should break out in cold sweat in view of the inexorable rise of Internet Telefony software firm Skype (recently purchased by eBay). "Skype can add 150,000 users a day (its current rate) without spending anything on new equipment (users 'bring' their own computers and internet connections) or marketing (users invite each other). With no marginal cost, Skype can thus afford to maximise the number of its users, knowing that if only some of them start buying its fee-based services—such as SkypeOut, SkypeIn and voicemail – Skype will make money."

Le point, 15.09.2005 (France)

French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut has taught the history of thought at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris for twenty-seven years. Now he has published a volume with four series of lectures entitled "Nous autres, modernes" (Editions Ellipses). The magazine publishes excerpts from two of them, on the "Use of the World", and the question "Why schools should be conservative", dealing above all with the thinking of Hannah Arendt. "In her entire work, Hannah Arendt always insisted on the connection between the integration of the new and the preservation of the world. The schools, to the extent that they teach autonomy, seem to her to be the most holy element in this fragile alliance. 'Schools must be conservative in oder to preserve the new and the revolutionary in every child.' Emancipation is not possible if you simply ride the course of time, but only by taking the detour through the overarching sign of humanity, which can be read in the works of culture. As the masters of the Renaissance said, in Cicero's school you learn how to be yourself, not Cicero."

The New York Times Book Review, 18.09.2005 (USA)

Ted Widmer, director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, writes a letter from Istanbul in which he voices concern over the booming sales of the Turkish thriller "Metal Firtina" (metal Storm), about a war between the USA and Turkey in the year 2007. Turkey is an important ally of the US, but anti-American sentiment is running high: "A Turkish newspaper recently editorialized, 'At no period in Turkey's history has there been such antipathy toward the United States.' The American ambassador to Turkey reportedly had to find scientists to prove that last winter's Asian tsunami was not caused by an American nuclear explosion. (Then again, the cultural misunderstandings run both ways; 'The West Wing' recently portrayed Turkey as a country where women are beheaded for having sex with their fiancés.)"

James Traub writes a portrait for the New York Times Magazine of the NGO Bono, also known as the lead-singer of the group U2. - let's talk european