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11/10/2005

Magazine Roundup

Lettre International | Die Weltwoche | DU | The Spectator | Folio | Gazeta Wyborcza | Radar | Polityka | The New Yorker | L'Espresso | Le Nouvel Observateur | The New York Times Book Review


Lettre International, 01.10.2005 (Germany)

The Peruvian journalist Ricardo Uceda has spent years researching the brutal fighting in his country and the workings of the guerilla organisation "Shining Path". Torture is used by both sides in the war. But how does one become a torturer? "'At the time, I was not yet hardened, I still had doubts and sympathy for those being interrogated,' says Sosa in a statement. 'But after a few months, the feelings of sympathy retreat to the lowest levels of consciousness and only resurface occasionally in dreams. Then you notice that the proven fighters with the greatest fanaticism are the ones that last the longest. For us, torture became a method of working. You see it as a challenge and at the same time an unpleasant task."

Uceda's essay "Death in the Little Pentagon: The Secret Killing Fields of the Peruvian Army" (excerpt here) is one of seven pieces that have been nominated for the Lettre Ulysses Award. This prize for literary reporting, the only international prize of its kind in the world, will be awarded for the third time on Sunday in Berlin.

The new issue of Lettre includes long excerpts from the essays of the seven finalists: "The Outlaw Sea: Chaos and Crime on the World's Oceans" - William Langewiesche's report of those who dismantle ships along the Alang/Gujarat coast of India, which appeared in August 2000 in Atlantic Monthly; "Baghdad Burning"- the Blog of anonymous "Riverbend" from Iraq; "A season in Mecca - Narrative of a pilgrimmage" by Abdellah Hammoudi (except here); "Of Wars: Letters to Friends" by Caroline Emcke (excerpt here); "Maximum City: Bombay lost and found" by Suketu Mehta (excerpt here); "Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier" by Alexandra Fuller (Peter Longworth, British High Commissioner of Zimbabwe 1998-2001, reviewed the book in the Guardian here).


Die Weltwoche, 07.10.2005 (Switzerland)

In the first of a series of articles on the rise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to become the world's most wanted terrorist, Urs Gehriger describes the early days in Jordan in 1989. "In those days Zarqawi was still called Ahmad, a slim, five foot nine inch 23-year-old. He had hardly any friends, a poor education and no job. His father fed him and his mother took care of him. His face was sallow. He wandered the streets, seeking and not finding. But he had something that outweighed all that, stronger than education, money or a job. Ahmad Fadil had anger. It still broke out of him uncontrollably, getting him into fights and leading him to drink and steal. Again and again his father had to pick him up at the police station. He is known in the neighbourhood as the 'green man', for the tattoos on his shoulders and arms. An anchor covers his left hand, and three blue dots decorate his thumbs, the sign of his gang."


DU, 01.10.2005 (Switzerland)

The new issue embarks on a hunt for the Devil – unfortunately only three articles are viewable online. The writer Sybille Lewitscharoff has already given up hope of mercy in enlightened, godless modernity. "The body makes its deficiencies ever clearer. Each one of its pores is a sharply illuminated dirty hole. That it has become an object of total punishments is evident in the latest fashions, inspired by concentration camps: Twiggy, tattoos, shaved heads, cremation. Most people die badly. They don't heed God's authoritative call for peace. They have learned the Satanic lesson well: it's all futile. You'll never be able to bring back the realm of the dead, nor to bring the realm of heaven down to you. Insatiable, people claw at the last scrap of life with the help of various apparatus, only to be shoved in the oven in the end."


The Spectator, 07.10.2005 (UK)

The next Jihad wave could come from in Somalia, writes Aidan Hartley, who gives a pessimistic description of the explosive mood in the capital: "In Mogadishu prestige is conveyed not by the car you drive but by how much of a target for assassination you are — and therefore by how many weapons you carry in your entourage. Ahead of arrival I had told our fixer to arrange for three heavy machine-gunners and seven AK-47 riflemen. Through the smoked-glass windows of the 4x4 on the way into town, I observed how we were still not doing very well, as we regularly passed convoys of vehicles bristling with anti-aircraft guns or rocket launchers."


Folio, 01.10.2005 (Switzerland)

"I prefer to cry in a Rolls Royce than in a tram." This lovely sentence from Zsa Zsa Gabor is the motto of this issue of Folio, dedicated to wealth and beauty. Mikael Krogerus was in Geneva with Jean, the 18-year old son of a successful Swedish businessman, who considers himself something between a rebel and a man of the world. "Jean does not seem to be unhappy. Maybe because his life is no harder than others, just different. In addition to the usual questions that an 18-year-old asks himself (Who am I? What should I do with my life? Does she love me? And if so: do I love her?) Jean has to ask himself: How do I invest 300 million? Does my girlfriend only love me for my money? Who can I actually trust?"

In his regular column on fragrances, Luca Durin explains the lifespan of a fragrance molecule: "When you spray perfume on your warm skin, it's as though you were shooting with a starting gun at a beach covered with many kind of birds. First the little birds flutter in the air, the herons and pelicans need longer. If the beach were a strip of fragrance and the pelican a musk molecule, the beach would have a width of 200 kilometers."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 08.10.2005 (Poland)


Waclaw Radziwinowicz considers the relationship between Belarus and Europe and assesses the chances of the presidential candidates from the anti-Lukashenko opposition. "Belarus is attracted to the West and Europe but it's afraid of change. In Minsk, Grodna or even the little Wolkowysk, every second company is called 'Euro' or 'West'. On the other hand, they see democracy and the free market in its eastern dimension – they watch Russian television, travel to Russia and tend to think that free market means domination by dubious oligarchs." The challenge is therefore to sharpen the consciousness of Belorussians and to calm their fears of change, writes Radziwinowicz.


Radar, 09.10.2005 (Argentina)

Thirty years ago, the journalist Maria Moreno persuaded the Argentinian painter and poet Silvina Ocampo, who was already a living myth, to agree to a series of interviews which have just been published in book form. The author, as eccentric as she was elitist, tells the story of her visit to a pet store. "Once I wanted to buy a bird. My decision was to be guided by its song not its plumage. The salesman showed me a lark, a cardinal, a thrush, even a magpie. I didn't want any of them. Then I hear an extraordinary sound from a cage at the back of the store. 'That's it – that's a song I like,' I said, walked over to it and found a tiny little ape whose face would have fit in my hand."


Polityka, 08.10.2005 (Poland)

Writer Dorota Maslowska describes her impressions of a car trip to Moscow. She is overwhelmed by the size of the city, the crowds and ... how much it looks like Poland! "This is not the West, where people don't believe in sickness and death. Here the unbearable heaviness of being holds sway, and has a bloody after-taste. Earlier I used to think the same about the Polish. I traced these mental pains back to economic troubles, to the ugly architecture and I thought: Such things don't exist in Germany or France. Now I come to Russia and see the whole programme of suffering. We are born of the same mother. A dramatic existence is instilled in us at birth."


The New Yorker, 18.10.2005 (USA)


In a portrait on the young and successful German-American gallery owner Leo König, Nick Paumgarten looks at how you can get ahead in the gallery business today. "To the art market, obfuscation is like oxygen. One moment, he would say, as he showed me his messy one-bedroom apartment, just upstairs from his old gallery on Centre Street, with its fairly slapdash and unceremoniously displayed collection of art work, 'I can’t afford my own art.' Then, some other time, he would say, of his new gallery space, which he currently rents for fifteen thousand dollars a month, 'I could buy this in a day if I wanted to,' suggesting that a couple of million dollars was a phone call away. His longtime girlfriend Debora Warner, an artist with whom he shares the apartment, told him, during a recent drunken 3 a.m. heart-to-heart, 'I don’t understand your financial situation.'"



L'Espresso, 07.10.2005 (Italy)


Recent overtures by the leftist opposition to introduce civil marriage for homosexuals in order to regulate questions of inheritance met with a harsh reaction from the Catholic Church. In the wake of the affair on the so-called "pacs", Umberto Eco now sets out rules for future conflicts. "First: Everyone has the right to criticise the opinion of a Church representative. Secondly: Church representatives may state their opinions on theological and moral questions, even when these run counter to the laws of the state in individual matters. ... Fourthly: When the statements of a Church representative criticise a law or interfere in an ongoing political process, whether intentionally or otherwise, this Church representative then becomes a political subject and risks being confronted with challenges of a political nature."


Le Nouvel Observateur, 06.10.2005 (France)

On the occasion of the exhibition "Melancholie – Genie et folie en Occident" in the Grand Palais in Paris, with works from Dürer to Picasso, French poet and essayist Yves Bonnefoy (more here) reflects on melancholy, a mood which in his view above all occurs in the West. Defining the mood, he describes it as "a repetitive and yet never fulfilled longing. But this longing consists less in a true yearning for 'real life' than in the lack of an real need for the fulfilment of the yearning." For him, art then "acts as an incentive for this bright dream, this unhappy happiness. In the course of Western history, it has become a reflection of this existential oxymoron."


The New York Times Book Review, 09.10.2005 (USA)

Elizabeth Rubin reports in the New York Times Magazine on Afghanistan and women running for a seat in parliament there. Again and again she comes across landays, short two-line poems recited by women at the river or the well, or at wedding parties. "They are physical and brutal, passionate and direct. One that was recited to me on a few occasions last month was almost a threat to the beloved. It shows how embedded is the tribal sense of honor for both men and women: 'If you do not have a wound in the center of your chest/I shall remain indifferent, even if your back is riddled like a sieve with holes.'"
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