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22/11/2005

Magazine Roundup

The New York Review of Books | Outlook India | L'Express | Revista de Libros | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Guardian | Die Weltwoche | Heti Vilaggazdasag | The New York Times Book Review


The New York Review of Books, 01.12.2005 (USA)


William Dalrymple visited the Madrassa Haqqania in Pakistan's North-West Frontier province, a radical religious school where many of the Taliban leaders, including Mullah Omar, were trained. Dalrymple meets the school's "unexpectedly cheery and dapper" director Maulana Sami ul-Haq: "I remarked that there didn't seem to be much evidence of the Haqqania suffering from the crackdown on centers of radicalism promised by President Musharraf. Sami's face lit up:'That is for American consumption only,' he laughed cheerfully. 'It is only statements to the newspapers. Nothing has happened.' 'So,' I asked, 'you are not finding the atmosphere difficult at the moment?' 'We are in a good, strong position,' replied Sami. 'Bush has woken the entire Islamic world. We are grateful to him.'"


Outlook India, 28.11.2005
(India)

The artist Rajeev Sethi sings a hymn to Indira Gandhi. 88 years after she was born, he remembers how he once had a conversation with the former prime minister about cushions. "I said: all these cushions... why do you have them?' She said she knew of no chair she had ever sat on that her back had liked, and talked of how, from an ergonomical point of view, cushions were the best adjuncts to bad design. Holding up the cushions supporting her back, she looked up and smiled again. 'These too, could be metaphorical you know!' I have since cursed myself for being too tongue-tied to avail of the finest opportunity to start a meaningful conversation with a woman I had seen becoming larger than life almost before my eyes."


L'Express, 17.11.2005
(France)

The Islamic "boom" in France is dividing the French Left. L'Express invited journalist Caroline Fourest and political scientist Francois Burgat to battle it out in a discussion that "couldn't have been more heated". When asked whether the Left had "prepared the way for Islamism", Burgat answered: "Yes I believe that a certain faction of the Left has prepared the way for fundamentalism. It encounters a generation which is keen to participate in the progress of history and which does so in its own way and with its own vocabulary, with a sectarian and arrogant rejection, a veto. One of the people with the say in this leftist faction is you, Caroline Fourest. You contest that Muslim women can improve things for themselves by using aspects of their own culture." Caroline Fourest replies: "Let's talk about this Islamic feminism, that you find more interesting than my lay feminism. According to Tariq Ramadan's (website) definition, women should take on activities which suit their 'nature' on the condition that this does not endanger their role within the patriarchal family, and naturally, that they wear headscarves so as not to bring their men into temptation. If that's your view of women's liberation..."


Revista de Libros, 20.11.2005 (Chile)

"Sterile fathers: Borges and Nabokov." Chilean writer and journalist Rafael Gumucio has written a wonderfully melancholy pamphlet railing against the two domestic gods of the (not only) Latin American literati. "Their works are great, and their influence devastating I sometimes think at night. Both assure themselves that the rules which govern the world are inscrutable and accessible to no soul, that society can neither be changed nor preserved. Their contemporary epigones help themselves to their manias but the essence escapes them. We have trimmed Borges' shamefacedness into a standardised puritanism to shield us from ridicule. And we have turned Nabokov's lies into our truths. So many hits with no certainty, so many games with no fun, sometimes it makes me quite dizzy, it worries me sick. Because as much as we might contest it and conspire against it: the earth is still turning, and after all the literary games and showy scepticism, we are still hungry and thirsty."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 19.11.2005 (Poland)


A year ago the rigged presidential elections in Kiev sparked the so-called Orange Revolution. The Polish Gazeta Wyborcza looks back: "Pluralism, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the creation of a free press these are the revolution's greatest achievements. But people want more and faster", writes Marcin Wojciechowski summing up the mood in Ukraine. He emphasises, though, that even those disappointed by the pace of change are unified behind President Yushchenko's stated aim: the way into the EU.

For Viaczeslav Briuchowiecki, one of the leaders of the pro-Viktor Yushchenko party "Our Ukraine", the Orange Revolution was worth it. "Thanks to the events of a year ago, Ukrainians have become a political nation they've taken their destinies in their own hands!" For Briuchowietzki, the major problem remaining is that the Ukrainians' hopes are all not realisable in this year.


The Guardian, 18.11.2005 (UK)

The Labour government is planning a law against whipping up religious hatred, the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill (text here). The Guardian collects a series of statements by authors who speak out against it as a limitation to the freedom of speech, for example author Salman Rushdie: "The simple truth is that wherever religions, with their narrow moralities, get into society's driving seat, tyranny results. The Inquisition results. Or the Taliban."


Die Weltwoche, 17.11.2005 (Switzerland)


Aided by recent publications, Alain Zucker looks into the current and future roll of Google. The success of the firm, which made 4.2 billion dollars in the first nine months of this year, is based primarily on its personalised advertising through keywords. "For the first time, the effect of advertisement is measurable right down to the last click. That is reflected in the differing prices for various keywords. Someone who enters 'digital cameras' is probably more intent on buying one than someone who enters the singular. That's why you pay thirty cents more for the plural. Another fact is seen in the price for one of the most expensive keywords, 'mesothelioma', which costs upward of thirty dollars per click. That price is due to the high fees charged by lawyers with class-action lawsuits who are looking for cases of this cancer caused by asbestos."

Walter De Gregorio discovers from veteran Italian porn star and producer Rocco Siffredi about the sorts of moral squalidness he has encountered on his short jaunts into the serious film industry, for example with actress Amira Casar, with whom he played in Catherine Breillat's intellectual blue movie "Anatomy of Hell". "Amira said to me, 'You know, I've acted with Gwyneth Paltrow. Hollywood, tu comprends? Hollywood.' - 'Then you can bugger off to Hollywood, you dumb bitch!' She talked to me as if I was an idiot. If it's Vincent Cassel screwing her, it's 'art'. If it's me, it's porno. That kind of shit makes me puke."


Heti Vilaggazdasag, 17.11.2005 (Hungary)

Sociologist Janos Ladanyi writes that Hungary should also take a lesson from the strife in France: "True, Paris is far away, and the situation of immigrants under the influence of Islamic fundamentalism in France is only slightly akin to that of the Hungarian Roma. But the combination of poverty and ethnic marginalisation can spark off dangerous conflicts, here as well as abroad.... When our government, opposition and intellectuals debate about the necessary social measures to be taken, they shouldn't act as if the riots started up by ethnic minorities a year and a half ago in Slovakia and now in France were happening on a distant planet."


The New York Times Book Review, 20.11.2005 (USA)

Author Jonathan Lethem writes a hymn to his European colleague Italo Calvino, whose death twenty years ago came as a personal blow. "Calvino, it seemed to me, had managed effortlessly what no author in English could quite claim: his novels and stories and fables were both classically modernist and giddily postmodern, embracing both experiment and tradition, at once conceptual and humane, intimate and mythic. Calvino, with his frequent references to comics and folktales and film, and his droll probing of contemporary scientific and philosophical theories, had encompassed motifs associated with brows both high and low in an internationally lucid style, one wholly his own."
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