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29/11/2005

Magazine Roundup

Die Weltwoche | Merkur | London Review of Books | Literaturen | Der Spiegel | The Economist | Outlook India | Le point | The New Republic | Elet es Irodalom | Heti Vilaggazdasag | The Spectator | The New York Times Book Review


Die Weltwoche, 24.11.2005 (Switzerland)


David Signer went to a sanitarium in Vienna to visit Ilse Aichinger, who is being treated for a thyroid gland problem. She talks about the futility of travel and her literary working through of a haunting past. "The father, the bookworm, 'drove the family into ruin with the purchase of five identical editions of Jean Paul,' who left creditors behind him wherever he went and who at the end 'was brought to a psychiatric clinic due to his book debts.' One day the mother said to him, standing in the apartment where one could hardly move for all the book shelves: 'Either us or the books'. And he decided 'quickly, bit not without a certain pang of pain,' for the books."


Merkur, 01.12.2005 (Germany)

What does Unesco actually do? Send a few colouring books to the third world, proclaim memorial days, draft incomprehensible conventions? Wolfgang Kemp writes a veritably evil "unsolicited activity report" for the organisation which seems to him to be "as natural as death and taxes," to quote Gerald Vouga. The prestigious "world cultural heritage" programme receives a double dose of ridicule. Unesco recently declared the remains of Limes to be a world heritage site and called the border wall a "mediator of human values through the development of Roman military architecture." Kemp forewarns: "Soon Helmut Kohl will no longer be able to recognise his 'Theme Park Germany.' Then we'll be forced to be both custodians and decoration in a historical park. Then we'll read daily warnings like: 'The elevation of the B 42 from Erpel could have serious repercussions for the recognition of the Middle Rhine as a world cultural heritage site.'"


London Review of Books, 01.12.2005 (U.K.)

How can there have been so many cases of sexual misconduct by priests in the Irish diocese of Ferns? The "Ferns Report" attempts to clarify. Colm Toibin is utterly disgusted reading it. The report exposes not only the weakness of the flesh but also the boundless, autocratic power of the Catholic Church in Ireland: "the level of abuse in Ferns and the Church’s way of handling it seemed an almost intrinsic part of the Church’s search for power. It is as though when its real authority began to wane in Ireland in the 1960s, the sexual abuse of those under its control and the urge to keep that abuse secret and the efforts to keep abusers safe from the civil law became some of its new tools."


Literaturen, 01.12.2005 (Germany)


With Christmans coming soon, Literaturen has turned to Christianity. Rene Aguigah met the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy and was given multitudinous answers to the question of whether Christianity and philosophy can be reconciled. "If being Christian - or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist – means subordinating thought to a particular order of truth, if being Christian means believing that God created the world and all that, then I must say: no, one can't be a devout Christian and philosopher at the same time. That's absolutely impossible. Thinking begins with a refusal to subjugate oneself to such given facts." On the other hand: "There is no philosophy that wasn't once a theology, even if it may have been a theology in the age after God's death." So, what should one believe if one accepts Nancy's claim that "Monotheism is in reality atheism"?


Der Spiegel, 28.11.2005 (Germany)


Alexander Smoltczyk went to dinner with Giuliano Ferrara (picture). The former communist is now the leading mind of the Neo-cons in Rome. And he is the publisher of "Italy's most exciting newspaper," according to Smoltczyk. "Il Foglio is a magazine of journalistic luxury and intellectual fashions. A lively mix of taz, FAZ-Feuilleton and Osservatore Romano, where you can find two tightly printed pages on the soccer genius Roberto Mancini or the teachings of 'Dominus Jesus' to the congregation of believers. There's a jail page and a chronicle of the best crime stories in the country." Pro-lifer Ferrara is married to an Italo-American feminist. He's on good terms with the USA. In the 1980s "he began to feed the CIA political analysis on a regular basis. 'It didn't make me rich. But I liked the immorality of it. And it was good for my narcissism.'"


The Economist, 25.11.2005 (UK)

The Economist notes with some relief that Al-Qaida is gradually losing the sympathy of the Arab population, not least as a result of the most recent attacks in Amman: "It is perhaps more than incidentally ironic that among the 60 people they killed was Mustapha Akkad, the Syrian-born director who created 'Lion of the Desert'. His film, glorifying the bravery of Muslim resistance fighters, happened to be one of the few productions explicitly endorsed on jihadist websites, albeit in a version that replaced the musical soundtrack with religious chants, and cut out all scenes showing women."


Outlook India, 05.12.2005 (India)

This week's issue is dedicated to Indian women, who are becoming more and more influential on the subcontinent. Saumya Roy writes that working mothers have caused a "mama industry" to spring up, because they tend to reinvest their money in activities for their children ranging from Vedic mathematics courses to enormous birthday parties. "In Delhi, party shops can arrange for a list of attractions at a birthday party, from Rs 6,000 for a giant wheel to Rs 3,500 for an actor to do imitations of Hindi film actors. In fact, the birthday party market is big enough for Cartoon Network, the highest-watched children's channel, to enter it. Starting next year, the channel will organise Power Puff Girls and Dexter cartoon theme parties, featuring cartoon characters, decorations, crockery and return presents, with prices starting from Rs 13,000 for a party of 30 children."


Le point, 24.11.2005 (France)


This week Le Point dedicates its title story to a phenomenon it has dubbed the "iconoclastic wave". With an eye to the current events in France, intellectuals like Alain Finkielkraut, Marcel Gauchet, Luc Ferry, politicians and groups of activists have "finally" upset the division between Left and Right. Claude Imbert looks into the reasons for this development in an editorial entitled "The graveyard of beliefs", which also deals with the Socialist Party convention: "More and more French people are coming to see the atrociousness of France's situation in its true light: economic decline, the lack of success in countering unemployment in the suburbs, isolation in a Europe which has been beaten down by the no to the referendum. There is only one suitable hope in view of this chaos: reform."


The New Republic, 29.11.2005

This week features a lenghty essay on French anti-Americanism by Paul Berman. After reviewing several books by Pierre Rigoulot and Philippe Roger (reviews), he comes to the surprising conclusion: "France's grandeur is not, after all, entirely an illusion. It may even be a sign of French grandeur today that, at a moment when a more-or-less systematic anti-Americanism has blossomed from right to left all over the world, France has, ever so quietly, made itself the international home of a new literature of anti-anti-Americanism--this new and radical and brilliant literature that has not yet worked a powerful effect around the world, or even on conventional opinion in France, and is certainly not going to produce a sudden shift in outlook, but which, even so, might well turn out to be, in years to come, an event in the history of ideas. A flash of self-awareness. The stirring of an eyeball, breaking through sleep. A new realization, just beginning to awaken."


Elet es Irodalom, 25.11.2005 (Hungary)

"Behind portrayals of immigrants as a homogeneous mass lurks the notion of a symbolic superiority of Europeans," writes cultural anthropologist Peter Niedermüller. "Certainly, in the immigrant milieu there are religious fanatics, dangerous criminals, delinquents and families in which women are subject to constant humiliation, oppression and violence. But it is the sad truth that the same problems are also present among the majority populations in Europe. We don't identify the domestic violence which permeates our modern societies with European Christendom. Nor do we associate those men who regularly beat their children and wives, or who molest and rape under-age girls and boys, with Christianity. Equally, we don't identify paedophile priests with the Catholic church. By the same token, we can by no means identify isolated forms of radical social behaviour with immigrants and Islam."


Heti Vilaggazdasag, 24.11.2005 (Hungary)

The problems facing the Roma populations in Eastern Europe are one focus of the work carried out by the Soros Foundation. In an interview, Hungarian-born American billionaire György Soros explains why: "The Slovakian Roma are the worst-off in the region. They often flee to the Czech Republic and Hungary, bringing their problems with them... But in Hungary, too, prejudice against the Roma has hardly abated. I recently had a terrible experience. In 1944, while Hungary was occupied by the Nazis, a very respectable, deeply religious woman hid my mother and me. Today she's 90 years old. When I went to visit her, she started telling me she reads the conservative daily paper Magyar Nemzet – just like before the war – and listens to the overtly nationalisitic Hungarian Radio. Then this proper, decent woman suddenly started mouthing off against the Roma, saying they lived off the back of society and took advantage of the country's helpfulness. And anyone who disagrees is a traitor, she said."


The Spectator, 26.11.2005 (UK)

"Every time we get our hopes up, we get punched by some piece of bad news," writes Boris Johnson about his relation to the Iraq War, which he calls "abusive". Now he has been floored by the news that George Bush apparently proposed to blow up al-Jazeera news station in a confidential discussion with Tony Blair. "If his remarks were just an innocent piece of cretinism, then why in the name of holy thunder has the British state decreed that anyone printing those remarks will be sent to prison?" Johnson announces: "If someone passes me the document within the next few days I will be very happy to publish it in The Spectator, and risk a jail sentence. The public need to judge for themselves." We await the next issue with baited breath!


The New York Times Book Review, 27.11.2005 (USA)

Jesus has nothing to do with the son of God, writes literature critic Harold Bloom in "Jesus and Yahweh", which Jonathan Rosen recommends wholeheartedly for its rich crop of ideas and contradictions. "Jesus Christ, as opposed to Jesus, is a later theological construct that owes a great deal to Hellenic thought. Christ, for Bloom, is a betrayal of Jesus the man, Yeshua, who clearly lived inside a Jewish world, trusted in the covenant with Yahweh, did not think the Law was death, and would be appalled at, or at least entirely baffled by, the religion created in his name."

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