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03/01/2006

Magazine Roundup

Granta | Al Ahram | L'Espresso | Elet es Irodalom | Gazeta Wyborcza | Der Spiegel | The New York Times Magazine


Granta, 15.01.2006 (UK)

Lindsey Hilsum draws our attention to an African revolution: "The Chinese are the most voracious capitalists on the continent and trade between China and Africa is doubling every year." What they are most interested in is African oil! The Africans are profiting from the trade but they are also interested in something else: "Africa looks to China and sees success: according to the World Bank, the Chinese have lifted 400 million of their own people out of poverty in the past two decades. All the while, no one forced the Chinese government to have elections or allow its opponents to start newspapers. Many African leaders would love to do to their oppositions what the Chinese did to theirs in Tienanmen Square, but if they want Western aid money, they must abide by Western conditions.... The Chinese come to Africa as equals, with no colonial hangover, no complex relationship of resentment. China wants to buy; Africa has something to sell." This could form the basis for a way forward for Africa which the Europeans and the Americans have failed to provide.

Just how annoying Africans find Europeans is made crystal clear in an article by Binyavanga Wainaina (more). The Kenian author and founder of the literature magazine Kwania offers a few tips for anyone wanting to write a book about Africa: "Don't get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn't care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular."


Al Ahram Weekly, 29.12.2005 (Egypt)

Nabil Abdel-Fattah, the author of the annual "State of Egyptian Religion Report" writes on the enormous concern and also ignorance in the Egyptian reaction to the success of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in the recent elections. Until now there has been very little sociological research into the evolution of the group. And there is "considerable mystery" surrounding its ideas on the modern state. "Surprise and concern at MB electoral victories also extends to cultural circles, especially writers and filmmakers. The MB has been much less ambiguous on matters of artistic creativity. Not easy to forget are the controversies that erupted around the MB's condemnation of 'A Banquet of Seaweed' by Syrian novelist Haidar Haidar and demonstrations by Al-Azhar students against several other novels. The cultural establishment became wary of certain types of creative output while religious establishments took an increasingly prominent role in the censorship of artistic and even scholastic production."


L'Espresso, 05.01.2006 (Italy)


The magazine has compiled a number of vignettes picturing life in 2006. The only one available online is Umberto Eco's contribution which asks whether everything really has to change so quickly and whether deceleration is in fact the word of the hour. "It's not about change in the sense of striving for perfection and the anticipation of something new. Many of the changes in the world of fashion, for example, consist of recycling and returning to the past and creating the new therein, wearing the clothes from the Twenties or the prehistoric era of Mary Quant. The excess of change does not aim for constant progress, nor for Leopardi's 'fantastic opportunities and improvements' but takes the form of a spiral movement, of 'regressive innovation'."

In his Bustina column, Eco again recommends the comi-tragic author Luciano Bianciardi whose work he clearly finds deeply moving and the majority of which has just been published in a stately edition "L'Antimeridiano".


Elet es Irodalom, 23.12.2005 (Hungary)

His ashes should be strewn over the sea in Trieste, and those present at the ceremony should go to a coffee house and not talk about him: this was the last wish of Hungarian author Miklos Meszöly, who died in 2002. His friend Laszlo R. Hollos reflects on what the city of Trieste would have meant for him: "He surely meant the Cafe Tommaseo, to the left of the Piazza Unita... a true coffee house from the 19th century, like the New York Coffee House in Budapest, the Cafe Slavia in Prague or any number of examples in Vienna: huge mirrors, marble tables, crystal chandeliers... Trieste lies on the border between North and South, just like Meszöly's home town Szekszard: an invisible border between the spirits of two landscapes, where you can experience two worlds. On the seaside in Trieste you can feel the cheerfulness, noise and fragrances of the Mediterranean. But there is no washing hung up to dry and flapping in the breeze between the houses. The city is colder, more withdrawn than other Italian cities. The spirit of Wittgenstein lingers between the dazzling colours of the Adriatic."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 31.12.2005 (Poland)

In the second part of his series on labour migrants in Europe, Polish-Swedish author Maciej Zaremba writes this time on the famous conflict between Swedish unionists and Latvian "cheap workers" in December 2004. "As someone who hails from the other side, I can understand that for the Latvians this wasn't just part of the fight for equal working conditions, but a further chapter in the history of Swedish arrogance. The Swedish unions must heed their own interests – but they shouldn't demand that the poor Latvians show solidarity with the rich Swedes."


Der Spiegel, 02.01.2006 (Germany)

Cordt Schnibben describes in an essay the dilemma of today's political parties in wanting to be conservative and having to be neo-liberal: "The bourgeois camp demands of its supporters and electors that they be schizophrenic. Trust the market, but expect it to be arbitrary. Plan long-term, but risk everything. Consume with both hands, but make arrangements for your retirement. Be on the lookout for what is new, but value tradition. Think globally, but love your homeland. Mistrust the state, but obey it."

In an interview, historian Karl Schlögel predicts a reawakening of the European spirit in the cities of Eastern Europe. "For a long time now, I've been annoyed by people acting as if the new Europe is being created in the conference rooms of Strasbourg and Brussels. Of course everyone's looking to the West, but Europe doesn't end at the banks of the River Oder. The map of Europe is being redrawn. I believe that in the long term Europe's centres will shift eastwards. People will become aware of the great potential that lies in the cities of Eastern Europe. Countless people who are working to unite Europe are already shuttling back and forth between East and West."


The New York Times Magazine, 01.01.2006 (USA)


In an article with the fetching title "Bitter Orange", Audrey Slivka presents the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who now leads the opposition against the government she co-founded one year ago. "In the months before Ukraine's parliamentary election, scheduled for this March, Tymoshenko has seized the mantle of the Orange Revolution, casting Yushchenko as its betrayer. This is a typically polarizing move by a politician who is as distrusted by large segments of Ukraine's fragmented electorate - Ukraine's Eva Peron, she has been called - as she is admired by her own followers. At the November rally, she delivered an aggressive speech calling for the stalled revolution to go on. 'Once again,' she declaimed in a reference to the oligarchs she blames for her dismissal, 'the clans beat me - temporarily!' When Yushchenko finally spoke, her supporters taunted him by screaming her name. 'Shout "Yulia" one more time, and then I'll make my speech,' the president sarcastically instructed. Tymoshenko, who likes to piously repeat that she bears Yushchenko no enmity, stood behind him wearing an expression of radiant innocence."

Further articles: In a preprint of his new book of essays, American philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah argues for a new cosmopolitanism. D.T. Max reports with a certain amount of sympathy on a tenacious South African taxidermist trying to breed the extinct quagga. And Daphne Merkin complains in obsessive detail that the beauty craze no longer stops at the vagina.
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