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31/01/2006

Magazine Roundup

Elet es Irodalom | Nepszabadsag | Prospect | Outlook India | Gazeta Wyborcza | Das Magazin | The Times Literary Supplement | Przekroj | The Spectator | The New York Times Book Review


Elet es Irodalom, 27.01.2006
(Hungary)

Elet es Irodalom has kicked off a lively discussion on how to deal with secret police informers. It started when the magazine published a number of documents covering the activities of film director Istvan Szabo between 1957 and 1963. He wrote 48 reports about 72 colleagues and teachers. Alongside general descriptions of the atmosphere at the film school ("... it cannot be described as resistance, the students are not interested in politics, in the development of the socialist situation"), the reports also provide information on more private matters ("... the money made him irresponsible and snooty..."). Some of Szabo's "mini portraits" obviously prompted the secret police to subject the respective individuals "to closer observation."

The author Rudolf Ungvary wonders why Hungarians are so disinterested in their recent history: "It is bizarre how a section of the population forewent any investigation into the mechanisms of the secret police in a party state, although it was precisely the secret police that represented the greatest humiliation for Hungarian citizens. Today Hungarians feel personally insulted when their beloved football commentator is revealed to be a former police informer, it does not worry them that the denouncers never utter a word of apology. And the message needs to come across that informing is wicked and the political withholding of rights is intolerable, and that inner emigration is utterly worthless if it takes place without the consciousness of the moral opposition."


Nepszabadsag, 30.01.2006 (Hungary)

The film director Istvan Szabo ("Mephisto") was quick to react in an interview about the revelations that he had been a police informer under the Communist regime in Hungary. "I am grateful and in retrospect proud of my co-operation, because it meant we were able save a fellow student from a certain death sentence after the revolution of 1956. I am also happy finally to be able to tell my story (perhaps in a film too), because it will work like a healing remedy for many people and deliver a more accurate image of the period between 1957 and 1960. I am not interested in my own defence."

The magazine prints a declaration signed by 100 intellectuals and artists in support of Szabo: "For the last 45 years Istvan Szabo has made wonderful and important films for us, and for the entire world. With our signatures we attest to our undiminished respect for him." Even one former colleague, Miklos Jancso, who Szabo had reported on to the secret police (writing: "He is insecure, like his way of thinking... everyone thinks he's crazy... no one either expects anything of him or counts on him for anything. For this reason the many chaotic philosophies swirling about in his head pose no threat..."), comments about Szabo's remark that he had worked with the secret police to help protect a fellow student: "We knew it, and also that someone had to save him. But that someone could save him in this way, the way Istvan did, is really fantastic. It couldn't have been easy for him to live with something like that."


Prospect, 01.02.2006 (UK)


In the future, Londoners will be able to phone with their mobiles in the Underground too, groans William Davies, whose essay attempts to construct a critique of "digital exuberance". Why cry over mobile phone reception in the Underground? Because "technological bottlenecks can also provide necessary conditions of social interaction or valuable moments of isolation" and because "community depends on some sense of continuity and co-dependence, and a sense of the inescapability of social relations". For this reason it is important not to wipe out these technological bottlenecks but to treasure them. Like, for example, the old-fashioned post offices, which are valuable "not only in spite of the inconvenience of queues and bureaucrats, but almost because of them." For Davies we need to develop an "ethics of inconvenience" to grant them the value they deserve.


Outlook India, 06.02.2006
(India)

Chander Suta Dogra tells how the gods of the Himalayas are putting a spanner in the works of Ford heir Alfred Ford. He has plans to build a ski village in the Himalayas that will be the future home to the Winter Olympics and provide 3,000 jobs for the region. But the gods, represented by local visionaries, are apparently not at all happy about the idea. The natives would lose their rights of use for water and fields, the environment would be destroyed and anyway: "how could a foreign investor buy the holy mountain?"


Gazeta Wyborcza, 30.01.2006 (Poland)

The paper's weekend magazine features an interview with French historian Daniel Beauvois, whose book "The Noble, the Serf, and the Revizor" deconstructs the myths of the Polish / Ukrainian / Russian cohabitation in the so-called Kresy Region of former East-Poland between 1794 and 1914. Beauvois compares the relationship between the Polish Catholic aristocracy and the Ruthenian-Orthodox farmers to slavery, denying the legend of religious tolerance in early modern Poland: "An other 'sacred doctrine' of Polish historical writing is the aristocratic democracy. In truth the petty aristocracy hardly participated in the political system at all. Whenever I say something like that my fellow historians look at me with scowl. But in my opinion the de-mystification of pseudo history is the most important task for historians of Eastern Europe. The fight against national megalomania requires sober analysis and understanding, not patriotic flights of fancy."


Das Magazin, 28.01.2006 (Switzerland)

Karl Wild reports on the native residents of noble ski resort St. Moritz: "Other St. Moritz residents also have milking cows, or sumpter-horses. The Conrad family, for example, once had 350 mules. Today Martin Conrad AG is the number one transport and fuel company in the entire Engadine. And garage-owner Christian Mathis sold Porsches, Audis and Range Rovers year in, year out like hotcakes. He acquired the reputation of being the world's best car salesman when he sold Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli an Audi quattro. Today he's retired in Ticino."


The Times Literary Supplement, 27.01.2006 (UK)

What do Mozart and Sid Vicious have in common? asks Canadian composer Stephen Brown. The answer: "Primitivism. Rock'n'roll began as a primitivist movement, and it renews itself with mini-primitivisms, of which punk is just one example. To see Mozart as a primitivist is a little harder, since his style is so identified with the civilized and the rational, things we think of as anti-primitive, and yet the Classical movement in music, like its companion neoclassicism in art, owed everything to the primitivist desire to begin anew by stripping away the false and inessential. Ecrasez l'infame."

Omer Bartov praises Russian author Vasily Grossman's notebooks "A Writer at War", claiming that they form the basis of Grossman's novel "Life and Fate", a settling of accounts with both Nazi and Stalinist terror. "What makes these notebooks so valuable, however, is their evident sincerity, Grossman’s critical yet empathetic gaze, and the manner in which his admiration of Soviet patriotism and his growing anger at the incompetence of so many commanders and the readiness of the regime to squander the lives of its sons combine to provide a searing portrait of the immense quantities of blood that were so readily given and so nonchalantly wasted to win a victory that had to be won."


Przekroj, 26.01.2006 (Poland)

"Iran will build an atomic bomb, and if the West or Israel try to stop it there will be a war the likes of which the world has never seen," warn Wawrzyniec Smoczynski and Marek Rybarczyk. The authors do not believe either European diplomacy or UN sanctions can pre-empt Israeli action – a US military intervention is more likely in their view. But "any overt military action will provoke a bloody reaction. The USA underestimates the power of Iran. An escalation of the conflict is inevitable." The key to the conflict lies in Moscow, the authors write. If Russia threatened to stop nuclear cooperation, Teheran would go back to the negotiating table. "Then the world would have to accept a further uninvited member into the 'atomic club', even if it will most likely never use its atomic weapons."


The Spectator, 28.01.2006 (UK)

William Cash tells how he was invited to tea by Major Ranulf Rayner, a gentleman farmer, fountain builder (by appointment to the Queen), Cresta rider and occasional author. "Just as we were offered another round of crumpets, he asked us, 'Would anybody be interested in seeing Hitler's telephone?' We said we would. Major Rayner led us into his study and told the story of how his father – a brigadier who was also Tory MP for Totnes and deputy head of communications for the 21st Army group – had linked up with the Russians in Berlin. 'My father was taken by the Russian liaison officer to Hitler’s bunker,' said Major Rayner. 'He was one of the first Allied troops to see it. This was about two days after Hitler committed suicide.' Opening up an enormous safe which led into a vault, the Major emerged clutching a rather dirty and grimy red phone, attached to its original cord. 'My father was taken first to Eva Braun's bedroom where he was offered her black telephone because it seemed an appropriate piece of loot, but my father said Niet in his best Russian: I would prefer the red one by Hitler's bed because red is my favourite colour.'"


The New York Times Book Review, 30.01.2006 (USA)

Garrison Keillor is livid at "American Vertigo" (first chapter) by French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy. Originally written as a series of articles for Atlantic Monthly with the title "Travelling America in the Footsteps of Toqueville", the book serves in Keillor's view as a warning to those wanting to explain France to the French: "You meet Sharon Stone and John Kerry and a woman who once weighed 488 pounds and an obese couple carrying rifles, but there's nobody here whom you recognize. In more than 300 pages, nobody tells a joke. Nobody does much work. Nobody sits and eats and enjoys their food. You've lived all your life in America, never attended a megachurch or a brothel, don't own guns, are non-Amish, and it dawns on you that this is a book about the French. There's no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title."
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