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04/04/2006

Magazine Roundup

L'Express | L'Espresso| Outlook India | Merkur | The Guardian | Folio | Polityka | Die Weltwoche | Elet es Irodalom | London Review of Books | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Economist


L'Express, 03.04.2006
(France)

Psychoanalyst and anthropologist Malek Chebel and the philosopher and Islam expert Jean-Paul Charney debate whether Islam is compatible with modernity. Charney has his doubts. For him, the main obstacle is "the significance Muslims ascribe to their dogmas. In Europe and elsewhere, for the vast majority, the Koran signifies the word of God himself, which was disseminated by mankind for its salvation. Unlike the Bible, which was written by man, the Koran is untouchable, indisputable; nothing can oppose it." Chebel, on the other hand, believes that Islam can be reformed. It just has to get rid of some problematic "ballast" such as corporal punishment or the repression of women. "That's no longer to be tolerated."


L'Espresso, 06.04.2006
(Italy)

This weekend, a new government will be elected in Italy. Marco Damilano reports on the battle between the candidates Berlusconi and Prodi for the undecided voters, most of whom are women. "The leader of the leftist middle considers it necessary to present himself as Italy's model husband: serious, trustworthy, eager. Lady Flavia (his wife) is going to bat for him; she was drawn into the campaign to win over women's votes. But the aspiring knight put his foot in his mouth. In front of 16 million viewers, he defined women as a "category", as though he were talking about the striking truck drivers. Trying to iron over that, he quickly guaranteed that he would reserve at least 30 percent of government jobs for women."


Outlook India, 10.04.2006 (India)

Is there a "crisis of secularism" in India? Economic and legal expert Jagdish N. Bhagwati takes a look at the complicated mix-up in the explicitly not-theocratic society. "The reactionary, activist fringe feels that their rights are set back by the secular state while the rights of the religious minorities, especially Muslims, are advanced." It's one thing to guarantee free and open practice of religion, says Bhagwati. "But we also need to consider what should be called positive religious freedom: that no religion be favoured in public space, effectively dominating and marginalising other religions."

In addition: Shobitar Dhar reports on the booming business in online school help (Indian tutors help American school children online for 20 dollars an hour). Ajai Shukla presents a reference book on Pakistan's terror networks. And Ruchir Joshi is delighted about a detective novel "The Page 3 Murders" by Kalpana Swaminathan, a long-awaited Indian Agatha Christie, "better than anything comparable in India."


Merkur, 02.04.2006 (Germany)

Merkur prints a text from Policy Review, in which Tony Corn explains what challenges the West is now facing: nothing less than a fourth world war. "It is first and foremost an insurgency within Islam, which began in earnest in 1979, and for which the West remained, at least until 2001, a secondary theater of operations." (here the text in full)

Unfortunately the journal entries of Walter Klier's grandfather Josef Prochaska, who entered World War One in October 1914, is only to be read in the magazine's print edition. "Our army is good in spirits. Today a glorious day. The drinking bout last night was the first of its kind in my life. We got to Vienna two hours late. I'm doing fabulously. So far, the war's a blast."


The Guardian, 01.04.2006 (U.K.)

Literature is not getting better, it's just changing, while science is constantly improving its understanding of things. Ian McEwan laments that "the discarded toys of science" get forgotten and makes a plea for their commemoration. "The writings of Thomas Browne or Francis Bacon or Robert Burton contain many fine passages that we now know to be factually wrong - but we would surely not wish to exclude them. The tradition must keep a place for Aristotle and Galen because of the hold they had over people's minds for centuries. We have to beware of implying a Whig history of science, a history of the lonely road that leads to the present."

Maya Jaggi presents the musician Nitin Sawhney, who combines Bach and Bollywood, electronic music and sitar, Enoch Powell and Nelson Mandela. But better not to put him in the world music category. Of it he says, "'World music' is a crazy term; it's another way to marginalise and generalise music from other cultures that people don't want to give an equal platform to - an excuse for apartheid in record shops."


Folio, 03.04.2006 (Switzerland)

Are old people wise? Folio decided to take a sample and put questions to 14 old people. In a lovely interview about aging, ethno-psychoanalyst Paul Parin (born in 1916) explains why he calls for a deregulation of drugs for old people. "Often one is reluctant, afraid that a patient might become addicted to – for instance – morphine. Who cares, if his old age is better as a result? Everything should be done to relieve the pain of old age... One of my teachers and winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, Otto Loewi, took Speed in the morning, morphine in the evening and drank of course all along – he nearly reached 90 and was a very youthful, competent old man. I myself drink alcohol, take lots of medications, pain and sleeping pills. And I've smoked since I was 16. I've never tried to quit."


Polityka, 01.04.2006 (Poland)

The writer and literary critic Jaroslaw Klejnocki is worried about Polish poetry: "Readers are no longer interested in young poets, and the poets are not interested in readers. The word prose is on everyone's lips." The silence surrounding this form of literature is especially conspicuous in a country like Poland, which was always famous for its poets. "Polish poetry needs young authors who can draw readers again. Now that the past masters (Szymborska, Rozewicz, etc.) have passed away, our poets are threatened by isolation, far from the eyes of readers."

"127 million Europeans suffer from one psychic illness or another. We are a continent of neurasthenics." This is how journalist and Polityka editor Adam Krzeminski begins his review of the exhibition "Melancholy. Genius and Madness in Art", currently showing at Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie. "The dark side of the soul is still a big crowd pleaser. Even if in our times melancholy is no longer a mood but a medically and technically ascertainable 'depression', it still has not been stripped of its mystique. A brilliant exhibition!"


Die Weltwoche, 30.03.2006 (Switzerland)

David Signer tells enchantingly of his stay in the Indian city of Pune, where the once shady Ashram of the controversial guru Bhagwan has evolved into the flourishing Osho International Meditation Resort with 200,000 guests per year. "There is no shortage of original offers: 'laugh-meditation', 'alchemy of the 3rd Chakra', 'sitting in the dark', 'the power of love', 'who am I without my history?', 'Zennis' (Zen-tennis), 'laughing-drumming-meditation', 'Indian temple dance', 'neutral mask', 'hip-hop-class', 'fusion fitness', 'Gurdjieff movements', 'opening to intimacy', 'die before you die', 'neo-Reichian bodywork', 'chi gong', 'belly dance', 'reiki', 'yoga', 'family constellations', 'intuitive tarot'. There are also diverse tantra groups, but they're not what many expect. The main rule is announced right at the beginning: no sex for the next five days. The idea is to work on sublimation and breathing technique. A lot of people stop coming after the first day."


Elet es Irodalom, 31.03.2006 (Hungary)

How did intellectuals, artists and journalists see the world on the eve of the Second World War? In an essay dealing primarily with Leni Riefenstahl and Viktor Klemperer, author Peter Nadas also discusses wartime reports by American journalist William L. Shirer, who used ambiguous wording to report the truth behind the back of Nazi censors. But he asks if responsible reporting about dictatorship is possible at all: "An ambiguous sentence is a triumph. The human spirit rejoices in single-handedly outsmarting the police state... But it remains an open question how far a foreign correspondent may play with words, how far it makes sense to be so inventive, and where irresponsibility begins. Take someone in Boston sitting in his kitchen, pouring sweet maple syrup over sizzling bacon and scrambled eggs. Do they understand from such ambiguous sentences how deformed the thoughts and actions of someone can become who for years has used their mother tongue for hiding thoughts rather than for expressing them? How meaning slips around in the shadow of words, hissing through the gaps in their definitions?"

The Hungarian "Digital Literary Academy" initiative has ordered a portrait of author Peter Esterhazy, who here analyses the absurdity of this undertaking. "Today you can't paint a portrait of anyone, because you can paint a portrait of everyone. In the past it was society itself that commissioned a portrait. But that is no longer the case today, where formlessness rules. Portrait painting is influenced by cultural, social and political consensuses that no longer exist today.... But we act as if they did. We act as if there were an Academy and Academy members – like me! – and as if there should be a corridor in a building where the members' portraits should hang. Now I too am to hang there... And then the painter could ask post festa, what if I had painted a triangle and said it was you?"


London Review of Books, 06.04.2006 (UK)

In his "magnificently compelling, vivid and often pioneering" book "The Conquest of Nature", David Blackbourn looks at the Germans and their relationship to nature from Friedrich II to the recent flooding of the Oder River. Neal Ascherson is thrilled with how the book deals not just with Teutonic themes but also with universal ones. "The book is also a significant contribution to new ways of writing about the human past. Environmental history can no longer be the history of the environment. Instead, Blackbourn suggests, we should recognise that societies reveal their changing nature most clearly in the way that they address the 'natural' world around them."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 01.04.2006 (Poland)

Literary historian Jerzy Jarzebski writes an obituary for science fiction author Stanislaw Lem: "Lem began writing with his 'Day After'. It tells of life after a war in which totalitarians contravened all the rules of ethics and were supported by the intellectuals. For the young author, thinking was both something fascinating and something that held out the risk of going too far. So there are really two Lems: the inventor of breathtaking visions of technical progress, and the other, whose faith in science is contradicted by his humanism."


The Economist, 30.03.2006 (UK)

In its title story, the magazine turns an almost pitiful eye to France, where the myth of a lifetime job can still bring hundreds of thousands onto the streets. The country's current situation is due to "the failure of the French political class over the past 20 years to tell it straight: to explain to the electorate what is at stake, why France needs to adapt, and why change need not bring only discomfort. This failure has bred a political culture of reform by stealth, in which change is carried out with one hand and blamed on outside forces—usually globalisation, the European Union or America—while soothing words about protecting the French way are issued on the other. After a while, the credibility gap tears such a system apart."

Biologists and programmers at a Californian firm want to breed live dragons to simulate evolution, the magazine reports. "Each computer starts with a search image (dragon, unicorn, gryphon, etc), and the genome of the real animal most closely resembling it (a lizard for the dragon, a horse for the unicorn and, most taxingly, the spliced genomes of a lion and an eagle for the gryphon). The virtual genomes of these real animals are then tweaked by random electronic mutations. When they have matured, the virtual adults most closely resembling the targets are picked and cross-bred, while the others are culled." The mythological DNA is planted in real egg cells, while readers are left wondering why this article was published in the April 1 edition.
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