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11/04/2006

Magazine Roundup

The Guardian | Le point | The New Yorker | Outlook India | Clarin | Polityka | Magyar Hirlap | DU | L'Espresso | Gazeta Wyborcza | The Times Literary Supplement | L'Express


The Guardian, 08.04.2006
(UK)


London's National Gallery will soon be opening an exhibition of the painter Gentile Bellini, who travelled from Venice to Constantinople in 1480 to do a portrait of Mehmed the conquerer. Turkish author Orhan Pamuk writes of this portrait of the sultan, which is considered one of the most important icons of Turkish history today (and not only because of the sultan's long and crooked nose), "The Islamic prohibition against painting, the particular fears about portraits and ignorance about what was happening in portraiture in Renaissance Europe, meant that Ottoman artists did not and could not make portraits of sultans that were this true to life. But this caution towards a human subject's distinguishing features was not confined to the world of art. Even the Ottoman historians, who wrote a great deal about the military and political events of their age, were disinclined to think or indeed write about their sultans' defining features, their characters, or their spiritual complexities - though there was no religious prohibition against doing so."


Le point, 06.04.2006 (France)

In a commentary on the protests against the labour market reforms, historian and critic Nicolas Baverez concludes that the conflict has only generated "defeats": the political duo de Villepin and Chirac, the reform, the public debate and the protesting students and youth. "Defeated are the young demonstrators who, even if they were able to accomplish a retraction of the CPE, would not in fact achieve anything towards reducing the desperation of their generation, which justifiably sees itself as lost and which is faced with two choices: the more talented (more than a million) go abroad or enter the civil service, the rest accept social demotion, exclusion or criminality. It's tragically ironic that their protest, marked by a fear and demonisation of liberalism, targets primarily the instruments of their emancipation and strengthens the safeguarding of those 'insiders' who are shutting them out."


The New Yorker, 17.04.2006 (USA)


After Seymour M. Hersh's exposure of the conditions in Abu Ghraib in 2004, he is now investigating American plans for a confrontation with Iran. In his carefully documented article, he quotes a senior diplomat in Vienna: "This is much more than a nuclear issue. That's just a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it. But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years."


Outlook India, 17.04.2006 (India)

Having read Amartya Sen's collection of essays, "Identity and Violence," Shuddhabrata Sengupta comes to the conclusion that identity and pluralism can compliment each other. According to Sengupta, Sen designs a "non-solitarist" self, which possesses special social competences. "This 'solitarist' notion of identity creates guided missiles of the self that keep hitting the same target. Thus, the contemporary Muslim or Hindu or Christian is shorn (by others and in many cases by himself) of any possibilities other than those underwritten by what Sen calls 'Civilisational Incarceration'..... He patiently argues a case for an appreciation of the Islamic world's contribution to science, technology, doubt, the freedom of thought and reason as a necessary countermeasure to the univocal registers of the theses of the 'Clash' and 'Dialogue' of Civilisations."


Clarin, 08.04.2006 (Argentina)

"We need a new Luther, but it's not me." The Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo, newly arrived in Buenos Aires to inaugurate a new chair in Ethics and Cultural Studies, talks about the tricky relationship between religiosity and democracy. "It's obvious that our democratic life needs religiosity and until today, integration within a society seemed to be guaranteed as long as it shared a common religion. But is that not a myth? My impression is, to the contrary, that differences are necessary. I'm convinced that democracy would benefit from agreeing on the primacy of loving thy neighbour, a principle which shows us how to see the other as an other and not simply a reduction of ourselves. Plato was very pre-occupied with the question of unity or variety but he never explained why unity should be better than variety. Why, may I ask, should unity be better?"


Polityka, 06.04.2006 (Poland)

"You're lucky: you don't have a building, a collection, or employees". This is what Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate Gallery, is supposed to have said when he heard about the project for a museum for contemporary art in Warsaw. For Piotr Sarzynski one thing is clear: "Despite many advisory committees being appointed and the location being settled on across from the Stalinist cultural palace in the centre of the capital, there are still more questions than answers." Construction is to start next year, and it's still unclear whether "modern" or "contemporary" art will be shown, and how a permanent exhibit will be assembled at all, as not even Polish museums are willing to relinquish exhibits. Despite the many unanswered questions, Sarzynski hopes for one thing: "The museum must present and confront everything that happens in the areas of theatre, music, design, posters and even advertising, architecture, fashion and lifestyle."


Magyar Hirlap, 05.04.2006 (Hungary)

Young theatre director Arpad Schilling examines the role of political theatre in democracies. "Up to 1989, the situation was clear: theatre was aimed at either criticising the political system or entertainment. The resistance expressed on stage struck a chord with the public because it was aimed against a particular power of which they were all victims: the actors and the public alike. The theatres were full because actors put their whole hearts into their performances. The enemy was lying in wait outside. It was a joint battle; a joint theatrical experience... Today, we no longer have a common enemy. We are our own enemies. Politicians tell us that there are divides, different goals, common enemies, but two years after joining the EU any sensible person has realised that there are no alternatives in the fundamental issues. The only question is which demagogy will get you into power."


DU, 10.04.2006 (Switzerland)

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Steps dance festival,this edition of the magazine is dedicated entirely to dance. Camille Schlosser tells the story of a boy who was once allowed to take ballet lessons. "School ended at 4 pm, and ballet lessons started at 5. So in between the boy played soccer with his schoolmates in the school yard. Then he would cycle over the bridge to the ballet school, where the perfumed young dancers would comment on the sweaty young soccer player. 'Here comes old stinko again', the little tutu-girls would chuckle behind the paravent. To avoid hearing more comments after the class, the boy would often pull his shirt and trousers on over his dance clothes, change his shoes and run out to his bike. Once his underwear fell out of his bag, and a man ran after him saying 'Vous avez perdu votre slip!' 'Non', said the boy, running away. Why French of all languages was spoken in this moment of carelessness is a mystery."


L'Espresso, 13.04.2006 (Italy)


Umberto Eco is amazed at the many contradictions that make up modern life. "For example I would point to the global mobilisation of antiglobalists, armed peace and humanitarian intervention (a series of bellicose altruistic actions). And then there are also the programmes of the Berlusconi's new allies, the left-wing fascists. Then you have the extraordinarily contradictory clerical atheists like Marcello Pera and Giuliano Ferrara. Not to forget – even if we're entirely used to them – artificial intelligence and the electronic brain (as if the brain were really that soft something we have in our skulls)."


Gazeta Wyborcza, 08.04.2006 (Poland)

Journalist Adam Leszczynski takes a critical look at the "history policy", a new strategy of Poland's conservative government to strengthen patriotism and highlight the glorious chapters in the country's history. "The advocates of this idea see a reconciliation with Poland's neighbours – Jews, Germans, Ukrainians – as a danger to national interests. The consequence can only be: we are surrounded by enemies, and enemies must be fought." For Leszczynski, the policy is also an answer to the image of society put forward by the Left: "History just has to be dissected to match one's goals, and today that's being done by the Right."


The Times Literary Supplement, 07.04.2006 (UK)

Zinovy Zinik is astonished at Daniel Kalder's "Lost Cosmonaut", the report of a journey to the "most boring, bleak and bloated landscapes" of the former Soviet Union: "Tatarstan and Kalmykia, Mari El and Udmurtia are huddled more or less together near the lower regions of the River Volga, somewhere between the Azov and Caspian seas, in the South-Eastern part of Russia. These little republics came into existence due to the rigorously pursued Soviet policy of multiculturalism. This sometimes involved mass deportation and forced assimilation before they were granted nominal independence; it also entailed the provision of a fictitious, artificially created or revamped ethnic culture, with an obligatory state theatre in each capital city where plays were performed in a no longer understood language, a local history museum in which nobody remembered the significance of the exhibits; and, in public squares, ubiquitous statues of national poets and heroes whom no one respected. It is 'a whole other Europe, a shadow Europe that might as well not exist for all we Westerners care. In fact, it doesn’t exist for us'."


L'Express, 06.04.2006 (France)

Scientist, author and former Mitterand advisor Jacques Attali reflects in a short essay on the Sudoku phenomenon. The addictive numbers game says much about who we are, he writes: "It is the global game par excellence: no language ability is required, not even any knowledge of mathematics or arithmetic, as the numbers can be replaced by letters. It's also a many-sided game, perfect for when you're out and about and ideal for 'nomadic objects' like boards or mobile phones. And it's a game for individuals, affording them the calming pleasure that comes with concentration and problem solving. And perhaps above all, it is also very revealing about the basic fear underlying our societies: the fear of disorder and emptiness. Sudoku gives you the opportunity to create order, to put everything in its place and escape the confusion of reality. The game is evidence of what we are threatened with becoming: an conglomeration of egoists, autists, timorous conservatives, seeking to escape the world in a virtual realm of numbers."
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