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23/05/2006

Magazine Roundup

Die Weltwoche | Nepszabadsag | NRC Handelsblad | Polityka | Plus - Minus | The New York Review of Books | Elet es Irodalom | Le point | Al Ahram Weekly | The Walrus Magazine


Die Weltwoche, 18.05.2006 (Switzerland)

"I wanted all that. The fatherland and the pissed dead, stories and ghost stories, assassinations and spies." Noberto Funtes, at first an enthusiastic fan of Fidel Castro, emigrated in the 1990s and wrote a 2,000 page fictitious autobiography of the Maximo Lider. Sandro Benini is both impressed and disappointed by the abbreviated German version. "It's written with a very particular style, it's told in an exciting way, it's beautifully composed and wonderfully translated into German. It's neither a history book nor a historical novel, but more a hybrid testament of unconquered love-hate. Fuentes creates a literary figure and at the same time makes a claim to his historical accuracy. Despite all the fascination with the boldness of this undertaking and admiration for the enormous historiographic work that this exiled Cuban has accomplished, his book leaves the reader pretty much clueless. A strange exotic fruit that one is happy to eat but whose taste is quickly forgotten."


Nepszabadsag, 18.05.2006 (Hungary)


The plans for a major exhibition in Budapest on the revolution (click here for a series of private histories) in 1956 remind artist Dezsö Vali of the cultural politics of the communist dictatorship. The Kunsthalle in Budapest wants to instruct artists how they should approach the topic. "It's fundamentally wrong to prescribe the themes of a country-wide exhibition in advance. It's reminiscent of a time when paintings of tractor-drivers and jubilant May Day parades of factory workers were called for. Now sorrow and repression are being requested. Bureaucrats in grey suits and dark brown outfits are telling us how to paint. Real art has never been produced and never will be."

In the Saturday edition, Charles Gati, historian at Johns Hopkins University explains how he researched the Hungarian people's revolt of 1956 in the archives of the secret service. "Most important would have been to finally be allowed to read the documents in the archive of the KGB, the Soviet secret service. During my last visit in 1992, I requested this quite adamantly, at which point the archivist laid his pistol on his desk. I decided I'd be smart to go." The documents of the CIA showed "that the promises that the USA would 'liberate' Eastern Europe were not accompanied by any practical measures. Anyone who suspects that the CIA is everywhere at all times is going to be disappointed. During the revolution, the CIA had only one staffer in all of Hungary, and he had so much to do in the embassy that he could hardly leave the building."


NRC Handelsblad, 17.05.2006 (Netherlands)


A group of Dutch intellectuals (among them Connie Palmen, Geert Maak and Joost Zwagerman) have issued a public statement of solidarity with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is currently facing de-naturalization. "Maybe she was not a real refugee according to current interpretations of the law, but she certainly was in the last four years. Her 'asylum city Amsterdam' which offers protection to persecuted writers and artists, must guarantee her peace and safety. We are deeply ashamed of those Dutch who think that Ayaan must leave the country and yet again seek asylum."


Polityka, 20.05.2006 (Poland)

"Oh my blog!" cry Mariusz Czubaj and Miroslaw Filiciak in the Polish weekly. "In a country where forty percent of the adult population doesn't read at all, there are more than two million online-diaries, so-called blogs." Why? "A blog proves the existence of a person. Cultural studies researchers compare the blog mania with the portrait mania of the late middle ages, when salespeople wanted to satisfy the need for individuality and the extraordinary. This 'wanting to say something at any price' has already been given a name: exscribitionism." The authors realise and regret that what does not yet exist in Poland are serious, politically engaged blogs. "According to these standards, we are still stuck in a phase of egocentric, exhibitionist online-diaries, and that says a lot about our society."


Plus - Minus, 20.05.2006
(Poland)


In the magazine of the conservative Rzeczpospolita, Dariusz Rosiak wonders why Poland has so little clout in European politics. One reason, he writes, is a complex about the West: "Polish opinion makers are paralysed by the fear of what people in the West think of the country. Poles manically judge themselves on the basis of Western standards, attempting to live up to them even when no one expects them to. On the other hand, the image of Poland in the Western media is still conditioned by stereotypes. In general, Poland is seen as an uninteresting country where nothing interesting happens, so there's nothing to comment on. In this way our image is created by complexed Polish commentators and stereotypes commonly found among Western, liberal elites." No good starting point for a self-confident foreign policy. For Rosiak, what Poland needs is "political determination, competence and a feeling of belonging. Not one based on victimisation myths but on the conviction that it is a good thing to be part of the EU."


The New York Review of Books, 08.06.2006 (USA)


In the debate about the article written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt on the "Israel Lobby", Michael Massing situates himself squarely on the side of the authors. They had contended it was Jewish pressure groups, and not American interests, that determine US policy toward Israel. However Massing does concede that the authors had no compelling proof for their accusations. But: "The nasty campaign waged against John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt has itself provided an excellent example of the bullying tactics used by the lobby and its supporters."


Elet es Irodalom, 19.05.2006 (Hungary)

People who have been exposed as former Stasi spies usually justify their actions by claiming they were forced to collaborate. Holding up renowned scholars as an example, the young historian Krisztian Ungvary argues that in actual fact they did have a certain freedom of action. He points out that when historians György Ranki and Ferenc Glatz and literary scholar Mihaly Szegedy-Maszak simply refused to collaborate with the Stasi, this had no severe repercussions on their careers. Historian Karoly Vigh, on the other hand, was quite willing to spy on his famous colleague, Domokos Kosary. Kosary lost his post and very nearly went to jail. "The cases I reported are just the tip of the iceberg. The files contain many reports that prove there weren't only traitors, but also courageous people under the dictatorship. Numerous accounts showing how the Kadar regime worked have been recorded for posterity. Sooner or later they will come to light. It lies in the interest of Hungarian society that the perpetrators and victims of these accounts be made known."


Le point, 18.05.2006 (France)

In his "Notebook" column, Bernard-Henri Levy turns his attention to the Peter Handke affair. Handke's play "Voyage to the Sonorous Land or the Art of Asking" was to have been staged by the Comedie Francaise in January, but was then struck from the theatre's programme. Commenting on Handke's "Rund um das Große Tribunal", a chronicle of the trial against Milosevic, Levy writes, "If I'd been in Marcel Bozonnet's place, I wouldn't have had to wait for Handke's participation Milosevic's funeral to know there was no place for him in my theatre.... The fact is that Handke should never have been programmed in the first place. It should have been clear to everyone much earlier that they had no intention of working with a man who thinks that 'the suffering of the Serbs is greater than that of the Jews under Nazism'."


Al Ahram Weekly, 18.05.2006 (Egypt)

In a passionate article, Palestinian migration researcher and publicist Abdel-Qader Yassine criticises European countries of creating an "ethnic absolutism" with their immigration policies, which are the result of "aggressive, relentless imperialist expansion": "Even as the EU is the single most cohesive economic unit the world has ever known -- the wealthiest and most powerful entity in history -- the peoples of this empire are barricading themselves in, aided in this by the rhetoric of fear and helplessness: fear of the nameless, foreign flood of humanity; helplessness at the escalating violence enacted to staunch that flood. But if refugees are a challenge as well as a reproach to our humanity, if refugees are a lament raised, a cry spoken, if refugees are the bastards of the idea of empire, then how can one blame this highly disenfranchised, displaced humanity for all the ills of Europe?"


The Walrus Magazine, 01.06.2006
(Canada)


The decision by potato breeding company Europlant to pull the potato sort "Linda" from the market caused a hue and cry among her fans in Germany. A year and a half later, Naomi Buck visited the protagonists of German's potato saga. Despite initiatives by some farmers to preserve Linda, Europlant's Managing Director Jörg Renatus doesn't believe she has a future. "'Look,' he says, massaging his Palm Pilot, 'Linda is forty years old. She was first bred in 1964. She's vulnerable to fungus infections and has no resistance to nematodes. In the fall, she's mealy; in the spring, she's firm. She's just one sort like hundreds of others.' (...) 'Why should Volkswagen keep making the Beetle when they've got the Golf?' The Golf, in this case, is Belana (more), and Renatus lights up at the mention of her name. 'She's yellow and firm, has excellent resistance and an intense taste. And she's already selling better than Linda ever did. We're exporting her, even to Canada.'"
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