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27/06/2006

Magazine Roundup

Lettre International | The New Yorker | Outlook India | Literaturen | Al Ahram Weekly | Vanity Fair | Tygodnik Powszechny | The Nation | Le point | L'Espresso | The New York Review of Books | Magyar Hirlap | Elet es Irodalom | The New York Times Book Review


Lettre International, 01.07.2006 (Germany)

Unfortunately, only some texts of this commendable issue can be viewed online. Mike Davis tells the fascinating 85 year old history of the car bomb. "On a warm day in September 1920, a few months after the arrest of his buddies Sacco and Vanzetti, a vengeful Italian anarchist by the name of Mario Buda parked his horse and buggy close to the intersection of Wall Street and Broad Street, right across from J.P. Morgan Bank. Buda got out of the buggy, taking his time, and disappeared unnoticed into the crowd of people who were just coming out of their offices to go to lunch. A few blocks on, an astonished mailman found a note with the demand: 'Let the political prisoners go or you are all sure to die!" The note was signed by the 'American anarchistic fighters.' The bells of nearby Trinity church began to strike twelve. As they rang out, the horse and buggy exploded with its load of dynamite and scrap like a fireball of shrapnel."

Writer Antonio Tabucchi professes his love for Pedro Almodovar. "Almodovar's cinema is like a trip through the clownery of life, this ancient and ever-changing archipelago, where the ancient and ever-changing clown in us puts on all its masks, and strikes all the poses that his syncretic nature allows. He is a total klutz and an angel, the persecuted likeness of Christ, and a criminal who plays the devil; he is a sneering face and the veil of melancholy, the relaxed laughter and the tears of glass that stick to our cheeks, joy of life and melancholy, euphoria and dysphoria, childlike happiness and dismal gloom. But most of all, he is desire. We desire, desire, desire. Man is a desiring thing. Life is desire."


The New Yorker, 03.07.2006 (U.S.A.)

Under the title "Thus ate Zarathustra," Woody Allen devotes an article to a text found in Heidelberg, "Friedrich Nietzsche’s Diet Book." While its authenticity has been called into question by some, Allen claims that "most who have studied the work agree that no other Western thinker has come so close to reconciling Plato with Pritikin." Allen quotes from the great work. "Fat itself is a substance or essence of a substance or mode of that essence. The big problem sets in when it accumulates on your hips. Among the pre-Socratics, it was Zeno who held that weight was an illusion and that no matter how much a man ate he would always be only half as fat as the man who never does push-ups."


Outlook India, 03.07.2006 (India)

The magazine prints an excerpt from William Dalrymple's book "The Last Mughal", soon to appear, about the end of Muhgal rule, the consolidation of British colonial power and the suppression of the Sepoy rebellion in 1857. Dalrymple discovers unlikely parallels: "the Rising was overwhelmingly a war of religion, looked upon as a defensive action against the rapid inroads missionaries and Christianity were making in India, as well as a more generalised fight for freedom from foreign domination....Now, sadly, in the aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7 they are words we understand all too well, and words like jihad scream out of the dusty pages of the source manuscripts, demanding attention."


Literaturen, 01.07.2006 (Germany)

Literaturen attempts a position reckoning of the USA. "Where is the last remaining world power headed, where is it staggering?" Heinrich Wefing looks for the answer in three books (Louis Auchincloss' "Manhattan Monologues," George P. Pelecanos' Washington trilogy und Michael Cunningham's "Specimen Days") and digs up the American foundational myth. "That there is something better than the spot where one happened to be born or wake up that morning, and that these places might be within reach, a few days by foot or a few weeks in a mobile home away: this is a conviction that is absolutely essential to the image that this nation has painted of itself."

Al Ahram Weekly, 22.06.2006 (Egypt)


After Egyptian authorities put the film "The Da Vinci Code" on the index, Dan Brown's novel, which has been on the market since 2003, is now being eyed critically by the censors. Gihan Shahine documents the perversion of the Muslim brotherhood pretending to defend the interests of Christianity.

On the same subject, Salama A Salama writes, "It is sad to see people in high places leading the assault on creativity with such abandon. (...) We have people who want to pose as protectors of society and the regime, of values and entrenched ideals. Ironically, these same people say nothing when the worst transgressions are happening against the freedom, dignity and soul of the nation."


Vanity Fair, 26.06.2006 (U.S.A.)

Henry Porter cries alarm: the British government under Tony Blair is curtailing individual freedom, annulling parliamentary rights and is introducing a "total supervision of society" – and meeting hardly any resistance in the process. "The right to a jury trial is removed in complicated fraud cases and where there is a fear of jury tampering. The right not to be tried twice for the same offense—the law of double jeopardy—no longer exists. The presumption of innocence is compromised, especially in antisocial-behavior legislation, which also makes hearsay admissible as evidence. The right not to be punished unless a court decides that the law has been broken is removed in the system of control orders by which a terrorist suspect is prevented from moving about freely and using the phone and Internet, without at any stage being allowed to hear the evidence against him—house arrest in all but name."


Tygodnik Powszechny, 19.06.2006 (Poland)

What's going on with Oriana Fallaci? asks the Polish weekly. "Her threat to bomb the mosque in the vicinity of her summer home in Tuscany could be seen as a grotesque example of xenophobia, mixed with the typical Italian mania for underscoring its cultural hegemony. That reflects a basic refusal to accept changes to everyday life brought about by globalisation, for example immigration. In the official reality of the EU there is no place for public demonstrations about things traditional. What remains of tradition are codifications for local cheese sorts and schnapps." The unease in the face of a perceived foreign infiltration has been exploited by right-wing populist parties, while people like Fallaci represent the ambivalence of European opponents to Islam: these include both conservative Christians and lay minority rights activists, writes the magazine.

Zygmunt Bauman warns against travelling! Olga Stanislawska quotes the Polish-British sociologist: "Tourism is like colonialism – the traveller shows his power and his material and cultural superiority. For the price of a ticket he buys the right to goggle in amazement at the peculiarities of the locals."


The Nation, 10.07.2006 (USA)

The Cold War is only just starting, writes the political scientist Stephen F. Cohen in a gloomy analysis of Russia's not-too-distant future. "Petrodollars may bring Russia long-term stability, but on the basis of growing authoritarianism and xenophobic nationalism. Those ominous factors derive primarily not from Russia's lost superpower status (or Putin's KGB background), as the US press regularly misinforms readers, but from so many lost and damaged lives at home since 1991. Often called the 'Weimar scenario,' this outcome probably would not be truly fascist, but it would be a Russia possessing weapons of mass destruction and large proportions of the world's oil and natural gas, even more hostile to the West than was its Soviet predecessor."


Le point, 26.06.2006 (France)

Le Point portrays detective author, archaeologist and politically-engaged publicist Fred Vargas as a woman who conducts her "altercations" with dogged insistence – from the avian flu to her support for the former Italian leftist terrorist Cesare Battisti. He was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in 1993 by an Italian court for murder on four counts. When he fled to France, Francois Mitterrand had him detained in an extradition prison, from which Battisti came free because the Italian judicial system doesn't allow new trials. Vargas called the events a "new Dreyfus affair." Vargas relates that Battisti said to her, "Shit, Vargas, I didn't kill anyone and I'm not going to jail." For years this sentence has been banging around in her head. "I'm an itinerant lefty, against the armed struggle and all that crap. (...) Guilty or not guilty, Battisti has the right to a new, fair trial."

The magazine also reports on the nomination of Algerian writer and film director Assia Djebar to the Academie Francaise. She is the first woman from the Maghreb to be appointed to the Academie (the first woman was Margarite Yourcenar), and one of four women in the noble 40-member institution.


L'Espresso, 23.06.2006 (Italy)

In his "Bustina di Minerva" column, Umberto Eco looks at theories according to which the earth is a hollow cave. Cyrus Teed's idea that people in fact live on the inside of a hollow earth was popular right into the 20th century. "In some divisions of the German navy, people believed you could determine the position of English ships with greater accuracy using the hollow-earth theory, because the inverse curve of the earth's surface wouldn't stop infra-red light. Hitler is said to have sent an expedition to the Baltic island of Rügen, where a certain Dr. Heinz Fischer pointed a telescope skywards to search for the British fleet, sailing on the convex surface of the hollow earth. People say that several attempts with the V1 failed because the flight path was calculated on the basis of a concave, and not a convex, surface."


The New York Review of Books, 13.07.2006 (USA)

Jim Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and professor at Columbia University, has read several books on global warming (among them Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth", excerpt), and stresses the dark side of the situation. "Studies of more than one thousand species of plants, animals, and insects, including butterfly ranges charted by members of the public, found an average migration rate toward the North and South Poles of about four miles per decade in the second half of the twentieth century. That is not fast enough. During the past thirty years the lines marking the regions in which a given average temperature prevails ('isotherms') have been moving poleward at a rate of about thirty-five miles per decade. That is the size of a county in Iowa. Each decade the range of a given species is moving one row of counties northward."


Magyar Hirlap, 23.06.2006 (Hungary)

Europe and the USA are like an old married couple with nothing more to say to each other, writes Andras Sztankoczy. Europe has practically nothing but criticism for the USA, while the USA is less and less interested in Europe: "Europe doesn't love America, but it has to hearken to its words. America hardly even listens to Europe any more. ... The New York Times gives far better coverage of what happens in the Middle East, Asia or South America than to Europe." For Sztankoczy, the Americans have no use for "this region with no self-respect, no resolution or strategy for attaining its goals – if it can even formulate them, that is. Europe and America have had no end of bickering. Europe has become America's old wife: apart from shared memories floating around in the fog of Alzheimer's, they have nothing more that binds them."


Elet es Irodalom, 23.06.2006 (Hungary)

The renowned Ernst Museum in Budapest is showing the art of Hungarian ethnic minorities alongside that of Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries. The exhibition is "a shining example of discriminatory thinking in Hungary," writes Vilmos Agoston, because it treats the Roma who've lived in Hungary for six hundred years as a homeless pack. "In his opening speech, Miklos Duray (vice president of the Hungarian coalition party in Slovakia) called on the Hungarian Roma to 'contact the Indian embassy.' It seems he thinks India is the fatherland of the Hungarian Roma.... I dearly hope he's now got an inkling for the fact that our Roma brothers not only have their fathers in Hungary, but also their fatherland."


The New York Times Book Review, 25.06.2006 (USA)

The floor is open for debate! In an emotional speech to American book dealers (audio), John Updike defends his status as an author in view of the digital universal library as propagated by Google and Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine, to whom Updike explicitly refers. As opposed to Kelly, for whom the author of the future is a performer who makes his money with everything "that can't be copied," Updike fears a return to barbarian times "when only the present counted. (...) The printed, bound and paid-for book was — still is, for the moment — more exacting, more demanding, of its producer and consumer both. It is the site of an encounter, in silence, of two minds, one following in the other's steps but invited to imagine, to argue, to concur on a level of reflection beyond that of personal encounter."

In the New York Times Magazine, Christopher Caldwell looks at the London bomb attacks a year on. The combination of heightened state control and integration of local Muslim spokespeople doesn't seem to offer a solution. "A shared opposition to the war tightens the identification between radical and nonradical Muslims, and between both those groups and some members of the non-Muslim Western left, and this muddies the terms with which the battle of ideas around terrorism is fought." Caldwell sees a further problem in the holy warriors returning from Iraq: "If the jihadists from all over the world who have gone to fight in Iraq follow the example of their Afghan forebears and carry on the jihad when they return home, then Britain is going to be very hard hit."
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