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18/07/2006

Magazine Roundup

Outlook India | The Spectator | Il Foglio | London Review of Books | De Groene Amsterdammer | Nepszabadsag | The Guardian | Die Weltwoche | Le point | Beszelö | The Nation | Przekroj | Gazeta Wyborcza | The New York Times Book Review


Outlook India, 24.07.2006 (India)

The title dossier is devoted to the recent attacks in Mumbai. Vinod Mehta explains how the metropolis' openness to the world makes it especially vulnerable. "The city is also cursed, thanks to people like Mr Bal Thackeray (a Hindu nationalist of the far right – ed), forever prowling around exploiting and fanning its self-manufactured grievances and grouses. ... The bearded fanatics who run Lashkar-e-Toiba, SIMI, Al Qaeda understand Mumbai's blessings and its curses. If they can somehow wreck its twin blessings with a little help from Mr Thackeray, they would have succeeded in perpetrating financial and communal havoc on a society which is a stinging rebuke to their narrow ideology."


The Spectator, 15.07.2006 (U.K.)

BBC-reporter Fergal Keane can well imagine why fundamentalists chose Mumbai for their most recent attack: "Mumbai is overcrowded, diverse, freedom-loving. It is both secular and devout, rule-bound and corrupt, an epic contradiction which should not work but magically does. It is a living challenge to the ideals of the obscurantist and the fundamentalist. In his magnificent book Maximum City the Indian writer Suketu Mehta writes of feeling crushed in the city but also comforted by 'a lovely vision of belonging.'"


Il Foglio, 15.07.2006 (Italy)

Claudio Cerasa portrays (here as pdf) the Indo-Pakistani drug pope and terrorist Ibrahim Dawood, who is assumed to be the man behind the bomb attacks in Mumbai last week. He is the son of an important secret service man from Pakistan, owns much of Bombay and is thought to be a major financer of Kashmiri Islamicists. For a long time, he lived in Karachi. "His business extends to Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Dubai, Germany, France. The 30 million rupees (60 million dollars) in his foreign accounts are a source of respect and security. In his palaces in Karachi, he receives many politicians. Everyone knows where he lives, they know his villa with swimming pool, tennis court and many lovely playmates."

Another nice article (pdf) is by Richard Newbury, who explains the role of waiting in Beckett's works with his very un-Irish preference for cricket. "Cricket is a symptom of Beckett's alienation from the country he came from" and in which he, as a descendant of Huguenots, never really felt at home.


London Review of Books, 20.07.2006 (U.K.)

Jeremy Waldron praises John Durham Peters' very original defense of freedom of speech, "Courting the Abyss," as it is embodied in famous saying attributed to Voltaire: "'I detest what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.' The aphorism need not convey that free speech doesn't have any costs; instead, the idea may be that if there are costs, we are the better for bearing them. As we watch the Nazis march by, we are nauseated, we shake inside with rage and our sleep is troubled for days. But it's like physical exercise: no pain, no gain. We can’t build the sort of fearless characters that modern democracy requires, unless we have been through and survived this sort of trauma."


De Groene Amsterdammer, 17.07.2006 (The Netherlands)

Only a third of all Dutch people believe their children will live as happily as they have, writes editor in chief Hubert Smeets, citing the results of a recent study by the central office for statistics (cbs). He believes that politician's calls for more optimism is primarily economically motivated. In order for the Netherlands to continue to be economically successful, every citizen must continue to make an effort "to live better and be happy. Unhappy people are to blame for everything: bad marriages and single-households (increased risk of alcoholism), abandoned children (additional costs for youth offices), increased illness in businesses (reduced economic growth) and further ills that the collective have to deal with."

Reinier Kist takes a look at Dutch publishing houses and, rather than happiness, finds a lot of "pressure, pressure, pressure." The editors are being required to devote more attention to ever more titles. "We are chronically understaffed, we can rarely work in peace," Kist quotes a freelance editor who prefers to remain anonymous. "I earn 6.40 euros an hour. Every manuscript is assigned a certain number of hours but no matter how fast I work, it's never enough time. You're always in a state of stress, which means that you miss a lot of mistakes. But for this salary, nobody can be bothered to take a second look." The result: some books are as poorly edited as "the menu of an illiterate bistro in the suburbs of Hoenselaarsbroek".


Nepszabadsag, 16.07.2006 (Hungary)

The scientist Andras Falus analyzes a discussion of the sciences in Hungary and comes to the following conclusion: "Unfortunately, we're not talking about what biology and IT have to do with one another, but rather, which scientists occupy which spots on various obscure ranking lists. The main articles are not about the unbelievable possibilities of stem cell research but rather why two thousand and some members of the academy are not worthy of social respect, especially when their supposedly mythical salaries are mentioned, because envy plays a major role. (...) In the next years, it looks like substantial sums of money will be pouring into the country, in part directed towards research. We must develop transparent, effective and flexible science policy and, of course, a form of communication that makes research and its results available to the general public."


The Guardian, 15.07.2006 (U.K.)

Scales fell from the eyes of Doris Lessing when she re-read DH Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover" recently: the book is not about sex but about love! "Now I think this is one of the most powerful anti-war novels ever written. How was it I had not seen that, when I first read it?... It is permeated with the first world war, the horror of it. And against the horrors, the rotting bodies, the senseless slaughter of the trenches, the postwar poverty and bleakness - against the cataclysm, 'the fallen skies', Lawrence proposes to put in the scales love, tender sex, the tender bodies of people in love; England would be saved by warm-hearted fucking."


Die Weltwoche, 14.07.2006 (Switzerland)

Economist Matthias Binswanger claims that the priesthood, like hairdressing and dancing, is a profession favoured by gays and sees the fact that 20 percent of Catholic priests are gay as evidence of a "perverse incentive structure" for celibacy. "For gays, singledom was never a problem. To the contrary: for the professional community of priests and other spiritual leaders that the theologian Uta Ranke-Heinemann (more) has called a homo-society, this is an additional attraction of the profession. One is among equals and likely to meet a potential partner, especially in the seminary. The vow of chastity is supposed to apply to partners of both sexes, but there were, until recently, no officially gay priests and thus, by definition, no problems with chastity."


Le point, 13.07.2006 (France)

In his Bloc-Notes, Bernard-Henri Levy philosophises about Zinedine Zidane and his head butt, and considers possible Homeric motives. "No provocation, no insult will ever explain why the icon on a planetary scale that Zidane has become, why this man who is more revered than the Pope, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela together, this demi-god, this chosen one" opted "to explode on the field, instead of waiting ten minutes and unloading his fury in the changing room." The only possible explanation for such a "bizarre act of self-destruction" is "a form of discharge, the ultimate revolt against the living distorted image, the stupid statue, the sanctified memorial that he has been turned into in the last months. An insurgency by the man against the saint." Like Achilles, Zidane had a heel: "this excellent and rebellious head which brought him directly back to the the level of his fellow mortals."


Beszelö, 01.07.2006 (Hungary)

George W. Bush's visit to Budapest has been met by numerous protests. While for some the US president is a "global nightmare," others feel he should apologise because the USA failed to take action in 1956. Publicist Laszlo Seres has no time for the illogical attitude whereby "America is guilty because it didn't step in in Hungary in 1956, and now it is guilty for taking action in Iraq." In fact the president did say during his visit that America had learned a lesson from 1956, and now feels obliged to support other nations' desire for freedom. "It's exactly this new position, that – as opposed to Washington's opportunistic-realistic foreign policy of the 60s and 70s, which accepted and even supported dictatorships – shows a readiness to support people's ambitions for freedom abroad, and puts freedom in the grasp of the little people of the world. Of course that doesn't mean the USA will start intervening wherever it can, but at least it will no longer silently tolerate all it sees. Neither Stalinist North Korea nor fanatics in Iran striving madly to acquire nuclear arms, nor the international terrorists in Iraq, who have been slaughtering defenceless civilians for three years, have the hope of continuing with impunity."


The Nation, 31.07.2006 (USA)

Michael Hardt, co-author of the altermondialist Bible "Empire", is relieved that the world really does seem to comply with his thesis. With the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath of September 11, an "imperialism" which Hardt and Toni Negri had already declared dead seemed to have a new lease on life. Now, however, President Bush seems to be stumbling, and Hardt is once more bringing out his concepts of "empire" and "multitude". Without losing another word about Iraq and the particularities of the opposition there, he pins his hopes in the Latin American Left. "Some governments that defy the neoliberal order and US command--Venezuela, again, is a good example--bring enormous benefits to their populations in literacy, healthcare, economic opportunity and other essential domains. In the short term these benefits may be the most important element. But if we take a longer view we can see, as a second answer, that such aristocratic forces are important insofar as, by changing the imperial arrangement, they favor the increase of the power of the multitude. The ultimate significance of progressive alliances of subordinated nation-states, in other words, will be realized only to the extent that they facilitate the eventual destruction of Empire (including the aristocracies themselves) and allow the multitude to create a democracy from below." The world never gets enough of clever theories!


Przekroj, 13.07.2006 (Poland)

One politician in the Polish government is competent, has good contacts and is well-liked abroad: defence minister Radek Sikorski. The former member of British and conservative American think tanks, reporter in Afghanistan (whose contacts to the Mujahadin were used by the Americans in 2001) and husband to historian Anne Applebaum could well be a future aspirant to the Polish presidency – if he only had more backing in his own camp: "Sikorski could have a bright political future if there weren't so much envy. He has an extensive knowledge of foreign policy and a lot of charm. Sometimes he puts things a bit radically (for example comparing the Baltic pipeline and the Hitler-Stalin Pact), but that also gets him lots of press. Only very few have that talent." Sikorski has a feeling for how to use the media to his benefit. For example, he is said to have met his wife in Berlin when the Wall came down. In fact that's not the truth, but the story blending their romance and the fall of communism only helps his popularity, Aleksandra Pawlicka writes.


Gazeta Wyborcza, 15.07.2006 (Poland)

The controversial Polish nationalist and Catholic Minister of Education, Roman Giertych of the League of Polish Families, gave the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza an interview – although he had boycotted the newspaper until recently! In the course of the long talk, Giertych discusses Roman Dmowski (Wikipedia article), the founding figure of Polish national democracy and spiritus rector of the nationalist movement. Giertych makes no bones about Dmowski's mistakes: "He based his ideas on the thesis of the eternal struggle between nations. It may be borne out historically, but it is not necessarily true. Who could have thought just a little while ago that the Irish and the British, the Poles and the Germans don't have to fight each other? But: they don't have to! A further mistake was that he saw Catholicism in purely instrumental terms – as an ally in the national movement. 50 years later Adam Michnik did the same, when he promoted an alliance between the Catholic Church and leftist dissidents. I, on the other hand, side with the principles of Catholic social doctrine." The most important mistake of Dmowski and the national movement, however, "was anti-Semitism, which strongly incriminates the political milieu," says Giertych, adding: "I like Jews."


The New York Times Book Review, 16.07.2006 (USA)

The alliteration in Josef Joffe's study about America's image as an imperial "Überpower" is just too much for Roger Cohen: "'Balance, bond and build,' he advises, invoking Britain's imperial strategy of balancing rival powers and Bismarck's late-19th-century bonding tactics placing Berlin at the hub of European relationships. He identifies a 'Baghdad-Beijing Belt,' sometimes extended to a 'Belgrade-Baghdad-Beijing Belt,' where menacing nationalism and fundamentalism thrive, and contrasts it with a happier 'Berlin-Berkeley Belt' (of which Israel is an honorary member). Only through balancing, bonding and building will the Berlin-Berkeley Belt bulge and the baleful Baghdad-Beijing Belt be bettered." Apart from that, Cohen finds the book "an important reflection on a time when anti-Americanism is perhaps the world's most effervescent idea."
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