Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Der Spiegel | Semana | Polityka | Gazeta Wyborcza | Vanity Fair | Outlook India | DU | Die Weltwoche | Asharq Al-Awsat | The New Yorker

Der Spiegel, 09.10.2006 (Germany)

Spiegel paints an ugly picture of Vladimir Putin's upcoming visit to Germany. "When Putin arrives on Tuesday for his state visit to Germany, he won't present himself as supplicant but as investor. It is no longer a question of whether large German enterprises like E.on and BASF want to invest in the exploitation Russia's gas fields. Now the wind has shifted. In the near future, households in North Rhine-Westphalia or Bavaria could pay their gas and oil bills to Russian companies that are agitating to finally be able to shop in Germany... At the top of the shopping list, however, are the German companies. When Putin goes to Dresden and Munich on his state visit, the chancellor will present her favourite idea again: German car, chemical and machine-building companies should get more involved in the Russian market. In return, Putin Inc will invest in German electricity companies, car suppliers or plane builders."

Semana, 07.10.2006 (Columbia)

Columbian writer Hector Abad Faciolince, currently resident in Berlin, is sharply critical of the American senate's decision to build a wall between Mexico and the USA to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country (news story). "Nobody criticized the German wall as loudly as the Americans. They always presented it as evidence of the failure of communist society. Today George W. Bush, the worst president that the USA ever had, is building a much longer wall. Of course it's not being presented as a 'wall' but euphemistically a 'fence'. Supposedly, the USA would fill with immigrants were it not for this wall, and there would be not one Mexican left in Mexico – when will the gringos understand that not all Latin Americans want to live in the USA? When will they notice that 90 percent of their suburbs are nothing but a forecourt to hell?"

Columbian writer Juan Gabriel Vasquez interviews Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk: "When you were on trial for your comments on the Armenian genocide, your friends joked that if you were to be sent to jail, you would be a real Turkish writer." - "That's the traditional standpoint here. Until then, I'm seen as a bourgeois writer who writes snobby tales from the big city. In return I asked if it wouldn't be better to be the first Turkish writer who is politically critical without having to sit in jail."

Polityka, 07.10.2006 (Poland)

For Aleksander Kaczorowski, the decision to award the important NIKE Prize to the rising literary star Dorota Maslowska was daring but indicative of things to come. "Until now, the jury decided too often in favour of authors' life work rather than the book of the year. In addition, the well-endowed prize has received competition from Poland, for example with the middle European literature prize 'Angelus' and a political headwind is blowing in its face: for the first time in 10 years, public television has decided against a live broadcast of the award ceremony." Nonetheless, there has been one success: when the initiative began in the mid-90s, literature was a hobby of a few and now, some of those nominated are selling up to 100,000 copies of their books.

Gazeta Wyborcza, 07.10.2006 (Poland)

Konrad Godlewski reports from the Frankfurt Book Fair that the contacts between the German and Polish literature industries are developing in a very positive way. "A few years ago, Polish publishers sent their books to be exhibited, today more than 20 have their own stands and a further 50 are presented at the 'Book Institute' stand. On top of that, the German language market is the second most important for translations from Polish." But the political tensions between the two countries are bound to have an effect on cultural contacts. The book fair would be the best place to talk about it – unfortunately none of the countless discussion groups in Frankfurt were devoted to this topic: neither the Germans nor the Polish took the opportunity.

Vanity Fair (USA), 09.10.2006

In an extensive reportage, William Langewiesche investigates the Haditha massacre, when the US Marines' Kilo Company murdered 24 Iraqis, among them women, children and elderly people – as revenge for an attack on their patrol. The press corps was quick in covering up the affair. "But one month later a reporter at Time magazine's Baghdad bureau, Tim McGirk, viewed a gruesome video of the aftermath, which suggested that people had been shot and killed inside the houses. Such is the nature of this war, with its routine collateral horrors, that had McGirk been privy to McConnell's report the video might not have surprised him. But with only the press statement about a land mine to go by, it was obvious that something about the official description was very wrong. McGirk's initial queries to the Marine Corps were rebuffed with an e-mail accusing him of buying into insurgent propaganda, and, implicitly, of aiding and abetting the enemy in a time of war."

Outlook India, 16.10.2006 (India)

Eleven years of Outlook India. The magazine is full of literary and other retrospectives. Sheela Reddy observes that this was the decade of the non-fiction work: "Interpreting modern times, after all, is a highly creative endeavour and who better than a Salman Rushdie or a Arundhati Roy to make sense of it all for us in tomorrow's newspaper? Perhaps we can no longer afford the luxury of waiting the three to seven years it takes a writer to create his parallel world and characters—we want them now, parallel universe and storyline be damned.... Perhaps it was 9/11 or an idea whose time had come, but suddenly the writer had liberated the story from the novel. Storytelling, and compelling storytelling at that, no longer needed the camouflage of a novel." Authors who have declined this "camouflage" are Roy and Vikram Seth, Reddy believes, asking whether the Booker Prize shouldn't be opened up to works of non-fiction.

In other articles: Khushwant Singh lists his fiction favourites of the past eleven years, while Tabish Khair portrays his all-time favourite: Amitav Gosh. And Aniruddha Bahal reviews the state of the press, calling for more investigative journalism (for example against muftis who proclaim fatwas for money).

DU, 09.10.2006 (Switzerland)

This issue of DU is dedicated to the artist Rebecca Horn. In an interview, Horn describes a work of hers dealing with death: "The catacombs of Naples lie around the Piazza del Plebiscito. The people live right above the graves. The Neapolitans have developed a real cult with skulls stolen from the catacombs. All kinds of deals are done with them – the Neapolitans call them Capuzzelle ('little heads'). They're supposed to help people get home safely, or pass their exams, bring the husband back home, etc. There's even a Cauzzelle lotto. First I visited the 'La Fontanelle' catacombs in Naples. The place struck me like an enormous library. There are arm bones, leg bones and skulls – they don't save the middle body parts – and all these bones lie neatly sorted on shelves in huge halls. I thought, why not so to speak liberate some of these souls? I had skulls poured in iron, which then peered out from cobblestones like little scholars. And they started up a conversation all of their own."

The issue also prints a cycle of Horn's drawings, the "soulmaps". A major exhibition of Horn's works is now on display at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin.

Die Weltwoche, 05.10.2006 (Switzerland)

Lorenzo de Medici will probably be the last member of the aristocratic Italian family of art patrons. In an interview with Walter De Gregorio full of historical allusions, the 55-year-old explains why he's not sorry. "Our family has been part of Italian history since the 12th century, it has had a lasting influence on European culture and led people from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment. It's time to step down – over eight hundred years is enough." His family is immortal in any event, he says. "True power – and of course I'm saying this entirely selflessly – shows itself when people go on talking about you even when you haven't done anything for ages. The Medicis haven't accomplished anything of note for the last five hundred years. But I think people will remember us for the next five hundred years."

Asharq Al-Awsat, 04.10.2006 (Saudi Arabia / UK)

Asharq Al-Awsat is the largest international Arabic newspaper. It appears in London, but is owned by a Saudi prince. The paper's solid reputation is based on its commentaries. Once a week the "Cultural Forum" supplement appears, which addresses issues not only pertinent to the Arab world.

Muhammad Ali Salih reports on the confusion engendered when Canadian Islamic scholar Ingrid Mattson was elected president of the Islamic Society for North America, the largest Muslim association in America. Muslim women – among them Mattson, Irshad Manji, Asra Nomani and Ayaan Hirsi Ali – are taking on an increasingly important role in public life: "For the first time in the US, intellectual Muslim women are playing a key role. What questions do they ask, and what questions are posed by their presence? Many are well-known media figures, taking part in intellectual and religious debates where they now have their rightful place. At this sensitive time in American and world history when people are increasingly discussing Islam's ability to co-exist with modernity, 'America-Islam' is being discussed openly – just like in Europe, where recent years have seen hefty disputes on the so-called 'Euro-Islam'. Now however women – and American Muslim academics in particular – have a key voice in the debate." (Some interesting articles by and about Ingrid Mattson are available on the Internet. On the website Why Islam she tells how she became a Muslim. Here are long excerpts from an interview she gave to the PBS. And here a lengthy portrait in the Christian Science Monitor.)

The New Yorker, 16.10.2006 (USA)

George Packer explains in a commentary why he thinks it's a mistake to deny the philosopher and Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan a visa to the United States. "The United States should grant Tariq Ramadan a visa, not because he has an inalienable right to one but in the interest of the national good. The continuing effort to keep him out is a strategic mistake, and it shows a depressingly familiar failure on the part of the Administration to grasp the nature of the conflict with Islamist radicalism. It is a struggle of ideas, played out around the world, and a figure like Ramadan, who can appeal to young Muslims on the basis of both group identity and tolerance, is a valuable interlocutor." - let's talk european