27 March 2007
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Ord&Bild dissects paranoia; Wespennest sails down the Danube; Magyar Lettre Internationale leafs through the family album; L'Espill traces the origins of Catalanophobia; Dialogi stands up for Slovenia's human rights ombudsman; Host wonders whether March is still the Month of Books; and du finds the elderly alive and kicking.

Ord&Bild 1/2007

Among articles in Ord&Bild‘s diverse section on paranoia is a highly interesting essay by Mattias Gardell, professor of the history of religion at Uppsala University. Gardell identifies one of the reasons for the exposed position of Muslims in contemporary America: the US’s religiously tainted self-conception that it is a country chosen by God and constantly threatened by external and internal enemies. This paranoid idea of a nation targeted by evil and conspiratorial adversaries is crucial to understanding the US administration’s reaction to 9/11, writes Gardell. Islam and Muslims have come to take the place previously occupied by Jacobins, Catholics, Jews, and Communists.

The paranoia section also includes Swedish translations of two contributions to last year’s Eurozine conference: Les Back‘s “Phobocity” on London post-7/7, and Irena Maryniak‘s “The Polish plumber and the image game“.

“Pairanoia”: In the monumental essay “Against love“, Austrian literary critic Rainer Just dissects the violent logic of “pairanoid” love. Focusing on the case of Natascha Kampusch – the girl abducted and locked in a cellar for over eight years until she managed to escape last summer – and with the help of Freud, Proust, and John Fowles, Just uncovers the violent ideal of love in fiction and in life:

The birth of love out of the spirit of totalitarianism expressed itself in exemplary manner in the [Kampusch] abduction story. A person is shut in, all the others shut out – that is the ideological core of romantic love.

Also: Ghostly short prose under the title “Phantomania” by Glänta editor Göran Dahlberg; poet Helena Eriksson on Unica Zürn’s The Man of Jasmine; more autobiographical notes by Stig Sæterbakken; and a meditation on copyright by the Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Horace Engdahl.

The full table of contents of Ord&Bild 1/2007.

Wespennest 146 (2007)

Wolfgang Müller-Funk, writing in Wespennest‘s new issue “Via Donau”, sets out to “decode” the three historical-symbolic layers that the regions along the Danube contain: nineteenth-century nationalism, and the communist and post-communist experiences. Tracing ways in which writers from Franz Grillparzer to Joseph Roth have dealt with the question of “Danube identity”, Müller-Funk lands with the most controversial of recent Austrian advocates of southeastern Europe: Peter Handke.

For Handke and others during the 1970s and 1980s, writes Müller-Funk, Yugoslavia represented a “socialist variant of the Hapsburg myth: with a communist (instead of a Catholic) universalism, an authoritarian but social regime with a human face, a Doppelgänger of the neutral Austria. […] Handke and others reacted to the loss of the myth of socialist Yugoslavia with an aggression that is explicable only if one is aware of the extent to which Yugoslavia had been mixed up in the construction of Austrian identity.”

Christian Reder has travelled down the Danube photographing the signs marking the distance to the river’s estuary. These signs, he writes, “indicate a precise position in relation to the whole, although this position is in the end irrelevant”. However, the symbolism in the fact that the Danube enters Austria at 2202 km and leaves at 1880 km is not lost on Reder. The Vienna region is “stigmatized” by the “dates” 1914 to 1918 and 1938 to 1945, while the Wachau valley coincides with the “date” 2000. “It is as if 2000 holds up the impressive miniature idyll of the Wachau as a model, which since this point in time has been a Unesco World Heritage Site – the showpiece region of a leisure society which according to its self-image lives in problem-free prosperity.”

Also to look out for: Klaus Siblewski writes that the biggest mistake contemporary German authors make is to consider their own backgrounds too banal to write about; and translations of Irena Maryniak‘s and Les Back‘s contributions to last year’s Eurozine conference, “Friend or foe? Shared space, divided society“.

The full table of contents of Wespennest 146 (2007).

Magyar Lettre Internationale 64 (2007)

Magyar Lettre Internationale publishes texts around the theme “Revisiting Memory”, part of an exchange project in which Hungarian authors visited the birthplaces of their German counterparts. Krisztián Gresco introduces the feature with an “anti-cyclical village essay”, in which he describes Ammersbek near Hamburg, “the pitiless village theatre of the eternal Kleinbürger“:

In Ammersbek silence reigns like in a thriller. It’s the beginning of November, the leaves are waiting to fall off the branches. If we were to look, we’d find brightly coloured garden gnomes. A prophecy hangs in the air: either today or tomorrow someone will be murdered, and an old woman will discover the body. […] In the train I try to discover something visibly different. I want to see people of a simpler ilk, people who wear Chinese trainers and faux leather jackets. I’m pleasantly surprised: they do exist. But it’s not typical. Nothing is typical.”

Wilhelm Droste, café owner and editor of German-Hungarian magazine Three Ravens, moved to Hungary in the 1970s to “rescue himself inwardly” from life in the village of Allendorf in North Rhine-Westphalia. “From the age of twelve, a Hungarian stamp collection became the bulwark of my hopeless struggle against the lot of being the second son of a farmer’s wife,” he writes. “I was drawn to the city, to Marburg on the Lahn, to Hamburg on the Elbe, and finally to Budapest on the Danube, where I now feel as at home as in a village. But while the villagers of Allendorf believe they lost me to the city long ago, I feel the farmer in me wherever I go.”

Family memory: András Forgách’s fictional monologue of a woman in Israel addressed to her daughter in Budapest reflects critically on events in Israel and the ’56 revolution in Hungary; Janos Hay’s “The Kid” is a Balzacian comedy about how people regard each others’ lives in the city and in the countryside; while Mihály Kornis responds to family photos of his mother’s first husband, who disappeared during the Holocaust.

Also to look out for: translations of Boris Cizej‘s “Letter from Ljubljana” and Juan Villoro‘s “Stalemate in Mexico“.

The full table of contents of Magyar Lettre Internationale 64 (2007).

L’Espill 24 (2006)

What do Nazism and the Spanish Inquisition have in common? In Catalan journal L’Espill, social anthropologist Christiane Stallaert finds astonishing resemblances between the concepts used in Holocaust studies and those in analyses of Inquisitorial Spain. The parallel between the Inquisition mentality and praxis on the one hand, and the vision and proceedings of Nazism on the other, she notes, shed light on the paradoxes and limits of the historical conscience of a secular and pluralist Europe.

Anti-Catalanism and Catalanophobia: In an article entitled “Shrinking glasses”, Vicenç Villatoro writes: “The Castilian view of Catalan culture is filtered through a political and historical shrinking glass that distorts all contents. In the history of the relationship between the two cultures, there have been moments of commiseration (when the Catalan language and culture was persecuted) and other moments of high disaffection or scorn (when Catalan culture developed with some normality). Nowadays, the glasses are so dark that one can see nothing, or, if anything, only very little.”

Further articles in the focus include Antoni Simon on “The historical origins of anti-Catalanism”; Jaume Renyer on “Symptoms of a conflict”; and Frances Viadel on “The radical anti-Catalanism of the Valencian Partido Popular”.

Also to look out for: Antoni Martí Monterde on “Walter Benjamin and the aura of autobiography”: In translating the concept of aura from art into autobiography, he claims, one can illuminate some neglected aspects of Benjamin’s life and work.

And: Three translations into Catalan from the Eurozine network: Orhan Pamuk‘s keynote speech “Neighbourhoods” from the 18th European Meeting of Cultural Journals in Istanbul 2005; Jiri Pehe‘s essay “The virtual frontiers of Europe“; and an interview with Zygmunt Bauman.

The full table of contents of L’Espill 24 (2006).

Dialogi 1-2/2007

The human rights ombudsman in Slovenia needs an ombudsman, writes Boris Vezjak in Dialogi‘s editorial. Slovenia’s former Human Rights Ombudsman, Matjaz Hanzek, finished his six-year term in office amid what Vezjak calls a barrage of criticism and contempt for his regular alerts about human rights violations in the case of asylum-seekers, Roma, and Muslims. “By demonizing the function [of ombudsman], Slovenes have shown how low they have sunk when it comes to recognizing and respecting human rights.”

Vezjak compares the Slovenian government’s response to Hanzek’s reports to the “old Yugoslav reflex to characterize appeals for arbitration by international institutions as dangerous and damaging”. “The institution of the ombudsman is one of the last remaining independent mirrors of any democratic nation with respect for the rule of law,” writes Vezjak. “If they succeed in crushing it and turning it into an instrument of the state, the future looks bleak for human rights.”

The end of Yugoslavia: In his essay “Italy 1990”, poet Uros Zupan records his personal recollections of the collapse of the eastern European regimes at the end of the 1980s, when “Gorbachev was a pop star among politicians and Yugoslavia was increasingly less interesting to Slovenes. The world was changing and so was I.” It was in the summer of 1990, at the World Cup in Italy, that he suddenly took a renewed interest in football and began to root for the Yugoslav national team: “Perhaps I felt subconsciously that this was a sort of swansong, analogous to the high point of a day which had been good at times, bad at times, but at the end revealed itself one last time in a slowly fading glow before ultimately being swallowed up by the dark.”

The full table of contents of Dialogi 1-2/2007.

Host 3/2007

From the safe distance of 18 years, communist propaganda reads like satire. Ales Merenus has composed a hilarious brief history of the Month of Books which was introduced in Czechoslovakia in 1955 and is being questioned today not only because of its communist past. “For some, March remains synonymous with the Month of Books; others are put off by the ideological label, and yet others prefer the Internet and would love to chuck books into history’s waste binŠ”

The Month of Books was targeted at select population groups where “ideological growth” could be expected: youth, peasants, and workers were supposed to be remoulded into politically mature comrades devoted to the socialist regime, writes Merenus. But not all was as bad as it sounds. Libraries and bookshops organized events that – despite all the communist propaganda – were able to have positive effects for readers in remote parts of Czechoslovakia. And often enough, the propaganda was regarded as a mere formality. “We reported some activities but nobody meddled in the events we were organizing”, a librarian reports. “It was us that organized the nights of poetry and readings. And of course readers were glad that something was going on.” A hard task, then, to assess the cultural events of the time from today’s standpoint.

Also to look out for: Jan Stanek on Patrik Ouredník, one of today’s most translated Czech authors, and his latest detective novel Ad acta, in which Stanek finds a connection to the work of Raymond Queneau. And a focus commemorating the 100th birthday of philosopher and essayist Josef Safarík. Safarík spent most of his life in seclusion and was scarcely able to publish. Nonetheless he had considerable influence on many important cultural figures such as Vaclav Havel, Jirí Kubena, Josef Topol, and Antonín Pridal.

The full table of contents of Host 3/2007.

du 3/2007

“Switch places with these babies – no, I wouldn’t want that. Anything, just not being young again.” In an issue dedicated to ageing, Elisabeth Schiwoff, an 84-year-old who teaches pre- and postnatal courses, and gymnastics for the elderly, talks to Tanja Hanhart about her age.

“What does ageing mean to me? That’s a question! I know it’s not something that I can push aside: one day life is over. […] Now and then I feel it of course, that I’m getting older, when I have some problem here or I’ve become slower there. But as soon as I’m with my women in the course, I forget my age – this constant exchange with young people keeps me awake, it gives me lots of energy.”

The issue also features Regine von Felten’s “Mushrooms have no leaves”. The young photographer took pictures of her 85-year-old grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, in a nursing home. She then gave these to her grandmother to work on with crayons, markers, and scissors. The result was surprising even to von Felten: “For me this was an exciting experiment, also because my grandmother never drew and seldom wrote before. But she’s changed a lot because of her Alzheimer’s. She’s become more open and she likes to get involved in such ideas. But I was still surprised at how ‘brutal’ she was with some of the pictures – for example, in some cases she painted over her own face.”

Also in the focus: Henning Scherf on living in a multi-generational household; Ursula Lehr on the positives of keeping the elderly working; and du editor Jacqueline Schärli’s “Tour de l’âge around the world”, a survey of the way the elderly are treated in countries ranging from the Seychelles to Denmark.

The full table of contents of du 3/2007.

This is just a selection of the more than 60 Eurozine partners published in 33 countries. For current tables of contents, self-descriptions, and subscription and contact details of all Eurozine partners, please see the partner section.

Published 27 March 2007

Original in English
First published in

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