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An International Review of Culture and Society
Issue No. 6 Spring/Summer 2000 An International Project of the Committee on Intellectual Correspondence Published by the Counci l on Foreign Relations
The Double Bind of the World Press
n 1793, while hiding in a Parisian garret from Robespierre’s police, the eminent French mathematician and Enlightenment philosopher the Marquis de Condorcet wrote the remarkable Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain. In that sketch, Condorcet, who had invented a calculus of probabilities that underwrote the principles of insurance, declared that with the discovery of printing and the diffusion of scientific knowledge, an enlightened public opinion must ultimately win out: “It is enough for there to exist one corner of the free earth from which the press can scatter its leaves.” Condorcet, unable to find asylum, was arrested and imprisoned at Bourg-la-Reine, and found dead in his cell on the following day. A free press is a condition for liberty and the test for every nation that proclaims itself to be free. In the United States, the foundations go back to the eighteenth century. In 1734, still under English colonial rule, a New York editor, Peter Zenger, was arrested for seditious libel for criticizing the provincial governor. He was acquitted on the then-revolutionary ground that truth was no libel. But there was still the threat of government intimidation. In 1798, during the Federalist presidency of John Adams, the Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a misdemeanor to speak or write against the president or the Congress “with the intent to defame.” Twenty-five persons were arrested, including a member of Congress, and several opposition Republican editors were silenced by heavy fines or jail sentences. Two state legislatures, in protests drafted by Jefferson and Madison, declared the act to be unconstitutional. The election of Jefferson in 1800 quashed the act. Consistently, the Supreme Court has upheld the freedom of the press, most notably in recent years in Sullivan v. The New York Times (1964), which held that criticism of a public official was not in itself libelous. According to the latest annual survey by the New York-based pro-democracy organization Freedom House, of 186 countries in the world, only 69 have a free press, and these are principally in North America (the United States and Canada) and Western Europe. More than half the press in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia are not free. Repressive regimes crack down openly. In Serbia, newspapers are shut down, journalists routinely jailed, and media outlets suddenly expropriated from their legal owners through mysterious court decisions and put into the hands of others more loyal to the regime. In Iran, where newspapers had bravely led the reform movement in support of President Khatami, eight newspapers and four weeklies were abruptly shut down by decisions of the judicial court and several editors jailed for defamation of Islam. Freedom of the press is a perennial issue in the world, but in the past two to three years newspapers have faced an extraordinary technological challenge that is transforming the character of the press itself. This is why in this issue of Correspondence we print reports on the press in eight major countries—the United States, England, France, Italy, Germany, Russia, India, and Japan. The challenge is the Internet, one of the most astonishing and unexpected technological developments of the century, which has revolutionized the information infrastructure of world society. To illustrate: on January 8, 1815, there was a Battle of New Orleans in which almost all the British troops were massa-
In This Issue
The World Press: U.S. & Britain
The First Global Newspaper Journalism—Where It All Began American Press: Facing the Internet Who Owns the Media? British Press: A Golden Age 3 4 6 8 9 11 12 13 15 16
Report from Britain
The Devolution of the U.K.
Cultural Cold War—50 Years Later Joseph Rovan Alexandre Kojève: Russian Agent? Ignazio Silone: Fascist Informant?
The World Press: France & Italy
French Press—The Quality Remains 17 The Italian Press 18
The World Press: Germany
German Press—Covering the World 20 Feuilleton & the Theatre of Politics 21 Marion Dönhoff at Ninety 22
Reports from Russia
The Russian Press New Russian Theatre Vladimir Putin, Cultural Maestro (continued on next page) 23 24 26
The World Press
(continued from previous page)
Spanglish—A New Vernacular A Spanglish Sampler Fear of Franglais Parlez-vous Val? Yinglish Who Speaks Romanche? The Internet—One Tongue or Many? Japonica: How to Read Japanese The Death of a Language 27 28 28 29 30 30 31 33 34
African Literature: Old Voices & New 35
The Middle East
Christian Migration 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 5 10 14 22 46 46 47 47 48 48 48 49 49 50 50 50 51 51
The World Press: India
Press in India: Rise of Vernaculars
Reports from Asia
In Japan Everyone Reads the Press Foreign Reporting on Japan Taiwan’s Knowledge Class Ghetto and the Japanese Theatre Necessary in a Graveyard? Soseki Natsume & “Existence” Eulogy for Seizaburo Sato
Scandal in the Israeli Press The German Business Press Swamped by Metaphor Sartre Redivivus
In Passing Noel Annan Francis Haskell Louis Castro João Cabral Emanuel R. Piore Edward H. Levi C. Vann Woodward Walter Jackson Bate Benjamin Schwartz Zvi Grilliches Raymond Vernon Myron Weiner Adam Ulam
cred by American forces led by Andrew Jackson. Peace between the U.S. and Britain had been signed two weeks earlier on Christmas Eve, but the news had not reached the contending armies by that time. In 1846, during the MexicanAmerican War, for the first time news reached officials immediately, by telegraph. Today the Internet is available in “real time” every minute. What is more, it is selective, interactive, and immediate. When the plane of John F. Kennedy, Jr., went down off Martha’s Vineyard island, the Web site of the Boston Globe that evening reported one million hits. The Boston Globe itself, the next day, had nothing to add. When the prurient Starr report on the peccadillos of President Clinton was released, over six million hits were reported on the Library of Congress Web site, and in twenty-four hours, the report was downloaded 750,000 times, just as the daily press began printing its 445 pages. (For details, see “The Digital Age Takes Off,” in our Issue No. 3). Every major newspaper in the world has its own Web site. Paradoxically, the Web site becomes competitive with the paper itself. The New York Times, for example, provides a twenty-four-hour continuous news service, including any breaking news and updating stories first reported in the morning newspaper. More than that, one no longer even has to buy the print edition of the Times: an individual in any part of the world can simply “plug into” the Web site and select any story or column he or she wishes to see and even, odd as it might be, print out the entire edition of the paper. A magazine such as the Weekly Standard advertises that when crucial political events have taken place after the magazine has gone to press, one can get an analysis of the results by its editor William Kristol on its Web site. Cross-media alliances are taking place. MSNBC (the cable news network owned jointly by Microsoft and the NBC network, itself owned by General Electric) have created an alliance with the Washington Post and Newsweek magazine (which the Post owns) to share Web content and reporting resources. Through such Internet alliances a new national press is developing. The emergence of new daily online periodicals such as Slate (owned by Microsoft and edited by the savvy Michael Kinsley) and the jazzy Salon, with its columns and news reports, in effect creates alternative national newspapers. The weekly paper edition of Slate provides a comprehensive set of summaries of the major magazines of the country, of the international press, movie reviews, conversations on books, first-rate political reporting by Jacob Weisberg, and punditry galore. One might even say that a weekly issue of Slate with the more comprehensive worldwide economic and political coverage of the Economist, also available online, may suffice for any educated reader. And if one is an expatriate from, say, New Zealand, one can click onto a Web site which offers weekly coverage and gossip of all events back home — if there is any longer such a place as “back home.”x —Daniel Bell Note: For Freedom House’s full, country-by-country Annual Survey of Press Freedom, cited below, see its Web site: www.freedomhouse.org.
Freedom of Press by Region
Region Africa Asia Europe (E&W) Latin America Middle East U.S./Canada Pacific Free Press 6 6 29 17 1 2 8 Partly Free Not Free 17 4 10 14 2 0 4 30 14 9 2 11 0 0 No. of Countries 53 24 48 33 14 2 12
The World Press: U.S. and Britain
The First Global Newspaper—Which?
nevitably, with globalization there is a race to create a global newspaper. As is now readily apparent, the Internet makes it possible for any newspaper to be read everywhere. The New York Times or Le Monde can be read in Timbuktoo (if there is a phone modem there) or by the little lady in Dubuque. In speaking of a newspaper, we mean, first the physical print paper that one has in one’s hands. To that extent, the first global paper has been the International Herald Tribune which prints in twenty different plants and circulates in 187 different countries. The IHT, based principally in Paris, has its own staff, but also draws heavily from its co-owners, the Washington Post and the New York Times. (The Herald Tribune, an original sponsor, fell by the wayside many years ago.) The IHT is crisply written and mercifully short (thirty to forty pages) against the elephantine bulk of its parent papers, but it does cover the major political and cultural news, and to a lesser extent the business world. But the readership of the IHT, by and large, is primarily among Americans living abroad, or some of the business elites in Europe who want a quick reprise of American events, and, in the summertime, American travelers who want a comfortable reminder of their nationality. The IHT is now trying to enlarge its scope, and (as we report in our article on the German press), the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s largest newspaper, now puts out an English-language section on Germany that is folded into the IHT. The IHT has a new editor, David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist with broad international experience, especially in the Middle East, but also a novelist and thriller writer, and so may enliven its feature reporting. The English Guardian puts out an English-language weekly with translated pages from Le Monde and the Washington Post, but the pages from Le Monde are few and the pages from the Washington Post mostly its reviews, so the Guardian Weekly remains principally a U.K. paper with international pretensions. But it is the business press that is making the major efforts to become global, largely because business advertising is global, and that is where the riches lie. Among the business weeklies, the strategies differ. Business Week, the most comprehensive of the business publications, has gone online, allows its readers to download the magazine before the magazine comes to the mailbox, is updated every business day, and provides detailed daily briefings on dozens of different subjects (with extensive dossiers the paper edition never features). It is, if one so wishes, a daily business magazine. The London Economist has a Web edition, free to paid subscribers, organized thematically so that readers can quickly select which stories interest them most, while providing de-
tailed statistical analysis on more than sixty countries for ready reference. Its most ingenious innovation is a “mobile edition,” so that anyone with a handheld device, such as a Palm Pilot, can click into the magazine, wherever they are, and read pages from the magazine. Increasingly, other publications are using the same system. One gets free software from a company called AvantGo, specifies which publication one wants to subscribe to, connects their personal computer to the Web site, and the handheld device is synchronized with the PC. But the main competition, the global duel, is between the two behemoths, the American Wall Street Journal and the English Financial Times. The WSJ has by far the biggest circulation in the world, totalling 2,400,000 in its regular print editions, as against the FT’s 440,000. But most of the WSJ circulation is in the United States, while the FT is much stronger in Europe, let alone in the United Kingdom, where the FT sells about 190,000 copies daily. The Wall Street Journal has long had worldwide regional editions, such as the Asian Wall Street Journal, or Wall Street Journal Europe. Its strategy seems to be to expand its print editions, but to tailor them more to regional considerations. In February, a redesigned Wall Street Journal Europe, on which the company says it will spend $60 million, appeared on the newsstands. The old WSJE looked exactly like the American edition. The new one introduces color photographs, and feature stories spring out boldly across three columns in a more horizontal “European” layout. The Wall Street Journal has special editions where bannered pages from the American edition are translated and appear in local languages in twenty-six countries. The Wall Street Journal Americas, a set of special editions, is translated into Spanish and Portuguese. The Financial Times, with its distinctive salmon-colored pages, seems to have a different strategy. While the FT has an affiliate in France, has acquired the Economic Times of India, and now puts out a complete Financial Times Deutschland, on salmon-colored paper (both reported on in this issue), the paper now, as it states, produces two versions of the Financial Times, one available on paper, one on the Web. With a new technology, it has become a full global business portal, and the site has seven channels covering everything from business news to leisure. The FT now claims a roster of two million registered users and more than one million pages delivered daily. What the Financial Times is saying is that it is not a newspaper with a Web site attached, but a journalistic enterprise “that operates freely across media boundaries” and not committed to any one form of publication. Which strategy will win out is x one of the fascinating questions in journalism today. —Daniel Bell
The World Press: U.S. and Britain
Journalism—Where It All Began
olitical information first became a commodity in the newsletters of the late sixteenth century. The stage was set by the economic unification of Europe and the establishment of the first public postal systems. The sources were the emerging state bureaucracies, not only by the communication networks they set up, but by the political decisions and the military events that furnished the material for news. The first peddlers of such news were not large printing houses, but writers of the so-called avvisi, or handwritten newsletters serving the customers all over Europe. These merchants of information included government officials and ecclesiastical bureaucrats, as well as lawyers, notaries, scribes, literary hacks, unemployed intellectuals, and even murderers and extortionists. Some, following the example of Pietro Aretino, commanded higher prices for what they did not write than for what they wrote. Forging a new genre from the mix of diplomatic or commercial correspondence of officials or businessmen, they began to circulate their newsletters on a weekly or semi-weekly basis through maintaining a characteristic anonymous format. Despite intermittent persecution, they provided the most mordant and incisive commentary and criticism of their governments. From the French religious wars to the conclusion of the War of the League of Augsburg (1555) they provided an unfolding narrative of the ceremonial entrances and exits, the ministerial scandals and royal deaths that were the extraordinary spectacle of early modern Europe, a spectacle, glittering or shabby, that continues to this day. What a newsletter writer said depended to a considerable extent on the interests of his purchasers, on what he was told to write, or on subtle hints dropped by this or that government seeking advantageous publicity. Wherever there was news writing, the exercise of power and influence was never far away. However, news writing was a business, and for the week-to-week raw material for their sheets, newsletter writers depended most of all upon what they could glean from a wide variety of sources more or less close to political events. Fortunately, ambassadorial staffs were notoriously ill-paid and susceptible to bribery, making the security of information nearly impossible to protect. Information in the seventeenth century was nobody’s property; and in one way or another newsletter writers were able to procure documents of the most extraordinary kind.
Newsletter writers were as much a part of the oral as of written culture. Far more than accredited sources, they depended for their news gathering on rumor and hearsay. And when they began a story by the customary diction, “it is said that,” and variations thereof, this was exactly what they meant. They regarded the general import of a communication as more important than specifics. If they kept any notes at all, such notes more often included lists of topics than lists of important details. After all, details could be invented when necessary. They expected their sheets to be discarded after dissemination or, as often happened, recycled; preservation in an archive (where they could be consulted) they would regard as a peculiar trick of fate. Nowhere in seventeenth-century cultural life was the concept of authorship as appropriation more accurate for describing how texts were generated than in the case of the newsletters. Newsletters directed to the most excellent purchasers were subsequently leased, borrowed, or stolen, and copied either word for word or in combination with information from still other newsletters or documents and then distributed to still other customers. As soon as a newsletter left the desk of its composer it became fair game for legions of copyists and hacks, with no more imagination or daring than what was necessary for living by the efforts of their neighbors. In spite of their notorious defects, the newsletters filled an important niche in early modern society. They were as essential for conducting international relations as they were for slaking the thirst for salacious gossip. They were often written by immigrant writers unable to break into the closed worlds of the guilds and universities. At the same time, they offered second incomes to underpaid civil servants and scribes. And wherever rich and influential purchasers could be found, they flattered the vanity of writers by the prospect, however vague, of high connections. What was more, newsletters were essential for the composition of the more public genres of official printed news. Provided that they transcribed accurately, which was not always the case, their accounts were only as good as their sources. The first great modern skeptic was Pierre Bayle, who expressed his views in his periodical the Republic of Letters. Reading the war of words between the late seventeenth-century Catholics and Protestants, Bayle wondered whether the truth about any event described by one side or the other could
The World Press: U.S. and Britain
ever really be known. And when this partisanship was compounded by newspaper writers seeking fast gain by sensationalism or flattery, the unreliability was bound to increase. When events were fast-moving and complex, the sources could be highly difficult to interpret. “The affairs of the Kingdom [of England] have never been as confused or in such an unfortunate state as they are at present,” noted an apologetic Théophraste Renaudot, founder of the Gazette de Paris, in August 1642, at the height of the Civil War. Writers just as often made their editorial choices simply in order to flatter those in power. Indeed, to ensure good coverage, governments took considerable care to keep the local journalists on their side. A group of petitioners including newsletter writer John Pory proposed an official news book series as far back as the reign of King James I. The best way to shake people out of their natural torpor and bring them under the rule of right reason, they asserted, was by “spreading among them such reports as may best make for that matter to which we would have them drawn.” Finally in 1643, in the midst of an explosion of hostile publications, the royal government began sponsoring the Mercurius Aulicus. In a similar spirit, the Milanese government and that of Piedmont eventually gave the official print shop exclusive rights to publish the local newspaper. That of Piedmont gave the journalist a 1000lire pension; while the government of France was giving the same journalist half as much. Indeed, the latter government, also maintaining Renaudot on the payroll, furnished battle reports to the Gazette de Paris penned by none other than Louis XIII himself. Printed news was nothing new in the seventeenth century, to be sure; but its volume was unprecedented. Entrepreneurs included successful printers as well as newsletter writers, novelists as well as failed actors. After the first regular newspapers, dated 1609, began competing in Strasbourg and Wolfenbüttel with existing one-time publications like news books and handbills, they emerged in Antwerp, Amsterdam, Paris, London, Genoa, Milan, Barcelona, and hundreds of smaller centers. In Germany, no less than two hundred newspapers were published within the century. In England, some 350 titles of news publications of all kinds appeared in the period from 1641-59 alone. Wide differences in literacy levels determined wide variations in diffusion. But the general impression of jurist Ahasver Fritsch in Jena that news publications “get into the hands of everyone” whether by reading or by listening, was exactly echoed by engraver Giuseppe Mitelli in Bologna and by an anonymous pamphleteer in Padua. With all its contradictions and constraints, the news business established in early modern Europe contained the basic elements that would make it a feature of modern political practice in the centuries to come. The business raised many of the questions about the nature and impact of information that arose within the emerging public sphere and which remain to x be confronted today. —Brendan Dooley
Note: This essay is drawn from the first chapters of Brendan Dooley’s The Social History of Skepticism: Experience and Doubt in Early Modern Culture, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
Scandal in the Israeli Press
he most bizarre of the season’s scandals revolves around Ofer Nimrodi, director of the Israel Land Development Corporation, a company that deals in real estate, insurance, and publishing. He is editor-in-chief of the country’s second largest newspaper, Ma’ariv, as well. Nimrodi, 43, is a Harvard M.B.A. who once clerked at Israel’s Supreme Court, but his moral compass seemed to have gone haywire when he took over the family company in the early ‘90s. Determined to save Ma’ariv from near certain extinction, he sought to take what had once been Israel’s biggest selling daily and remodel it on the lines of Yediot Acharonot, a tabloid that sells more copies than all of its competition combined. Nimrodi seemed to have become somewhat overzealous in his efforts to make Ma’ariv number one. He commissioned wiretaps of top people at Yediot, of some of his own journalists, and a variety of leading figures in Israeli society. That was in 1994, and resulted in a series of court battles. Two years ago, having exhausted all legal avenues, he made a plea bargain: he admitted to wiretapping and some of the charges of tampering with justice, and was given an eight-month prison sentence. That was reduced by a third for good behavior and ended a year ago. A month later, Nimrodi remarried, and the guests included Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ezer Weizman. Shortly afterward, however, he faced trouble. Rafi Pridan, the private investigator Nimrodi had hired to carry out the wiretaps, offered the Tel Aviv prosecutor material incriminating his former employer in an effort to reduce his own prison term. He claimed that his wiretapping partner, Ya’acov Tsur, who had turned the state’s evidence during the first investigation, was marked for death by Nimrodi. Nimrodi was arrested in November 1999. The prosecuting attorney declared that the eight counts of his indictment had “no parallel in the State of Israel.” At a November hearing on Nimrodi’s continued detention, the head of police investigation declared that the press mogul had tried to buy off his entire unit. As if the case was not troubling enough, it has underlined the fact that the country’s major media outlets are owned by a small group of families. Together, the Nimrodis (Ma’ariv), the Mozeses (Yediot), the Schokens (Ha’aretz), and Eliezer Fishman (a Mozes partner in Yediot) own not only the country’s remaining Hebrew papers, but also cable TV networks, the commercial TV channel, book publishing, long-distance telephone services, and Internet access. Sometimes they do business together, and sometimes they feud, aligning and realigning themselves so that the consumer can never be sure of the credibility of their coverage. —David B. Green
Source: “Israel’s Winter of Discontent,” New Leader, March/April 2000. David B. Green is an editor of the Jerusalem Report.
The World Press: U.S. and Britain
The American Press: Facing the Internet
few months ago, Hotaling’s closed down for good. Hotaling’s was New York’s best out-oftown newsstand. From the 1920s on, it occupied street-level space at the uptown foot of the Times Tower, and, like the news zipper girding that trapezoidal building, helped give credence to Times Square’s boastful claim to be the Crossroads of the World. The news zipper is still there, though its bulletins are now provided by Dow Jones, not by the New York Times (and the building,
deregulation, is as big a headache as running a business. And cybernews is making each of us his or her own editor and, increasingly, publisher. From the point of view of the newspaper business, the new technologies mean clammy insecurity in the present and, for the future, some combination of oblivion and bonanza. The present situation is inherently unstable. All that wonderful stuff that‘s free on the Internet can‘t stay free forever. Right now, it is subsidized by the parent newspapers‘ buyers and advertisers, who will eventually tire of carrying the freight. Ways will have to be found to get Internet readers to pay up. How this will be done is as yet unknown; that it will be done is certain. The infrastructure of publishing—not just newspaper publishing but books and magazines too—is an absurdity that sooner or later must collapse. All those trees cut down and pulped, all that ink pumped, all those plates made, all those factories humming, all those trucks and warehouses—all that is ludicrously cumbersome, dangerously slow, and unbelievably expensive. The real cost of a fifty-cent newspaper is several dollars a copy, most of which goes for manufacturing and distribution. At the newsstand, a year‘s worth of the New York Times costs $365—$521 if you buy the national edition. On the Internet, the price is zero. The latter figure obviously requires adjustment, though it need rise to only a fraction of the former. As money, like information, increasingly streaks across the Internet in infinitely divisible digital form, much of the true core cost of a “paper” like the Times—the cost of its “wetware,” the editorial staff—will eventually be borne by readers throughout the world paying an affordably low price per head. Readers who still prefer “hard copy” will simply print their own, buying their own ink and paper and using their own “presses”—computer printers whose capacity and quality (though not their prices) rise dramatically every year. Stephen King has pointed the way: he sold half a million “copies” of his new novella on the Internet, and he was able, while still pocketing his usual ample royalty, to sell them for $2.50 instead of $20 apiece, because he didn‘t have to pay for trees and trucks. Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, the papers keep coming out. The United States was always two countries from the standpoint of the news business, the mass and the elite. Slowly but inexorably, the newspapers are losing their hold on the masses, who pay the bills—mostly indirectly, by serving as the passive product that is sold to advertisers. The result is chronic, low-grade panic in the business, the symptoms of which are all too well known: the desperate search for jazzy graphics and
which the Times long ago outgrew, is a Warner Bros. souvenir shop topped by gigantic billboards). Hotaling‘s, in its heyday, was (if you love newspapers) a wildly romantic place, with hundreds of front pages—the San Francisco Call-Bulletin! the New Orleans Item! the Chicago Daily News! the Memphis Scimitar!—clamoring for the attention of passing tourists, pimps, and sailors. Toward the end of the century, Hotaling‘s moved to humbler quarters in a storefront on 42nd Street, and its inventory shifted toward foreign newspapers and magazines, the better to serve the immigrants and adventurers flooding into the city from abroad. Now it‘s gone. What killed that fabulous old newsstand was, of course, the Internet. But it hasn‘t been such a bad trade. A gigantic Hotaling‘s is now at the fingertips of everyone in the world who has access to a computer and a modem. The Call-Bulletin and the others mentioned above are stone dead—they and hundreds of their brethren were swept away by an earlier technological innovation, television—but just about every newspaper in the world that‘s still in business is online, available worldwide and free of charge at the moment of publication. This is the biggest change in newspapering since Linotype machines and rotary presses. Only a few of its eventual consequences are as yet visible. What‘s happening to the American press—to the press everywhere, for that matter—is a vast melting, a dissolution, a liquification. Everything is dissolving and reforming in ways whose ultimate course can be envisioned in a fuzzy sort of way but not precisely predicted. At the moment, a number of effects—some transitory, some in all likelihood permanent—are clear. From the reader‘s point of view, there has been a staggering expansion of choice. News is more available—faster, cheaper, and in greater quantity and depth—from more sources than ever before in human history. But this cornucopia is largely notional, because what is not more available, unfortunately, is time. The contemporary culture of work, paced by the new economy, is a culture of long hours and short vacations. As disposable income increases, disposable time contracts. And the competition for that shrinking time—not only from old favorites like books and family life but also from non-news electronic distractions—grows ever fiercer. One of the less remarked-upon features of the expansion of choice offered by the new electronic technologies is that it has involved a huge shift of administrative labor to the individual. We are all bank tellers now. We are all our own typists and typesetters. Managing one‘s personal telephone service, if one wishes to bother optimizing the supposed benefits of
The World Press: U.S. and Britain
for “lifestyle,” celebrity, and consumer service content certified by focus groups alluring enough to pry the eyes of readers, especially young readers, away from their television sets; consolidation and editorial cost-cutting; marketing gimmicks of all kinds, including the use of the paper as a delivery system for preprinted advertising supplements. (For an authoritative, and harrowing, account of the newspaper business‘s fear and trembling, see Michael Janeway, Republic of Denial, pp. 109-154.) The local monopoly daily remains a cash cow, but publishers‘ fears are palpable, yielding curious blends of timidity and recklessness, stodginess and glitz. Local and regional papers are (on average) rather worse than they were a hundred years ago, when Father would read aloud to the family from their long grey columns, but (on average) rather better than they were thirty or forty years ago: blander, lighter, and as alike as slices of Wonder Bread, but more reliable and considerably less slanted than they used to be. For elite readers, though, the great development of the last quarter century has been the emergence of national dailies, a longtime feature of life in geographically compact Europe lately made feasible here by new technologies of printing and satellite transmission. There are three fully-fledged nationals: the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and USA Today. All—including, surprisingly, the last-named— are of high quality. (Down-market national papers like Britain‘s Sun and Germany‘s Bild have no direct American equivalents: high distribution costs mean that national papers here must sell to affluent readers at premium prices. Celebrity magazines, weekly supermarket tabloids, and trash television fill the gutter gap.) The three U.S. nationals have tiny circulations, relatively speaking— some four million copies a day altogether, about the same absolute number as Britain‘s four national daily broadsheets, which serve an overall population a fifth the size of ours. But their audience dominates the political and economic life of the country. The New York Times plays a special role. It is read more carefully than the others, and by a wider range of elites; the Journal eclipses it in the business community, but among cultural, political, and “media” movers and shakers, it is without peer. It is a kind of public utility; its excellence is so taken for granted as to be hardly noticed except when it falters. Its authority is ontological: it defines public reality. Its exquisitely calibrated front page constitutes a system of weights and measures by which, willy-nilly, the importance of events, relative and absolute, is gauged. In recent decades, the paper has added “lifestyle” and consumer sections—on entertainment, shelter, food, and so on—in order to snare readers and advertisers in and around its home city, and these have eaten into the space given to the “news hole,” the “A section” of reporting and analysis of national and international affairs. The change is less noticeable in the paper‘s national edition, a streamlined paper in which the A section material, uncondensed, bulks relatively larger. The Times is better written, more analytical, more sharply edited, and—for better and for worse—more selective than it once was. But there is no getting around the fact that it contains considerably less raw information. It no longer runs important state papers and speeches in full, and its foreign coverage is spottier, if sometimes deeper, than before. When the Soviet Union was collapsing, the Times ran many stories mentioning the “Union Treaty” through which Mikhail Gorbachev was trying to hold the empire together, but never got around to publishing the text of the treaty itself. Elections overseas used to be covered on an almost daily basis; now there is typically one story before the voting and one after. All those speeches and documents and foreign political updates are still readily available, of course—on the Internet, for readers who have the time, the inclination, and the surfing skills to find them. Ah, the Internet—the Alpha and, especially, the Omega of any survey of the contemporary news business. A decade and a half or so ago, the Washington Post quite consciously decided to forego the opportunity, created by its Watergate glory and the growing importance of the capital, to remake itself into a national paper. Instead, it turned inward, focussing on building its impregnability in its local market. Its prosperity is now unrivaled, at the cost of greatness. But the potential remains. As the New Yorker cartoonist Peter Steiner once pointed out, “On the Internet nobody knows you‘re a dog.” On the Internet every paper is a national, indeed a global, paper; for that matter, every high school kid‘s homemade Web site has global reach. But the prizes, one day, will belong to the papers (and the high school kids) best able to provide the “content” that turns reach into grasp. The Post has quietly poured tens of millions into its Web presence. It may yet have something like the last laugh. Or it may resurface in some as yet unanticipated form, as newspapers, magazines, books, and Web sites merge and flow into each other. x No one knows. All that is solid melts into pixels. —Hendrik Hertzberg
The World Press: U.S. and Britain
Who Owns the Media?
raditionally, newspapers in the United States were family-owned. The major examples are still the New York Times, owned by the Ochs/Sulzberger family since 1896, and the Washington Post, bought by Eugene Meyer in 1933 and since then run by his daughter Katherine Graham, and now her son Donald. There was also the Chandler family of the Los Angeles Times; the McCormick family of the Chicago Tribune; Field of the Chicago Sun; Patterson of the New York Daily News; Bingham of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and the Schiff family of the New York Post. All those are no more. There were newspaper chains started by individuals: the Hearst press, ScrippsHoward (created by Roy Howard), the Gannett chain, and the Newhouse newspapers. The first two had newspapers in major American cities, the Gannett chain concentrated on regional papers, and the Newhouse on marginal papers where the pennypinching could squeeze out some profits. The chains remain, but other than the Newhouse family, they are primarily corporate entities. The Dow-Jones company, which owns the Wall Street Journal, as well as many other interests, is family-owned, but not family-managed. Does it make a difference? As Katherine Graham wrote in the Wall Street Journal of March 20, 2000, it does. The families have been rooted in the cities where they publish, have a strong sense of responsibility for quality, and have pride in their name, while faceless managers can move from paper to paper. The change in the ownership of American newspapers is striking. At the beginning of the century, 99 percent of the daily newspapers in the United States were individually owned. By the mid-1980s more than 70 percent belonged to a newspaper chain. Today, of the roughly 1320 daily newspapers in the United States, fewer than 20 percent, or about 265 papers, are independent, and they are principally in small towns. But perhaps the more important developments for the future are the number of mergers and the creation of multi-media conglomerates in which newspapers are submerged. To understand what is happening, one has to observe the distinction between conduits, formats, and content. The internet or cable or telephone are conduits through which information or data or entertainment flows. A newspaper or magazine or television screen are formats, ways of organizing the information flow. Content is the articles or news which goes through the conduits and is expressed in the formats. What is happening today is the blurring of all these channels by the media conglomerates. Take the $8 billion merger of the Tribune group and the Chandler-owned Los Angeles Times Mirror Co., the third largest newspaper in the country, which took place in March. The
Tribune Company is a conglomerate of eleven newspapers (including the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, and New York Newsday) twenty-two television properties, Internet interests, and radio stations. The combined Tribune and Times Mirror company is able to offer advertisers audiences in all these media, plus 3.4 million visitors to its Web sites that is well ahead of any other newspaper combination in the country. What troubles thoughtful observers of the newspaper scene, such as Bill Kovach, the retiring curator of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, is the crumbling wall between newspaper and advertising copy, which is already happening online. And beyond the borders are the nine global media groups such as Rupert Murdoch’s news corporation, the largest English-language newspaper producer in the world; Time Warner with over two hundred subsidiaries in every media market in the world; A.T.&T. which with Liberty Media has large holdings in South America and Asia; Sony, whose major holdings are outside Japan; and Bertelsmann, the German company which is probably the largest book publisher in the world, along with its TV and music interests, which dominate the world markets. Reports such as these may conjure up images of octopi spreading their tentacles around the world. And there are dangers, as when Rupert Murdoch uses his New York Post to hammer away at Hillary Clinton, calling her the sixth most evil person of the millennium! Yet most nations are too large for the Orwellian image of Big Brother to become the single screen of the society. And one should not forget the “subversive” role of technology which not only created the Internet but also allows alternative voices and alternative conduits and formats to slither between the cracks, and sometimes widen them. x —Daniel Bell
The March of a Moloch
1990: Time Inc., and Warner Communications complete a $14.1 billion merger, creating the world’s biggest media conglomerate. 1995: Time Warner and the Turner Broadcasting System complete a $7.6 billion merger with CNN, the world’s biggest TV news channel, broadcasting to more than 200 nations coming into the conglomerate. 2000: America Online agrees to buy Time Warner for $183 billion, joining the Internet conduit with TimeWarner formats in the largest media deal in history. So far.
The World Press: U.S. and Britain
The British Press: A Golden Age
his is the golden age of the quality British press. There has never been so much of it. Helped by the destruction of the old overmighty print unions, over the past forty years, one new national daily quality paper, the Independent, has been born (making, with the Times, the Guardian, and the Daily Telegraph, four). We have two new quality daily Sundays, the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Telegraph (which in March won the British Press Award for newspaper of the year), making (with the Sunday Observer) five. Each daily paper has vastly more material in it: for example, the Times in 1959 averaged 1.5 pages of foreign news each day compared with six pages in 1999. And this is not, as critics complain, mere lifestyle froth: for example, the Times now devotes an average of four pages a day to the arts compared with half a page in 1959. Partly in consequence of all this, and despite competition from television and new media, sales are rising, up from 2.6 million copies a day in the first half of 1989, to 2.8 million today. Equally, there has never been so much worth reading. Take for example the quality of political commentary: from their different perspectives Hugo Young (of the Guardian), Donald Macintyre (of the Independent) and Andrew Rawnsley (of the Observer) combine knowledge of politics with strong progressive views. It may be doubtful if there has ever been a political writer who walks the tricky path between closeness to politicians and sycophancy more skillfully than Peter Riddell (of the Times). Those who do not read Riddell do not know what is going on. Jonathan Freedland, the Amerophile new kid on the block in the Guardian, bids fair to challenge their supremacy. The work of Michael White, the Guardian’s political editor, and Matthew Parris and Simon Jenkins, mostly-political writers on the Times, has not been surpassed since and bear comparison in their prose with the journalism of Hazlitt and Orwell. And that is just political commentary, on which I am best qualified to comment. A similar list could be compiled by those qualified to comment for example on business reporting, the arts, and, certainly, sport. Any visitor to these shores, however, should beware of recycling this opinion at respectable dinner tables. Brian MacArthur, a senior editor on the Times, and leading commentator on the media, points out that the paper has been accused of dumbing down ever since he joined it in 1969. Retired colonels spluttered into their gin-and-tonics when advertisements were replaced on the front page by news in 1966. William (now Lord) Rees-Mogg, now regarded as the last patrician editor of the Times ran into a hail of criticism when he wrote a leader supporting Mick Jagger after he had been convicted of a drug offense, a leader famously entitled “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?” And so it has gone on: the
alleged lurch downmarket when Rupert Murdoch took over the Times in the 1980s; an alleged further lurch when he made Charles Wilson, a rough Scot, editor; a further alleged lurch when Mr Jenkins was replaced as editor by Peter Stothard some seven years ago; and so on. Britain of course is congenitally inclined to prefer its past (as reinterpreted through sepia-tinted spectacles) to its present. The bien pensant view of newspapers reflects that of the character in Tom Stoppard’s 1978 play Night and Day: “I’m with you on the free press. It’s the newspapers I can’t stand.” The general assumption, so common as almost to be accepted without question, is that newspapers have “dumbed down” to a mid-Atlantic cultural pap. And of course there is plenty to be said in support of this view, too. No one for example could think this is the golden age of the popular press. Essentially, the popular press has moved toward being an entertainment medium rather than anything more elevated. The appearance of page-three girls uncovered from the waist in the Sun is taken as the symbol of the change, though in fact the Sun has been cutting back on tits, as readers have gotten bored with them. The chattering classes worry greatly about the political influence of the popular newspapers. The Daily Mail touts a xenophobic populist agenda. Rupert Murdoch’s Sun is credited with evil powers on behalf of the political right, culminating in its headline on the day of the 1992 general election which featured a picture of Neil Kinnock, the Labour leader, with his head represented as a light bulb and the headline: “If Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave Britain please turn the lights out.” In fact, the effect of this is doubtful. Professor John Curtice, a leading psephologist, has found that newspapers do not strongly affect voting behavior. However, power, as the American columnist Jimmy Breslin once pointed out, is being believed to have power. It matters less whether the popular press actually affects voting, than that politicians think it affects voting. The government’s recent decision not to introduce an extra BBC license fee for those who bought digital televisions for fear of upsetting Mr Murdoch shows that it has that power. Perhaps more damaging than its political influence is the social influence of the popular press. Unable to compete in real news with broadcasting, it has taken to a kind of pseudonews: breaking, for example, “news” of forthcoming developments in popular soap operas. Moreover, there is an increasing tendency, where there is no news, to make it up with tales of the sexual and personal habits not only of the famous but of ordinary people. Any relationship between such tales and the truth is purely accidental. Yet, in a country where suing for libel is both expensive and hazardous, only the rich can
The World Press: U.S. and Britain
afford to do so. Such tales destroy the life of individuals, but it is also corrosive of social capital such as trust. For this reason, there is a strong case for a proper privacy law in Britain. Short of that, the best hope of reining in the excesses of the popular press lies in readers. And there is some sign that this is happening. Sales of the Sun for example slumped when they sought to portray the Liverpool fans who fell victims of the Hillsborough stadium soccer disaster, as thugs. Under reader pressure, the Mirror has begun to reintroduce serious stories. Most encouraging, sales overall of the popular press are falling, down from some 12.2 million in 1989 to 10.2 million in 1999. That could of course be due to the rise of competitive media. It could also just be that the legendary tabloid editors have done what has long been regarded as impossible in newspapers, and lost sales by underestimating their readers. Beyond this, however, lies a broader issue as to the extent that newspapers are creators and shapers of society, or reflections of it. It is almost too obvious to say that technological change has changed the nature of the beast. With the rise of radio, then television and now the Internet, being first with the news is no longer an attainable objective for newspapers. Their comparative advantage lies elsewhere. A bad effect of that is the rise of pseudo-news of the type described above, which is largely unavailable on television in Britain because its content remains subject to outside regulation. A good effect is an increasing emphasis on analysis, accompanied by helpful graphics and useful Web-links, which helps make some sense of the kaleidoscope of the postmodern world. But social change has had enormous effects too. British newspapers used to be largely class newspapers: the Telegraph the voice of Colonel Blimp, the Express of Pooter Britain, the Mirror of the working classes and so on. But class and its attributes are fracturing, even if more slowly than the trendier members of New Labour believe. For example, the most downmarket of recent British newspapers, the near-pornographic Sport, attracts a laddish but relatively upwardly-mobile audience. The business-oriented Financial Times has expanded its general news and culture for its expanded readership, though it still resists sport. Newspapers are by no means alone in feeling adrift in these swirling currents, and by no means alone in their uncertainty of how to react. Will newspapers disappear? Despite difficult challenges, of which the loss of classified advertising revenue to the Internet is probably the gravest, it seems unlikely—certainly absent someone inventing a laptop that you can use in the bath. The worst future almost certainly lies ahead for the worst newspapers, those pandering to popular prejudice and touting titillation: their natural audience is declining, and increasingly finds other entertainments more beguiling. The brighter future almost certainly lies ahead for the best newspapers, including The Economist which styles itself a newspaper: that is to say with journals that seek to interpret the world and its complexities and act as trusted guides to its ways. They also have the advantage of appealing to the better-off members of society, whose numbers are growing. This may be a golden age for quality newspapers but the best may yet be to come. x —David Lipsey
The German Business Press
he announcement of a new German business daily met with disbelief and skepticism. Not that its owners, the British Pearson group and the German Gruner+Jahr, do not have enough experience and resources to launch a new daily—but the Financial Times in another language? On February 21, the first issue appeared. The Hamburg-based Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) is not a translation of the British edition, but a newspaper of its own, although the salmon-colored paper clearly indicates its famous parent. Its editor-in-chief, Andrew Gowers, explains that its reporting focuses on Europe, not Germany. After its competitors decided to take the announcement seriously, they started to prepare for tougher competition. There is only one widely distributed German daily with a clear focus on business and finance news, the Handelsblatt. The Düsseldorf-based paper decided it should face the challenge by extending its scope of coverage beyond markets and finance. In October 1999, the Handelsblatt launched a new design to underscore the change. It is too early to tell whether the FTD will take readers away from the Handelsblatt. The FTD hired almost 120 journalists, which led to a huge reshuffle in many papers. The Handelsblatt, for example, lost staff not only to the FTD, but also to the business section of the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung, now headed by Marc Beise and Nikolaus Piper, who used to be with the German weekly Die Zeit. These changes testify to the permeability of the German business press. Ideological differences have become less important, with the possible exception of Die Zeit, with its constant skepticism toward globalization. Nevertheless, German business press sets the stage for important debates, such as the controversy over the introduction of the euro. Germany’s most important economics and business section is clearly that of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Hans Barbier being the doyen of German economics journalism. Over the last few years, its business and finance reporting has expanded considerably. With the increasing number and importance of joint-stock companies and the increasing number of mergers, the FAZ sometimes even has two economics and markets sections. Its style is very sober, at times even boring. Journalists rigorously adhere to the professional principle of distinguishing between news and comments. The FAZ’s answer to the challenge of FTD was to cooperate with the International Herald Tribune. Soon, the IHT will carry an eight-page summary of the FAZ. The German reader who is interested in an assessment from outside but wants to read a paper in his own language, can turn to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Here, it is a principle not to separate news and comments. The NZZ often has a fresh perspective, though a sometimes didactic style. —Stefan Voigt
Report from Britain
The Devolution of the U.K.
mong the many unfortunate symbols suggested by the London Millennium Dome, the greatest perhaps is the thinness of the constitutional shell that covers the United Kingdom. On the face of it, pressures for a break-up of the U.K. have been headed off by devolution. Scotland has its Parliament and Wales has its Assembly, as has Northern Ireland. But if this is seen by the Labour Government as a grand settlement of the constitutional question, it may be a precarious one. There have been ructions in Wales as the Welsh rejected a first secretary imposed by the government and began doing what all devolved bodies do, which is to ask for more money. The Northern Ireland executive has been suspended since Sinn Fein/IRA insist on sitting in the Assembly while retaining their weapons. But the real Achilles heel of the U.K. is Scotland. The Scottish National Party got 20 percent of the initial vote, rising to 29 percent in a recent by-election. If Scotland were to swing in favor of independence, the U.K. would be immersed in a major constitutional crisis. Defense, oil and gas wealth, relations with Brussels (at present handled by the U.K. Government) would instantly be up for grabs. The impact on national confidence, as the Government became immersed in what would no doubt be a long drawn-out negotiation with the Scots, as well as the psychological effects of the shrinkage of the country, would be immense. The run of luck the New Labour government has enjoyed (especially economic) may not hold forever, and though influential Scottish voices warn against the nationalist lure, sentiment north of the border could still change at some point in the future. The biggest current constitutional problem, paradoxically, lies in England. Three times since the war a Labour government has been kept in power in Westminster by its majority of Scottish seats. But what was accepted in the past would not be accepted today, under devolution. The simple point is that the English are finding it ever harder to tolerate a situation where Scottish MPs at Westminster have a say in every aspect of English lives—education, for instance—a prerogative that is not reciprocated north of the border. Some parliamentarians think of a separate English Parliament to deal with specifically English legislation. But the creation of yet another layer of MPs in a country already seen as having too many, would be a heavy bureaucratic price to pay. Douglas Hurd, the former Conservative Foreign Secretary, who has been musing on these matters, suggests that it would be easier to come to one of those pragmatic English arrangements whereby the parliamentary speaker ensured that only English MPs were present and voted when strictly English matters were under discussion. The problem about the future England is not confined to technical political questions. In response to the assertiveness of their one-time tributaries, a mood of self-doubt, or better perhaps, ontological self-interrogation, has begun to grip the nation. The English have taken to asking themselves, in a way they have never quite done till now, who they are and what they are for. Books on the theme have poured from the press.
These have included one, The English, by Jeremy Paxman, anchorman of the BBC’s Newsnight current affairs program, and another by a respected journalist and political thinker, Andrew Marr. The title—The Day Britain Died—reflects its mood. Were it not that the country is enjoying a sustained period of prosperity and continues to show confidence in Tony Blair’s administration, the introspection and self-doubt would no doubt be worse. Marr (a Scot as it happens) is on the center-left, and is seen as something of a pivotal figure in political journalism. The main interest of his book lies in its openness to radical change. He is opposed to Scottish independence, but he does not believe that the U.K. can survive for long as it is. His solution is to convert Westminster into a purely English Parliament, and transform the House of Lords, currently under reform, into a United Kingdom Assembly. For good measure he shows himself ready for membership in the euro at a suitable moment, and for a referendum on the monarchy in which he himself would vote for abolition. These last two predilections put him way ahead of public opinion, whose attachment to their coins and their queen is all the stronger since these are literally attached. Yet Marr’s thinking is significant, since it illustrates how considerations of the future of the United Kingdom quickly become bound up with other issues. The appearance of Marr’s book coincided with yet another tome on the theme, this one by Tom Nairn, a romantic leftwinger whose colorfully and powerfully written work, After Britain: New Labour and the Return of Scotland, predicts the breaking of the U.K. on the anvil of Scottish nationalism. For him the United Kingdom is a dried-out husk, a pointless relic, meaningless without Empire. He calls the U.K. Ukania, a pun on Kakania, the nickname for Austro-Hungary (the k. und k., or kaiserlich und königlich realm) in Robert Musil’s classic novel The Man Without Qualities. While the Great War that would bring down the Austrian Empire was looming, Musil in his novel has Kakania’s elites busy planning a gigantic celebration. Celebration of what exactly they find it hard to conceive or to explain. Which would seem to bring us back to the Dome, our latest national symbol. Its hugely embarrassing failure does not necessarily presage the demise of the United Kingdom. But the fact that a young Frenchman experienced in the ways of French Disneyland, M. Gerbeau, had to be imported to sort things out and bump up attendance has done nothing to answer the quesx tion of who the British are and what they are for. —George Walden
A mood of selfdoubt, or ontological self-interrogation, has begun to grip the nation
The Cultural Cold War—Fifty Years Later
ith the opening of some of the Soviet and the East German archives, more is now known about the history of the Cold War than ever before: whether there was a real chance to end West/East conflict in 1953, the background of the Korean War, the extent of Soviet infiltration into the West, and other topics. Harvard’s new Journal of Cold War Studies publishes articles based on this documentation, an institute at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center has produced
learned monographs along similar lines, and the GauckBehörde in Germany is doing the same with the Stasi papers. Public interest in these publications has been limited, however, for reasons that remain to be explored. But public indifference need not be permanent, for such lags are normal. Interest in World War II (and the Holocaust), for instance, was far more intense in the 1970s and ‘80s than in the immediate postwar period. And already there are exceptions to this indifference; certain aspects of the Cold War era have attracted a great deal of attention and debate over the last year or two. This is certainly the case with regard to the Congress for Cultural Freedom, founded in Berlin in June 1950, the same week the Korean War broke out. Though based in Paris, the Congress published a number of journals in other major cities; the best-known and most widely quoted of these were Encounter (London) and Der Monat (Berlin). It also ran conferences and seminars which were influential in shaping the Zeitgeist; had its impact been less it would now be forgotten. The history of the Congress—whose activities, under a slightly different name, stretched to 1975 (Encounter was published up to 1991)—has been provided in The Liberal Conspiracy by Peter Coleman, an Australian politician and intellectual, and more recently in L’Intelligence de l’Anticommunisme by Pierre Gremion, a French historian. The former, though not uncritical, was semi-official in character; the latter focused on the Paris headquarter’s activities. Following the breakup of the Soviet empire and the declassification of various archives, including the CIA’s, a new literature has sprung up, ranging from muckraking, in television producer Frances Stonor Saunders’s Who Paid the Piper (London; but titled The Cultural Cold War in the New York edition), to near-hagiography in the seventy-page portrait of Leopold Labedz, the legendary editor of the London Sovietaffairs magazine Survey. Several academic studies have appeared in Germany that fall between these extremes, including Anselm Doering Manteuffel on the Westernization of Germany after World War II (“Wie westlich sind die Deutschen? [How Western are the Germans?] 1999) and Michael Hochgeschwender on the Congress’s activities in Germany (“Freiheit in der Offensive” [Freedom on the Offense] 1999). Specialized articles have appeared, including those by Giles Scott Smith on the early days of the Congress (in the Journal of Contemporary History and in Studies in Intelligence). This summer a public conference on the Congress is to take place in Berlin. Maria Mudrovic has written a Spanish-language history of the Congress’s first decade (Mundo Nuevo), and the Congress figures prominently in David Cesarani’s recent biography of Arthur Koestler, who was initially one of its leading figures but soon dropped out when it failed to be militant and radical enough for his taste. In Gdansk, Poland, a politicalcultural magazine appeared that was modelled on the old Encounter and reprinted some of the old texts. The Congress, during the first and most important period of its existence, was financed by the CIA, a fact bound to reverberate once it became known in the late 1960s. Given the situation in Washington, a less controversial way of financing could scarcely have been found in the early postwar period. But this argument did not cut much ice once the immediate postwar crisis was over. Some circles believed, in fact, that this crisis never existed: it was a figment of the imagination, cultural freedom was a sham, and criticism of Soviet politics a priori reactionary. This belief, which was prevalent in the late sixties, is shared now by Miss Saunders, who therefore focuses on the scandal of the Congress’s financial sources, offering little sense of its political and cultural significance. What is disturbing about Miss Saunders’s book is the lack of any historical memory. For her, the Cold War was a “fabricated reality,” fashioned by George Kennan, as director of the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department, “to oversee the ideological-political containment of Europe” (not of Russia, mind you, but Europe), in order to “design the Pax Americana.” As Josef Joffe wrote in a critical review in the New York Times Book Review of April 23, 2000 “Saunders deftly isolates from its [historical] context what she sees as a heinous intelligence plot so that she can drench it all the better in self-righteous ahistorical wrath. But if the war was make-believe what were the Soviets doing when they tried to bring Communism to power in France and Italy…when they financed antidemocratic forces everywhere?” In the final analysis such hostile attitudes may indeed be little more than a new manifestation of the old antagonism the Congress had to face in Britain from the outset; they were rooted not so much in radical politics as in traditional antiAmericanism. The debate about the historical role of the Congress for Cultural Freedom will in all likelihood continue; for all one knows, it may just be starting. But two striking facts have already emerged: the burial of the Congress in the 1970s was clearly premature, and it continues to preoccupy friends and foes alike. The ideas emanating from its seminars and periodicals continue to attract as much interest as ever.
This and the great interest shown by a young generation of historians has gratified the well-wishers of the Congress and greatly annoyed its enemies. But how to explain, fifty years after the event, the sharply divergent views, almost as hostile as the clashes between fellow-travelers and liberal anti-communists in the 1950s? Why is it that Preuves (the Congress’s French-language publication) has been reprinted in Paris many years after it went out of business, and a huge selection of essays from Der Monat has just appeared in Germany? How to explain, in other words, that the verdict on the historical role of the Congress has been so positive in Western and particularly in Eastern Europe but that this revival of interest has provoked such angry responses in some circles in Britain and the United States? It may have to do with the fact that whereas the money and the logistic support for Congress came from the U.S. and to a lesser degree from Britain, these countries were not in the frontline of the ideological cold war and that the understanding of the issues involved was much less developed there. No sane German would have argued (as does Miss Saunders) that the Cold War was not a reality. Radical chic as it manifested itself in the late 1960s is no longer an issue, but the impulses underlying it have found other outlets inside and outside the academic world. There has been no intellectual sea change in London and New York comparable to the one that took place in Paris twenty years ago when the ‘68 generation shocked itself to discover the horror of the Gulags. To a certain extent this divergence of views might be a generational problem But this cannot possibly explain the bitterness of those unwilling to accept the outcome of battles fought decades ago. One may have to wait for the end of the debate, or at least a major lull, to find a more or x less satisfactory explanation. —Walter Laqueur
Joseph Rovan: The Last European Intellectual
Who is Joseph Rovan? By conventional standards he is the author of eighteen books before this one with the puzzling title:
Mémoires d’un Français qui se souvient d’avoir été Allemand [The Memoirs of a Frenchman who remembers having been German] (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1999). But the life as laid out in these
memoirs is a template of the twentieth century: of Jewish origin yet raised in the Christian faith, a refugee, Resistance hero, concentration camp inmate, a political activist, yet neither left nor right, a remarkably decent man who may be regarded now as the last of the independent European intellectuals.
orn Joseph Rosenthal in Bavaria in 1918, he belonged to a family of well-to-do businessmen and professionals long established in and around Munich, Berlin, and Vienna, almost all Jews, and for many generations unquestioning Germans. His parents and grandparents, as well as himself, were educated in the Lutheran religion, like the good Germans they felt they were. Until the time, as Rovan puts it, Hitler “appointed them Jews,” none of them doubted their German destiny—a destiny which, for those of Rovan’s kin who did not leave their country early enough, eventually meant murder. Young Joseph and his parents did leave early enough, coming to Paris in 1934. Fifteen, and an excellent humanities student in his Berlin Gymnasium, he easily became an excellent humanities student at a Paris lycée. At the time of the German invasion, he had graduated from the Sorbonne and the École des Sciences Politiques, traveled extensively in France and Italy, and apparently met every interesting person he could. In the summer of 1940, he refused an American friend’s offer of an affidavit which would have allowed him to come to the U.S., a priceless privilege then. He writes that he had grown too many roots in France and his duty was to stay. His years there, 1941-1944, were both intensely formative and dangerously militant. The formative side included eager reading of Marx and Heidegger and joining a remarkable intellectual group attempting to make sense of the country’s chaos, shame, and helplessness, and to envision a better future for it. The dangerous side came with Rovan’s participation in the Resistance, running the manufacture and distribution of forged documents for all non-Communist Resistance members. It was in that capacity, not as a Jew, that the Nazi police finally caught him in February 1944 in Paris. In jail he writes soberly, “I experienced the bathtub torture (the Gestapo’s usual practice of repeatedly half-drowning its captives), and beatings, but was not tested beyond my forces”—a choice of words typical of the man’s steely character. In this four-month imprisonment he also felt what he describes as a quiet attraction to the Roman Catholic faith, and was christened by a fellow-inmate priest. In the few mentions of his religious beliefs in his book, Rovan always gives the impression of having an intense trust in God’s wisdom, though never feeling obliged to follow the Church’s earthly preferences. In July 1944, Rovan was put in a freight train with 2500
other prisoners, and sent to the concentration camp of Dachau, where nine hundred of the passengers arrived dead. At the camp, he took advantage of his command of German and managed to be assigned to Central Records. In that position and as chief assistant to the de facto spokesman for the French inmates, Edmond Michelet, he played a major role in resistance activities and in the orderly disbanding of prisoners, after a terrible typhus epidemic and the liberation of survivors by American troops. He describes all that, and the workings of the complex society living and dying in the camp, with a matter-of-fact detachment that gives way to emotion only when he mentions the friends he made and admired, and whose wretched deaths he witnessed too often. Returning to Paris in the summer of 1945, the twenty-sevenyear-old Rovan began a career as activist, writer, teacher, adviser to the powerful, and advocate for the weak that continues to this day, fifty-five tireless years later. He has always held at least three more or less full-time jobs. From 1946 to ‘51, he was an official in the French Military Government (later High Commission) in Germany, dealing with youth organizations, adult education, and other cultural contacts, in friendly cooperation with emerging new German leaders. From 1945 to this day, he has been a journalist, debuting with a still-remembered article in the October 1945 Esprit, under the self-explanatory title, “The Germany We Shall Deserve.” He became a daily correspondent on French affairs for several German publications, and a frequent contributor to various French journals and papers on German affairs. Add to this half a dozen short books written to steer French public opinion away from misperceptions of present-day Germany or the necessary prospects for Europe. From 1946 to ‘78, he held various key posts at “Peuple et Culture,” an organization dedicated to improving the school and university systems and training better citizens, for which Rovan wrote in 1962 a short yet seminal book entitled A New Idea: Democracy. From 1968 to ‘86, as professor of German Studies at two Paris universities, Rovan gathered material for a thousand-page history of Germany, published in France and Germany in the early nineties. This monumental work was preceded by two other scholarly works, one on the history of political Catholicism in Germany and the other a history of social democracy, as well as a highly attractive book on Bavaria, its history, politics, landscapes, monuments, customs, and food. Rovan was never to join a political party or to seek election. His reputation and direct influence seldom extended beyond specialists and leaders in either country. He firmly takes sides for his basic values: peace in Europe through a genuinely democratic Germany’s tie to France; a federated Europe; respect for human rights; devotion to rational knowledge, whether its discourse be threatened by totalitarianism or the spectres of radical revolutionaries. Last but not least, a taste for the good life, which surfaces in many a passage of these memoirs, where the style mellows from factual objectivity into an expression of tender feelings for his wife and sons, his friends and his houses in Auvergne and Provence, a good meal, a good bottle—not to x mention nine pages in praise of his dachshunds. —Paul Lemerle
Swamped by Metaphor
n his first issue of Die Fackel [The Torch] in April 1899, the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus (1874-1936) stated the magazine’s aim: to attempt to drain “the swamp of metaphor” [“den Phrasensumpf ”]. By Phrasen Kraus meant those idioms which, having degenerated into clichés, elicited stock responses. Die Fackel’s 922 issues appeared sporadically until Kraus’s death in 1936; after 1912, he became its sole contributor. In time for the Fackel centenary, scholars using microchip technology have produced a chronological selection of the abused expressions Kraus cited as evidence of the press’s corruption of public discourse. Sifting through 22,586 pages (some six million words), the makers of this large “Dictionary of Idiomatic Expressions” focus on 144 key idioms. Passages from Kraus are printed mid-page, flanked by lexicographical and editorial commentaries. As a critic of debased figurative language, Kraus chose his “torch” metaphor well: sleeping by day, he devoted his nights to writing but also to giving solo recitals both of his own works and of the literary classics he administered to the public as antidotes to their journalistic poisoning. He decried the newspaper’s role as “covert mouthpiece of the regime” and of corrupt industrial interests. He especially scorned the aestheticizing feuilleton (see page 21), which in its casual blurring of fact and opinion, cramped the writer’s own imagination by making him dependent on outer circumstances he in turn distorted. In World War I, Kraus, who had analyzed propagandistic press coverage in the Balkan Wars, relentlessly lampooned the brutality of militaristic euphemism (e.g., the “cleaning out” of enemy trenches). A journalist claimed that “the people are hungering after the results” of a particular peace conference; after this conference, wrote Kraus, which would prolong war, people really would be hungering. Whereas civilized discourse sublimates violence through figures of speech—we “cudgel our brains” and wield “the lash of satire”—Nazism, as it spread, revealed its savagery to Kraus by linguistic devolution: the cudgels and lashes grew quite real. The Dictionary charts this through the German idiom “ein Kampf bis aufs Messer” [being at daggers drawn]. A metaphor now literalized daily on the street had, around 1900, been a hollow threat; in WWI it had cloaked new military technology in an antiquated romanticism. A year before launching Die Fackel, Kraus turned down the satirist’s post at Vienna’sNeue Freie Presse—and ever after scoured it for proof of the “free press”’s prostitution. Blessed, or cursed, with a photographic memory, he would have little use for microchip glossaries; but as an enemy of nationalistic cant, he might relish state-sponsored study of his jeremiads in this heyday of an Austrian “Freedom Party.” —David Jacobson
Source: Edward Timms, “Draining the Swamp,” Times Literary Supplement, February 4, 2000.
Alexandre Kojève: Russian Agent?
he publication last year of Christopher Andrew’s The Mitrokhin Archive, which uses the notes of a former KGB archivist, Vassily Mitrokhin, to develop an account of Russian spy activity during the Cold War, continues to send ripples through political and intellectual circles in Western Europe. Although Mitrokin’s notes are maddeningly vague at times, they do clearly document a wide web of KGB infiltration of ministries, major newspapers, and political parties across the Continent. In France the book has had a large echo because it was published about the time that someone leaked a secret government report, written in 1982-3 in the early years of François Mitterrand’s first presidential term (and apparently at his request), titled “East-Bloc Espionage and the French Left.” As Le Monde reported (September 16, 1999), among those named as having relations with the KGB was Claude Estier, a high-ranking Socialist currently in the French Senate who was mysteriously kept from occupying ministerial office during Mitterrand’s reign. (Mr. Estier has vehemently denied the charges.) But certainly the strangest, and most widely discussed, aspect of the French report was its assertion that one of France’s premier philosophers of this century, Alexandre Kojève, was also mixed up with the KGB. Who was Kojève? His given name was Alexander Vladimirovitch Kojevnikov, and he was born in 1902 into a wealthy Moscow family that lost everything in the Revolution. Young Alexander was arrested for black market activities and was nearly executed but made his way abroad, first to Poland, then to Germany where he earned his doctorate, and finally to France in the twenties. There he lived the life of an obscure émigré until he was asked by the great historian of science, Alexandre Koyré, to teach a course on the philosophy of the nineteenth-century German idealist, G. W. F. Hegel. This course, which ran from 1933-39, was one of the most important events in twentieth-century French intellectual history. Many of the most significant figures in French letters and thought attended the course—philosopher Maurice MerleauPonty, political thinker Raymond Aron, surrealist poet André Breton, writer Raymond Queneau, psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan—and through them Kojève’s influence was enormous. And it was not limited to intellectuals. After the war, which he passed in Marseille, Kojève returned to Paris and joined the foreign-economic-relations bureau of the French Finance Ministry, where he remained until his death in 1968. There Kojève worked tirelessly for the economic integration of Europe and made disciples of important political figures like future prime minister Raymond Barre and future president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. He played a crucial role in reaching the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) accords, and today the French consider him one of the architects of the European Union. What connection is there between Hegel and the EU? According to Kojève and his students, there is a close one. In the book put together by Queneau from Kojève’s lectures, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, Kojève argued that Hegel
was the first modern philosopher to have understood that world history is the theatre in which a single drama is played out (what he called the “master-slave” dialectic), and that this drama had reached an effective end with the Napoleonic conquests and the beginning of what we now call the “globalization” of modern life. With Napoleon the end of history had begun and was determining all the fundamental dynamics of modern politics. Kojève’s interpretation of Hegel may have been idiosyncratic but to French intellectuals watching the decline of Europe in the thirties, and to French politicians who felt themselves squeezed between the empires of the United States and the Soviet Union in the postwar decades, he appeared to be a prophet. And to those concerned about the increasing pace of globalization in the post-’89 world, he still is. Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man was explicitly inspired by Kojève’s theories, and many lesser books and articles have been, implicitly. For example, it was Allan Bloom, the subject of Saul Bellow’s new novel Ravelstein and Fukuyama’s teacher, who arranged the publication of Kojève’s Hegel book in English, and whose bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind, might be read as a protest against the triumph of the “last man” Kojève saw. There was, however, a political slant to Kojève’s ideas that made him more than philosopher of history, and gives some plausibility to the suspicions of the French espionage agencies. While Fukuyama proclaimed the victory of Westernstyle democracy after 1989, Kojève was first inspired by the global aspirations of the communism, for which he never lost his nostalgia. He was a great believer in what came to be called the “moral equivalence” between East and West, since, from his world-historical perch, they both seemed to be working toward the same end: social egalitarianism, the leveling of human aspiration, the economization of all aspects of life, the bureaucratization and juridification of politics. He appeared indifferent as to whether the Soviet Union or the United States won the Cold War since, in his view, the world would eventually look the same in either case. He joked that Henry Ford had been “the only great authentic Marxist of the twentieth century” and that he himself was “the conscience of Stalin.” But was Kojève a spy? The truth is we will never know. As a left-wing Russian émigré he was always under suspicion, and there is circumstantial evidence that his officemate in the ministry, Charles Hernu, who later served as Mitterrand’s defense minister, had been a spy for the Bulgarians, Romanians, and Russians. There is, however, no smoking gun, and even if there were, Kojève’s contemporary acolytes have suggested, he may have been trying to use the Soviets to his own ends, and not the other way round. The joke, in other words, would have been on the Soviets, who now find themselves living in a global economy designed by the bespeckled philosopher x they so rudely treated during the Revolution. —Mark Lilla
Source: A good English-language summary of the Kojève dispute is in “The Spy Who Loved Hegel,” Lingua Franca, March 2000.
Ignazio Silone: Fascist Informant?
few years ago, fragmentary evidence began emerging indicating that Ignazio Silone, one of the preeminent writers of Italian anti-fascism, had collaborated with the Fascist secret police. Initially based on a handful of documents, these claims were greeted, at first, with a mixture of outrage and incredulity. Silone, after all, had been a moral beacon to more than one generation of readers. His early novels, Fontamara and Bread and Wine—descriptions of peasant life under fascism in Silone’s native Abruzzi—electrified a wide public and were hailed as being among the great political novels of the twentieth century. After World War II, Silone made an equally strong impression with his essay in The God That Failed, which documented the romance and disillusionment with communism on the part of such writers as Arthur Koestler, André Gide, and Richard Wright. Silone had actually been a youthful leader of the Italian Communist Party, served on its central committee and witnessed first-hand the gradual ascendancy of Stalinism during the 1920s. Silone had the foresight and courage to break with the Communist Party in 1930, before the major show trials in Moscow. As a figure who had opposed fascism from the beginning and broke with communism early on, Silone was widely revered as a figure of rare intellectual and moral courage. Thus, the accusations of spying for the Fascist police were dismissed as a revisionist attempt to blacken the name of another prominent anti-fascist. In recent years, much press has been given to compromises by various anti-fascist intellectuals such as a letter written by novelist Alberto Moravia to Mussolini asking for relief from censorship for his books, or youthful pro-fascist sentiments by the philosopher Noberto Bobbio. However, as research on Silone has continued, his ties with the Fascist regime appear to be far more substantial and worthy of serious consideration. The first important document to emerge was a letter from April 1930 apparently in Silone’s handwriting to a police official in Rome named Guido Bellone. The letter is clearly that of an informant to his police handler, announcing that he is breaking off his relationship of collaboration. It is signed with the code-name “Silvestri,” but the letter was stamped and placed by Fascist bureaucrats in Silone’s personal file, or rather in the file of Secondino Tranquilli, his actual given name before he adopted the pen name Ignazio Silone. Further research by historians Dario Biocca and Mauro Canali has bolstered the connection between Silone, the informant Silvestri, and the police commissioner Bellone. A signed letter from 1928 by the chief of the secret police to Mussolini himself states that “The Inspector General of Public Security Commissioner Guido Bellone has received a telegram from Basel from Tranquilli Secondino—one of the Communist leaders—giving notice of his arrival in Italy. The conversation with him could be interesting.” Silone’s defenders have been forced to acknowledge the authenticity of these documents and the existence of a relationship between the writer and the Fascist police. “No one denies that Silone had some disconcerting contacts with the Fascist
security apparatus,” the historian Alexander De Grand writes in the Journal of Modern Italian Studies. Some Silone defenders hypothesize that Silone had entered into dialogue with Bellone after Silone’s brother, Romolo Tranquilli, was arrested in 1928 on suspicion of taking part in a terrorist bombing in Milan that year. Silone, according to the defense, was negotiating to free his brother, who later died in a Fascist prison. This line of defense appears, however, to be crumbling. Researchers Biocca and Canali have found archival documents attributed to the informant “Silvestri,” dating back to 1924, long before the arrest of Silone’s brother. Silvestri describes the inner workings of the Italian Communist Party and the Comintern, in which Silone played an active role and the reports seem to follow Silone’s movements through different parts of Europe. One police report goes on to discuss in some detail personal vicissitudes of Silvestri, which coincide closely with those of Ignazio Silone during that same period. As disturbing as these revelations are, they in no way detract from the force and importance of Silone’s novels, all of which were written after his apparent break with the Fascist police in 1930. If anything, the letter with which he severs his relations seems to contain much of the powerful fire that fuels his work: “A sense of morality, which has always been strong in me, now overwhelms me completely; it does not permit me to sleep, eat, or have a minute’s rest. I am at a crossroads in my life, and there is only on way out: I must abandon militant politics completely…. It was impossible for me to live such a troubled existence…firstly, I will rid my life of all falsehood, deceit and secrecy; secondly, I will begin a new life…to seek redemption, to help the workers, the peasants (to whom I am bound with every fiber in my body), and my country.” What remains mysterious is Silone’s motivation for informing in the first place. He may, however, have left us some clues in his novel Bread and Wine. One chapter toward the end of the book contains the confession of a young Communist who acted as a police informant. After being arrested and beaten by the police, the young man, Luigi Murica, is approached by a kindly police officer who offers to help him in exchange for a little information. Initially, he provides only generic reports, but then is pressured by police to give more detailed information. He compensates for his betrayal by working harder than ever, allowing him, temporarily, to function on two levels at the same time. “An insuperable abyss opened up between my apparent and my secret life,” the young man says. Explaining his decision not to confess to his comrades, Murica says that “fear of being discovered was stronger in me than remorse....I feared for my threatened reputation, not for the wrong that I was doing.” But, like Silone, the character overcomes his remorse by regaining his religious faith, telling himself that “good is often born of evil and that I would not have become a man without having x passed through the infamies and errors I committed.” —Alexander Stille
Note: A longer version of this essay by Alexander Stille appeared in the New Yorker, May 15, 2000 as “The Spy Who Failed.”
The World Press: France and Italy
The French Press—The Quality Remains
s in most European countries, the situation of the press in France has been strongly shaped by history. World War II marked a break in French press history. Newspapers that went on being published during the Occupation were replaced by others born out of the Resistance. New structures were created to assure the circulation of a wide spectrum of opinion. Thus in Paris, the Nouvelles Messageries de la Presse Parisienne [New Distributors of the Paris Press] (half owned by the
Giesbert, a sensible and open-minded journalist who spent his early career at the Nouvel Observateur, a fashionable weekly that is traditionally a preserve of the non-Communist left. The newspaper has several different supplements, including two full-color weeklies, Figaro Magazine, which used to be further to the right than the daily, and Figaro Madame, which focuses on fashion and home design. Le Monde was created in 1944 by Hubert Beuve-Mery. It replaced the major prewar Le Temps, taking over its typography, but by no means its political orientation. Left-leaning, though free of party affiliations, strongly committed to international coverage, though not at the expense of reporting domestic political developments, it quickly became the daily paper for highlevel businessmen and civil servants, intellectuals and teachers. The newspaper has gone through several crises—organizational and financial—but, crucially, a society to which all the journalists belong owns 32 percent of the shares and has the right to propose to the other share-holders—on a 60-percent majority vote—the candidate for the editorship. Its current director, Jean-Marie Colombani, a shrewd domestic-policy journalist, is legally president of a three-member board of directors. Among the daily’s more specialized satellite publications are Le Monde diplomatique and Le Monde de l’éducation. Libération is the newest of the major Paris dailies. A product of 1968, it appealed from the outset to young readers who found Le Figaro too conservative and Le Monde too institutional, and who wanted a more anti-establishment paper, a more modern, casual idiom, and greater openness to the avantgardes. The head of this venture was Serge July, a highly energetic, outgoing man who was able to maneuver an organization whose journalists had virtual self-management. Five years ago the newspaper attempted major changes to cover a broader field of information. The failure of this operation forced the journalists to accept participation by private capital and a return to their earlier set-up. Among the three current acting editors-in-chief is Jacques Amalrie, a forceful personality and former head of Le Monde’s foreign news desk. For a long time the French press handled economic questions quite badly. In the postwar years economic journalists were
Hachette corporation and half by the set of newspapers they serve) have a monopoly on distribution. Furthermore, the eight “professions du Livre,” representing workers in publishing, from rotary-press operators to proofreaders, have a closed shop which has exclusive rights to staff replacement— a situation that has driven up production costs and led to rather slack circulation policies. Like those in other countries, French newspapers have, of course, undergone many changes: the disappearance of newspapers created in the country’s postwar revival (Combat, Ce Soir, etc.), the steady elimination of subregional dailies (those of the départements), the mergers of regional dailies, adaptation to new technology (hampered by the Book Union’s resistance). The dominance of Paris has divided the daily press into two categories: those with national and international circulation, and those with largely regional readership. In the first category, there are three unequal groups: the three major national daily papers, then the business dailies, and finally, what I would call the “idea” dailies. We should add to this list L’Équipe, the country’s lone daily sports paper. Le Figaro, Le Monde, and Libération form the core of the French quality press. The first two sell between 400,000 and 500,000 copies daily, giving them a readership of nearly two million; the third has roughly half the circulation of the first two. All three papers have quite distinct personalities and histories. Only Le Figaro predates World War II. Shut down voluntarily in 1940, it reappeared during the liberation under its own name. It is a center-right newspaper offering news to readers who are older, wealthier, and somewhat further to the right than average voters. In the 1970s it was taken over by Robert Hersant, who also owned regional dailies and a popular national daily, France-Soir, which had its heyday in the 1950s and ‘60s. Yves de la ChasseMartin took it over at Hersant’s death, but his main role was to reorganize it after bad mismanagement during the financial crisis of the 1990s. In the last decades two great names brought distinction to Le Figaro: Raymond Aron, and the recently deceased Alain Peyrefitte, a former minister of de Gaulle’s, and a member of the Académie Française. Until recently, the paper’s editor-in-chief was Franz-Olivier
The World Press: France and Italy
distinctly mediocre. Through the efforts of Le Monde and the magazines L’Expansion and L’Entreprise, however, the level eventually rose, and today the French press boasts two highly competent economic dailies: Les Echos, a paper which, though geared to small- and medium-sized businesses, has become a broadly informative newspaper with fine editorialists such as Paul Fabra and Eric Izraelevitch. The paper is now an affiliate of the Financial Times, though it has kept its own personality. Its alter ego, La Tribune, first served the interests of big business, but today the contents of the two papers are quite close. And, last in this triptych, there are the daily “papers of ideas,” the “quotidiens de pensée”: La Croix, which, as its name suggests, is published by a Catholic press corporation, and L’Humanité, the old pre-World War I socialist newspaper, which became the voice of the Communist Party in the 1920s. The former now has a circulation close to 100,000 copies and the latter around 50,000. The editor-in-chief of La Croix is Bruno Frappat, an excellent editorialist with a keen sensitivity to ethical questions. The latter is run by Richard Benninger and Pierre Zarca; now that Party dogmatism has abated, it is known particularly for the quality of its literary criticism. This survey would be incomplete without a few words about the foreign daily press in France, which is almost exclusively English-language. The Herald Tribune is valued for its coverage, at once broad and concise, of world events. The economic world reads the Financial Times, considered more multinational and more thorough than domestic economics dailies, and reflective too of Anglo-Saxon opinion. The Wall Street Journal Europe, a newer arrival, strikes French readers as more “parochial”—even if the parish in question is the American empire. Despite the advance of television news, the national daily press still dominates the debates of opinion. It is still in the columns of newspapers that politicians, business and social leaders, and intellectuals hold forth. The issues launched in the newspapers are only then taken up by the TV stations. Print journalists often participate, broadening their influence in the process. Yet, unlike the postwar decades, there are no longer running editorial exchanges between well-known writers in one paper and another—no one with quite the importance of Raymond Aron or François Mauriac in their day. The Internet, long a minor phenomenon in France, finally reached the national dailies two years ago. The Web site for Les Echos receives the most hits. Le Monde also has a Web site at last, and a special subsidiary, Le Monde interactif, only recently assumed its own advertising direction. Libération has a site. Le Figaro, after lagging slightly behind, is announcing ambitious plans of its own. Circulation for the print press stagnated in 1999. Some attribute this to the development of the Net, but advertising revenue remains high, and efforts continue to cut production and distribution costs. Perhaps we should add a finishing touch—a touch of brightness—to this rather subdued panorama of France’s national dailies, by underscoring their sheer quality. Wellwritten, well-informed, produced with a deep respect for prox fessional ethics, they are a credit to their country. —Jacques Lesourne
The Italian Press
t first glance, the Italian daily press seems a lively and diverse forum of national debate. There are several genuinely national newspapers that are available from Trento to Taranto. They span the ideological spectrum from the avowedly right-wing Il Giornale (published in Milan) to the neo-communist Il Manifesto, based in Rome, with several smaller party newspapers in addition. The openly political quality of the papers—which print their editorials on the front and not the back page—can seem refreshing compared to the blander style of the Anglo-Saxon press. Leading intellectuals and writers—from the philosophers Gianni Vattimo and Lucio Colletti to writers such as Antonio Tabucchi and Enzo Siciliano—also appear regularly in their pages. But on closer inspection and prolonged exposure, the Italian press is in an extremely unhealthy state and, underneath the ideological diversity, the different papers have common symptoms that make the Italian journalistic scene one of depressing monotony. Despite its reputation as a highly political nation of avid newspaper readers, Italy is one of the nations in Europe where people read the least and buy the fewest newspapers. There are fewer than seven million newspapers sold in Italy—a country of about sixty million people—and a substantial chunk of those are accounted for by the daily sports newspapers, which are among the nation’s biggest sellers. The largest quality newspapers—the Corriere della Sera of Milan and La Repubblica of Rome—have circulations just over 600,000 copies, despite being in cities of over three million people and being able to reach the entire national readership. Moreover, most of the major papers have either lost readers or had to spend mightily to maintain them: giving away gadgets, movie videos and music CD’s along with their papers. Although the political spin of the newspapers differs, the subject matter of the five or six stories covered on the front pages of the five or six leading dailies is almost always identical: the latest sayings and doings of the principal political leaders in Rome. Part of the inability of the Italian papers to reach out beyond a relatively small number of hard-core readers is their strange symbiotic relationship with the political class. Rather than practicing enterprising journalism, going and finding out what is happening in the communities they cover, a large number of journalists stand on the steps of the Italian parliament building waiting for the party leaders to emerge and make their declarations for the day. The principal stories then consist of the ping-pong game that ensues between the various political leaders. Other stories are also reactive, responses to various kinds of government actions: the issuing of a court sentence, the arrest of several criminal defendants, or the publication of a major report. This intense focus on the political arena may stem from a time when Italy was a major battleground of the Cold War, in which the ideological shifts of the main political parties was a matter of international importance. But now, the stakes of the game are often little more than personal power; journalistic skills appear to have atrophied, and the newspapers spend much of their time recycling the same hot air.
The World Press: France and Italy
The symbiosis between newspapers and politicians may derive, in part, from the close relations between the owners of the major media outlets and the Italian political class in general. The importance of government regulation and the omnipresence of the political parties in Italy has placed many Italian businesses in a position of considerable dependence. One recent owner of the Rome daily paper Il Messaggero was quoted as saying that in order to be a major economic player you need a newspaper. Pleasing and influencing the political parties may be an important reason for owning a paper. On a national scale, there are three principal media groups: the Agnelli group, tied to the Fiat automobile fortune, which controls the Corriere della Sera, the largest newspaper in the country, and La Stampa, published in Turin, which has generally been the third or fourth largest paper. The second is the group controlled by television magnate Silvio Berlusconi, who owns, along with the three main private TV networks, two openly conservative daily newspapers, Il Giornale, and Il Foglio, as well as the largest newsweekly, Panorama, and the Mondadori publishing empire, the biggest publisher of books and magazines. The third and smallest group is L’Espresso-La Repubblica, whose chief holdings are the newsweekly L’Espresso and the Rome daily paper La Repubblica. Both are traditionally left-of-center publications and their largest shareholder is Carlo De Benedetti, the former head of the Olivetti typewriter and computer company, which has now become a leader in Italy’s cellular phone industry. All three groups have depended on government favor while having much to fear from the massive bribery investigation that has shaken Italy in recent years. The deleterious effect of close ties to the political system is especially obvious in the case of the Berlusconi group. In early 1994, Silvio Berlusconi decided to enter politics and founded his own political party, addressing the nation live on all three of his national TV networks. Since then, his myriad media holdings have acted as an extension of the party press office and have attacked his political enemies with extraordinary ferocity. Berlusconi’s main daily newspaper, Il Giornale, was founded and edited by Indro Montanelli, a major figure in Italian journalism stretching back to the fascist era. Montanelli, while sharing some of Berlusconi’s conservative politics, insisted on having editorial autonomy and refused to endorse Berlusconi’s decision to enter politics. As a result, Montanelli was forced out of the newspaper he had founded in a brutal and humiliating fashion, and a more pliant editor was hired. Similarly, the head of the newsweekly Panorama, Andrea Monti, was replaced for being politically suspect. No danger of that with Berlusconi’s other newspaper, Il Foglio. It is run by Berlusconi’s own speechwriter, Giuliano Ferraro, who was the chief government spokesman during the several months he was prime minister in 1994. Since Berlusconi has been under investigation and on trial in various cases of political corruption, his newspapers have kept up a relentless attack on the magistrates, calling them “red robes,” agents in a Communist plot to destroy Berlusconi. The two main newspapers of the Agnelli group, Il Corriere della Sera and La Stampa, have long been the voices of the northern Italian moderate-liberal bourgeoisie and both have a long tradition of journalistic excellence. But the ownership’s considerable business interests have made them journalistically tame and cautious. For example, the Fiat car company recently built a major new factory in southern Italy, which benefitted enormously from sizeable government subsidies meant to encourage development in economically depressed areas. Moreover, for a time, there was considerable apprehension that long-time Fiat chairman Cesare Romiti might be arrested for his alleged involvement in the bribery scandal. This has meant that the Fiat-controlled papers have tried hard to maintain favorable relations with both left and right. The paper’s main editorial voices—Ernesto Galli della Loggia, Sergio Romano, and Angelo Panebianco—have dedicated numerous pieces to denouncing the excesses of judicial power in Italy and attacking the anti-corruption magistrates. The L’Espresso-La Repubblica group is tied to its owner, Carlo De Benedetti, who, like his main competitors, has had his own close encounters with the Italian law. To his credit, De Benedetti has not interfered with his papers’ support of the magistrates who have investigated his own business dealings. However, it is also true that his papers’ close ties to the center-left coalition have almost certainly given him highly useful political influence. The journalists at both La Repubblica and L’Espresso have not hesitated at times to demonstrate their own independence from the leaders of the center-left, but the widely shared perception of partisanship has limited their national influence. Although of a much higher quality journalistically than Il Giornale and Il Foglio, the De Benedetti papers are seen as representing the left much as Berlusconi’s papers represent the right. Thus each tends to cancel the other out. The chief financial paper, Il Sole 24 Ore, is refreshingly concrete and replete with news, compared to some of the other dailies. But it, too, is closely tied to a major economic player with a strong stake in the political game: it is owned by the Confederation of Italian Industry, the principal business association in Italy, which sits opposite the labor unions in the negotiation of virtually all major national labor contracts. The Balkanization of Italian journalism may be due in part to the lack of strong reporting at any of the papers—something which might attract readers across ideological lines. It has generally been true that Italian journalism has distinguished itself more for the quality of its analysis and commentary than for reporters who wore out their shoe-leather tracking down stories. This appears to be more true than ever. It is revealing, however, that many of Italian journalism’s biggest names (Galli della Loggia, Panebianco, Romano) have no journalistic background at all (the first two are academics, the third a former diplomat). It is sad to say that the Corriere’s best journalist may be Montanelli, who rejoined the paper after resigning from the editorship of Berlusconi’s Il Giornale and is now in his nineties. Similarly, La Repubblica’s best may be Giorgio Bocca, who is close to eighty. The best commentators on foreign affairs—Barbara Spinelli (La Repubblica), Arrigo Levi, and Enzo Bettiza (both with La Stampa)—have been at x their jobs for decades. —Alexander Stille
The World Press: Germany
The German Press—Covering the World
ermany today has about four hundred daily newspapers with a combined circulation of twentyfive million copies in a population of over eighty-two million persons. Four out of five adults are regular newspaper readers. Each region has its own predominant paper, with the exception of metropolitan Berlin where no single paper dominates. Today a few dailies make up “the national press.” The Hamburg tabloid Bild is the largest, with a circulation of more than four million, while the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (known commonly as the FAZ), Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), and Hamburg’s weekly Die Zeit each have circulations of between four to five hundred thousand copies: Die Welt (also published in Hamburg) has a circulation of more than two hundred thousand, and the Frankfurter Rundschau (FR) under two hundred thousand. The weekly Der Spiegel (modeled originally on Time, but much superior in its writing and “bite”), has over a million circulation, while its competitor, Focus, founded only in 1993, but oriented to the business world, sells about eight hundred thousand copies. The FAZ and Die Welt have traditionally been conservative. The Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit are liberal (in the American left-center sense), and the Frankfurter Rundschau is slightly left of them. Berlin’s Tageszeitung (Taz), an offspring of 1968, once brought a freshness to German journalism, but seems to have lost its bearings. But such rough political classifications do not do justice to the distinctions, for within each paper there is often a spectrum of opinions, especially as between the political columns and the feuilletons, the free-wheeling literary essays (see the following essay by Wolf Lepenies). German unification added a number of regional newspapers to the total list, but none of the papers in “the East” have a national circulation, or even a super-regional circulation in the “new German states.” In Berlin, the quality papers, i.e. Der Tagesspiegel and the Berliner Zeitung, are read chiefly within their region and have not, as yet, profited from the government’s move there. Of the national press of neighboring Switzerland, only the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) deserves mention for its high quality and accessibility through the Internet, but it remains largely confined to its Swiss readership. All of the national quality newspapers have different strengths. Some buy the Süddeutsche Zeitung for the articles by Leyendecker or Stiller, for their political muckraking, or for the distinctiveness of the music criticism. The special attraction of the Frankfurter Rundschau is its left-liberal appeal, its extensive coverage of third-world countries, and its bi-weekly section on the humanities. In the quality and breadth of its cultural pages, one of the main yardsticks for rating a paper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine is Germany’s leading newspaper, if not one of the best in the world. What is remarkable is its network of foreign correspondents, not only the largest in Germany, but probably in the world as well, at a time when almost all newspapers in the major countries are reducing their foreign reporting. The distinctive feature of many German newspapers is the strength of their feuilletons; another is their regular reports on the foreign periodicals. In the “Berliner Seiten,” the Berlin pages of the FAZ, one can learn that the Turks in Berlin are reading Hurriyet or Sabah (each of which has a circulation in Berlin of between seven and nine thousand copies), or how Russkij Berlin, with a circulation of fifty thousand, reports on developments in Russia. Yet despite the strength of the feuilletons within the national newspapers, there are few German cultural periodicals of any scope, or comparable to the TLS or the New York Review of Books. The most recent effort to “internationalize” the German newspaper is the creation of a short English version of the FAZ, which is inserted as a supplement in the International Herald Tribune in Germany, and which will soon become available on the latter’s Web site. The difficulty is that this shortened version lacks the most attractive feature of the FAZ—its breadth of content and its stylistic brilliance. This may be overcome as the editorial staff gains expertise, or if instead of translating articles from the FAZ, the staff is allowed to write its own articles based on the contents of the German edition. But the crucial point is the beginning of a process of internationalization in order to widen the foundations of newspapers. Looking ahead, does the German press have secure foundations or do they face a precarious future? Television, the Internet, and the concentration in the media markets by the growth of the two media giants Bertelsmann and Holzbrink all pose threats to the national press. In television, there has been an increase in the number of political and other talk shows (as in the United States), but also the start of two news channels, N-tv and Phoenix. N-tv spe-
The World Press: Germany
cializes in short news reports. Phoenix gained a wide audience by its detailed reporting on the finance scandals of Helmut Kohl and the CDU (Christian Democratic Union). Those broadcasts have affected German politics by increasing the number of individuals who spend their time watching parliamentary debates on TV. While this may have affected competition between channels, it does not seem to have affected the reading habits of the German population. Newspapers have lived with TV for half a century. The Internet is a more recent challenge. The global population of Internet users is estimated to reach more than 500 million persons in the year 2003. But its use in Germany is more limited than in the U.S. Germany has about five million users, in large part because Internet costs (including charges for local phone service) are still prohibitive in comparison to the U.S. The Internet, however, has led the German national papers to establish their own presence, but practices and policies differ. Newspapers and magazines such as Die Zeit, the SZ, Der Spiegel, the NZZ, have their own Web sites. Some offer only the day’s news, commentary, and reviews with or without access to their archives. Some offer these free, or with a charge. Some offer additional material produced especially for the Web site on specific themes such as Kosovo, the CDU scandal, pension reform, dual citizenship, etc. Some believe that cost-free online additions will increase the sale of their print editions; some regard the service as a source of additional income either for the additional news or for advertising. So far, no newspaper has made a list of its most frequently used services or topics online. Nor would putting the English FAZ in the shorter English version on the Internet enable English readers to appreciate its quality. The process of defining the specific relation between the print edition of a newspaper and the online edition is only now beginning. x —Michael Becker pages and the feuilleton, has been turned upside down quite regularly. Political commentaries sometimes respond to arguments previously published on the cultural pages; they are sometimes written in the somewhat mocking style formerly reserved for the feuilleton. The latter’s writers are, as a rule, very young. Most of them could not care less about the usual “copyrights and copywrongs” (Carlyle). These authors exhibit a very un-German wit, a willingness to do anything except succumb to boredom, and a healthy antipathy toward political correctness. There is only one paper that is even funnier and even less politically correct than the feuilleton of the FAZ—the same paper’s “Berlin pages.” Like all other major German dailies, the Frankfurter Allgemeine competes intensely for the attention of the readership in the German capital. Even without a single new newspaper on the market, the publishing scene in the German capital has changed dramatically since all national papers began carrying a Berlin metropolitan section. The leader of the pack, again, is the FAZ—its “Berlin pages” have made a trademark of not distinguishing between culture and politics. The Berlin pages have profited from the fact that culture and politics have become blurred genres in the Berlin Republic. Some of the most important political debates, for instance, have been transformed into aesthetic quarrels with architecture playing the leading role. The three most conspicuous examples are the Reichstag (the seat of the German parliament, which was imbued with considerable cultural sympathy and political legitimacy by Christo’s wrapping and by Norman Foster’s glass dome), the Jewish Museum (which the erratic genius of Daniel Libeskind turned into a memorial that should not be used as a museum at all), and finally the Holocaust Memorial (where Peter Eisenman’s project provoked another debate on the German past that seemed to have been settled quite a while ago). Writing about the Reichstag building, the Jewish Museum, and the Holocaust Memorial does not only mean engaging in a cultural discourse but also includes taking sides in hot political controversies. Finally, the genres of culture and politics have also become blurred in Berlin because the recent scandals over the CDU’s financing schemes have turned the political arena into a stage where politicians such as Helmut Kohl have suddenly turned into actors in a tragicomedy that is not likely to end soon. While almost all the theatres in Berlin promote political agendas that do not make for exciting productions, the more exciting, or at least less cumbersome, Berlin Republic increasingly resembles a theatre-state, to borrow anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s notion. True, most of our favorite actors do not display nearly the precision and elegance of the Balinese whom Geertz was studying. But to a considerable degree, they are transforming German political life into drama and play. The ordinary citizen must learn to become a critic if he wants to understand what is happening on the political stage. Once more, cultural competence is a prerequisite for understanding German politics. The feuilleton is everywhere—in the papers and in politics.x —Wolf Lepenies
The Feuilleton and the Theatre of Politics
he tension between politics and culture is more characteristic of newspapers in Germany than in any other country. The German political columnist often does not realize that, only a few pages ahead, the cultural critic will vehemently contradict him. It is as if both wrote for a paper they don’t read. In Germany, the feuilleton has always been a playground where ideas could be hatched and ideologies promoted that would never have been accepted on the political pages of the same paper. In recent years, however, the balance seems to have shifted toward culture. The most conspicuous example of this change is the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), arguably the most important German daily newspaper with a circulation of more than 400,000 copies during the week and more than 500,000 copies for the weekend edition. Its feuilleton has become more and more politicized. Where its front page justified the war against Milosevic, the feuilleton often presented scathing criticism. The relation between politics and culture, between the front
The World Press: Germany
Marion Dönhoff at Ninety
he came from another world, yet helped shape ours: born and bred at Castle Friedrichstein in East Prussia, close to nature, with her roots in a now-vanished world her descriptive gifts conjure up for us in her book Before the Storm (1990) as a unique and extraordinary home—one Hitler’s war robbed her of. With her famous ride west in early 1945 she began a new life amid devastation, yet she has always kept faith with her origins. The best of old Prussia moulded her. The experience of July 20, 1944, that day in which many of her friends gave their lives to free Germany of Hitler, indelibly marked her second start. She has remained true to this legacy: necessarily blending the moral with the possible in her commitment to decency in politics. In 1946, as the country was commencing its own reconstruction, Marion Dönhoff began a completely new life— though one prepared by a university study unusual enough at the time for a woman of her station. By chance she landed a job at a new weekly paper, Die Zeit—a paper her tone and style has shaped for decades—for even in those earliest years she possessed a moral authority arising not from her position but from her very character, which combined absolute integrity, brilliance of writing, and political judgment, with utter charm. Her voice as editor and then publisher of Die Zeit helped steer the new Federal Republic on a liberal course. She was an early advocate of reconciliation with former enemies, the very Poles and Russians who had seized her homeland. She called for an opening to the East at a time when Cold War policy favored hostile distance. She paved the way toward Ostpolitik, a “policy toward the East” which she conducted in public and in private, in direct contact with Russians and Poles, the major dissidents as well as those in power. Here too older tradition spurred new actions: she knew the east, as her family had known it—without illusions, but also without arrogance. She knew what Poles and Russians had suffered at the hands of Germans. Reconciliation was her hope and mission in other places, too. Through her knowledge of South Africa she strove to achieve a seemingly impossible peaceful end to apartheid, as evidenced by her support of Bishop Desmond Tutu. Her globe-trotting and her worldwide network of friends were the product of a wellfocused curiosity: all that was human, and political, has interested and enthralled her. And she has reported on it all—in a clear, penetrating style —in countless articles, and many books. I first met the countess at the end of the 1960s at a GermanAmerican forum. An article I had written on the 1968 student unrest had been circulated, and this led to her first pencilled note to me, which I have kept: “Shall we have lunch at noon?” She questioned me, criticized my conservative stance toward the movement. Hers was the more balanced view. Looking back, I would say her conservative principles were firm enough to allow her to entertain new ideas open-mindedly and liberally. She remains an open-minded conservative and a realistic liberal: so different from today’s prevailing neo-liberalism with
its free-market idolatry. Civilize Capitalism [Zivilisiert den Kapitalismus] is the title of one of her last books. In an age of overwhelming globalism and greed that is technologically novel but ethically primitive, she calls for reforms in keeping with her tireless urge to understand and improve the res publica. Marion Dönhoff has been honored throughout the world. In 1971 she received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. This year, in the span of a few weeks, she was made an honorary citizen of Hamburg and an honorary doctor of the university of Königsberg (Kaliningrad), a first political and human gesture from her old neighbors. But perhaps the greatest honor has been the love so many people the world over bear toward a woman who simply radiates decency, native good sense, and so much quiet goodness. She has turned her private loss into priceless gain for others. We feel gratitude for the past, hope for future achievements, further encouragement to be better.x —Fritz Stern
Source: A longer version of this essay appeared in Tageszanzeiger (Zurich), December 2, 1999.
ean-Paul Sartre has risen from what the French call his purgatoire, the period of indifference, even aversion. Chief among rehabilitations is the bestseller Le Siècle de Sartre [Sartre’s century] (Grasset, 1999) by Bernard-Henri Lévy, the “New Philosopher” Sartre once denounced as a CIA agent. Repenting past injustice, Lévy praises Sartre’s philosophical and literary writings without concealing the wrongheadedness of his political stances, his political “schizophrenia” as anarchistic individualist and Stalinist, philosopher of freedom and ideological dogmatist. George Steiner (TLS, May 19, 2000) describes Lévy’s book as “at its core, autobiography,” noting how Lévy’s career as a public intellectual has “mimed” Sartre’s. Similar worldly success may have blinded him to “the core of self-hatred” in Sartre, who knew himself to be “the quintessential exemplification of the bourgeois, mandarin ideals and rewards which, indefatigably, he pronounced to be anathema to him.” Like Steiner, Jürg Altwegg (FAZ, Feb. 5, 2000) reads Lévy’s vindication as a national exoneration of “the intellectual” as such, whose death has lately been proclaimed “as often as Sartre announced the death of literature.” Steiner, searching for some part of Sartre’s great, flawed achievement that signals “ a beginning rather than an epilogue,” ultimately proposes the philosopher’s “domestication of the ‘Godless,’” his “rigourously immanent,” Nietzsche-inspired ontology and morality. Meanwhile, the apotheosis continues, in bookstores, conferences, talk shows. And the formerly nameless intersection opposite the Café des Deux Magots is now called Place Sartre-de Beauvoir. —David Jacobson
The World Press: Russia
The Russian Press
t the end of the 1980s, Gorbachev’s glasnost policy stimulated enormous growth in Russian society’s interest in historical and political topics taboo until then. Some print media in Russia reached record circulations of several million, and the popular weekly Argumenty i fakty made it into the Guinness Book of World Records with a print run of 33.5 million. That made the decline of the press market all the more dramatic when, in 1992, the removal of price controls, the collapse of
distribution networks, and the impoverishment of the population brought the national newspapers to the brink of ruin. Today there is next to no national press anymore. Moscow’s papers are hardly read in the provinces, partly because of the continuing process of decentralization. The local press, financed by and manipulated in the interests of local governments, is a vestpocket press that illuminates the country’s political events from the viewpoint of the governors and the financial actors behind them. It exerts a much greater influence in the respective regions than the central press does. In Moscow, most print media belong to and are zealous lobbyists for the interests of rival financial/industrial groups, for example those of Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, or the energy monopoly created by Viktor Chernomyrdin, Gazprom. They have degenerated into a rumor mill and a political market, giving the task of providing information only secondary priority. Their target audience is the political and business elite that is involved in the power struggles. There are exceptions to the rule. For example, the weekly newspaper Moskovskiye Novosti [Moscow News] (MN) is still independent and a beacon of political continuity and journalistic integrity. Its editor-in-chief Viktor Loshak has not only managed to retain his writers in the face of the wealthy competition’s recruiting efforts, but also to develop an immunity to the society’s cynicism. Moskovskiye Novosti is almost the only newspaper that keeps its distance from the arrogant, sexist language tinged with underworld jargon found in most of the media. The MN is characterized by Leonid Nikitinsky’s excellent research on corruption, objective reporting on the war in Chechnya, and good criticism of society and culture. The latter takes up half of the twenty-eight-page periodical. The MN remains the paper of choice for Moscow’s liberal intelligentsia and finds substantial resonance among Russian émigrés in the fifty-six foreign countries in which it is distributed. Another independent newspaper is the bi-weekly Novaja Gazeta [New Newspaper] (NG), which has a circulation of 80,000. The NG is one of the few papers that reports in depth on the suffering of the civilian population in Chechnya. The journalists Anna Politkovskaya and Elvira Goryuchina have traveled in the combat zones and refugee camps and work for the war’s victims with unparalleled selflessness. In March, hackers destroyed a ready-to-print edition in the NG’s computer system. The secret service (FSB) is suspected to be behind this. If the FSB increases its control over the media, the NG could be one of the first victims. These two newspapers are printed in black and white on cheap newsprint, while the weekly magazine Itogi maintains the same quality standards as its joint venture partner, Newsweek. Not only its outstanding color photos, but also the high quality of its analyses make Itogi one of the best current periodicals. Its managing editor Masha Gessen, a re-emigrant from the U.S.A., would be a jewel in the crown of any high-quality magazine. For the average consumer, however, Itogi is affordable only in Moscow. Periodicals like Kommersant and Nesavissimaya Gaseta [Independent Newspaper] were founded at the zenith of perestroika with the intent of ushering in a new era of liberal media. Kommersant was also the only paper to fashion itself as a Russian Financial Times. It introduced a fresh, aggressive language that was much imitated by other media, and it has an outstanding cultural department with the respected art critic Katya Degot. But even before Kommersant was sold to Berezovsky last year, it had lost some of its élan, due to the 1998 financial crisis and the staff’s “defection” to Vladimir Gusinsky’s daily Segodnya [Today]. Kommersant was and is the newspaper for Moscow’s high finance. A different fate awaited Nesavissimaya Gaseta, which Berezovsky rescued from bankruptcy in 1993. On the one hand, with its many monthly supplements on various social topics such as religion, literature, the military, or science, it has contributed much to public debate. The paper has been corrupted by its editor-in-chief, Vitali Tretyakov, a loyal vassal of Berezovsky. In particular, its censored reporting and lies about the Chechnya war, its rabble-rousing against human rights activists, and the Great Power airs it puts on make it seem the mouthpiece of the regime. Cynicism, inhumanity, and nihilism – this message from the postcommunist elite to the underprivileged masses appears especially nakedly in Tretyakov’s newspaper. And yet it does not always take a
Reports from Russia
“party line,” but publishes articles with liberal-democratic views, for example criticism of Putin. But this pluralism seems to reflect a transitional situation. The impulse of media freedom is still strong, but the future is highly uncertain. The Moscow papers that have been privatized by the oligarchs have one thing in common, whether they are black and white or boast a modern, color layout: they are media for the political debate and power intrigues of Moscow’s elites, an exclusive club of the winners in Yeltsin’s market reforms. The numerous divisions in editorial staffs and the recruiting of personnel by financially powerful media, as well as conflicts with owners, have reduced the stature of most of the respected journalists. For example, when Izvestiya was acquired by Gazprom, the paper’s long-time editor-in-chief Tankred Golembiovsky founded Novye Izvestiya; but it never measured up to its predecessor. Many younger journalists abandoned the field to work on Internet periodicals, and the best pro-Western journalists, including Yevgenya Albaz, Andrey Piotrovsky, and Pavel Felgenhauer, are now on the staffs of English-language newspapers such as the Russia Journal or the Moscow Times. For writers at this level, that is the equivalent of an inner emigration. The English-language papers, including The Moscow Tribune, are of a high calibre. The Moscow Times columnist John Helmer is one of the best analysts of Russian conditions. But these newspapers are read primarily by the expatriate community and exert little significant influence on public opinion in Russia. The oligarchs have managed to split the journalists into two camps: a well-paid, bought minority and a poorly-paid majority. This undermines solidarity within the profession and the possibility of promoting common interests. Journalistic professional ethics were the first victim sacrificed to Mammon. The general population is alienated from the Moscow elite and has no trust in the powers that be. The broad masses concentrate on everyday survival. A newspaper devoted to the simple things of life and to entertainment, like Argumenty i fakty with its regional supplements, thus also finds a market outside the capital. With a little politics, a lot of gossip, and useful medical and household advice, it reaches a circulation of more than two million, while the equally supraregional Izvestiya, which lost its best journalists during privatization, has therefore lost attractiveness. The tabloid Moskovskii Komsomolets, with a circulation of one million, is a special phenomenon. Its mixture of dubious scandal mongering and youth culture reporting appeals to the young, apolitical generation, even outside Moscow. Its long-time editor-in-chief Pavel Gusev cultivates close ties to Moscow’s mayor Yuri Lushkov. Whatever its political direction and quality, no newspaper’s influence even begins to approach that of the television channels, such as ORT (Public Russian Television, half private, half government-owned, and largely controlled by its main investor Berezovsky), which manipulates the public for elections, propagates the war in Chechnya, and stirs up antiWestern resentment among the masses. The print media’s greatest hope for a measure of freedom of expression under x Putin may lie paradoxically in their lack of influence. —Sonja Margolina (translated by Mitch Cohen)
New Russian Theatre: The Moscow Scene
n 1919 Lenin nationalized the theatres, hampering artistic expression, but also guaranteeing state support and cheap tickets. Under the Soviets, Russians came to look on inexpensive admission to the theatre as an inalienable right. But over the past decade, the Russian government has cut state subsidies, resulting in heftier ticket prices. Some tickets to productions in this year’s sixth annual Golden Mask Theatre Festival, a celebration of national ballet, drama, opera, and puppetry, sold for forty dollars—a bargain on Broadway but to most Russians a rip-off. Increased ticket prices have not kept Muscovites from attending the theatre. But the theatre scene has changed over the last ten years. Audience demographics have shifted. Rich New Russians in swank outfits now flock to the theatres to begin a night on the town. Right before the curtain rises, many theatres make an announcement reminding affluent audience members to turn off their cell-phones. In response to new audience tastes, the repertory is changing. The emergence of commercial theatre, both imported and domestic, now provides an alternative to classical drama. Profit-making West End and Broadway spectacles such as Tomorrowland and Metro make guest appearances in Moscow’s opera houses, riding the tide of popular consumerism flooding Russia. The freedom of the post-communist era, however, has ushered in more than expensive sensationalism. Directors now tackle scripts which communist censors would have quickly banned, such as Mark Ravenhill’s Shopping and Fucking, a new British play that grapples with issues of homosexuality, masochism, and consumerism. Directors are also staging adaptations of older works that the Soviet regime kept under lock and key. Yuri Liubimov began this trend in 1977 with his staging of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, a production that the communists refused to fund but tolerated with disapproving silence. A decade later, Geta Yanovskaya pioneered the spirit of perestroika with an adaptation of Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog, a title the regime had forbidden even mentioning. (Both productions remain in repertory as historical landmarks.) This year, Lev Dodin, the artistic director of the St. Petersburg Maly Theatre, won the Golden Mask Best Director Award for his adaptation of Andrei Platonov’s novel, Chevengur. Written in 1928, the novel was accused of presenting “an incorrect portrayal of the Revolution” and thus appeared in only edited fragments in Russia until the Gorbachev era. Dodin staged Platonov’s critique of the Civil War and the Great Utopia as a poetic meditation on Russia’s vicious cycle of hope and disillusionment. The tumultuous past decade, punctuated by the August 1998 economic crisis and the second war in Chechnya, has delayed production premiers and thwarted plans to open new theatres. The fluctuating exchange rate, paraded on the street by men in sandwich boards, makes it difficult to launch new projects. But most repertory theatres have managed to survive the shock and rejuvenate their repertories. Directors invited
Reports from Russia
from the similarly troubled ex-Soviet republics and satellite states have chosen Shakespeare, a standard in the Russian repertory thanks to the translations of such poets as Boris Pasternak, to express the trials and misfortunes of contemporary life. At Moscow’s Satirikon Theatre, the Georgian director Robert Stouroua recently staged a confrontational, mafioso Hamlet designed to catch the consciences of the New Russian kings. In St. Petersburg, Bulgarian Alexandr Morfov directed a production of The Tempest that parodied, through improvisational acting, the characters’ island freedom. The playful set of swinging, wooden beams won Emil Kapulyosh this year’s Golden Mask Award for Best Scenic Design. Lithuanian director Eimuntas Niakroshius won the Best Foreign Production Presented in Russia Award for his expressionistic Macbeth, a relatively speechless production that conjured haunting images of axe-murder, shrieking, blonde Baltic witches, and shattered mirrors to portray a nation plagued by insecure, incompetent leadership. Russian directors, too, have used the unstable political atmosphere and volatile economy as a source of drama. At the tiny Helikon Opera, Dmitry Bertman has injected a political critique into his staging of RimskyKorsakov’s The Golden Cockerel, an operatic adaptation of Pushkin’s short story. Directors often stage this opera as an innocuous fairy tale. In Bertman’s Brechtian production, however, a chorus of Moscow’s ubiquitous beggars and haggling babushkas surround a bumbling, intoxicated ruler who relies on a magic cockerel to protect him from danger instead of resolving his kingdom’s problems. Kama Ginkas, who had three shows in this year’s festival, directed his own adaptation of The Golden Cockerel at the Theatre of the Young Spectator. Like many children’s shows in Moscow, Ginkas’s Cockerel captivates both the young and old. His bloody production presents a nightmare of violence cultivated by faulty leadership. A mastermind at manipulating audience emotion by combining naturalistic acting with Brechtian breaks in the fourth wall, Ginkas won this year’s Best Production Award for The Room of Laughter, a play in which Russia’s stalwart actor Oleg Tabakov portrays a neglected old man suffocating in a dilapidated, Soviet-bloc apartment. Tabakov shared the spotlight this year with Yevgeny Grishkovets, a writer/director/actor from Kaliningrad whose mesmerizing monologue How I Ate A Dog, about daily life in the Russian navy won him the prize for innovation. In spite of increasingly cosmopolitan attitudes, such drama of provincial Russian life moves Muscovites. Pyotr Fomenko’s productions of Ostrovsky’s Guilty Without Guilt and Wolves and Sheep are two of the most celebrated shows in the Moscow repertory. Fomenko’s treatment of nineteenth-century country life captures a national spirit that enchants audiences. With the opening up of former Soviet borders, many Russian directors have begun working in the West. Most pass through while touring their productions, but some have stayed longer to teach and direct. Last fall, Yuri Yeremin, the artistic director of the Pushkin Theatre in Moscow, staged Chekhov’s Ivanov at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The production, a first glimpse of Russian theatre for many audience members, alternated between moments of bold expressionism and detailed naturalism. After the success of this show, Yeremin was invited back to Cambridge to direct three of Chekhov’s vaudevilles next fall. An adherent of the Stanislavsky System of acting, Yeremin also teaches at the ART Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. Two years ago, ART Institute students began studying with Russian directing, acting, movement, and dramaturgy professors from the Moscow Art Theatre School. The United States has inherited the Russian theatrical tradition primarily through Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler’s conflicting interpretations of Stanislavsky’s system. Yet as the Golden Mask winners demonstrated, contemporary Russian theatre draws not only on Stanislavskian naturalism, but also on the avantgarde innovations of practitioners such as Vsevolod Meyerhold and Yevgeny Vakhtangov, to name two. The recent collaboration between The American Repertory Theatre and The Moscow Art Theatre has dispelled myths about the Stanislavsky system and expanded understanding of Russia’s theatrical past and present. Russians, too, seem eager to learn about Western theories and styles. Foreigners now frequently work in Russia and the former Soviet Republics. The German director Peter Stein recently staged The Oresteia and Hamlet with casts of Russian actors from various Moscow companies. Last year, British director Declan Donnellan and actors from Lev Dodin’s Maly Theatre (which recently joined the prestigious European Union of Theatres) won the top Golden Mask prize for their joint production of The Winter’s Tale. And this March, in the middle of the Golden Mask Festival, ART Institute students premiered François Rochaix’s English-language production of Goldoni’s Holiday Trilogy at the Moscow Art Theatre. These exchanges and the international audience at this year’s festival signal the beginning of an era when world theatre is enriched through interaction rather than x diminished through isolation. —Ryan McKittrick
Reports from Russia
Vladmir Putin, Cultural Maestro
ussian leaders have always been keen to have artists on their side, and the artists, in turn, have usually bowed to power. Pushkin announced: “No, I am not a flatterer when I sing praises to my Tsar.” Dostoyevsky offered as justification for Russia’s national uniqueness: “We are probably backwards, but we have souls.” Even Mandelstam submitted and once wrote an Ode to Stalin. Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev—all staked their ideas of Russian culture on what they called socialist realism to be propagated by the Russian intelligentsia. Yeltsin, promoting democracy, then chose comfort over culture and shifted his attention toward money and media. Culture was left to drift on its own with no relation to the state’s agenda. Not president Putin. In his effort to revive the moral fiber of the Russian people, their glory and international respect, he has turned back to culture. After all, if figures such as Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov helped to bring down the legitimacy of the Soviet regime, the process might be reversed by new cultural figures. In the months as acting and now as the elected president, Vladimir Putin has established himself as a fan of Russian culture in all its aspects—film, literature, music, architecture, etc. He meets with scientists and teachers seeking to convince them that they, no less than the military, are Russia’s hope for the future. While he shakes one hand with Madeleine Albright to steady Russia’s relations with the U.S., he writes letters to Brigitte Bardot with another. He goes to the theatre almost every week and pays friendly visits to the homes of various members of the intelligentsia. History repeats itself. Josef Stalin, too, was the “friend” of writers, composers, poets, and artists. “Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy…” he mused, “those names sound as loud as cannons.” Osip Mandelstam is probably still shivering in his grave, remembering Stalin’s “friendship.” As are Bulgakov, Pasternak, and Shostakovich. Josef Vissarionovich would telephone Bulgakov after repeated viewings of The White Guard, in his favorite Moscow Art Theatre, to express his admiration: “Mikhail Afanasievich, Stalin speaking,” and the author would freeze, speechless and stunned. And Stalin would find time to discuss with Dmitri Shostakovich the necessity of writing songs rather than symphonies—and how lovely Shostakovich’s songs for movies were: live-affirming and cheerful. Vladimir Putin has his own appreciations. The First Person, Conversations with Vladimir Putin, a book of biographical interviews with Putin, his family and friends (incidentally, written in the best of traditions of the cheerfully enthusiastic pioneer stories of Arkady Gaidar, famous Soviet children’s writer and grandfather of a reformer Yegot Gaidar), Putin’s character is largely seen through the eyes of his very best friend—an artist, a musician. Putin says he enjoys performances. On the inaugural day as Prime Minister (in September 1999), he went to the Satirikon Theatre’s anniversary. Apparently, it was a sentimental occasion, for Putin had met his wife at a performance by Arkady Raikin, an official Soviet stand-up comedian, whose son Konstantin is the Satirikon’s artistic director.
Yet Putin can be harsh. Although now it is the media who suffers most. In February the acting president allegedly ordered the arrest of Radio Free Europe’s correspondent in Chechnya, Andrei Babitsky, and then ordered his release in order to show journalists that they should not contradict the official line. In early May various outlets printed a Kremlin “working paper” that proposed the intervention of the security services into the reporting of opposition media. In mid-May this “paper draft” was tested in practice. Now as president, Putin justified the FSB (Federal Service Bureau) search raid of the Moscow MOSTgroup, whose media outlets have been critical of the Kremlin. But while the press is being punished, with culture it is flattery that rules. Putin’s benevolent gestures toward mastera cultury (maestros of culture) are now cynically accepted by the current mastera. Valery Gergiev, the famous conductor of the Marinsky Opera in St. Petersburg, who regularly performs classics such as Eugene Onegin, was pleased by the President’s interest in his new production of War and Peace, the Prokofiev operatic adaptation of Tolstoy, as was Nani Bregvadze, the legendary Georgian singer, whom Putin begged on his knees to sing for him personally after he missed her concert at the Moscow Conservatory. During presidential elections, special correspondents spent the entire day at the polls where members of the intelligentsia were voting. Thus the whole nation learned that most of them were great Putin supporters. If Bella Akhmadulina (prominent Russian poet)or Vladimir Spivakov (famous conductor of the Moscow Virtuosi orchestra) vote for Vladimir Putin, there must be something to him. Power knows that in a country like Russia it is important to make culture its ally: “art belongs to the people” was a great slogan of Lenin and Stalin. Putin recently confirmed this idea with his signature pragmatism by telling artists, “Your works are of great socio-political importance. Many of you are not simply loved but worshipped.” So far Putin’s calculations have proved right. Nikita Mikhalkov, the famous director of the Oscar-winning Burnt by the Sun, the Russian Art Academy President pianist, Nikolai Petrov, and the singer and composer Alexander Gradsky during the last few months, addressing various Moscow and international forums, expressed their concern over the media’s disservice to the new leadership: the negative coverage of Chechnya creates an unfavorable impression of the Putin regime and seriously damages Russia’s image both in Russia and abroad. They have been calling for the agreement with the presidential spokesman’s directive: “When the nation mobilizes its forces to achieve some task, that imposes obligations on everyone, including the media.” Nikita Mikhalkov went even further to suggest at the celebration of the World War II May Day victory at Volgograd where the 1943 battle against the Nazis took place the city should be given back its old name of Stalingrad. This was the time of Russia’s glory and its strength. And culture was then at the front line in the battle for Great Russia. x —Nina Khrushcheva
Spanglish—A New Vernacular
The Census Bureau has declared that by 2020 Latinos will be the largest minority group in the United States, surpassing blacks and Asians and numbering more than seventy million. One of every four Americans will be of Hispanic descent. This population explosion may transform every aspect of culture and society in the United States, not least the linguistic. In fact, a verbal metamorphosis is already taking place. Spanish, spoken in present-day Florida, New Mexico, Texas, and California, has become ubiquitous in the last few decades. The nation’s unofficial second language, it is much in evidence on two twenty-four-hour TV networks and more than 275 radio stations. Bilingual education has expanded knowledge of Spanish in schools nationwide. Spanish is used in 70 percent of Latino households, and on campuses across the country, it is the most studied and sought-after “foreign tongue.” Yet the Spanish that is spoken so ubiquitously in the United States increasingly begins to sound different from the Spanish spoken in Spain, and even in Mexico. The editors of Hopscotch, a new English-language magazine devoted to Latin American culture, have reported recently on this so-called Spanglish. We continue with the account of this phenomenon by Ilan Stavans, the editor of the new journal.
ne sign of the “Latin fever” that has been sweeping over the United States since the mid-1980s is the astonishingly creative amalgam spoken by people of Hispanic descent not only in major cities but in rural areas as well: neither Spanish nor English but a hybrid known as Spanglish. The term is controversial, and so is its impact: Has Spanish irrevocably lost its purity as a result of it? Is English becoming less “Anglicized” on the tongues of Latinos? Is Spanglish a legitimate language? Should it be endorsed by the intellectual and political establishment? Who uses it, and why? As one might expect, these questions have contributed to an atmosphere of anxiety and fear in non-Hispanic enclaves. Are we witnessing the Latinization of America? Is the nation at risk of adopting a new tongue? Is it losing its collective identity? On the other side, purists within the fractured Hispanic intelligentsia refuse to endorse Spanglish as a vehicle of communication. They claim that it lacks dignity and an essence of its own. This stand is una equivocación, though. It regards speech as stagnant, when in truth it undergoes eternal renovation. For the eight million Hispanics north of the border, Spanish is the connection to a collective past and English the ticket to success. But Spanglish is la fuerza del destino, a signature of uniqueness. It is not taught in the schools, but children and adolescents from coast to coast learn it on a daily basis at the best university available: life itself. One need only think of Yiddish, used by Eastern European Jews from the thirteenth century on, to realize the potential of Spanglish. Yiddish was born of the disparities between high- and lowbrow segments of Jewish society in and outside the ghetto. It originated in an attempt to separate the sacred from the secular, the intellectual from the worldly. Its linguistic sources were Hebrew, German, and Russian, Polish and other Slavic languages, and the mix was later reinvigorated by other linguistic additives, including Spanish in Buenos Aires, Havana, and Mexico City, and Portuguese in São Paulo. At first rabbis and scholars rejected Yiddish as illegitimate. Long centuries passed before it was championed by masters like Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Leib Peretz, S. Ansky, and even Marc Chagall, whose pictorial images are but translations of his shtetl background. Obviously, the differences between Yiddish and Spanglish are many, and we are not suggesting that they have the same
metabolism. Yet their similarities are striking. Latinos are already a prominent part of the American social quilt. For ivory-tower intellectuals to condemn their tongue as illegitimate seems preposterous to me. It signals the awkwardness of scholars and academics. Protecting Castillian Spanish from the barbarians in the ghettoes of East Los Angeles and Spanish Harlem is futile, for Spanglish is here to stay, and it is time for the nation’s intelligentsia to acknowledge it. Language, after all, changes constantly. Borges wrote in an Anglicized Spanish, and Julio Cortázar made his fiction come alive by writing in Spanish with a French twist. Both were condemned at various times in their careers for “polluting” the language. But who would dare to invoke Cervantes’s tradition now without them? Writers are, among many other things, harbingers of change. They turn it into a testimony of their era. And rapid change is what we are witnessing in the United States today—social, political, religious, but primarily verbal change. Immigrant lives are brewing in new grammatical and syntactic pots, incredible blends of inventiveness and amor a la vida. In them binationalism, biculturalism, and bilingualism go hand in hand. What is at stake here is not the future of Spanglish, already solid and commanding, but broad acceptance of it. English is and no doubt should be the nation’s sole official language. But that does not mean that other tongues should not live side by side, as they have done since the arrival of the Mayflower. Nothing has ever been pure in this land, especially not the idea of home. Unlike other immigrant groups, Latinos find that their ethnic language has remained alive and well here, 150 years after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which brought an end to the war commonly known as the “trauma of encounter.” Other immigrant tongues—German, Italian, even Yiddish—have vanished as popular channels of communication, but not Spanish. In fact, its stamina at this fin de siglo is more apparent than ever: on the radio and TV, in music, in the printed word, and especially en la calle, on the street. It isn’t the Spanish used in the country of origin, nor is it English. Latinos will leave a mark on America in their own tongue. By doing so, they not only will invite the rest of the society to join their verbal celebration but, even more attractively, will change the way it uses its own language.
So the emergence of Spanglish is neither sudden nor new. In one way or another it has been around for decades, even centuries, although since the mid-1980s it has gained not only national attention but a sense of urgency, making its presence felt in rap and rock music, art, and literature. But even though poets and singers are beginning to pen it down, and sections such as the classified ads in newspapers and music and sports magazines can’t avoid it, it remains, for the most part, an oral code of communication, free in spirit and x defying standardization. —Ilan Stavans Source: Ilan Stavans, Hopscotch, Volume 1, Number 1, 1999, Duke
Fear of Franglais
ack in the seventeenth century, French linguists liked to recount how the emperor Tiberius had attempted to introduce new words into the Latin language by fiat, and had failed, miserably. The story was both a not-so-subtle means of pointing out the limits of even the most absolute political power (such as that claimed by their own kings), and also an illustration of a point dear to them: that the ultimate arbiter of language was not the state, but actual usage. France’s kings did not entirely accept this point. They tried to regulate and codify usage, notably through the creation of the Académie Française in 1640. But neither did they ever dare to follow Tiberius’ example. The modern French civil service, on the other hand, has in recent years displayed not merely a Louisquatorzien, but a positively Tiberian arrogance when it comes to matters linguistic. They incessantly legislate, regulate, reform and purge, and woe to the French businessman who has the temerity to advertise “un computer muni du dernier software e-mail” (a computer loaded with the most recent e-mail software). Sacré bleu! Unless he immediately does away with the offending English words and puts up a new sign advertising “un ordinateur muni du dernier logiciel pour la messagerie électronique,” he will face ruinous fines. In the past few months, the French language police have attempted to banish such words as le start-up, which they insist, ludicrously, must be replaced with la jeune pousse (literally, the young plant). What the French fear of course is franglais, the incursion of English words into the language, such as le weekend, which the French now enjoy for two days every week, at la fin de semaine. The language bureaucrats have managed to rack up a few successes: notably ordinateur (computer) and logiciel (software). But the invasion of Franglais has barely slowed. The bureaucrats made a brave effort to impose la télécopie, but le fax won out, along with the verb faxer. La messagerie électronique looks no more likely to beat out le mail. And the changes go well beyond technological neologisms. Whereas twenty years ago le trafic referred only to trafficking, now it means what it means in Los Angeles. Franglais, it could be said, takes advantage of every possible opportunité (yet another coinage). In matters linguistic, the French now follow le leader. And the Internet has only accelerated things. As un webmaster might well declare, “Vive le hit-parade des sites cools du web!” It is indeed unfortunate that the French language is relentlessly losing ground around the world. Fewer and fewer foreigners learn it as a second language, and it has almost entirely lost its status as the international language of diplomacy and fine art. But it is hard to see how passing laws against le start-up is going to change matters. By far the most effective means of stirring new interest in the French language would be for French novelists and poets to begin producing literary works that stir even five percent of the excitement that their great nineteenth-century predecessors did. But even French bureaucrats cannot legislate literary excellence, much as they might like to.x —David A. Bell
A Spanglish Sampler
he selected lexicon Hopscotch presents from a “pool of over six thousand words” identifies entries, wherever possible, as Cubanism, Mexicanism, Chicanism (Mexican-Americanism), Iberianism, Puerto Ricanism, Nyuorricanism (New York Puerto Rican), or Cyber-Spanglish; and it traces their coinage to East Los Angeles, the Northeast, the Southwest, etc. Many of these words remain close if not identical in meaning to the “Anglicisms and U.S. pop culture terms” they adapt phonetically, but the borrowed terms are not solely English: a bom, denoting a “homeless person” (from the English slang bum), must not to be confused with a bum, or “explosion” (English boom); whereas el hood (or hud) denotes “the ‘hood” (a slang abbreviation for one’s “neighborhood” that has entered white Americans’ slang), la hooda, a Chicanism for “the police,” derives from the Spanish judicial. Certain easy, common expressions that revel in their mix of languages—dirìsimo, the sweet superlative of “dear,” culìsimo, an interjection for what is “very cool”—may well soon prove irresistible to Englishspeaking Americans with little or no Spanish. They could learn much about recent U.S. Hispanic history browsing a lexicon in which the secondary meaning of the familiar nacho (a “thick tortilla chip”) is “a disloyal Chicano”—or the term for a “traitor” is the Cubanism kenedito (“from English John F. Kennedy”). For the Hispanic reader, of course, whether from Istlos (East Los Angeles), Mallamibbish (Miami Beach), or that one-time cradle of Yinglish, the Loisaida (the Lower East Side of New York—even, in fact, for a Mexkimo, or “Mexican residing in Alaska”—this record of a vernacular in progress will confirm how linguistically fertile it is to be in that state Northeast Spanglish speakers first defined as haifenado: half-and-half, “having a divided identity.” —David Jacobson
Note: Basic Books will publish Ilan Stavans’s lexicon The Sounds of Spanglish in 2001.
hen was the last time you heard a good European conversation in Sami? How about Tundra Nenets, Istriot, Friulian, or Walloon? If you have done so recently, count yourself fortunate. For these and dozens of other minority languages across Europe are in peril of extinction—a problem by no means confined to the continent. In a recent article in the British journal Prospect (“The Death of Language,” November1999), the linguist David Crystal estimates that of the world’s approximately 6,000 living languages, roughly half will be extinct by the end of the twentyfirst century—an average of a language death (defined as the death of the last living speaker ) every fifteen days. Such numbers are disturbing. Yet it is also true that the extinction of language is as much a fact of history as the extinction of species. Norn, Gothic, Dalmatian, Cornish, and Manx—all European languages that have perished in recent memory—are simply newer additions to what is in fact a very old fossil record. Is this just part of a “natural” evolutionary process? Perhaps. But as Crystal and others are quick to point out, the great predator that threatens linguistic diversity today is man himself. Beginning with the first wave of European colonization in the sixteenth century, and continuing, in more benign form, perhaps with contemporary globalization, men and women have wagged their tongues with tremendous force, resulting in a steady reduction in the number of living languages, and posing ever greater challenges to linguistic survival. The question is, can anything—should anything—be done to stop this process? Crystal would answer a sober, if resolute, yes to both questions. He is certainly not alone. Many Europeans, in fact, share his view that linguistic diversity, like bio-diversity, is inherently good for the social environment. For some time they have been taking steps to ensure it. One such measure is the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, drafted by the forty-member Council of Europe in the early 1980s, but which went into effect only on March 1, 1998. Aimed at protecting linguistic diversity, the charter decrees the “inalienable right” to “use a regional or minority language in private and public life,” defining regional and minority languages broadly as those “traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of that State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the State’s population.” Thus lumping together a language such as Catalan (spoken by over seven million people) with a language
such as Val (used by only a few hundred), the charter, in turn, takes steps to promote the use of these languages in education, the media, administrative, and judicial settings. Fine in theory, but putting the directive into practice has proved another matter. To date, only eight countries (Finland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Hungary, the Netherlands, Croatia, Switzerland and Germany) have ratified the treaty, and others have signed it (France, Austria, Denmark, Spain, and Luxembourg), yet the experience of France suggests that moving from concept to custom will not be easy. When the Constitutional Council decreed this summer that acceptance would require changes in France’s constitution, President Chirac and others balked, rejecting the charter as a threat to France, and touching off a bitter debate about the alleged dangers it posed to French hegemony and the sanctity of the mother tongue. To this day, the charter remains unratified in France. Elsewhere, in Sweden and Spain, for example, independent efforts to protect minority languages have proved controversial. More than a few Swedes wonder whether passage of a law protecting meän kieli, a Finnish language spoken by a mere 30,000 people in the North of the country, should confer the right to use the tongue on the floor of parliament, or merit obligatory instruction in public schools. In Spain, too, legislation mandating that silbo gomero should be taught in some of the Canary Islands has summoned shrill response; of African origin, this pre-Hispanic “language” consists entirely of whistles. Yet for all this skeptical pursing of lips, real gains have been made. Proponents point to the resuscitation of Welsh, Irish Gaelic, and Catalan as model cases, and they argue that with some 50 million speakers of various minority languages in the EU alone, the numbers justify protective measures. Italy, for its part, has just underscored this logic, passing legislation which allocates over 20 billion lire to protect the country’s eleven minority languages. Linguistic defenders hope others will follow suit. As Crystal observes, if, at the very least, measures are taken to ensure that native speakers live to tell their stories, then future generations will have the option to decide whether they, too, would like to speak x them, or forever hold their peace. — Darrin McMahon
Sources: Courrier International, No. 486 (February 24 - March 1, 2000). The European Charter is online at http://www.coe.fr/eng/ legaltxt/148e.htm
inglish—the use of Yiddish words when no other can do—is an argot developed by New York intellectuals but stolen by Hollywood insiders as a status badge in the competitive game of one-upmanship. Yiddish is a fruity language, like Elizabethan English, in which there are few distinctions between high and low, and thus one can be caustic without being coarse, as would be the case in polite language. S. J. Perelman, the noted humorist, was once asked in an interview in The Paris Review why he used so many Yiddish expressions in his writing, and Perelman replied, “In what other language do you have sixteen different ways to smack a man in the face?” The most notable Yiddish writer was Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won the Nobel Prize, and one of whose early stories, “Gimpel the Fool,” was translated into English by Saul Bellow, also a Nobel laureate, in Partisan Review. Yiddish is onomatopoeic, which like the bouquet of a good wine, provides a breath far beyond the literal meaning of a word. Yinglish is always ironic, and sentences are often uttered in a rising inflection. Here are a few instances of Yinglish and their meaning (informed readers can provide their own words and add to the list): chutzpah—unmitigated gall, e.g. the man who shoots both parents and then pleads for clemency on the ground that he is an orphan schlemiel—the man who always butters the wrong side of the bread schnorrer—an impudent scrounger schmattes—the rag trade, i.e. fashion maven—the man who knows it all, and tells you macher—the big shot, with a pop gun nebbish—Woody Allen, in person tchochtkes—trinkets, baubles, and bibelots yenta—a female gossip, without taste kvetch—to groan endlessly in a minor key kvell—to express joy in a major key nudnick—the man who clutches your lapel and bores you to death with his talk Phudnick—a nudnick with a PhD. Many years ago, Malcolm Muggeridge remarked that when the London Times dropped the quotation marks around the word “General” for Evangeline Booth of the Salvation Army, she had become legitimate. By the same token, when Yinglish words now appear without italics in The New York Times, they have passed into the style book of the language. —Daniel Bell
Who Speaks Romanche?
witzerland is multilingual, but the Swiss are not. Playing on the double meaning of entendre, a (rare) Swiss witticism has it that the Swiss get along because they do not understand one another. The persistence of that truth resonates throughout a new annual, Feuxcroisés, that seeks to build bridges among the Swiss even as it laments the hopelessness of the task. The paralyzing effect of the Swiss “Sonderfall” (special case) haunts the contributors. “I don’t think a Swiss literature exists but I hope that there is a Swiss literary consciousness,” writes Hugo Loetcher wistfully. The Swiss literary capitals are Paris, Milan, and sundry spots in Germany. Swiss-German writers must make a detour abroad before being discovered in the Romandie (French Switzerland). And how do French- or Italian-speaking Swiss authors ever find their way to Zurich? No wonder that translators are the heroes of Feuxcroisés [Crossfires]. They are the passeurs—a term evoking Alpine smugglers of goods or men—who bring literary works across the barriers of language. The noblest of these language smugglers are those who translate from Romanche, the ancient latinized language of the most remote mountain valleys. This is where the search for Swiss authenticity leads. Beyond the cloying legend of the Helvetic pastoral paradise lies the myth of the only authentic Swiss tongue. Feuxcroisés celebrates a love affair with Romanche: a reverential rendering of the Romanche poet, Luisa Famos, who died twenty-five years ago; the epiphanic discovery of Romanche by Gabriel Mützenberg who has given his life to its study and avows that he does not really speak it. Since there are five Romanche variants, each with its own “genius,” the contributors agree that government-sponsored attempts at inventing a single Romanche koiné (the common literary language of the ancient Greeks)—if only to be able to put together a Romanche dictionary—are ill-inspired and will end up killing Romanche instead of preserving it. The fear pervading this collection is that not only the Romanche tongue(s) but Swiss multilingualism is mortally threatened. This French-language volume sees two enemies: English and Swiss-German dialects. A recent Zurich school policy introducing English before (and, eventually, instead of) a “national language,” i.e., German or Italian, has provoked Cassandra-like cries throughout the country. This surrender to globalization—inevitably dubbed “macdonaldisation”— parallels an opposite but equally powerful trend among SwissGermans: to forsake standard German in favor of micro-dialects, equally impermeable to their German neighbors and to their French- or Italian-speaking compatriots. Those used to seeing the Swiss as a smug people will be surprised to discover the anguish that runs throughout this volume. This too may be part of the Swiss identity. The most famous French-language Swiss writer, C. F. Ramuz, wrote over sixty years ago that soon the Swiss would have only the uniform of their postmen in common. Apparently, the Swiss are still worrying about this, even as they hope that the postman x will be as reliable as he has always been. —André Liebich
Source: Feuxcroisés, Lausanne: Service de Presse Suisse, 1999.
The Internet—One Tongue or Many?
he Internet was basically an American development, and it naturally spread most rapidly among the other countries of the English-speaking world. Right now, for example, there are roughly as many Internet users in Australia as in either France or Italy, and the English-speaking world as a whole accounts for over 80 percent of top-level Internet hosts and generates close to 80 percent of Internet traffic. It isn’t surprising, then, that the Web is dominated by English. Two years
languages are in competition for finite communicative resources. A French movie theatre has to choose between showing Steven Spielberg or Eric Rohmer, and a print medical journal cannot print multilingual versions without substantially increasing its costs. But on the Internet, the diffusion of information is not a zero-sum game. The economics of distribution make multilingual publication on the Web much more feasible than it is in print, which is why a large number of commercial and government sites in Europe and Asia (and even, increasingly, in the United States) are making their content available in two or more languages. Then, too, there are strong forces militating for the use of local languages on the Web. An increasing proportion of new users who are coming online in places such as France or Italy are individuals and small businesses who are chiefly interested in using the Net for local communication, unlike the large firms or public institutions who have made up the first wave of adopters. An airline company or research center in Germany may have an incentive to post its Web pages in English, but a singles club or apartment rental agency does not. And as more people in a language community come online, content and service providers have a strong interest in accommodating them in their own language. Yahoo! has put up localized versions in French, Spanish, German, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Italian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, and in all of these markets it is facing competition from other portals, both American and local. By limiting search engines and portals to resources in their own language, users can choose to ignore the sea of English content on the Web—and they are not likely to miss it much. This is not to say that the Internet will not have important linguistic effects. Ultimately it could be comparable to the importance of print, which first created standardized national languages and then helped to create a sense of national community around them. The mistake is to assume that the effects will be measurable in raw percentages of global language use. The “how many speakers?” games that language chauvinists
ago my colleague Hinrich Schütze and I used an automatic language identification procedure to survey about 2.5 million Web pages and found that about 85 percent of the text was in English. The overall proportion of English may have diminished since then—a 1999 survey of several hundred million pages done at ExciteHome showed English with 72 percent, followed by Japanese with 7 percent and German with 5 percent, and then by French, Chinese, and Spanish, all with between 1 and 2 percent. To a lot of observers, all of this suggests that the Internet is just one more route along which English will march on an ineluctable course of world conquest. It is not surprising then that speakers of other languages view the prospect of an English-dominated Web with alarm. The director of a Russian Internet service provider recently described the Web as “the ultimate act of intellectual colonialism.” And French President Jacques Chirac was even more apocalyptic, describing the prevalence of English on the Internet as a “major risk for humanity,” which threatens to impose linguistic and cultural uniformity on the world—a perception that led the French government to mandate that all Web sites in France must provide their content in French. On the face of things, the concern is understandable. It isn’t just that English is statistically predominant on the Web. There is also the heightened impression of English dominance that is created by the ubiquitous accessibility of Web documents. If you do an AltaVista search on “Roland Barthes,” for example, you’ll find about nine times as many documents in English as in French. That may or may not be wildly disproportionate to the rate of print publication about Barthes, but it is bound to be disconcerting to a Parisian who is used to browsing the reassuringly Francophone shelves of bookstores and libraries. Sometimes English is an obvious practical choice, for example in nations such as Egypt, Latvia, and Turkey, where few speakers of the local language are online and the Internet is still thought of chiefly as a tool for international communication. But the tendency to use English does not disappear even when a lot of speakers of the local language have Internet access. Since the Web turns every document into a potentially “international” publication, there is often an incentive for publishing Web sites in English that would not exist with print documents that don’t ordinarily circulate outside national borders. Still, it is a mistake to assume that any gains English makes on the Internet will have to come at the expense of other languages. The Internet is not like print or other media, where
Choice of language is chiefly dependent on the purpose of communication rather than on economics or geography
like to play have always been one of the sillier manifestations of cultural rivalries—like Olympic gold medal counts, only a lot more inexact. What matters is not simply how widely a language is used, but why and when people use it and how it figures into their sense of social identity. This is where the distinctive properties of the Net come into play. Notably, electronic communication does not require large capital concentrations to produce and distribute content, so it needn’t entail the centralization that print and broadcast do. And also unlike print, the cost of diffusion of electronic documents does not increase proportionately with the distance or dispersion of the audience. And it is far more efficient than print or broadcast in reaching small or geographically dispersed audiences, whether we are thinking of the markets for scholarly books or medieval music or of the Welsh-speaking community. One important consequence of all this is to make the choice of language chiefly dependent on the purpose of communication rather than on economics or geography. Take the diffusion of news. In the worlds of print and broadcast, it is only the English-language media—more specifically, the American media—that have been able to achieve anything like genuine worldwide news distribution. You can sometimes find a French television news program on cable in big cities in the United States or a three-day-old copy of Le Figaro at an international news dealer, but they aren’t available in every hotel room and at every street corner the way CNN and the International Herald Tribune are in France. With the Web, this all changes. French speakers in nonFrancophone regions have access to the online versions of twenty or thirty French-language newspapers and to as many direct radio transmissions, and Web transmission of TV programming will become routine as bandwidth increases. The speakers of less widely used languages are nearly as well served—Yahoo! lists electronic versions of newspapers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Colombia, Turkey, Qatar, and about seventy or eighty other nations. No less important, the Net creates new forums for informal exchanges among the members of geographically dispersed communities. At present there are discussion groups in more than a hundred languages, including not just major national languages but Basque, Breton, Cambodian, Catalan, Gaelic, Hmong, Macedonian, Navaho, Swahili, Welsh, and Yoruba, among others. These efficiencies of distribution work to the advantage of dispersed language communities—whether linguistic diasporas like the Indonesians, Russians, or Greeks living abroad or postcolonial populations that have up to now existed in the linguistic penumbra of the metropolis. People in the Francophone Caribbean or the Maghreb, for example, can have much quicker and more extensive access to French-language content produced in other regions than with print or broadcast. All of this presupposes, of course, that sufficient numbers of people in the community will have Internet access, which will be a long time coming in many parts of the world. Right now, for example, China and India each have around two million Internet users, and there are between three and four million in Hispanophone Latin America. And while the Net is growing rapidly in most of these nations, severe barriers must be overcome. There are only ten telephones per hundred people in Latin America, for example, and only two per hundred in India, and while there are ambitious plans for extending the Internet via wireless communication, these face daunting technical and economic difficulties. Yet the Internet may have important linguistic effects even on communities by altering the kind of language that matters in public life. Since the eighteenth century, most developed societies have recognized a distinction between two varieties of language. The first is the informal, rapidly changing variety that you learn in the normal course of socialization, which is adapted to private communication between individuals with a lot of background in common. The second is a conservative and relatively formal variety used in published writing and broadcasting—a variety that requires explicit instruction and that is designed to communicate to an anonymous audience who can’t be presumed to know much about the writer’s circumstances or background. This variety may be loosely based on middle-class speech, but it aims at being a neutral and universal medium, and tends to be less susceptible to regional and national variation (The Economist is a lot easier for Americans to follow than a conversation in a London pub). Traditionally, this is the form of language that we look to dictionaries to record and that attracts most of our critical concerns about the state of the language and its consequences for public life. But the Internet blurs this distinction, even as it blurs the distinction between “public” and “private” communication. The language of the innumerable discussion groups and bulletin boards of the Net has much of the tone of private communication—it’s informal, elliptical, and allusive. But it is conversation filtered by a battery of conventions adapted to its new function. There is a troubling paradox in all this. The forums of the Internet undoubtedly create the opportunity for a wider and more participatory public discourse than has ever before been possible. True, we may want to be a little skeptical of the visionaries’ picture of these interactive forums as the nuclei of a new “electronic commons” that will wind up displacing traditional political institutions with a direct democracy—it is in their nature to be too chaotic, too fragmented, and too unreliable to bear all the burden. But they have already become important secondary media for transacting political life, both as places where the news is critically interpreted and as sources of information (sometimes correct) that the press has not adequately reported. Yet even as they open up the discourse, these forums can also restrict and circumscribe participation in it, as the neutral language of the traditional op-ed page yields to something that has more of the tone of conversation in a Palo Alto coffee bar. This may ultimately be the most important linguistic issue raised by the technology. What does it matter how widely English or any other language is used on the Internet if the language used there x has become less of a common medium for its speakers? —Geoffrey Nunberg
Source: Abridged from “Will the Internet Always speak English?” The American Prospect, March 27-April 10, 2000.
Japonica: How to Read the Japanese Language
If You Know the English Source Code
rom the Asuka period (552-645) through the late Heian (end of the twelfth century), the Chinese language completely penetrated Japanese. Writing at the end of the nineteenth century, Basil Hall Chamberlain, the pioneer foreign scholar of the Japanese language, was able to say that written Japanese prose had scarcely anything Japanese about it save for a few particles, auxiliaries, and such elements as are necessary to provide the structure of the Japanese sentence. Most of the vocabulary was Chinese. This generalization can probably be extended to the spoken language: about 60 percent of the vocabulary was Chinese or of Chinese origin. (Nowadays, it is perhaps 40 percent.) The same thing, I would suggest, is happening today with English. English is in the process of being completely absorbed, and its entire vocabulary is becoming available for use in Japanese. Today, when new words are made up, they will come from English (or, to a lesser extent, from some European language), no longer from Chinese. (But they are just as hard for English speakers to understand as, I suspect, SinoJapanese was for Chinese speakers.) It is hard to imagine modern Japan without English. Right now, I am sitting at my desuku [desk], or t¯buru [table] with the rampu [lamp]on, e holding my kompyuta [computer], taipingu [typing], making occasional notes with a boru-pen [ball-pen]. Since it is warm today, in spite of the ea-kon (abbreviation of “air-conditioner”), I am sitting in a “T-shirt.” This term, by the way, presents a special problem: most younger Japanese are indeed able to pronounce the tee sound, but since there is no symbol for it in Japanese script, it has to be written as teshatsu. The usual solution, in newspapers or magazines, is to transcribe it as T-shatsu. In this kind of warm weather, I hate to wear a nekutai, [necktie.] I sip some kohi [coffee] from a gurasu [glass]. When I need a break, I move to the sofua [sofa], lean against the kusshon [cushion], and read the nyusu [news] about the latest sekuhara [sexual harassment] incident. I then turn to the puroguramu [program] on the karar-terebi [color television] and watch a homudorama [home-drama]. There is no “l” sound in Japanese so that all foreign words with “l” are pronounced with an “r.” “Flight” becomes fright, or more exactly, furaito. A further pronunciation problem is that Japanese syllables all end in vowel sounds, except when there is an “n.” “Book” becomes bukku, “size” becomes saizu, “pencil” becomes penshiru. When the syllabic ending is “n,” “pen” remains pen, “downtown” is dauntaun, a “can of beer” becomes kan-biru.
Today, because of the enormous increase in the velocity of communications and the diffusion of literacy, the assimilation of foreign languages requires mere decades, or even years, rather than centuries. There are several fairly distinguishable stages in this process. In the first, foreign words are taken in whole and used passively. Substantive nouns, technical terms, and words without Japanese counterparts will be most prominent. Verbs are created by taking the English verb + suru [to do] in Japanese (which is exactly the way verbs were created from Chinese). A trendy recent example is gettosuru, (get + suru), [to find a boyfriend]. But once these words are domesticated, they immediately open up a new stage in which they take on a life of their own. They are used in ways that may not be instantly understandable to the speakers of the original language. “Mansion,” for example, (pronounced manshon in Japanese), which usually suggests to modern Western minds a large, residential estate, like that of the titled aristocracy or the wealthy, is commonly used in Japan to mean a pricey apartment. The phrase, “He has sense” (sensu), refers to “taste,” or “judgment,” rather than, say, “common sense.” The next step is essential for Japanese: abbreviation. European words are often multi-syllabic, and allowing for Japanese pronunciation patterns, they are usually even longer. “Strike,” for example, is a single syllable in English, but five in Japanese: su-to-ra-i-ki. As a result, there are now thousands of abbreviated English words used by Japanese that, without explanation, usually cannot be understood by English speakers. A few examples: “register” becomes reji, “negative,” nega, “handicap,” hande, “reportage,” rupo, “permanent wave,” pama. Hundreds, or even thousands, of foreign compounds are taken over with virtually no change (except pronunciation): “golf-bag” [gorufu-baggu], “software” [sofutouea], “roomcooler” [rumukuru], “after-care” [afuta-kea], “mass-media” [masumejia], and so on. Many, however, even though close to the original meaning, are abbreviated, and once this happens they begin to look a little different and usually cannot be understood by English speakers. A classic example—by now, hardly used—is the post-World War I moga (from modan garu, “modern girl”). Or zenesuto—from abbreviated “general” (zeneraru) and “strike” (suto)—is another revealing example. No native speaker of English would recognize that it comes from his own language. (Compounds created in the same manner as the English “infotainment”—making allowance for pronunciation characteris-
tics—are instantly understandable.) At the next stage, foreign words in full or abbreviated form are combined with Japanese words (including completely assimilated Chinese words as well) to make new compounds. An archetypal example is the by now rather old tonkatsu, [pork cutlet] made up of the Chinese ton, “pork,” and katsu, the abbreviation of “cutlet” (that is, katsu-retsu). Just as Japanese used to create new words out of Chinese freely and autonomously, so now it is beginning to create a home-made English. When I gave up smoking at my doctor’s orders, this was a dokutu-sutoppu [doctor-stop], an example of what I would consider brilliant new English. One of my favorites (which happens not to be English) is aru-saro. If we spell it out fully, it is “arbeit-salon,” that is, the German “arbeit” plus the French “salon,” both abbreviated for convenience in handling and pronounced Japanese-style. In this form, no foreigner would recognize the phrase. If we explained its composition and then asked him to guess its meaning, he would likely say that it means a work place, perhaps a working studio. In fact, it means a nightclub where the hostesses work part-time. The word “arbeit” in Japan is used only for part-time, or for side work. Other examples abound—phrases that are invented by Japanese from English but are incomprehensible (without full explication) by English speakers. I like bea, from besu-appu “base-up,” that is, a rise in the base wage from which other calculations for the total wage are made. The standard Kadokawa Loanword Dictionary carries 25,000 words in daily use. If one were to include all the specialized technical vocabularies of science, the social sciences, economics, fashion, sports, clothing, business transactions, and diplomacy, there is no telling how many words we would find. The penultimate stage comes when people are no longer aware that the word is not native. Pan [bread] is from sixteenth or seventeenth century Portuguese. But it is so deeply rooted in Japanese that we now find the baffling compound bureddo-pan [bread-pan]. In the final stage, the foreign word is completely assimilated to the grammatical form of Japanese. Normally, foreign words (including Chinese) are formed into verbs by adding suru [to do], into adjectives by adding na, and into adverbs by adding ni. Surprisingly, although very few Chinese words have been completely absorbed and given Japanese verb form, English has many cases. A good example is the old standby saboru. Originally, it came from the abbreviated “sabotage”, sabo, but it has become completely Japanified by adding the Japanese verb form ru and then taken on a somewhat divergent meaning: to play truant, to evade doing something one does not want to do, not to do one’s part. An English speaker would not recognize the word. More recent examples of this creative innovation are probably completely incomprehensible to English speakers: makuru [to eat at McDonald’s], saburu [to eat while riding a subway car—from sabuue “subway”], sekuru [to harass sexually— condensing the previously mentioned sekuhara, then turning it into a verb], bakappuru [baka + “couple” = “foolish coupling” or “a couple that behaves amorously in public”]. A high point in this linguistic innovation may be seen in words such as the old-fashioned ero-guro [abbreviated “erotic + grotesque”] and the new-fashioned gurokawa [abbreviated “grotesque” + kawaii, “cute”]. All languages take in foreign loanwords. In Japan, Chinese was the first major penetration, and because it brought a writing system along with new ideas, concepts, technology, and methods, its impact was overwhelming. Fourteen hundred years later, something similar seems to be happening with English. In the centuries in between, Korean, Dutch, and Portuguese made significant, though lesser, contributions as well. English itself developed in a similar way. Shaped from Germanic, then invaded by Norman French, its intellectual, legal, scientific, and religious vocabularies were also deeply influenced by Latin. For many centuries, Latin was the lingua franca of educated England and Europe. Today, English continues to take in new language from Anglo-Indian, Caribbean, South-African, Irish, Scottish, Australian, Yiddish, and countless others. Words are abbreviated and new compounds are constantly being formed. Japanese, therefore, is not unique in this process. However, we may come to rate the relative penetrability of languages— and it is debatable, say, whether English, Japanese, Turkish, or Uzbek is more “open” to foreign linguistic influence. The process of English-absorption that is going on before our eyes x in Japan today is awesomely inventive. —Herbert Passin
Note: I would like to express my gratitude to writer and poet Hiroaki Sato for his many helpful comments on linguistic matters.
The Death of a Language
language dies only when the last person who speaks it dies. One day it is there; the next it is gone. In late 1995, a linguist, Bruce Connell, was doing field work in the Mambila region of Cameroon. He found a language called Kasabe, which no Westerner had studied before. It had just one speaker left, a man called Bogon. Connell had no time on that visit to find out much about the language, so he decided to return to Cameroon a year later. He arrived in mid-November, only to learn that Bogon had died on 5th November, taking Kasabe with him. A survey published in February 1999 by the Summer Institute of Linguistics established that there were fiftyone languages with only one speaker left—twenty-eight of them in Australia alone. There are almost 500 languages in the world with fewer than 100 speakers; 1,500 with fewer than 1,000 speakers; more than 3,000 with fewer than 10,000 speakers; and a staggering 5,000 languages with fewer than 100,000 speakers. In fact, 96 percent of the world’s languages are spoken by only four percent of its people. No wonder so many are in danger.
Source: David Crystal, The Guardian (London), Oct. 25, 1999
African Literature: Old Voices and New
grew up with modern African literature…or, at least, so I am inclined to say. For the central core of modern African literature, outside the Arab world, is in what were once the colonial languages. You will find audiences for writing in many languages that were born in Africa: Swahili, Yoruba, Wolof, and Twi. These languages, however, are tied to particular territories, to parts (sometimes large parts) of the continent, whereas the literature that the continent shares, the literature with audiences all over the continent and into the diaspora, was written largely in English and French. Yes, modern Arabic literature and some works in other African languages are known a little in the rest of Africa through translation; and a little Lusophone (Portuguese) African literature has found its way around as well. But if African literature is African in the way in which Thomas Mann is European and Kingsley Amis is merely English, then it is in large measure Anglophone and Francophone. Modern African literature in French began, strictly speaking, in the thirties with the extraordinary poetic vision of Léopold Senghor. His is undoubtedly the first substantial corpus of African literary work in that language. But I can feel that I grew up with him because his Poèmes arrived in our house when I was a teenager, and I fell upon them—some already more than twice my age—with enormous enthusiasm and pleasure. (They came—in the fifth edition of 1971, “exemplaire N˚ 10718,” seven years after this collection first appeared in Paris—as a gift from the poet; and so, when I translated a few of them, my proud mother sent these translations to him and he received them courteously.) And, in fact, the major collections anthologized are all post-Second World War: Chants D’Ombre, the earliest of them, was published in 1945. In “Tout le long du jour,” Senghor wrote as a poet “cherchant l’oubli de l’Europe au coeur pastorale du Sine” [seeking to forget Europe at the pastoral heart of the Sine] where he was born. The struggle to forget Europe while writing in European languages has remained an element of Africa’s literary condition. In English, the first great corpus of writing is in the novel: it is Chinua Achebe’s brilliant trilogy, Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, No Longer At Ease. These elegant and incisive fictions were published in the late fifties and early sixties, around the time of the great wave of African independences (and, more importantly, for these egocentric purposes, after I was born). And the drama of Wole Soyinka, which catapulted Black African literature onto the Nobel stage in the mid-eighties, began first to appear a little after Achebe’s novels, with A Dance of the Forests, his first major work, presented in 1960 in his own production with Masks, his own theatre company. I met first Soyinka when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, England, and then Achebe when I was a graduate student in the same place: I was astonished, because I had grown up with their words, to find myself in their physical presence. It did not seem quite right that these novels and plays could have been produced by actual people, men who awed me, I will admit, with the charisma of authorship. (The
best-known Francophone African novel, best-known because it is widely read in English translation, is probably Camara Laye’s L’Enfant Noir [The Dark Child].) But these are the African authors that everyone now knows: along with Mahfouz from Egypt, Gordimer from South Africa, and, perhaps, Nurrudin Farah from Somalia, to whom I will return. These are the writers that educated cosmopolitans—in Africa, in Europe, in the Americas, in Japan—would be likely to find themselves embarrassed at not knowing. (Despite the mention of Mahfouz, I will now beg forgiveness for continuing the custom of treating the Arabic-language writers of North Africa as a different case: by and large, their literary frame and influences are those of the Arab world, not just of the Maghreb but also of the non-African Middle East. Of writers of fiction in Arabic, only Tayeb Salih, who experimented with a demotic Arab from his natal Sudan, and was early and ably translated into English, is well known in the rest of the continent, perhaps because he wrote both of a village life that seemed somehow familiar to Africans further south, and because he dealt with Senghor’s problem: forgetting Europe. Still, these are just excuses: on another occasion, I could rail against the absurdity of leaving out so much of the continent.) So what has happened since Senghor and Laye, Achebe and Soyinka, the first generation, the generation of independence? Well, first, Achebe and Soyinka, who were born in the early thirties, are, of course, still writing. But it is important also to observe where they are writing: for both of these Nigerian writers moved their base of operations out of their countries and, then, their continents. Achebe is now a professor at Bard College (New York State); Soyinka at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia). For a period, under the military dictatorships that have dominated Nigeria’s life as a post-colonial nation, Soyinka has been in exile, at risk, if he returned, of his life. Nigeria’s universities, like Nsukka, in Eastern Nigeria, where Achebe taught for a while, have been in decline for much of the last two decades: they have not been (to put it gently) the best places to teach or learn or write. And since the university was one of the few places in Africa where serious writers could work and earn a living, the dispersal of some of the best-known figures of the African intelligentsia epitomizes a wider condition. Of the Anglophone writers one would be bound to mention as having come to prominence after the generation of the founding fathers, many are in exile of one kind or another. Take Farah, who can represent what is finest among the writers who came to prominence in the 1970s. He was born in Baidoa, Somalia, in 1945, but his family moved when he was one, to what was then the British-administered Ogaden. When the British left the Ogaden, they left its many Somali inhabitants to the Ethiopians, creating a region of conflict that was to smolder always and burst, from time to time, into the flames of Somali-Ethiopian warfare over the next four decades. In 1963, his family moved to Mogadiscio during one of these wars, one family among a million refugees over the years driven by these
conflicts from the Ogaden. He went to university in Chandigarh in India (choosing it over an offer from the University of Wisconsin) and published a first novel From a Crooked Rib in London in 1970, at the age of 25, becoming, with that work, the first Somali novelist. (As he would be the first to insist, however, he is not Somalia’s first great literary figure: for he was raised, like Achebe and Soyinka, within a tradition of oral literature, one that is among the richest in the world.) Farah has lived in many parts of Africa—Gambia, Uganda, now in South Africa — as well as in various parts of Europe and in the Americas; but for twenty-two years, from 1974 to 1996, he was out of his homeland, kept away by the Somali dictator Siad Barre. (When he planned to return home in the latter part of the seventies, he was informed that Barre had not cared for his 1976 novel, The Naked Needle: given what Barre had done to others whose doings he disapproved of, staying away was probably wise.) In his extraordinary trilogy, Sweet and Sour Milk (1979), Sardines (1981), and Close Sesame (1983) he indicts not only dictatorship—Siad Barre must surely have wished that he had kept Farah closer at hand—but also the oppression of women, and the particular forms it takes in Somalia; and at the same time the works celebrate the ways in which women can structure both public and private lives despite their oppression. Or take Tsitsi Dangarembga, author of one marvelous novel, Nervous Conditions (1988), and a play, She No Longer Weeps (1987), but also co-author and director of a film, Everyone’s Child. Dangarembga grew up in Zimbabwe, in the seventies, when it was still Rhodesia, and that novel propelled her out of her homeland and into film school in Germany and a life “outside.” Nervous Conditions is also a powerful exploration of women’s lives. From its notorious first sentence—“I was not sorry when my brother died”—it speaks of the differences in experience that gender makes, while never becoming merely didactic. Tambu, the protagonist, growing up in Zimbabwe (when it was still Rhodesia) struggles to integrate the moral order of her village upbringing with a constantly growing sense of the injustice of her position as a woman. This developing awareness is driven not only by her own experience but by the lives of the women around her: her mother, fatalistic and self-giving; her uncle’s wife, Maiguru, an educated woman, frustrated by her husband’s inability to respect her opinions; her mother’s sister, Lucia, an adult woman who follows her own way, negotiating between Tambu’s father and her own lover, passing, in the final chapter, her first-grade exams. In the Francophone world in the eighties, Mariama Ba, who was born in Senegal in the generation of the founders before either Soyinka or Achebe, achieved voice and recognition (though only in the last years of her life) with the brilliant epistolary novel, Une si longue lettre (1979). Just as Dangarembga’s Tambu is drawn between a village life and a life shaped by a wider world connected to Europe—at one moment it is her reading of Lady Chatterley’s Lover that defines her rebellion!—so, in Mariama Ba’s novel, the protagonist has defined an identity in Europe that makes her husband’s decision to take a second wife in the “traditional” Moslem fashion hard to bear, that is, even though she herself is a devout Moslem. Senghor’s theme, “forgetting Europe,” lived on. In the 1990s the great new Anglophone African voice, so it seems to me, was Ben Okri (though he, too, is a Nigerian who does not live in Nigeria). In The Famished Road—five hundred wonderful pages with only the barest semblance of a plot—the protagonist is Azaro, an abiku or spirit-child, who, according to a Yoruba tradition, is born and reborn, only to die each time in infancy, so that he can return to the joyful play of the spirit world. Sometimes, however, an abiku is persuaded to stay on: Azaro decides at some point to cease his “coming and going.” He does not settle on one story of why he stayed. But he tells us: “I sometimes think it was a face that made me want to stay. I wanted to make happy the bruised face of the woman who would become my mother.” The narrative yokes the familiar and the miraculous in the language of synaesthesia (every odor has a color, every feeling a smell); the effect is richer than some palates will care for. But Okri has received rave reviews in Britain, where the novel won the 1991 Booker Prize; and in the praises in the United States that followed, many spoke of “magical realism,” explicitly connecting Okri with post-colonial Latin America, another place that has lowered our barriers to “disorders” of language and the imagination. And, ironically, because he has lived so much in Europe, Okri does not share the earlier anxiety to forget her. In the three decades since the sixties, the optimism of the independence generation waned in literature as in reality. If there is a new hope created by what South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki has called the “African Renaissance”—symbolized by the discovery of democracy in South Africa itself, its rediscovery in Nigeria, the giant of West Africa, its return in Uganda, which sank once so low under Idi Amin—it has not yet taken form in the novel. If our great expectations have been followed by hard times, however, that has not dimmed the continent’s literary creativity: what it has done is to force Africa to express herself in the somber tonalities of writers x such as Farah, Dangarembga, Ba, and Okri. —K. Anthony Appiah
The Middle East
Christian Migration and Arab Citizenship
he visit of Pope John Paul II to Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel, has focused world attention on the fate and dwindling number of the Christians in the Middle East. This question has already engaged the concerns of a growing number of Arab intellectuals—especially Egyptians, Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians—who regard Christian migration from the Middle East as a cultural loss to their societies as well as a symptom of a general crisis of the states they live in. Their views are worth reporting outside Arab newspapers not only because they run counter to what one might have expected to hear from Arab intellectuals, but also because they voice a set of concerns so different from the causes for concern about migration in other parts of the world. In the March issue of the Egyptian monthly book review Wighat Nazar [Viewpoints], the noted journalist Muhammad Hassanain Haikal, once the spokesman of pan-Arab Nasserism, concluded a commentary on sectarian clashes—which led to the death of twenty Christians and one Muslim in an UpperEgyptian village in early January 2000—by addressing the question of Christian migration from the region. “What a great loss it would be,” Haikal writes,” if the Christians of the Mashriq (Middle East) were to feel, rightly or wrongly, that neither they nor their children could have a future here.” He calls upon “the entire Muslim community of the Arab nation” to be aware of, and to nurture, the “multicultural components of its heritage.” A few demographic figures may serve as background to this and similar statements. According to Youssef Courbage and Philippe Fargues (Christians and Jews under Islam, I.B. Tauris, London and New York, 1997), the percentage of the Christian communities in the Middle East (Egypt, and the territories of present-day Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and the Palestinian Authority) fell from about 18 percent to 4 percent during the twentieth century. In 1995 about 6.7 million Christians were still living in the Middle East. While Ottoman rule during the nineteenth century had been favorable to the demography of non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East in general, the destiny of Christianity in Turkey was sealed violently within a decade of the creation of the secular republic following World War I. In the other Middle Eastern countries the decline of Christianity vis-à-vis Islam has resulted from a slow convergence of mortality rates and divergence of fertility rates, accelerated by disproportionately high migration. Over the last three decades an estimated one million Copts have left Egypt for the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, and Europe. About as many Christians have migrated from Lebanon. Ten thousand Chaldeans and Assyrians have fled hardship in Iraq since the Gulf War. In geographical Palestine Christianity has shrunk to a mere 2 percent. The number of Christians in Jerusalem has dwindled dramatically from thirty thousand in 1948 to roughly two thousand today. The ongoing migration of Christians from the cradle of Christianity has become a major concern of Middle Eastern churches since the late seventies.
The decrease of Christians in the Middle East was forthrightly pointed to by Ralph Ghadban, himself a migrant from Lebanon to Germany, in a paper first presented at a ChristianMuslim forum in Berlin, but later brought to the attention of a larger Arab public with its publication in the influential cultural weekly Mulhaq [Supplement] of the Lebanese newspaper an-Nahar. With the provocative headline “Will the oriental Christians die out?” Ghadban’s paper introduced an issue of the supplement (January 10, 1998) entirely devoted to the debate on Christian migration. This debate was continued in subsequent issues of Mulhaq an-Nahar. Prominent Arab intellectuals unanimously stressed that the cultural, ethnic, and religious pluralism of the Arab world constitutes its richness and strength, presenting the exodus of the Armenian, Assyrian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite, Latin and Syrianic Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians from the Middle East as the symptom of a larger crisis of the Arab national state, Arab thought, and Arab culture. The Shiite religious figure Muhammad Hassan Al-Amin even defined Arab societies as meeting points for countless confessional, religious, ethnic, and ideological minorities. He and other Muslim intellectuals like Ridwan as-Sayyid, the editor of the prestigious Lebanese scholarly journal al-Ijtihad, writing from an Islamic religious perspective, have argued for a reform of Islamic thought to provide the necessary ground for pluralism. Elias Khoury, an eminent writer and the editor-inchief of the Mulhaq, described the forced migration of the Arab Jews in the fifties as a defeat of Arab culture. Calling for a renewal of the Arab idea in order to halt the Christian migration, he argued that Arabism, if reduced to a mere appendix to Islam, would become meaningless. Khoury, Ghadban, and many other contributors to the debate maintain that the national states in the Middle East have failed to provide a liberal and secular basis for citizenship. Following the breakdown of the pre-World War I Ottoman Millet system of semi-autonomous religious communities (which gave all millets or officially recognized religious communities their own self-government within the general protection of the Muslim State), the national movements in the Middle East by mid-century had substituted the Islamic Caliphate with nation-states based on military authoritarianism and nominal modernity. The defeat of the short-lived Arab liberalism of the twenties and thirties by military regimes, wrote Ridwan as-Sayyid, was a loss for Arab Christians, since it blocked their emancipation as ordinary citizens. And the Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi wants oriental Christians to accept their Arab identity and stay and participate in the cultural and political life of their homelands. However these contributors differ ideologically, they are united in their disillusionment with “unity” as the guiding cultural concept of the Middle East’s authoritarian nation-states. Thus the debate on the westward migration of Christians from the Middle East is essentially not a religious, but rather a political x debate on citizenship, democracy, and pluralism. —Georges Khalil
The world Press: India
The Press in India: The Rise of the Vernacular Papers
he press in India, historically quite independent and varied, has been undergoing rapid transformation through the country’s increasing literacy, growing middle-class prosperity, economic liberalization, and shifts in political mobilization. Between 1977 and 1992 newspaper circulation for all Indian languages tripled from 9.3 million to 28.1 million, and the ratio of dailies per thousand doubled from fifteen to thirty-two—a continuing trend for much of the last decade, though reliable figures are not yet available. With this growth in volume have come significant changes in the nature of the press. While the prominent English dailies, the Times of India, Indian Express, the Hindu, and the Hindustan Times remain the chief national newspapers thanks to their nationwide readership, their overall influence may be diminishing. The expansion of the vernacular press is spectacular: while as late as 1986, 60 percent of all print advertising expenditure went to English-language publications, by 1992 this was down to 46 percent and is still falling. Robin Jeffrey’s authoritative survey of the vernacular press clearly demonstrates that, whether as a cause or effect, this sector of the Indian media has better reflected India’s political trends over the last two decades and the considerable regional varieties of its society. In Kerala, for instance, the press and its leading exemplar, Malayam Maanorama, have long reflected that region’s sober social consciousness. In Tamil Nadu the press, exemplified by Tharasu, Nakkeran, and Thanthi, abundantly displays the kitschy dominance of cinema on Tamil politics. The Telgu newspaper Eenadu was very much behind the rise of one of India’s most powerful regional parties, the Telgu Desam. In North India, the Hindi press was the best conduit for Hindu nationalism throughout the 1980s and ‘90s. While the three leading Hindi dailies, the Navbharat Times, Hindustan, and Jansatta, are owned by proprietors of the largest English-language dailies, many influential independent Hindi dailies like Aj, Dainik Jagaran, Amar Ujala, Rashtriya Sahara, and Rajasthan Patrika have openly embraced Hindu nationalism. With exceptions, these papers are considered very lowgrade; but they are better ideological barometers than the English press. The links between the national English press and regional newspapers are multiple and varied. The regional consciousness that the vernacular press has fostered has not clashed with national identity at large. For one thing, most of these newspapers depend on advertisements that come from companies located elsewhere in India; hence they value access to a wider Indian market. Second, they translate and reprint many columns from the national press, and carry a number of syndicated independent columnists. One leading Andhra daily, Andhra Jyoti, boosted circulation just by translating the script of the popular Hindi television serial The Mahabharata. The success of vernacular editions of India’s leading English-language news magazine India Today proves that regional consciousness and a desire to be part of wider Indian identity can coexist.
Economic liberalization has also considerably altered the character of the English-language press. Editorial opinion in the four leading English-language dailies remains wide-ranging, with a wider left-right spectrum than the Western editorial pages. The Times of India, under Dileep Padgaonkar, probably has the most ideologically diverse op-ed fare, while the Hindu, under N. Ram and Harish Khare, remains the most intellectually serious. The Indian Express, always fiercely independent, maintains its prominence, under Shekhar Gupta, thanks to its broad distribution. The quality of op-ed pages in Indian papers varies considerably. Their columnists are not only journalists and a handful of academics, but increasingly, former members of the civil service. The papers have no deep reservoirs of social-science expertise to draw on; once-prominent government officials such as Arjun Sengupta, K.P.S.Gill, and J.N.Dixit served as experts in their fields. Some observers have also noted a greater politicization of the press. Prominent Indian journalists such as Swapan Dasgupta, Chadan Mitra, and Harish Khare now seem more openly partisan. The appointment of one of India’s best-known journalists, Arun Shourie, as a senior minister in the present government exemplifies this blurring of the line between politics and journalism. Almost all the country’s major newspapers are now available on the Internet, giving them a wide readership among the Indian diaspora that has become such an important force within India. Heightened economic concern has raised the standards of economic reporting in newspapers, and made the daily Economic Times and Business Standard central publications in India. Only security matters still rouse marked anti-Americanism. Like the media elsewhere, Indian newspapers tend to rally around the flag on security issues and overwhelmingly supported India’s nuclear tests. With the wisdom of hindsight, some have softened their stance, but most remain security hardliners, catering to the middle-class’s reluctance to examine their attitudes on these issues. Meanwhile, C. Raja Mohan of the Hindu and Shekhar Gupta of Indian Express are among the few really qualified journalists in this field. Strong and vibrant as the Indian press remains, it faces major challenges. Television has spread, though its success seems to affect weekly and monthly magazines rather than daily newspapers. The latter have held their own, while a host of English and vernacular magazines of reflective opinion have folded. This may, paradoxically, make newspapers even more important. Of course, restrictions on foreign ownership of the Indian press have shielded Indian owners thus far from foreign competition; so if, as is likely to happen, more foreign ownership of the Indian Press is allowed, the Indian press may yet face its most formidable challenge. What impact the possible advent of Rupert Murdoch, or the recent acquisition of the Economic Times by London’s Financial Times, could have on x the contentious Indian press remains to be seen. —Pratap Mehta
Reports from Asia
In Japan Everyone Reads the Press
apan can easily claim preeminence as a country for newspapers, and its press strongly reflects the national character of the Japanese. According to 1998 statistics, the circulations of daily newspapers totalled more than 53,670,000—or even 72,4100,000, if we add evening editions, which is to say 1.57 papers per household, or 577 per 1000 people. The United States, to put this in perspective, sells 56 million, and China 42 million. And although Norway heads the list of countries with 588 newspapers per thousand people, Japan’s 577 is a high figure, particularly when compared to America’s 201, Russia’s 141, and China’s 36. Of the 53,670,000 circulation, 51 percent are nationally distributed. The Yomiuri Shimbun made the Guinness Book of World Records when it sold more than ten million copies. The Asahi Shimbun is well known for its high quality. There are also the Nihon Keizai (Nikkei) Shimbun, the major business daily, the Mainichi Shimbun, and the Sankei Shimbun. These five national newspapers compete fiercely for news stories and sales. Eighty percent of Japanese read one or more of these national papers, devoting on average 25.8 minutes a day to them. This is probably due to the fact that almost all Japanese have gone through school and illiteracy is uncommon, and many Japanese, as in Tokyo, spend a long time commuting to work. It may be unimaginable in some countries that “taxi drivers read the same newspapers as their passengers,” but in Japan it is quite common for both to read the Asahi. There are 20,000 reporters in Japan who work for 108 newspaper companies, including national newspapers as well as many regional newspapers specializing in local news and many socalled sports newspapers, usually for men, which feature both sports and popular culture. More than half the reporters covering these scenes are members of press clubs broadly affiliated with central and local government offices, the police, businesses, and sports groups. This has prompted criticism that the stories in all these newspapers look alike and that their sources, particularly political and economic ones, control the information. Yet even on the national level, a clear difference is emerging between papers such as the Asahi and Mainichi which have followed the path of postwar democracy and support the current constitution, and the Yomiuri and Sankei, which have recently advocated realism in matters of security and constitutional revision. Although Japan’s lifelong employment system is gradually crumbling, newspaper reporters still generally stay loyal to a single newspaper company, unlike their highly mobile American colleagues. Moreover, it is only within the past four or
five years that by-lines have begun to appear, establishing a reporter’s individual name (and accountability). In the postwar era, the status of reporters has risen dramatically; advancement is within their company from occupying a desk to being division head, then possibly bureau chief, but not a columnist in any sense of the word. As for the content, newspapers follow the American model in the strong emphasis on freedom of the press. Yet members of the press seem insufficiently aware of late that their freedom has, in some instances, given them more sentencing power than the courts. Criticism has often been leveled against the media’s excessive and largely unchecked use of “sensational” news, as when it divulges a suspect’s real name, with little regard to the harm that can do. On an entrepreneurial level, it is hard to find any country in the world with newspaper companies as diversified as Japan’s. They own not only television stations and Internet operations, but newspaper companies such as the Yomiuri Shimbun sponsor soccer and baseball clubs. Since baseball is Japan’s favorite sport, papers host the very popular national high school baseball championships in spring (Mainichi) and summer (Asahi). The sponsorship of these sports events, as well as internationally recognized art shows and concerts, has prompted the criticism that such activity is “drawing water to one’s own mill.” There is little syndication or cooperation among national newspapers or between national and regional newspapers, though stories coming from the Kyodo News and Jiji Press agencies are regularly published in the newspapers. Cooperation, however, between national and international newspapers is increasing, as with the Asahi and the London Times and New York Times, the Yomiuri with the Washington Post, and the Sankei and U.S.A. Today, which share reporting and columns. In Japanese journalism, magazines tend to exert even greater influence than newspapers. According to the Research Institute for Publications, more than 3,300 titles and 4.8 billion copies of magazines were published in 1998. There were eighty-nine weekly magazines, with 1.7 billion copies. Seventeen magazines published by newspaper companies accounted for sales of 84 million copies, while nine magazines produced by publishing houses accounted for 270 million copies sold. While many are all news magazines, they differ from their equivalents abroad in mixing in nude photos and soft pornography along with the international and domestic news. Monthlies, however, such as Chuo Koron, Bungei Shunju, Gendai, Seiron, Shokun, and Sekai remain as magazines of opin-
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ion. As with most journals of this kind, their articles are signed. Political orientations differ in some cases: Sekai is leftprogressive, Seiron and Shokun right-realist school; the others fall in between. The subject matter often ranges beyond daily newspapers’ coverage, including important scoops. Scandals about former prime ministers Kakuei Tanaka and Sosuke Uno (money in the former, a woman in the latter) first broke in these magazines (in Bungei Shunju and Sunday Mainichi respectively), and led to calls for their resignation. The magazine writers do not belong to the press clubs and usually keep a greater distance from their subjects than the newspaper reporters. As elsewhere, the biggest problem facing the Japanese print media, and especially newspapers, is the Internet. For all its alleged threat to the daily paper, television, I always felt, was a safely different medium. The Internet is another matter: it is browsable for the stories one cares about, and a barrier against the mounting mass of stories one doesn’t. Someday the Internet form and contents may hardly differ from newspapers. So what is their future? Reading a paper, however, is different from reading a screen, and if the contents can remain superior, I believe the charms and merits of newspapers have a future. Last but not least, we should mention that flower of Japanese culture, the comic book (manga), which appears often as a separate, independent form. Japanese comics come in many styles and their contents vary to a degree unique in the world. Elsewhere, “the comics” conjures the image of some strangely distorted character in a small frame. Japanese comics, however, seek, like “serious” art, to capture every form of movement and expression. They aim beyond comedy or social sarcasm, dealing with history, mythology, politics, economics, science, social problems, and literature. They represent a new branch of the visual print media, giving new meaning to the “comic story” (Gekiga)—and in Japan, the 280 varieties they come in account for sales of 1.3 billion copies annually. x —Shigehiko Togo skill as a journalist; yet think how strange it would be to send a reporter to cover Washington without English fluency. The competence in Japanese of foreign reporters has, it is true, increased markedly since the 1960s, when only a few had any knowledge of the language. Yet since Japan has become a crucial information point for international media, the commitment to Japan on the part of elite correspondents who, for better or worse, are rotated every few years to different points of the globe, may be weakening. High-profile reporters such as David Sanger of the New York Times and Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post (now the Post’s editorial page editor) moved on from Japan to Washington and Moscow. They are not Russian or Japanese specialists, but rather, star journalists. That does not mean, of course, that there are not foreign correspondents who live for a long time in Japan, have their own unique sources of information, and develop their own analysis and view of the country. Two famous examples of this would be Sam Jameson, former Japan bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, and Gebhard Hielscher, who recently retired from the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Both are superior journalists who have lived in Japan since the 1960s, are fluent in Japanese, have a rich network of contacts, and can distinguish very well between the surface appearance and inner workings of Japanese society. Some in a new generation of younger foreign journalists, with many of these qualities, are now carrying on the tradition of these two pioneers. What remains the foreign press’s biggest impediment to reporting in Japan are the Japanese press clubs. It is often said of these press clubs that only reporters from the main Japanese press are given access to information from important Japanese news sources, such as government agencies and the police. While criticism of the press club system comes not only from foreign correspondents but also from Japanese as well, only a few foreign reporters argue that it has a major impact on reporting for the foreign press. With the exception, of course, of economics wire services, where one second can make a difference in the chase for “scoops,” most of the news gathered at club-sponsored press conferences and briefings can be obtained by foreign reporters by other means, and most of the minutely detailed information is of little value to the foreign press. Very often, the foreign press simply does not have the manpower to staff someone at the press clubs. Since the press clubs, in fact, are actually opening a little to the foreign press, there are those in the Japanese media who remain dissatisfied that members of the foreign press do not even try to attend press conferences that have been opened. By the same token, foreign reporters’ non-membership in the press clubs keeps the foreign press free from the kind of collusion that exists between news sources and the press in Japan, and thus can be an advantage. Foreign media have been able to obtain scoops relating to the Imperial Family—for example, the engagement of Crown Prince Naruhiko and Princess Masako— precisely because they are free from the news cartels. Moreover, because many Japanese realize the influence of major newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, they tend to give them privileged access to information. And since
How Good Is Foreign Reporting on Japan?
ccording to 1997 estimates, there are more than eight hundred foreign press correspondents working in Japan. American and European press members each represent roughly 40 percent of this corps, which otherwise includes mainly East Asians (mostly Koreans and Chinese), and a few Australians. In fact, even in many Asian countries, information about Japan is obtained through European and American media, which suggests that the image of Japan much of the world press receives is in large part a product of the West. Yet it is also true that 40 percent of those working as foreign press correspondents in Japan are themselves Japanese. The large role the Japanese correspondents play in these bureaus is related to the limited number of foreign correspondents who can speak, not to mention read, Japanese. Actual reporting requires Japanese reporters. In a choice of requirements, competency in a foreign language is probably less in demand than
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these papers, able as they are to influence American public opinion, reflect America’s national power, some would say that their reporters receive privileged treatment. The greatest barriers, in fact, to information are not public or institutional, but rather the informal, tacit rules and modes of expression in Japanese society. It is debatable whether these problems are exclusive to Japan, or routinely faced by serious foreign correspondents throughout the world. Most likely, the biggest difficulty the Euro-American press faces when reporting from Japan is how to provide information of news value to the home-country market. Until now, the European and American press’s attention to Japan has usually been very small, in sharp contrast to the amount of foreign news (mostly about the United States) covered in Japan. In the past, Japan, in all its geographical and cultural remoteness, was simply not a subject for general attention; at best the image of an exotic Japan was marginally marketable. From a Cold War point of view, Japan was a member of the antiCommunist alliance—an exclusive vantage point that overlooked the country’s average citizens and ordinary, daily life. Compared to the rest of the world, the country offered little by way of large political shake-ups, street violence, civil wars, or natural disasters. As interest in Japan’s economy and doubts about the European and American economies grew at the end of the Cold War, Japan suddenly became an attractive news source. Many instant Japanologists emerged in the press warning of the threat and challenge of Japan. Now that the U.S. economy is healthy again and the Japanese still in mid-recession, it has become hard to sell Japan in the news market. The 1995 Kobe earthquake was a big but brief story. The ending of the Liberal Democratic Party’s thirty-eight-year reign and the birth of the Morihiro Hosokawa Cabinet in 1993 attracted a lot of attention, but its aftermath soon grew too difficult and too boring for foreigners. The same media that once cried out about the economic threat of Japan are busy now mocking its economic plight. Several press agencies have therefore decided to leave Japan and rely on stringers. The costs of maintaining an office in Tokyo, as can be imagined, are extremely high ($250,000 a year excluding salaries, estimates the Washington Post). In Issue No. 4 (“Japan, Made in U.S.A.”), we reported on the book published in New York by Zipangu, a collective of Japanese writers living in the U.S. that evaluated New York Times Japan coverage as overly biased and insulting. Whether this assessment is correct or not, it is clear that America’s interest in Japan is no longer based on foreign affairs, military matters, or even economic problems, but rather on the homeless, the place of women in society, family issues, and other social problems. Which suggests that Americans’ reporting on Japan has been less about Japan and more about their own society. No doubt this applies to foreign correspondents the world over. But since the role of the American press today is clearly international, its internal and sometimes parochial perspectives and criteria for news value are not truly healthy for x understanding the complexities of society. —Masayuki Tadokoro
Taiwan’s Knowledge Class
ince the 1980s, Taiwan has entered the global era, not just in trade, technology, and communication, but also in ideas. The international mass media played a major role in bringing new thought to Taiwan. But intellectuals have been the actual “carriers” of such concepts, ever since the reverse brain drain of the early 1980s, when young Taiwanese with advanced degrees from American universities came home. This new “knowledge class” in Taiwan has permeated the academic, social-service, and cultural institutions—the media and the public sphere. They have translated into Chinese, and published, important works in virtually all fields, thus fueling the rapid growth of Taiwan’s publishing industry since the 1980s. Taiwanese publishing companies old and new now issue both “serious” books and popular bestsellers from the West. Established publishers such as China Times, Lien-Jin, and Commonwealth, and new houses such as Rye Field and New Century have produced translations under such imprint or series titles as Next, New Age, Global Citizen, History and Culture, Classics, Knowledge, and Inspirations. The public response to these translations has been positive. The literary sections of major newspapers frequently review these works. And the quality of translations, long an issue, has much improved. In addition to the greater availability of foreign thought to the general public, there has been a carry-over into fields of action: More than twenty new social movements have emerged in Taiwanese civil society since the 1980s on the issues of human rights, the environment, and gender equality. These new Western/global values became the guiding principles and frames of reference legitimating these new social causes. These ideas have not been adopted mechanically, however, but have been adapted by the grassroots organizations to local problems. The indigenous response to Western cultural ideas has also been a staple element in literature and social science. The “indigenous literature movement” starting in the mid-1970s was the deliberate effort by many of Taiwan’s young writers to search for a native set of literary ideas and identity, and to break with the Western modernism that had dominated Taiwan’s literature since the 1960s. This literary movement has since established “social realism” as the mainstream in Taiwan’s writing, seeking to relate literature to society. The redirection toward “indigenization” has extended to other cultural fields such as music, performing art, and movies. This indigenization was not aimed at halting learning from Western social science. Rather, it was argued that through “indigenization,” Taiwan’s social science should reflect the dual conceptions of social science’s universality on the one hand, and cultural and national relevance on the other. The import of the West’s new thinking since the 1980s can be seen as a double process: accepting cultural globalization through which Taiwanese culture has participated in an “imagined” global culture, and adapting these ideas to a cultural localization, thus creating a cultural heterogeneity which marks Taiwan today. The interesting question is whether this x may be a model for mainland China tomorrow. —Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao
Reports from Asia
Ghetto and the Japanese
Joshua Sobol, born in 1939, is one of Israel’s leading playwrights, having written an extraordinary number of plays (thirty-five), which have been translated into twenty-five languages. His most famous play is Ghetto, the powerful story of the last days of the Vilna Ghetto. At a conference organized by Jerome Chanes on “Writing the Jewish Future,” Mr. Sobol spoke of the circumstances leading to the writing of Ghetto, and of its reception in Japan. The man who produced his play in Japan was our colleague Masakazu Yamazaki, who is the artistic director of the Hyogo Prefecture Theatre in Japan. We are presenting the relevant portions of Mr. Sobol’s essay (as printed in Judaism, Fall 1999), to which we asked Yamazaki-sensei to write an afterword. was born in Israel in 1939. I grew up in a village in the center of the country. The village is called Tel Mond. When I started as a child to discover the world around me, I discovered a society of people talking a whole cocktail of languages. I discovered people talking Yiddish and Hebrew, German and Rumanian, Russian and Polish. We had Arab neighbors who used to come and sell vegetables, and they would speak Arabic—but they would also speak a kind of broken Yiddish with my grandmother or with my mother in order to sell their merchandise. I grew up as a child talking two languages simultaneously, Hebrew and Yiddish, because my grandmother was a Bundist* and she refused to learn Hebrew until her last day, and she spoke Yiddish and read Yiddish. She used to receive the Yiddish press from the United States from family members who lived in Brooklyn. They used to send her the Zukunft [The Future] and Der Americaner. When I was six years old my grandmother taught me to read and to write Yiddish. I read the Americaner. And I remember even what interested me most of all: it was “Vitzen vos Blitzen,” “jokes that sparkle.” I grew up with these two different languages in a time when it was very unfashionable for a youngster in Israel to know Yiddish or to admit that he knew Yiddish. But these two languages, so unfriendly toward one another, suited me well, and I lived in peace with the two of them. Nowadays I am so grateful to my grandmother for her having insisted on teaching me Yiddish. The book that influenced me most of all was a diary written in Yiddish in the Vilna Ghetto. It was Herman Kruk’s Diary of the Vilna Ghetto. This book changed my writing and my career as a playwright and it changed many things in my life. It happened to me when I was already over forty. I heard about a theatre that had been functioning in the Vilna Ghetto during the Second World War. I am a man of the theatre, and my life is bound with the theatre. When I heard about that ghetto theatre, I got intrigued and curious and stimulated. I felt that there was a secret sticking in that story, a secret that must be important for me. I was asking myself many questions about my activity as a man of the theatre in Israel, such as: what is the sense of making the-
atre in our society, in our situation, and in our special context. When I heard about that ghetto theatre, I started to look for material. A survivor from the Vilna Ghetto asked me if I had read Kruk’s Diary. The moment I opened it, I couldn’t put it away. Everything that happened in the ghetto, including the story of the theatre, is described in Kruk’s Diary with the greatest precision and the minutest detail. The Diary became my bedside book. I kept reading and re-reading it. I tell you all this because for me Kruk’s Diary became almost the epitome of what one can call Jewish writing. Let me try to explain. Kruk was a cultural activist of the Bund in Poland between the two world wars. Before the Second World War he founded no less than four hundred libraries and cultural centers of the Bund throughout Poland. He wrote stories for children, and he was a man of style. In his Diary, written in the Vilna Ghetto during the Nazi occupation, he apologizes for having abandoned his style “because,” he says, “I have no time to deal with style.” He was too concerned with recording precisely everything that was taking place in this ghetto, and he had no time or patience to bother about style. I’m not one to judge the quality of Kruk’s Yiddish in the Diary, but it feels like a very instrumental Yiddish, not a flourishing Yiddish, not a colorful one but a very precise one. I’ve rarely read a document written with such a precision and with such an incisive look into reality. It is written with an unflinching courage in observing a horrible reality in real time, and not sentimentalizing it. Just to note down everything—like the opening of a brothel in the ghetto, or the orgies which took place in the Judenrat together with the German officers. They are recorded with the dates and the names of the participants. Reading that book revolutionized my vision of the Holocaust. The diary suggests a vision of a society very busy with living and not preparing to die. All this happened to the fifteen to sixteen thousand Jews who were left after the massacres, the remnant of almost eighty thousand Jews who were the inhabitants of Vilna before the war. Kruk’s Diary depicts the vitality, the energy, and the will to live that inhabited and inspired those fifteen to sixteen thousand Jews who
Reports from Asia
lived in the ghetto. When I first read the Diary, I didn’t have the slightest idea that I was going to write a play about the theatre of the Ghetto. I was so overwhelmed by the Diary, by this kind of writing which I didn’t encounter in any other culture. I read Hebrew, French, English, German, and Yiddish. I can hardly imagine a culture and a language other than the destroyed Yiddish one which could produce such a gaze on reality as Hermann Kruk offers you in his Diary. It compels you to change all your opinions and your prejudices about a reality that has been otherwise mythified. Reading Kruk was for me an act of demystification. One day my students asked me what I was writing at the moment. I said I wasn’t writing anything, but that I was reading about the theatre in the Vilna Ghetto. Before I knew what I was doing, I found myself telling them the story of the theatre of the ghetto. It went on for two hours, and they were sitting there looking at me with great amazement. When I finished telling them the story, I knew that the play was there, that it was written before I knew it, and that I had become a kind of a pipe and simply had to let that story flow through me to become a play because this is the only way I know to express myself. This play somehow wrote me more than I wrote it. When I wrote the play, I didn’t know where it was going to take me. The play has been produced almost all over the world, and to my great astonishment, three years ago I was invited to the opening night of the production of the play in Kobe, Japan. The town of Kobe had been shattered by an earthquake, and the premiere took place some three months after the catastrophe. The city was still bearing the marks of the earthquake. I admired the high quality of that production and the way they managed to reproduce what seems to me to be the Jewish quintessence of that play. But what surprised me most of all was the extremely warm reaction of the audience. They told me that after the earthquake the play showed them that a society struck by a catastrophe could and should find its own solidarity with itself and draw its power, its strength, to struggle against calamity from that solidarity with itself. I realized that what the play meant to Israeli audiences it also meant to foreign audiences, and that the bitter experience, the terrible, the tragic experience of the Jews of Vilna was not lost into a vacuum. It has not gone down the drain of humanity. No, it is a precious heritage that we Jews can share with other people. Probably in the future our mission as Jews is to open ourselves up and to develop free dialogue with other nations, with other people and with other cultures, be they English, Japanese, or German, and we shouldn’t shy away from any dialogue. The dialogue should be inspired by the terribly tragic experience of our people. This is maybe one of the most precious experiences that we are carrying with us, and which we x should share with other peoples and cultures. —Joshua Sobol
[*The Bund was the Jewish working-class organization in Poland which was non-Zionist, and fought for rights in Poland. Its two chief leaders, Henryk Erlich and Victor Alter, were executed by Stalin during the Nazi-Soviet pact.—ed.]
Is a Theatre Necessary in a Graveyard?
n the summer of 1995, Joshua Sobol and I found ourselves seated in a theatre in the middle of the ruins following the Great Hashin-Awaji earthquake. Even six months after that disaster, there were daily reports of people who were narrowly saved. On the stage of the theatre, somehow miraculously spared, people dressed in ragged clothes were crying out, “Is a theatre necessary in a graveyard?” Being performed was not an impromptu play based on the tragedy of the earthquake, but, rather, the Japanese version of Ghetto, one of Sobol’s masterpieces about the sufferings and resistance of the Jewish people during World War II. As the producer, I watched the performance with the playwright who, having come all the way from Israel, quietly murmured, “A theatre is indeed necessary in a graveyard, too.” The match in coincidences was almost too symbolic. Ghetto is a story about people, a group of artists and an audience in a concentration camp, who are brought together by a theatre until moments before their death. The love of the theatre during this extreme situation testifies to the strength and dignity of the human spirit. While, of course, the historic scale of the tragedies is different, the people in Hyogo Prefecture also found themselves in an inhuman situation as a result of the earthquake. Women and senior citizens experienced great humiliation daily for a simple bucket of drinking water. In the middle of this, I, as Artistic Director of the Hyogo Performing Arts Project, decided to put on a play with the financial assistance of the Prefectural government. Friends questioned whether it might be too early to stage a play in the midst of the suffering, advising that the money might be better spent for food for the victims. I myself wondered whether it was a good idea. What allowed me to go ahead with such a dangerous decision was the strong message that the work Ghetto left. The performance was a great success. I will never forget a letter left at the theatre by someone in the audience. He had lost his family in the earthquake, and for several months afterward had fallen into a state of emotional paralysis. He continued to be unmoved even by happy music or comedies. When he came into contact with this intense tragedy, however, his sensitivity was revived through his ability to sympathize with the heroic spirit in the play. Sobol’s message, the message of the Jewish people that he writes of, certainly arrived in Japan that day, fifty years later, demonstrating a clear universality. Theatre people around the world, when they meet for the first time, all remark on the same things: the non-artistic difficulties—economic and social problems—inevitably connected with performances. Sobol intuitively understood these fears I had and the hard work I had put into making the play a success. His understanding and his feelings of camaraderie toward me could be found in his hearty applause at the end of the first performance. I had the feeling that, for the both of us, a mutual friendship hard to forget was forged that day through our sharx ing of staging a play in extreme circumstances. —Masakazu Yamazaki
Reports from Asia
Soseki Natsume and the Discovery of “Existence”
In a symposium of “Forgotten Treasures,” in the Los Angeles Times Book Review’s issue of December 26, 1999, two prominent writers named the Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki’s work as among the “forgotten classics” of twentieth-century fiction. Susan Sontag wrote: “I’ve never understood how Soseki, the first great Japanese novelist, could be virtually unknown to English-language readers. My favorite [is] And Then (1909)…. I can’t resist also mentioning Light and Darkness, his last, never-completed novel.” The noted Sinologist Simon Leys nominated Soseki’s Kokoro (1914). He wrote: ”I know of no other novel written in our century that possesses such mysterious simplicity—such subtle and heartrending purity.” Given that statement of neglect, we asked Masakazu Yamazaki, who has written extensively on Soseki, to write about him for our readers. hat is particularly striking in Sontag’s and Leys’s recommendations is their choice of three works from Soseki’s later years, namely Kokoro [The Heart], Sorekara [And Then], and Meian [Light and Darkness]. All three novels could be described as the richest in philosophical thought in all of modern Japanese literature. And because the Japanese novel is favored in the West for its aestheticism, as epitomized by Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima, I was happy to learn that Western readers were on the verge of discovering Japanese literature’s intellectual and philosophical dimensions. Yet this also raised a question in my mind: whether, on close examination, Japanese intellect in the 1910s paralleled or contrasted with contemporary Western thought. Even earlier novels, of course, by Soseki Natsume (18671916) display a familiarity with contemporary European letters and allude directly to modern European aesthetic theory and literature. Soseki’s fluency with such ideas was made possible by his study of English literature at Tokyo Imperial University, and was reinforced when the Japanese government assigned him to study in London between 1900 and 1903. These were years of isolation and great unhappiness for the author; but for less personal reasons too, his dissemination of Western ideas in teaching and in fiction was accompanied by deep reservations about the “external enlightenment” Japan was undergoing through its exposure to Western values. One of Soseki’s central and personally significant themes in his later years was the concept of loneliness. The middle-aged protagonist of Kokoro suffers from a lifelong, unexplained, and irremediable loneliness. He acts not out of desire or a sense of mission, but simply to avoid this loneliness. Yet, in acting, he realizes that the action in question is not that which he truly wished to take. The more he acts, the more he feels that he lacks sufficient internal motivation for his actions, which brings him even greater loneliness. From an excess of moral fastidiousness, he is unable to accept his own simple desires, while his over-intellectualism forces him to recognize the lack of absolute value in any task. Yet denying both mission and desire leaves him feeling that he lacks the spontaneous force of ego that should be the agent for action. The lonely man’s best remedy is to love a woman, yet his excessive idealism about love makes this impossible. He spurns his parents’ recommendation of an old-fashioned, conventional marriage as impure love. He instinctively rejects the desire for the rewards of marriage, and more sexual desire, as heteronomous motivation. But when it comes to rising above these complications by choosing one woman to whom to offer
his pure, autonomous love, he cannot feel that she is the only possible choice. He feels no spontaneous surge of elation, no impulse to fling himself into love. He tries to exclude all passive elements from his love, as well as all conditions obstructing free choice; ironically, this very effort ends up killing the passion love requires. To resolve this paradox, the hero of Kokoro has sought to animate himself by a rather bizarre means. By placing a male friend between himself and his fiancée, he deliberately creates a love triangle. Without realizing it, he produces the emotion of jealousy in the place of love as a way to address his emotional impotence. Inflaming himself through jealousy, he eventually succeeds in marrying the woman, but his despairing friend commits suicide. Our hero struggles with lifelong guilt, and when the Meiji Emperor passes away, he senses that the era to which he belongs is now over and takes his own life. The impossibility of love was a consistent main theme for Soseki, appearing in works such as Mon [The Gate], Sorekara, and Kojin [The Wayfarer]. In all these novels, the protagonist seeks a pure love he knows he cannot achieve. He ties himself instead to the love-object by stirring other emotions—jealousy, pity, sympathy—so that he is eventually tormented by an even deeper sense of guilt. Soseki, of course, is not alone in world literature in confronting the tragedy of love. In Love in the Western World Denis de Rougemont chronicles the Western literary tradition of describing love between men and women as a paradoxical passion whose only pure realization lies in death. Men and women who fear love and seek to avoid it, only to find themselves hurtling into it behind the shield of jealousy, are a staple of European literature, as in Alfred de Musset’s On ne badine pas avec l’amour. It is characteristic of Soseki and his Japanese intellectual contemporaries to extend the sense of the impotence of emotions to human life as a whole, leading them to quietism and skepticism toward their very existence. The central character in Meian doubts that human beings really possess immutable elements such as character and will. He doubts that an ego consists of a consistent self, and is tormented at the thought that all free will is eroded by the causality of the outside world. In a time which extolled freedom, the hero is irritated at being unable to experience the self which should be the agent for these emotions. This frustration is shared by other early-twentieth-century writers such as Mori Ogai and Nagai Kafu, who lament a sense of powerlessness that makes them unable to lose themselves in any mission or be consumed by desire. Japan in the 1910s was completing the first stages of mod-
Reports from Asia
ernization. Winning the Russo-Japanese War, it was also feeling the encroachment of full-scale industrialization. To intellectuals, this was a first era of spiritual crisis. Victory in the war had deprived the country of an immediate national goal, and freed individual emotions from the ties of duty. In a society in which strong bonds of common emotions were loosening, individuals began to explore their own emotions, none of which induced a sufficient sense of urgency. Industrialization was simultaneously bringing materialism and utilitarianism to Japanese society, which intellectuals naturally opposed. Moreover, the Confucian education which Japanese intellectuals of the time had received led them to take a more puritanical stance toward various modern concepts. The same attitude which divorced sexual desire from love caused them to remove the desire for self-aggrandizement from individualism. For example, they emphasized the freedom of individuals from their families, but this was no more than the freedom to escape their families. Unlike the heroes of Balzac or Mauriac, they had no concept of battling from within the family to acquire as much of an inheritance as possible and expand their freedom. They escaped from their families into freedom, but it was not the freedom to do something. Since they slighted ambition, the sort of freedom the protagonist of Stendhal’s Le Rouge et Le Noir strives for was never a possibility. For Soseki and his contemporaries, self was something to be attained not by acquiring but by discarding. Soseki was fond of the motto: “Transcend one’s self and become one with the universe,” which reflects the Eastern philosophy of renunciation. On the other hand, it is also an extension of a Kantian view of freedom, namely, that true freedom is the autonomy that allows rejection of one’s own nature (desires). Sadly enough for Soseki, his was no longer an era which could believe in the divine order Kant discerned in “the starry skies above” and the “moral law within.” Having ‘transcended himself,’ Soseki was forced to struggle with the relative value of action. Yet taking the actual substance out of the idea of self and infinitely idealizing self as a pure agent leads back to the concept of existence. Existence is self, but self in which all objective affiliation has been renounced, including not only desire and a sense of duty, but also character and social status. While this concept took hold in the West in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, from Kierkegaard to Heidegger, Soseki could be seen as having independently approached something extremely close to this discovery. Existence entails the realization that one exists through a type of direct sensation, a “mood”(Heidegger’s Stimmung). In the West, this feeling is the fear of the accidental nature of one’s existence, a vague unease (Kierkegaard’s Angst). In Soseki’s case, the mood was one of groundless loneliness, a sense of powerlessness which was almost impossible to heal. Becoming aware of existence through mood generally requires a refined sensitivity which recognizes the absurdity of nature. Soseki was a writer of outstanding sensitivity, as is vividly portrayed in Sorekara (1909). Looking at his feet in the bath, the protagonist is suddenly seized by the sensation that these are strange objects separate from his body, and is stunned by the ugliness of forms which have lost their meaning. This is of course the same discomfort experienced some thirty years later when the central figure in Sartre’s La Nausée looks at the roots of a tree. Nevertheless, unease and loneliness are clearly different qualities. Existence in the West is an agency of self-projection into something in the midst of causality (Heidegger’s entwerfen); in Soseki’s case, an agent hoping to “become one with the universe.” Virtually no comparative research has yet been conducted on the essence of this difference and the different cultural backgrounds which may have created it. Very few people outside Japan know anything about Soseki as a philosophical writer, or as a thinker heavily influenced by Henri Bergson and William James. The Los Angeles Times questionnaire has proved a fine opportunity to point to an area where West and East have yet to fully meet. x —Masakazu Yamazaki
Eulogy for Seizaburo Sato
n a postwar Japanese political science long dominated by antiAmerican Marxism and progressivism led by Masao Maruyama (1914-1996), Seizaburo Sato led a new group of proAmerican conservative thinkers. Born in 1932, Sato was raised as a Christian but became a Marxist during the university student movements in the 1950s. But with further study he became disenchanted with the schematic historical interpretations of Marxism.At the University of Tokyo, Sato distinguished himself by his intelligence and clear arguments. Along with Masataka Kosaka (1934-1996) of Kyoto University, Sato became a leader of a liberal-conservative movement that provided a consistent theoretical foundation for Japan’s political and diplomatic policies. As a scholar, Sato’s works were wide and varied. Unlike many academics, his first works were empirical studies of modern Japanese history. Then with his colleagues Murakami and Kumon, Sato wrote the pathbreaking Bunmei to Shite no Ie Shakai [Ie Society as a Pattern Civilization](1979). Its thesis (the emphasis on lineage) became a major but controversial interpretation of Japanese society, for it provided an alternative view of Japan’s modernization, indeed the very nature of Japan’s civilization, from Western sociological theories. Unlike most Japanese political scientists, Sato involved himself in politics, becoming a “brain” for many of Japan’s postwar leaders. In particular, Sato was close to Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone (1982-1987). Although it would be easy to envision Sato as a “rightist,” the fact is Sato hated authoritarianism. Because Sato boldly continued to challenge established theories, he made scholarly enemies in Japan. However. he was highly praised abroad and taught at Harvard University. In recent years, several of Japan’s leading political scientists, who were Sato’s peers, have passed away. The deaths of conservative critic Kosaka and progressive Maruyama seemed to symbolize the end of the conservative-progressive division in Japanese academia. Now influential liberal-conservative scholars close to the positions of Sato and Kosaka, such as Akihiko Tanaka and Shinichi Kitaoka, are beginning to assume a legitimate place at the University of Tokyo, which, representing Japan’s academic community, had once been so dominated by progressives. x —Masayuki Tadokoro
The term obit, a funeral service, derives from Latin obitus; Obitus has the medieval Latin derivative obituarius, a death notice, hence the English noun obituary… But how did we come to the obituary which is the staple feature of almost every newspaper in the world today? In the Financial Times of London (December 18, 1999), Malcolm Rutherford, the obituaries editor, wrote a long article on the subject, ironically, shortly before his own death. We excerpt here some sections: bituaries (or obits, as they were originally called) was the term used by friars in a monastery registering the names of their founders and benefactors. There was no need for an accolade or an assessment of the life. The names lived on, or were supposed to, simply by being in the book. No one is quite sure when obituaries, as we now know them as a regular feature in many daily newspapers, first began. One attractive theory is that the founding father was John Aubrey, a seventeenth-century eccentric who wandered about the country and frequented the London coffee houses, making jottings on this, that, and the other, many of them about people. Unfortunately, the theory cannot be true since Aubrey’s Brief Lives was not published until 1898, well after obituaries had become a feature in daily newspapers. There is much to be said in Aubrey’s defense, however. Anyone writing obituaries now would do well to look at his anecdotal style. He defended himself against charges of being too fond of minutiae by saying that what seemed minute at the time could be of great interest to readers a hundred years on. The Times in the nineteenth century was the place where obituaries began to develop, and it maintained its supremacy in the field for decades. As some people privately disparage the House of Lords while craving to become a member, people (especially senior civil servants) hoped they would deserve a decent obituary. John Grigg, in the paper’s official history, tells the story of Sir William Haley, the editor in the 1950s and 60s, answering the telephone in his office late one evening. “Good evening, sir,” said the voice at the other end. “This is Lord Woodwood’s butler speaking. Lord Woodwood presents his compliments to the editor of The Times and would like him to know that he does not expect to survive the night.” Euphemisms abounded. Two of the best, and least known, came not from The Times, but from the magazine of King’s College, Cambridge. “He died suddenly” was assumed by Kingsmen to mean that he had committed suicide. “He died in Northampton” meant that he had gone mad and died in the mental home of that town. Most frequent, and still used by some newspapers today, “He died unmarried” or its variant “He was a confirmed bachelor” was the way of saying he was a homosexual. In the mid-1960s, however, obituaries began to change partly because the Sunday newspapers and some weekly magazines were running long, lively, and often well-researched profiles of people still alive. The main difference between a profile and an obituary was that the obituary gave a final assessment. It did not have to be unduly deferential. Obits became a little more sprightly. In the next few years, obituaries are likely to change, particularly in the subjects chosen. It would be rash to assume that in the twenty-first century more and more obituary space will necessarily be assigned to businessmen. The continued decline of deference should also eliminate some of the old stalwarts and worthies. It is no longer clear why a bishop deserves an obituary simply because he was a bishop. This is not the end of history, but it poses the question: Is there life after obits? The answer is yes, but they will have to change with the times and a changed society. The ideal obituary is indeed about a prominent figure, and even here there is room for some reduction of reverence. A touch of the anecdotal in the Aubrey manner is welcome. Above all, chronology is not enough. In the longer obituaries the author must evaluate what the subject achieved, for good or ill.
oel Annan, perhaps more than any other major twentieth-century intellectual historian, understood how much the century of total war had destroyed the Victorian world of Leslie Stephen, the subject of his first biography, written when he was a young don in Cambridge, but also the world of Stephen’s daughter, Virginia Woolf. Yet Annan knew how much of that world had survived. In his esteem for institutions—his school, Stowe; his college, King’s; his university, Cambridge; but also the profession he had chosen for himself—Noel Annan showed his true character. His concern was always to preserve and encourage intellectual merit and distinction. Though he held many responsible administrative posts, served on innumerable boards, commissions, and committees, I rarely heard him speak of such matters, clearly believing them to be of less importance than the ideas we were discussing. In the House of Lords, where he spoke frequently on government higher-education policies, which he felt to be inadequate, he showed all the passion that those who knew him best, recognized and appreciated. His hand-written notes were a joy to receive, scarcely surprising, given the quality of his conversation and published works. Noel Annan—Lord Annan as he became—articulate, gentle, generous, and witty, understood what he called “our age,” that of the generation of men and women ten years younger or older than himself. The phrase, as he explained in his celebrated work Our Age (1990), originated with Maurice Bowra, for Annan recognized the importance of correctly estimating the achievements and failures of his own times. Annan, because of the positions he held as provost of King’s College, Cambridge, vice-chancellor of the University of London, and one of the founders of Channel 4, was intellectually and socially prominent on both sides of the Atlantic. If he was constantly chosen to give memorial addresses for those he had known, it was not so much for his remarkable delivery, his sonorous voice,
or his magisterial appearance that he was asked, though all were of course important. Annan was a man who knew how to express appreciation precisely because he was incapable of feigning it. Listening to him eulogize Lord Goodman before a vast London congregation, I asked Sir Isaiah Berlin whether the speech was as impressive as I thought. “My boy,” he answered, “I have already commissioned him to give my own.” He did so, some time later, brilliantly. He was age 83 at his death. —Stephen R. Graubard should be forgotten and then rediscovered is one of Haskell’s surprising contentions. Much of this derives from the argument that it is not the “intrinsic” quality of a work that is foremost in the judgment of a work, but the critical interplay of patrons, collectors, interpreters, et al., in establishing the importance of a work. In retrospect this would seem to be emphasizing the sociology and social history of art, but in reading Haskell on the impact of a specific painting, no one would ever dream of accusing him of “oversociologizing” art. In his last and greatest book, History and Its Images (1993), Haskell reviewed the conflict among art historians on the contrasting value of written and pictorial sources, the birth of the history museum and art museum, and the role of such historians as Jules Michelet, Jacob Burckhardt, and Jan Huizinga in understanding modern culture. Though Haskell would never have dreamt of placing himself on that lofty plane, he made it impossible to write the history of art without analyzing the complicated network of art as an institution, and that in itself remains an extraordinary achievement. —Michael Becker
Source: Henning Ritter, “Enthusiast des Faktischen [An enthusiast for the actual],” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jan. 20, 2000.
rancis Haskell, the most important historian of art of his generation, died early this year at age 71. In an autobiographical sketch, he described how he became an art historian at a time when the discipline hardly existed in England. His teachers were exiled German scholars such as Nikolaus Pevsner, who had brought the discipline as a German specialty to England. Today, art historians “speak English,” not the least because of Francis Haskell. Haskell studied art history at King’s College, Cambridge, but always kept his distance from the methodological debates that wracked the field. He preferred to do empirical work, and his path-breaking book, Patrons and Painters: A Study of the Relations Between Italian Art and Society in the Age of the Baroque (1963), would seem to have offered little chance of affecting the profession profoundly, but it did in large part because Haskell refrained from theoretical generalization. His book was an argument on the relation of patron and artist, to demonstrate the role of the patrons in the formation of, and internal constitution of, a work of art. This argument was developed more fully in his lectures on Rediscoveries in Art (1976), in which he presented a striking, and original, history of taste, a theme that had been neglected in German studies. The histories of taste, fashion, and collecting here intertwine to form a picture of art as an institution, a view that now predominates in the art museums of the world. That an artist
uis Castro was Venezuela’s most distinctive intellectual voice, one that emerged from a confrontation between the Latin American rhetorical register and the understated irony he derived from the English tradition. Castro was the son of a Venezuelan army officer and a Chilean mother. He graduated in law from Universidad Central de Venezuela in 1966, and then took a doctorate in the philosophy of law at the Sorbonne. But from his earliest schoolboy reading, he had developed an idealized image of England and this, as much as soberer scholarly purposes, led him to Cambridge in 1971 and a further Ph.D. on “The Notion of Fact in English Law,” a detailed study of the development of the jury in the High Middle Ages. It was remarkable that someone
from his background should grapple with fourteenth-century legal records, but in some ways still more remarkable that he fell under the spell of the graceful ironic prose of F.W. Maitland, the greatest of historians of English law, who became a constant point of reference. Castro returned to Venezuela and settled at the new Instituto de Estudios Avanzados. His scholarly recognition brought him to such posts as Cambridge’s Simon Bolívar chair and two periods as Tinker Professor at the University of Chicago. Yet his skeptical grounding in AngloSaxon thought also turned him into a cultural critic, scrutinizing his country’s political icons, including the great Bolívar himself. From the 1980s, he argued against a Venezuelan tradition in which politics figured either as the realm of transcendence or a theatre of heroism. He expressed his views as a columnist for El Diario de Caracas and El Universal, reinforced by magnetic television appearances, where his eloquence and wit were matched by charm and good looks. Castro’s unique influence in Venezuelan life rested to a great extent on his style. His writing combined metaphysical meditation with everyday anecdotes, laced with an often outrageously zany humor. His goal was nothing less than the ethical education of his readers. As he felt the political situation becoming increasingly grave, his writing became increasingly urgent. On the fortieth anniversary of the birth of modern democracy in Venezuela in January 1998, Luis Castro became the first non-member of Congress to address that assembly. His impassioned speech, televised live, caused a national sensation. He ringingly called the political class to a sense of its responsibilities, urging it to address the nation’s intractable social and economic problems without succumbing to atavistic absolutism, unfettered capitalism, or mere cronyism. He declared that the country’s long-term stability depended on the rule of law and the alternation of parties. He went on to become an outspoken critic of the populist Hugo Chávez, the leader of a failed military coup who was elected president in
December 1998. Castro’s gloomiest predictions of the outcome of Chávez’s victory are already being borne out. Luis Castro was 56 years old when he died in 1999. —Stefan Collini Millions of Brazilians can recite at least some of the verses of the poem. It was made into a play, put to music by Chico Buarque de Hollanda, filmed in 1977, and more recently made into a television drama. Mr. Cabral was born in January 1920 into a distinguished family: one of his cousins was the sociologist Gilberto Freyre. Like many Latin American intellectuals of his generation, unable to earn a living as a writer, he entered the Brazilian diplomatic service in 1945, serving in posts on four continents until his retirement in 1990. In the late 1940s, Mr. Cabral became a friend of the Catalan painter Joan Miró. The two collaborated on a book about the artist, with Cabral writing the text and Miró contributing whimsical engravings. A complete edition of Mr. Cabral’s poems was published in Rio de Janeiro in 1994.
Source: Abridged from the obituary by Larry Rohter in the New York Times, October 23, 1999.
Edward H. Levi
dward H. Levi was a man who symbolized, nay, restored probity to an American political life marred by the Watergate scandals—disgraces where two attorneys general in the Nixon administration were convicted of felonies and one, John Mitchell, served time in jail. Mr. Levi was appointed to the post of attorney general in 1975 by President Gerald Ford. Later, Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court, who had been a senior official under Mr. Levi, said that he could not have had a tougher job in Washington for the entire executive branch was in disarray; and that Mr. Levi “brought the department through its worst years.” Edward Levi was one of the great legal scholars and law teachers of his generation. He had been Dean of the Law School and then President of the University of Chicago. Ironically, he had not intended to be a lawyer. Edward Hirsch Levi was born in Chicago on June 26, 1911 to Gerson B. Levi, a rabbi who came to the United States from Scotland, and Elsa Hirsch Levi. His maternal grandfather, Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, was a leader of Reform Judaism in America. After graduating from the University of Chicago, Edward Levi began studying for a doctorate in literature, but dropped out of the program. Years later he explained that a friendly professor had told him that he would never be given a position in the humanities department at Chicago, or any leading institution, because he was a Jew. He recalled this in an essay in Newsweek, during the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976, to demonstrate how much the country had changed. He had, after all, become the first Jewish dean of a major law school. And when he became president of the University of Chicago in 1968, he said he believed he was the first Jewish president of a major private university, other than one with a Jewish identity such as Brandeis. His slim book, An Introduction to Legal Reasoning (University of Chicago Press, 1949), was a foundational text for students, with its emphasis on analogy as the logic of legal reasoning. As a law
oão Cabral, one of the century’s most distinguished poets in the Portuguese language, died in Rio de Janeiro in October 1999 at age 79. In a career that spanned more than fifty years, Cabral earned a reputation as a cerebral, even difficult writer who, in collections such as The Dog Without Feathers and Museum of Everything, demonstrated an unflinching cinematic eye but showed little patience with romanticism or sentimentality. Mr. Cabral’s poetry was never widely known in the English-speaking world, though the Wesleyan University Press in 1995 published his Selected Poetry, 19371990. But many American poets admired him, including W. S. Merwin, who translated many of his poems, and Elizabeth Bishop, who lived in Brazil for many years and knew Cabral well. In An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Brazilian Poetry, which she edited with Emanuel Brasil, Ms. Bishop described Mr. Cabral as Brazil’s most important poet of the postwar generation, whose work has the greatest coherency of style of any Brazilian poet, work “characterized by striking visual imagery and an insistent use of concrete tactile nouns.” His most popular work among his countrymen was undoubtedly The Death and Life of Severino, about the desolate existence of a peasant from the poor northeastern region, where Mr. Cabral was born. Ms. Bishop rendered one moving passage into English this way: We are exactly alike: exactly the same big head That’s hard to balance properly, The same swollen belly on the same skinny legs, Alike because the blood we use has little color. And if Severinos are all the same in life, We die the same death, the same Severino death.
Emanuel R. Piore
f anyone shaped U.S. government support for basic research, it was Emanuel Ruben Piore. As the first civilian head of the Office of Naval Research after World War II, he initiated the policy of giving federal support to scientists, mathematicians, and linguists, irrespective of the relation of their work to the navy. In that role, too, he helped establish the National Science Foundation. He carried the philosophy over to I.B.M. where he became chief scientist in 1965, and helped shift I.B.M. from a business machine firm to computer technology. Dr. Piore served on the Science Advisory Committees of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, and was treasurer of the National Academy of Science. After retiring from I.B.M., he founded the New York City Hall of Science which was located on the old 1939 World’s Fair grounds in Queens. Emanuel Piore was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, and came to the U.S. with his mother at age nine. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1930 and received his doctorate in physics in 1935. He was 91 at his death in May 2000.
teacher, his student Robert Bork recalled, “He was the most dazzling classroom performer any of us had ever seen.” And as Dean of the Law School, Mr. Levi introduced the law and economics movement as a major development of legal education, founding the school’s Journal of Law and Economics. Although appointed by a Republican president, Mr. Levi never considered himself to be a political partisan. Robert Bork, who was solicitor general under Mr. Levi, called him simply the greatest lawyer of his time. Mr. Levi served as President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences from 1986 to 1989. He was 88 years old at his death.
Sources: Obituaries by Neil A. Lewis in the New York Times, March 8, 2000, and by Robert H. Bork, in the Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2000.
C. Vann Woodward
Vann Woodward, who died on December 17, 1999 at the age of 91, was one of the best American historians and the best historian ever of the American South. He excelled as an interpreter, a scholar who asked big and original questions and then dug deep into the sources and his own imagination for the answers. His findings transformed the study of the South—and thus, of course, of the United States. Woodward’s prose was spare and elegant, befitting his taste for ambiguity and paradox. The best way to understand the South, he believed, was through its ironies. Those ironies could be biographical, as in the career of the Georgia populist-turned-racist Tom Watson, the subject of Woodward’s first book, published in 1938. They could be institutional, as in the case of Southern segregation—a curse that, as Woodward showed in his pathbreaking book The Strange Career of Jim Crow, arose as much from planters’ and businessmen’s fears of lower-class whites as from their fears of blacks. There were larger ironies as well, which rendered the South a powerful exception to the great American myths of innocence and invincibility. Woodward wanted these ironies to humanize his readers and to teach us all
an “un-American” lesson about the frailties and follies of human endeavor. Yet he never retreated into the hopeless conservatism or the droll cynicism that have so often captivated disillusioned modern American intellectuals. Woodward’s liberalism made him a public writer as well as a scholar. Apart from W.E.B. Du Bois and John Hope Franklin, no twentieth-century American historian made greater intellectual and political contributions to the cause of racial equality. At age 90, his body failing but his mind still sharp, he spoke out as an historian and citizen against the constitutional dangers raised by the crusade against President Clinton. And earlier, in the wake of American Stalinism and McCarthyism (and later of George Wallaceism and the late-60s New Left, which he disliked), when it became fashionable among liberals to be disenchanted with popular dissent, Woodward would not comply. The ironist expected, of course, that his own labors would one day be surpassed and possibly forgotten. And if, in the fullness of time, Vann Woodward’s interpretations prove vain—which they will not be—his example of moral seriousness and integrity will continue to inspire, as will his devotion to the historian’s craft. On December 16, 1999, home at last from a long hospital stay and eager to get back to work, he asked to be helped to his desk, which had been moved upstairs from his study. There, at his desk, he died the next day. —Sean Wilentz
Source: Adapted from the New Republic, January 10, 2000.
Walter Jackson Bate
alter Jackson Bate, one of the great literary historians of his generation, died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 26, 1999, aged 81. Bate concentrated a lifetime of scholarship on an early book, From Classic to Romantic (1946), a study of how English writing changed from the heroic couplets and balanced prose of eighteenthcentury neoclassicism to the Romantic styles of the first half of the next century. His John Keats, published in 1963, won a Pulitzer Prize. It was the study of
a quintessential Romantic poet who made a transition from the lush poems of his youth to a tragic sense of life. But it was with Samuel Johnson that Bate had the greater affinities. When he lectured at Harvard on the harrowing fantasies and nightmares of the great lexicographer, students felt as if their teacher had momentarily become Dr. Johnson. No doubt that it was this element of identification that made his biography of Samuel Johnson the great critical success in 1977, winning the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in the same year. His political sympathy with Samuel Johnson plunged Bate into the cultural wars in the university departments of literature that began in the late 1960s. He declared himself to be a classic humanist with conservative views, themes he had expressed in his books: Criticism: The Major Texts (1952) and The Burden of the Past on the English Poet (1970), a work that anticipated Harold Bloom’s book on the anxiety of influence. But it was his polemical essay, “The Crisis in English Studies,” that became the focus of a national debate. In that essay, Bate described the situation in the humanities as “the worst since the modern university was formed a century ago.” He accused the new academic theorizing as abandoning the humanistic ideal of literature that had prevailed in the West since the Renaissance. The English departments, he declared wryly, were not “countries for old men.” Bate grasped, as few did in 1982, that the changes in education were epochal and that the organization of knowledge would never be as it had been, before the onset of the modern research university. Yet Bate’s own magisterial works brought him personal recognition. At Harvard, his university, he was named a university professor, the highest rank in the faculty, then a select position for the few, and elected to the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. —Mark Krupnick
Source: Adapted from an obituary in the Guardian, August 2, 1999.
In the period after World War II, American universities exploded in completely unprecedented ways. Not only was there a huge expansion of students, created by the G. I. Bill of Rights, which gave free schooling to those who had served in the armed forces, there was the transformation of graduate schools to focus on research, and the creation of “area studies” to provide specialists for the United States in its new role in world society. One significant feature of this transfiguration was the entry of new faculty—many of them émigrés, or children of émigrés, many of them Jewish—who had been denied positions in the university before the war. Many of these became leaders of their disciplines. That postwar generation, alas, is now passing. We present here some notices, regrettably short, of some of the most distinguished of that generation.
enjamin Schwartz was probably the foremost scholar of Chinese intellectual history, who had an encyclopedic range from the ways of thought in ancient China to the political ideas of Mao Zedong. Ben Schwartz was born in December 1916 in East Boston, of a poor workingclass family. He graduated from Boston Latin, the city’s premier high school for talented youths, and entered Harvard College in 1934 as a scholarship student. He graduated magna cum laude, specializing in romance languages, and expected to become a high-school teacher or rabbi. But during the war he served in the army as a cryptoanalyst, breaking Japanese communication codes, and one night, while on duty in the White House, he received the communiqué from the Emperor announcing the surrender of Japan. Returning to Harvard, he took a Ph.D. in history and Far Eastern languages. His doctoral dissertation in 1951 on Chinese Communism and the Rise of Mao, was the first work to demonstrate that Mao had swerved from Soviet doctrine and established the peasantry as the base of his revolutionary force. It remains a key source today. A second book, In Search of Wealth and Power: Yen Fu and the West, was about a member of the traditional gentry of the late Qing dynasty (1644-1912) who was the first to translate European works into Chinese in order to understand the secret of Western power. In 1985, reaching back further into the past, Schwartz published his magisterial book, The World of Thought in Ancient China. Ben Schwartz, as his Harvard colleague Roderick MacFarquhar remarked in a eulogy, was a man of gentle spirit and genuine intellectual humility. A
story is told of his being presented a Tshirt by his students, inscribed on the front, “On the One Hand,” and on the back, “On the Other Hand.” Ben Schwartz’s comment was that there was always a third possibility.
vi Grilliches was a leading econometrician and had he lived, a leading candidate for the Nobel Prize. He died in November 1999 at age 69. Zvi Grilliches was born in 1930 in Kaunas, Lithuania. With the arrival of the Germans in 1941, the Grilliches family was ordered into the ghetto, and eventually into the work camp in Dachau in Bavaria. Grilliches was not yet fifteen when, after losing both parents, he was liberated by the American troops led by General Patton in 1945. Traveling underground through Europe, he was on a boat for Palestine that was intercepted by the British, and interned for seven months in Cyprus. He arrived in Haifa in 1947, joined the Israeli army, and became a student at the Hebrew University of the great skeptical historian Jacob Talman, a disciple of Karl Popper. In 1951, Grilliches won a scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley in agricultural economics. Later, at the University of Chicago, working with Theodore Schultz, he became a leader in the field of economic measurement. His work on the diffusion of hybrid corn launched a wave of research on the economic incentives to technical change, at the time a highly neglected field. His work on automobile model changes produced the “hedonic” price indexes which became standard for estimation of quality changes in products. At Harvard, with his colleague Dale Jorgenson, he became the leader in the measurement of productivity. In 1966,
he was awarded the John Bates Clark medal given every two years to the best economist under age forty. In 1993, Grilliches was elected president of the American Economics Association. In his presidential address, he tearfully and truthfully described his gratitude to this country for permitting a young refugee to rise to such a position of prominence. In recent years, Grilliches was the founder of the Moscow School of Economics and had begun work on a careful history of the rise to minor fame in the nineteenth century of the Grilliches engravers in the court of the Czars.
f anyone invented the academic field of global economics, it was Ray Vernon, who died in August 1999 at age 85. Vernon was a member of the team that designed and implemented the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. He was instrumental in the development of the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, known as GATT. In 1965, he began the major research on multinational corporations, work that produced Sovereignty at Bay: The Multinational Spread of U.S. Enterprises, and Storm Over the Multinationals: the Real Issues, both of which have been translated into Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, and French. Born in September 1913 in New York City, Ray Vernon was one of four children in a family of Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father drove a truck delivering seltzer water to restaurants and bars. The family name was Visotsky, but the children changed their name to Vernon since the eldest said that a name change would improve his chances of being accepted to medical school. All four of
the siblings earned doctoral degrees. Ray Vernon received a bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York in 1933, and a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia in 1941. From 1935 to 1946, he worked at the S.E.C. and from 1946 to 1955 in the State Department, where he brought Japan into the GATT trade system. In 1956 Vernon joined the faculty of the Harvard Business School and then held a second, joint appointment at the Kennedy School. Slim and wiry, Vernon was an athlete until almost the last year of his life. An avid oarsman, he rowed daily at dawn on the Charles River in a single scull. In his eighties, he set a world record for his age group in a class of “indoor sprints” rowing machines with odometers attached. Though he helped shape the postwar system of international trade and influenced thinking about the global economy, Vernon believed in markets, but he also saw their weaknesses, particularly in relation to the developing countries. He felt that state-owned enterprises could not compete efficiently with investor-owned multinationals, said Daniel Yergin, the co-author of the book The Commanding Heights, and his research became part of the push to privatization in the 1980s. teaching career at Princeton, but most of his academic life was spent at M.I.T., beginning in 1961, until 1999, when he retired as Ford International Professor of Political Science. His award-winning book, Party Building in a New Nation (1968), dealt with the reasons for the success of the Congress Party, its compromise with local party structures, and its decline with the erosion of internal democracy and the excessive reliance on personalities. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Weiner challenged “modernization” theory which predicted the erosion of religious, caste, linguistic, and tribal identities as the countries “modernized.” To the contrary, he argued in Sons of Soil (1978), as groups organized for economic gain and political power, modernization could be expected to reactivate and intensify ethnic conflicts. His most recent work, The Child and the State in India (1992), challenged the notion that child labor would disappear as India became richer. He pointed out that the caste system would continue the division between the menial work performed by children from the lower castes and the skilled work by those from the upper castes. It was a tribute to Weiner’s stature that a book so critical of India’s policy makers and elites was read so widely by intellectuals and government officials. As a comment in The Hindu of June 27, 1999 put it: “Myron Weiner will be remembered as the scholar who did for political science, what Amartya Sen has done for development economics—make the discipline more practical and less esoteric.” was his primary occupation. Research and students were his main concern. The Russian Research Center was his home—quite literally—for many decades. He really was one of the giants in a rich generation of refugee scholars, most of whom—alas—are gone.” Ulam was born in April 1922 in what was then Lwow, Poland, now part of the Ukraine. He emigrated to the United States in 1939 with his older brother Stanislaw. The brothers left the country two weeks before Germany attacked Poland. Stanislaw was one of the most eminent mathematicians of the twentieth century. His invention of the “Monte Carlo” method of estimation played a crucial role in the development of the thermonuclear bomb. Their experiences together are recounted in Stanislaw’s autobiography, The Adventures of a Mathematician, and in Adam’s own memoirs. Ulam wrote eighteen books, many of which are classics in the field. His study The Bolsheviks (1965) remains one of the definitive treatments of the Communist Party under Lenin. His massive 760page work Stalin: The Man and His Era, was acclaimed not only as a biography but as a “morally as well as historically definitive” book. His crowning work, the magisterial account of Soviet foreign policy, Expansion and Coexistence, published in 1967, was regarded as the most influential book to have appeared on the subject, and with several subsequent editions became the standard text in the field. His sequel, Dangerous Relations, published in the early 1980s, completed the study of Soviet foreign policy to the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev. His colleague Edward Keenan, Director of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, described Ulam as “a gentle, playful Galician cosmopolitan, a prodigious reader and an enormously fluent writer. A narrative historian by inclination and practice, he was somewhat out of place in a department he thought to be increasingly influenced by vaporous abstractions and models.”
Illustrations in this issue are by Gavarni, Honoré Daumier, Katsukawa Shunsho, and Torii Kiyonaga.
n June 1999, Myron Weiner, one of the foremost Western scholars of Indian politics since the Second World War, died at age 68. Weiner was a highly respected figure in American political science; his productivity was breathtaking, writes Ashutosh Varshney, a former student, now teaching at the University of Notre Dame, in the Times of India of June 12, 1999. Together with his wife Sheila, a scholar of Indian art, and their children, he lived in India for several years and made short research trips virtually every year. Born in a family of Jewish immigrants of modest means in New York, Weiner went to City College and began the study of India as a Ph.D. student at Princeton in 1952. He authored thirteen books, edited nineteen others, and wrote innumerable articles on India and comparative politics. He began his
dam Ulam, one of the world’s leading authorities on Russia and the Soviet Union, died in April 2000, at age 77. He was a member of the Harvard faculty from 1947 until his retirement in 1992. He taught thousands of undergraduates and graduate students, including Robert Kennedy and Henry Kissinger. Henry Rosovsky, the former Dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, wrote: “Adam Ulam was an old-fashioned professor in the best sense of the word. The life of the mind
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THE COMMITTEE ON INTELLECTUAL CORRESPONDENCE
is an international project sponsored by the Suntory Foundation (Japan), the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Continuing Our Work
This is Issue No. 6 of the twice-a-year Correspondence, a project of the Committee on Intellectual Correspondence. The committee was initiated by Masakazu Yamazaki, Wolf Lepenies, and Daniel Bell, and the organizations they represent, and funded by the Suntory Foundation. With Issue No. 5, the Council on Foreign Relations joined as publisher. We now have a circulation of over seven thousand to academic and public figures in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, and to all the members of the Council. Much of Correspondence appears in Japanese in the periodical Asteion of the Suntory Foundation. Our intention has been to create a cultural milieu which reduces the insularity between countries and the increased specialization within disciplines. One of our ways is to focus in each issue on a significant or neglected topic. In the past, this has been the digital age, history revisited, and translation. Here we take up the world press and the Internet, and the vicissitudes of language in the global village. As the publisher, the Council on Foreign Relations also states the following: The articles in Correspondence do not represent any consensus of beliefs. We do not expect that readers will sympathize with all the opinions they find here, but we hold that Correspondence can do more to inform public opinion by a broad hospitality to divergent ideas than it can by identifying itself with one school. While we do not accept responsibility for the views expressed in articles that appear in these pages, we do accept the responsibility for giving them a chance to appear.
Daniel Bell Wolf Lepenies Masakazu Yamazaki
Japan Masayuki Tadokoro Germany Michael Becker U.S. Mark Lilla Alexander Stille
Contributors to this Issue
K. Anthony Appiah is Professor of Afro-American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard University, and author of In My Father’s House, a study of African identity. s David A. Bell is Professor of French History at Johns Hopkins University. s Stefan Collini is a Reader in Intellectual History at Cambridge University. s Brendan Dooley is Associate Professor of History at Harvard and author of The Social History of Skepticism. s Hendrik Hertzberg is a senior editor of the New Yorker. He was a speech writer for President Jimmy Carter and the editor of the New Republic. s Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao is Professor of Sociology at National Taiwan University. s Georges Khalil heads the group Modernity and Islam at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. s Nina Khruscheva is a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School. s Walter Laqueur is editor of the Journal of Contemporary History. s Paul Lemerle served as the French Minister to the U.N. on economic and social matters. s Jacques Lesourne was managing director of Le Monde from 1991 to 1994. s André Liebich teaches at the École des Hautes Études Internationale in Geneva. s David Lipsey, a recent Labour peer, was political editor of the Economist and author of The Secret Treasury. s Sonja Margolina writes on Russia for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. s Ryan McKittrick is a freelance theatre critic in Boston. s Darrin McMahon is the author of the forthcoming Enemies of the Enlightenment. s Pratap Mehta, Associate Professor of Government at Harvard, is the author of the forthcoming Consolations of Modernity: Adam Smith and the Making of the Enlightenment. s Herbert Passin is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Columbia. He is the author of Japanese and the Japanese: The Language and the People. s Ilan Stavans is Professor of Spanish at Amherst College and the author of The Hispanic Condition. s Fritz Stern is University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. s Alexander Stille is a writer at the New Yorker and the author of Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian-Jewish Families Under Fascism. s Shigehiko Togo is the Tokyo correspondent for the Washington Post. s Stefan Voigt is an economist at the Max Planck Institute in Jena, Germany. s George Walden, a former minister in the Thatcher government, is the author of the autobiography Lucky George.
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The Committee on Intellectual Correspondence gratefully acknowledges the continued support of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation of Japan and a generous grant for the year 2000 from the Zeit-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, a foundation of the German newspaper Die Zeit.
The editor wishes to thank Beatrice White, Sulochana Glazer, and Bill Kovach for editorial help.