In the EuroSavant coverage of the Danish/Dutch Europa XL/Zelfportret Europa series we recently did the Czechs, and then we did the Slovaks: up until 1993 their fellow countrymen. Now we proceed from the Slovaks to the Hungarians, under inverse logic: these are long-time enemies, in the fundamental sense of two different ethnic nations laying claim to much the same bits of land. (From the Hungarians we could use that same “adversary” logic to proceed on to the Romanians, with whom the Hungarians have historically had even worse relations – except that the Romanians are not yet EU members.) (more…)
We recently covered the “Europa XL/Zelfportret Europa” portrait of the Czech Republic. Now it’s time to take up that country’s sister republic, Slovakia, which came into its own as an independent country only with the so-called “Velvet Divorce” of 1 January 1993. Did that “divorce” really ever need to come to pass? (more…)
The “Europa XL” series carries on, and now it’s getting to the real interesting countries among the fresh member-states which joined the European Union only as of last May 1. But this time it’s not really “Europa XL” – it’s rather “Zelfportret Europa,” that is, the version of this series as carried by the Dutch newspaper Trouw. As I’ve written, I do prefer to deal with this series in its Danish form, in the webpages of the Copenhagen-based newspaper Politiken, but Politiken is showing disturbing signs of neglecting “Europa XL.” In the first place, that newspaper’s master page for “Europa XL” is what you could call “hidden,” i.e. it’s not accessible from the main homepage – i.e. the frontpage – that any visitor to the Politiken website would naturally visit first to see the customary summary presentation of the day’s news. Of course, you can get there easily via the links that I give you, but its being “hidden” does mean that it is probably impossible to run across for any visitor to Politiken who does not already know about it. (more…)
My review of and commentary upon the cultural portraits of the EU member-states presented in the Europa XL series by the Danish newspaper Politiken is an on-going feature of this site, and you see over on the left-side of the homepage that links to the individual portraits, by country, are gathered together there for readers’ convenience. Today I discovered that the same series is also being presented by the Dutch newspaper Trouw. Yes, now these selections of each country’s typical painting, photograph, person, food-dish, etc. are available in the form of Danish and Dutch versions of the same explanatory texts (but the copyright is held by Politiken).
Maybe that’s not so much of a big deal for those of you who don’t read either Danish or Dutch, but it could be interesting for those Dutch-speakers out there, to enjoy the unalloyed texts themselves and check up on what I write all the more closely! Also, now I get the choice of practicing one of those two languages or the other when I want to cover the next cultural portrait – or maybe both, to cross-check. By the way, I also noticed that the portrait of the Czech Republic has now been added to the series, as chosen by Czech writer Ivan Klima. An excellent choice! I’m sure to cover this one very soon.
Today: How is Austria different from Germany, anyway? Our guide, via the Danish newspaper Politiken, is Marlene Streeruwitz, once again a prize-winning author (novels, plays, radio-plays) and translator, whose works we are told focus upon “the terror of every-day life, nearly-unbearable normality, and the laid-waste relation between the sexes.” We get an initial clue about her homeland from the review of one of her radio-dramas that was broadcast a couple years ago on Danish Radio, which judged Frau Streeruwitz’ anger as “typically Austrian, that is, substantial and implacable.” Indeed, take a look at Frau Streeruwitz’ portrait, if you please. That’s only a half-smile you see there, at best; indeed, I’d also call her look “substantial and implacable.” (I bet she’s divorced.) But to proceed . . . (more…)
The anniversary of the D-Day landings as a pretext to take up the Danish newspaper Politiken’s cultural survey of Germany? Especially given that D-Day has never been that big a deal to the German people – just another bloody WWII defeat? Oh, why not – this was after all the first year that the German Bundeskanzler agreed to be present at the commemorative ceremonies, and that supposedly reflects new attitudes among the German people that the D-Day landings actually represented the beginning of the long process of their liberation. So an examination of the German mentality through the ages is warranted. Besides, I’ve been itching to cover the German cultural portrait for some time now. Ultimately, you can just forget about the EU’s other pissant small-fry – Luxembourg, say (Charly Gaul, indeed!), or even Denmark: Germany is the true European colossus, for which there should be a cornucopia of cultural artifacts to choose among (persons; music/song; poems; events!) that should even exceed France’s. One can only hope that the German writer chosen is up to the job. (more…)
This was not a particularly dense news day, meaning I find little interesting out there to choose from and to report on. But at least Dutch readers can catch up with the latest developments in both the Chalabi and the Valerie Plame cases in this comprehensive summary article by the NRC Handelsblad’s US correspondent Marc Chavannes. (For those needing help, Valerie Plame is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was revealed last July in a newspaper column by Robert Novak to be an undercover CIA agent. That’s against the law; Novak said his information came from administration officials. Probably not-so-coincidentally, Ambassador Wilson had embarrassed the Bush administration by pointing out that allegations that Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain uranium from Niger – an alleged event he had personally investigated – were false.) Chavannes even has the awareness to cite, from an analysis in Kevin Drum’s “Washington Monthly” weblog, the blatant illogic in President Bush’s recent statements about Ahmed Chalabi – i.e. that he didn’t have much to do with him, he was merely Laura Bush’s guest at the last State of the Union address – in light of the President’s earlier statement on Meet the Press that he had met with Chalabi in the Oval Office.
So much for this, that. Where’s the beef? Hey, we always have the option of taking up another country from Politikens’s “Europa XL” series of cultural portraits. Let’s go for Italy this time, analyzed by writer Stefano Benni; he does quite a good job indeed. (more…)
Yes! Finally! The country-treatment (within the “Europa XL” series of cultural portraits of EU member-states commissioned by the Danish newspaper Politiken, etc., etc.) you’ve all been waiting for: Luxembourg!
Well, it’s at least the portrait I’ve been looking forward to doing. Check it out: The Luxembourgois poet Jean Portante actually lists as his choice for “Object” the local language, Lëtzebuergesch. A very good choice, as you’ll see if you care to read on further, although apparently everyone there (or who is really from there at least) speaks French and German as well.
I’ve also noticed that Politiken recently added Malta to their Europa XL master-index page. I might give that one a pass, unless I get any fervent reader requests to the contrary. I do know a very attractive, vivacious Maltese living here in Amsterdam (I don’t think she reads €S, though), but Roberta B. on her own ordinarily would hardly be enough of a justification to inflict a 10-point cultural review of Malta on you, or for that matter on myself. I would, however, like to inflict Roberta on myself (not you.) On the other hand, I don’t in fact know anyone from Luxembourg, and so that should convince you of my incorruptible and highly-objective standards when it comes to choosing material to cover on these pages.
Back now today to the cultural survey series of the EU member-states published serially in the Danish newspaper Politiken. As you would expect, by now they’ve started to treat some of the ten new member-states – I see Slovenia and Cyprus on the list already. So we can ultimately expect a total of twenty-five such portraits, as the Politiken editors finish rounding up the cultural figures from each country to give their selections of representative paintings, photographs, persons, etc.
Goodness, which to choose? Luxembourg is available! – a cultural portrait assembled by one Jean Portante, a Luxembourgeois poet. Yes, we’ll definitely cover that one, eventually. There’s also Ireland, which should be interesting; Germany – but that one is sure to be so heavy that I think I’ll cover it around the 6 June D-Day celebrations; and Austria: just how is it different from Germany, anyway? And Italy.
I’ll play it safe this time and go for France and its representative cultural selection chosen by Jean d’Ormesson – or to give a more precise name, Jean Lefévre, comte d’Ormesson. (The Politiken editor notes that his full name is twice as long as that.) He is a director at the conservative French newspaper Le Figaro, and at the same time a prominent fiction-writer, especially of historical fiction – particularly, it seems, of tales of the decline and fall of aristocratic families. We’ll find that his cultural choices range from the predictable to the surprising – and to the surprising chosen so as to avoid the predictable. (more…)
Time to go back to that “Europa XL” series from the Danish newspaper Politiken, now that I’ve rediscovered it on the re-designed Politiken website. For those who came in late, that’s the series-of-photo-series in which the culture of each of the current European Union member-states is depicted via choices in a fixed set of categories (“Painting,” “Photograph,” etc.) made by a leading current literary figure from that country.
(Note that, while the good news is that I now know again where this “Europa XL” series is to be found on the Net, it’s also true that they’ve modified its format so that it’s only viewable in Internet Explorer, not in the Opera or Mozilla browsers.) Later update: That’s no longer true, the pages render fine in Opera.
Now we get into terra incognita, since today I’d like to discuss the presentation on Portugal, as chosen by writer Agustina Bessa-Luis, “a living myth among the Portuguese,” best known for her 1954 novel “The Sybille,” which has also been translated into French and German. (No mention of English or even Danish.) This is a country whose language I don’t even know per se, which I instead try to approach, when I need to, via similarities with Spanish. (more…)
Time now to procede to the next entry in the on-going “Europa XL” series in the Danish newspaper Politiken of cultural portraits of EU member-states, this time to Denmark’s sister-state, Sweden. The writer who was asked to contribute her suggestions for that country’s representative painting, photograph, person, etc. is Liza Marklund – journalist, editor, and author of what Politiken terms “a series of extraordinarily popular contemporary novels in the crime genre,” who came into her own as a commentator on Swedish society last fall, with the murder of Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh.
I’ve looked forward to this one, as I’m very interested in Sweden but know relatively little about that country. I do consider it as rather unique within the EU: not one of Europe’s “big powers,” but rather one of what is only a handful of “medium-sized powers” (the others being Spain and Poland). And while on the one hand Sweden’s internationalism, environmental awareness, and other things as well make it a natural candidate for the EU, on the other Sweden is also one of those countries that has been allowed to opt-out of adopting the euro as its currency and, as last September’s referendum shows, is far away from ever changing its mind. (more…)
Time to consider the portrait of Belgium presented in the Danish newspaper Politiken’s “Europa XL” series of cultural treatments of EU member nations, as submitted by respected literary figures of each such nation. The writer in charge for Belgium is the Belgian fiction-writer and translator Paul Claes – or rather, the Flemish fiction-writer and translator, i.e. one who writes in and translates into Dutch and so not into the French language spoken by around half of his countrymen, mostly in the south of the country. And I’m afraid that we start off on the wrong foot in our quest for impartiality and an even-handed cultural treatment, since Claes’ last-name is truly an ultra-Dutch one (in the sense of the language’s history). That “ae” vowel combination lying at that name’s heart, which merely signals the “long a” sound, is a relic from old Dutch spelling, used much more these days for Belgian names (both of people and places) than Dutch ones.
OK, off we go, but clearly we’ll inevitably have a different perspective than we have had for most of these portraits, namely what you could call the “Flemish-vs-Walloon scorecarding” view: (more…)
Next up in the Danish newspaper Politiken’s “Europa XL” series of cultural portraits of EU member-states: my favorite! It’s “Holland,” as they term it on the Politiken site, with representative Dutch cultural objects and phenomena (photo, person, event, etc.) chosen by the renowned novelist and travel-book author Cees Nooteboom. (more…)
Here we go, as promised: the entry in the Danish newspaper Politiken’s series of cultural profiles on EU member countries on the United Kingdom, with the supposedly characteristic British poem, place, person, event, etc. chosen by fiction-author (and Booker Prize winner) A.S. Byatt. Be forewarned: She has taken off with her author’s license to make any choice she wants, to make some that truly have more to do with A.S. Byatt than the British. (more…)
Yes, I haven’t been around for a while. The reason is that I’ve been busy setting up my other weblog, SegwayEuroTour, a process which I confess is as yet still incomplete. Still, the writings over there is rather different from what you’re accustomed to finding here on EuroSavant, so I can make at least a theoretical case that I should be able to pursue both simultaneously. I’ve just had a brand new Segway HT (a p-Series, for those of you in-the-know) shipped over here to me in the Netherlands, you see, where such things are as scarce as hen’s teeth. I’ve already had great fun taking her (her name’s “Marleen,” by the way) out in public, and so far that has just been to take around to show to acquaintances! There are surely many more adventures to come, and they will be chronicled over at that other site.
In the meantime – just to be further selfish about things, but I guess this website here is also basically about me – I have some paid work translating from Danish into English, so I have this renewed interest in the Danish press. It’s lucky that I do, for an Internet-journey over there alerts me to a very interesting series currently going on in the webpages of the main Danish daily Politiken, called Europa XL. (What does that “XL” mean? I can’t quite tell: I suppose it could be Roman numerals for “40” – but that doesn’t seem to make any sense – or it could mean “extra large.”)
“We know the EU as a big bureaucratic system. Nations without any face, without body,” begins that introductory article. The point of this series is to do something about that for Politiken’s readers, to provide precisely that face to each of the EU’s fifteen current members (in articles appearing up to the big May 1, 2004, expansion date) and then to the ten new members (in articles after that). “How do these different lands see themselves? What are their special values? And how can each enrich a common European culture?” – Politiken intends to approach one “characteristic voice” from each country – generally a prominent cultural figure of that land – to provide the following concerning their respective country (with their commentary, of course): a painting, a photograph, a person, an object, a text, a piece of music or song, a poem, a food-dish, a place, and an event. (more…)