Tuesday, 20 March 2012 11:30

Good Reads 17/03/12

Written by 

Philip, Brain Editor  

Putin and the EU

Despite the protests in Russia's biggest cities among the growing and new Russian middle classes, Putin has been elected for another six years. What is to be expected from his presidency and what is the EU's role in this? In a paper published for the European Council on Foreign Affairs right before the election, Ben Judah and Andrew Wilson already see the "end of the Putin consensus." They argue that the protests have significantly changed the situation in Russia: on the international level, a weaker Putin could lead to a less co-operative foreign policy, on the domestic level, reforms seems unlikely and a more populist presidency can be expected. This leaves the EU in a difficult position – as could already be witnessed in the reactions to Putin's election. While the EU might find it tempting to support opposition movements, Russia is an important partner in terms of energy, and Putin might represent such involvement as "destabilisation from the West" to regain support. Wilson and Judah give a good, concise overview of pre-election Russia and an outlook on future EU foreign policy – worth a read. 

Solving the European debt crisis?

Jürgen Habermas, German philosopher and public intellectual, argues that this is not essentially a question of printing money or cutting public spending: in the long run, the debt crisis can only be solved by an integration of citizens into the EU, a more lived democracy. Habermas points to the name of the so called Fiscal Compact, the "Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance," and maintains that the German focus on "stability" and silence when it comes to "coordination" is deeply rooted in a democratic deficit. His article is a critical analysis of Merkel's policy and its consequences as well as a description of how this crisis might open a possibility for the development of the EU. As such it is an expression of Habermas' belief in the future of this project – a must read.

How did it come to all this?

This question motivates Per Olov Enquist's story in his latest, semi-autobiographical novel, "A different life" (Ett annat Liv). A 74-year-old man, Enquist reflects on memories from his early childhood, his adolescence and his life as a professional writer until 1990, when he finds himself (again) in a rehab centre, trying to give up alcohol. During the 50 narrated years, Enquist lives (among other countries) in Sweden, Germany, Denmark, France and witnesses and writes about historical events like the "Munich Massacre." In this sense "A different life" is also the story of a European writer. The novel seems to be Enquist's attempt to make sense of (his) life in a twofold way – why it went like it did and what it means that it did. This dark literary journey through the life of a contemporary writer is a pleasure, because Enquist is a precise observer and follows his question without fear into remote corners of his memory: how did it all come to this? "A different life" is not for everyone and you might not always be in the mood for it. Still, for me, a great book: sometimes dark, full of questions and doubt, but also strong and shining with hope.


Rike, Sixth Sense Editor

Lenin and the roots of electronic music

If someone asked me what the most dorky instrument is I'd almost definitely still say: the theremin! I once had the pleasure of working as an intern on a tiny indie movie about a theremin player and only then found out how cool - in a dorky way - this instrument actually is. You play it without touching it, it has antennas and without it, Moog wouldn't have invented the synthesizer. The Theremin was created by the Russian scientist Leon Theremin and, as you find out in this great article about its history and success around the world, Lenin was one of the first people who heard the sounds of the instrument. Unsurprisingly, he "fully understood the wild and new ideas of the young inventor."

"Now we need Europeans"

Who isn't upset about EU developments these days and who wouldn't agree the Union has lost a lot of its citizen supporters? Well, according to this article, there are ten simple steps to fixing exactly these developments! It sounds silly and unrealistic, but there is a lot of truth in many of the points raised. Between urging the EU to find a new narrative (Step 1. Don't mention the war) and reminding us that the EU isn't Europe (Step 6) I couldn't agree more. The one argument I think misses the point is addressing these steps to the "pro-EU crowd" only. And hopefully, someone will write up simple steps for national media next. 

Discussing atheism...

Following the Republican Party's primaries in the US can make you feel frustrated about the way the candidates argue about religion. And it is easy to stop thinking about the interesting questions that religion actually brings up. Thankfully I found this inspiring interview with the German writer Martin Walser. Walser (who used to work as a correspondent in Italy, Poland and France before his career as an author took off) gives us insights on questions of faith and justification and ties them to literature that is particularly important to him. While at first glance it might look like a clichéd interview with an intellectual (covering Kafka, Nietzsche and .. linguistic history) it leaves you with good food for thought when you're fed up with this

Last modified on Saturday, 24 March 2012 14:30

If the Editorial team had an actual office it would have to stretch from the corner of Britain to the edges of Spain, Sweden, Germany and beyond. (With frequent trips to America too) .  The term 'from the editorial office' then, is very much a figure of speech. 

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