Tag: Europe

Writing and reading Europe

Thursday, 8 May, 2014 0 Comments

Can writers help establish a European identity? Or do authors reinforce borders? Is it possible to have a common European literature without a common language? More than 30 writers from 25 countries will debate these questions today and tomorrow in Berlin at a conference titled Is the European Dream Still Alive? Before they ponder these weighty issues, they might give some thought to what Julio Cortázar, the Argentine novelist and short-story writer, had to say about European writing:

“All European writers are ‘slaves of their baptism,’ if I may paraphrase Rimbaud; like it or not, their writing carries baggage from an immense and almost frightening tradition; they accept that tradition or they fight against it, it inhabits them, it is their familiar and their succubus. Why write, if everything has, in a way, already been said? Gide observed sardonically that since nobody listened, everything has to be said again, yet a suspicion of guilt and superfluity leads the European intellectual to the most extreme refinements of his trade and tools, the only way to avoid paths too much traveled. Thus the enthusiasm that greets novelties, the uproar when a writer has succeeded in giving substance to a new slice of the invisible; merely recall symbolism, surrealism, the ‘nouveau roman’: finally something truly new that neither Ronsard, nor Stendahl , nor Proust imagined. For a moment we can put aside our guilt; even the epigones begin too believe they are doing something new. Afterwards, slowly, they begin to feel European again and each writer still has his albatross around his neck.”


The New German Question does not have an Answer

Friday, 2 August, 2013 0 Comments

“The trouble with the German prescription for the eurozone is that it is — according to taste — either just not working or not working fast enough. One simple, theoretical point seems to me worth stressing. Germany, the export champion, has been described as Europe’s China. Just as not everyone in the world can be China, and if everyone were like China, China could not be China — for who would then buy its exports? — so not everyone in the eurozone can be Germany, and in the unlikely event that they did become like Germany, Germany could no longer be Germany. Unless, that is, you assume that the rest of the world would cheerfully expand its domestic demand to buy an all-German eurozone’s increased supply of exports.”

A witty, insightful snippet there from “The New German Question” by Timothy Garton Ash in the 15 August issue of the New York Review of Books. As Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Timothy Garton Ash is well qualified to discuss German questions, old and new. The fact that he is one of the few English historians who speak German fluently and has spent years living in the country copper-fastens his authority on the issues. Unlike some of his English historian colleagues, however, Garton Ash is sympathetic towards and supportive of the German position in most matters, European and global. Not everyone in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal or Ireland would agree with his conclusion: “Germany therefore needs all the help it can get from its European friends and partners. Only together can we generate the policies and institutions, but also that fresh breeze of poetry, to get the European ship sailing again. The answers to this new German question will not be found by Germans alone.”

This is a bit rich as Germany’s “European friends and partners” will have no say in the Bundestag elections on 22 September. Because they won’t be asked The New German Question, they cannot answer; they can only guess. And that’s Europe’s dilemma.

Germany


Kissinger dials Brussels, gets bickering Babel

Tuesday, 28 May, 2013 0 Comments

“Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” That’s what Henry Kissinger is supposed to have said a generation ago and the persistence and the popularity of the anecdote can be attributed to the fragmented state of the Brussels-led union. Yesterday, the old rogue celebrated his 90th birthday and among the congratulatory tweets was this one:

If you’re wondering about the author, the Twitter account @eu_eeas provides the “Latest news from the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s Foreign & Security Policy Service led by Catherine Ashton.” Set up in 1 December 2010, with an initial budget of €9.5 million, this body, which is meant to act as the foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the EU, offers the budding Kissingers of today, in desperate need of a number, a website with a choice of 23 different languages. To be fair, upon clicking through and after finding the Contact page, one is presented with +32 2 584 11 11. Some might regard this as a modest return, given the body’s huge 2012 budget of €489 million, a fat-cat salary of €286,580 for “High Representative” Baroness Ashton and a staff of 3,500.

Stepping off the gravy train for a moment, we find that 12-hour talks in Brussels concluded yesterday with European foreign ministers unable to reach the unanimous decision required to extend the current Syrian arms embargo. According to this news report, “analysts say Assad will be playing much closer attention to voices from Washington and Moscow, rather than the bickering Europeans.”

What’s that number again?


The end of austerity

Wednesday, 15 May, 2013 0 Comments

The Great Gatsby The screening of The Great Gatsby in Cannes tonight sends a message that stands in stark contrast to the policy of austerity that much of Europe is now experiencing. The hated hair-shirt imposed by Brussels/Berlin has divided the continent along its traditional geographical and cultural fault lines and exposed the myth of unity. “The European project now stands in disrepute across much of Europe,” states a Pew global survey published on Monday.

Jay Gatsby did not tolerate austerity. “The cost of the champagne and fruit alone racked up a whopping $81,300 to fuel Gatsby’s fun loving party guests. This assumes 500 guests for each weekend and that he bought fruit from The FruitGuys, and that he used Korbel champagne.” So reckons Nickolay Lamm, who asks, How Much Would it Cost to be The Great Gatsby? His conclusion: a lot. “After running the numbers on the cost of being The Great Gatsby the total figure came in at $34,320,880!”

Catching the wave, Belinda Goldsmith, reporting for Reuters from the Côte d’Azur, declares, “Cannes set to ditch austerity with ‘Great Gatsby’ launch“. She sees tonight’s premiere as “an opportunity to shed the caution of recent years overshadowed by broader economic gloom.” Let the party begin! Down with socialism!

By the way, Cannes does get a mention in The Great Gatsby. In Chapter 4, where we learn about the troubled origins of Tom and Daisy’s marriage, the novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway, tells us:

“The next April Daisy had her little girl, and they went to France for a year. I saw them one spring in Cannes, and later in Deauville, and then they came back to Chicago to settle down. Daisy was popular in Chicago, as you know. They moved with a fast crowd, all of them young and rich and wild, but she came out with an absolutely perfect reputation. Perhaps because she doesn’t drink. It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people. You can hold your tongue, and, moreover, you can time any little irregularity of your own so that everybody else is so blind that they don’t see or care.”

All human life is there.


Spain becomes Argentina

Thursday, 25 April, 2013 0 Comments

First, Bayern Munich hammered Barcelona and then Borussia Dortmund routed Real Madrid. Now, comes news that Spain’s unemployment rate soared to a new record of 27.2 percent of the workforce in the first quarter of 2013. The jobless figure is the highest since at least 1976, the year after Francisco Franco’s death began Spain’s transition to democracy and, to add further woe, data released on Tuesday by the Bank of Spain showed the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy had shrunk by two percent in the first three months of 2013, compared with the year-earlier period.

What makes the economic crisis so shocking is that Spain was once Europe’s most vibrant and exciting country. Prosperity soared for two decades and Viva España became the slogan for a global leader in football, fashion, food and cinema. But where once there was optimism, there’s only rage now. It’s directed against the banks, the politicians, the royal family and, increasingly, the European Union. Initially, the EU seemed to offer a way out of an Iberian jungle of ignorance, poverty, isolation and authoritarianism. Indeed, in a moment of euphoria, the writer, José Ortega y Gasset, put it thus: “Spain is the problem and Europe is the solution.” But that was then.

The “European dream” that Spain bought into seemed to promise a middle-class lifestyle for all, from Andalusia to Zaragoza. But with no hope of jobs for the young, the welfare state under threat and the fabric of society rent, the worry now is that Spain will become more like Argentina than Munich or Dortmund. Those football results are portents.


The European NIGHTVISION of Luke Shepard

Tuesday, 22 January, 2013 0 Comments

Click on the arrow or thumbnail of the NIGHTVISION navigation to experience some memorable photos of Europe’s cities. It’s all the work of Luke Shepard, a student at the American University of Paris. His after-dark video exploration of Paris, Le Flâneur, was so well received two years ago that he decided to crowd-source funds on Kickstarter to bring the NIGHTVISION concept to to Valencia, Prague, Budapest, Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome, Athens, Barcelona and Brussels. The modest estimate for the job was $17,000, and the project closed at the end of September last year with a total of $19,446 pledged.

[iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/17894033″ width=”100%” height=”480″]

To make Le Flâneur, Luke Shepard used a Nikon SLR D90 camera and a tripod. Unlike typical time-lapse video, however, he shot 2,000 images a short distance apart and put them together using Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro.


Silent Night in the Church of St. James

Saturday, 22 December, 2012 0 Comments

Perched at the edge of Europe, the Dingle Peninsula stretches into the Atlantic Ocean from the southwest coast of Ireland. Through the Other Voices festival, the magic of the peninsula is transmitted to the world from the Church of St. James by some of the world’s finest singers.


Democracy loses in struggle to save euro

Wednesday, 12 September, 2012

“Since 1945, the central idea of the European project was never again to leave a powerful and aggrieved Germany isolated at the centre of Europe. We are now dangerously close to that point.” So writes Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times. Now, we wait for Germany’s Bundesverfassungsgericht (the Federal Constitutional Court) to deliver its verdict […]

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Written in a time of fever

Tuesday, 10 January, 2012

When the fever was upon the true believers, visions were common occurrences and those who had been so blessed were moved to set down their insights on paper so that others might be saved. For example, economist Jeremy Rifkin wrote The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream. Similarly, after having seen the light, Washington Post reporter T. R. Reid authored a bestseller, The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy and, possessed by the same spirit, foreign-policy guru Mark Leonard explained Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century.

These things I have witnessed with mine own eyes, and they occurred during the first decade of this century.