Riyadh International Book Fair. "Last night I went to a panel on cultural diversity, and I have enjoyed a very good discussion. The panel was done the Saudi style, with the only female speaker Dr. Khairia Al-Saggaf talking from another room, where we could not see her but only listen to her voice." "Shiites were the subject of a hot debate at the end of the panel, when Dr. Khaled Al-Dakheel said that Shiites are part of us. This was the point where the panel went out of control. Before Al-Dakheel was able to complete that sentence, a Sheikh from the first row interrupted and told Dr. Al-Dakheel that Shiites are not Muslims, and that he has to say this."
Wladimir Kaminer represents an emerging Russo-German culture. He is a DJ spinning Russian wild ska-punk club music, he is a radio talk-show host, the author of several best-selling books depicting the life of Russian immigrants in Germany, and a sort of good-humored emblem of the emerging hybrid culture of Berlin. In a fascinating interview, he reveals post Soviet Russia, and Russian lives and literature in the West; you can read his stories, Paris Lost, and Animal Transport, and the usual overview of his works and of his significance, in the NYT Books section.
The insolent art of Michel Houellebecq. "There are certain books—sardonic and acutely pessimistic—that systematically affront all our current habits of living, and treat our presumptions of mind as the delusions of the cretinous." Julian Barnes' 2003 review in The New Yorker.