Cultureteca 10.01.16

Cultureteca 50

Sweden Imposes ID Checks Over ‘The Bridge’

On Monday Sweden implemented mandatory identity checks for travellers arriving by train, bus, or ferry from Denmark, in an attempt to reduce the number of migrants arriving in the country. All passengers are now obliged to show a passport, driving license, or Swedish national identity card in order to make the journey, with the impact centred on the Öresund Region, the Öresund strait, and the Öresund Bridge which connects Malmö in Sweden and the Danish capital of Copenhagen. In response, Denmark stepped up controls on its southern border with Germany.

The new checks mean that rail users passing through Copenhagen Airport’s Kastrup train station must first disembark, and show identification at one of 34 checkpoints before re-boarding to continue their journey on to Sweden. A temporary fence has been erected at Kastrup station to prevent people from crossing the tracks, while police have also put up a fence at Hyllie, the first station on the Swedish side. The journey between Copenhagen and Malmö’s main train stations usually takes 40 minutes, but passengers have been warned that they could now face delays of up to half an hour.

Oresund Bridge 1

At 8 kilometres long – finished on the Danish side by the artificial island of Peberholm, which connects to the 4-kilometre Drogden Tunnel – the Öresund Bridge is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe. Opened on 1 July 2000, it now receives an estimated 20,000 commuters every day. Around two-thirds of those travelling over the Öresund Bridge make their journey by train. The bridge has significantly boosted the culture and economy of the Öresund Region, which now boasts a population of more than 3.8 million, while it has been made famous in its own right as the setting for the Scandinavian crime drama The Bridge.

The Danish minister for transport Hans Christian Schmidt criticised the introduction of checks as ‘extremely annoying’, echoing the Danish rail company DSB’s call for the Swedish government to cover the costs, which DSB has estimated at 1 million krone (£100,000) each day. Describing the new measures as ‘unreasonable’, the Swedish train operator SJ has cancelled its trains to Copenhagen, which will effect about 500 passengers. Under new legislation, transport companies will face a fine of 50,000 krona (£4,000) if travellers reach Sweden without valid ID. Meanwhile ferry companies, including the Danish HH Ferries Group, have argued that the new measures unfairly penalise them at the expense of car passengers over the Öresund Bridge.

Sweden has routinely topped lists with regard to the number of asylum seekers per capita, with the suggestion that in 2013 and 2014, the country accepted between 3,180 and 5,200 asylum applications for every 100,000 members of the population. But by the late autumn of 2015 it was receiving as many as 10,000 new applicants each week. Citing accommodation shortages, on 12 November the government imposed temporary border measures, with spot checks beginning on trains crossing the Öresund Bridge, and at terminals for ferries arriving from Denmark and Germany. These randomised checks were implemented for an initial period of 10 days, and later extended in 14-day periods.

Oresund Bridge 2

Then on 24 November Prime Minister Stefan Löfven reversed the country’s longstanding open door policy for refugees, announcing that from April those seeking asylum will receive only temporary residence permits, while steps will also be taken to restrict the right to settle family members. In response, Norway stated that it too would begin to implement more rigorous border checks. The measures introduced by Sweden in November marginally reduced the number of asylum applications towards the end of the year, with Sweden eventually receiving almost 163,000 asylum claims across 2015. In contrast Norway received 35,000 asylum seekers, and Denmark 18,500.

The new mandatory controls will provisionally last until 8 February, and will be reviewed on a monthly basis. Both Sweden and Denmark have vowed to lift the checks as soon as migrant numbers have slowed. While the action taken by Sweden represents yet another challenge to the Schengen Agreement – which is meant to allow passport-free movement across 26 countries in Europe – signatories are permitted to reinstate border controls for up to six months, where there are exceptional circumstances.

* * *

1965 Nobel Prize for Literature Nominees Revealed

Since 1901 the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded for ‘the most outstanding work in an ideal direction’, with the emphasis on the full body of an author’s career. The phrase ‘ideal direction’, ‘idealisk riktning’ in the Swedish of Alfred Nobel’s will, has been subject to various interpretations and contests, helping the prize to become famous as much for the authors it has turned down. In the early years, a strict regard for the ‘ideal’ led to the rejection of the key figures in literary realism, Henrik Ibsen, Émile Zola, Anton Chekhov, and Henry James.

The French poet Sully Prudhomme was the first laureate, which brought protests from those who thought the award should have gone instead to Leo Tolstoy. Forty-two Swedish artists and writers sent him a conciliatory tribute, but opposition to his political views ruled him out the following year, and in 1906 Tolstoy effectively withdrew from the race. Mark Twain and Marcel Proust had to make do without, Twain’s humour and Proust’s autobiographical intimacy presumably contrary to the sense that was being made of Nobel’s will. Likewise James Joyce never received the Nobel Prize for Literature. At least in the cases of Franz Kafka and Osip Mandelstam, their lack of acclaim can be attributed to their early deaths.

The Swedish Academy – a collection of 18 eminent Swedish writers and academics, who once elected become members for life – make the annual decision on who will win the Nobel Prize in Literature, asking at the beginning of each year for nominations from prominent academies, organisations, academics, and former Nobel laureates. The nomination process ends on 1 February, and the Academy then begins the lengthy process of whittling the names into a shortlist, before announcing its winner early each October. Inevitably many authors receive nomination year upon year, the procedure only ending upon their receipt of the prize, or upon their death.

Mikhail Sholokhov

Nominations are kept secret by the Academy for fifty years. On Wednesday, the Academy unveiled the list of nominees for 1965. The prize was controversially won that year by Mikhail Sholokhov, best known for his four-volume novel And Quiet Flows the Don (Тихий Дон), which depicts the fate of the Don Cossacks from the onset of World War I until the end of the Civil War in Russia. The list of nominees shows that Vladimir Nabokov, Pablo Neruda, Samuel Beckett, and Jorge Luis Borges were among those also in contention. Beckett would receive the Nobel in 1969, and Neruda in 1971, but Nabokov and Borges would become two of the major names in world literature never to win.

The choice of Sholokhov was unanimous, but divisive because the Soviet author had spoken against the awarding of Boris Pasternak in 1958. Denounced by Moscow and threatened with exile, Pasternak had felt forced to decline the prize. While it later emerged that the CIA had engaged in a lengthy campaign to promote his novel Doctor Zhivago, Vladimir Nabokov – apparently without foundation – briefly suspected the Soviets of themselves orchestrating the controversy, in order to boost foreign sales. Regardless, Nabokov dismissed the value of Pasternak’s novel both artistically and politically.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was one of several writers who later accused Sholokhov of plagiarising from the work of Fyodor Kryukov. Solzhenitsyn was himself awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, but like Pasternak he feared that after travelling to Stockholm to receive the prize, he would not be allowed back into the Soviet Union. He suggested a reception at the Swedish embassy in Moscow, but the Swedes refused, and Solzhenitsyn only received the prize in 1974 after his deportation. In 1970, after news broke of his success, Solzhenitsyn wrote a letter to Nabokov acknowledging that he was more deserving, stating that he had even nominated Nabokov himself based on that conviction.

Vladimir Nabokov 1

The list of nominees for 1965 features ninety names in all, including other prominent writers such as Anna Akhmatova, Theodor Adorno, W. H. Auden, Heinrich Böll, André Malraux, Ezra Pound, and Edmund Wilson. The Permanent Secretary of the Academy Anders Österling rejected the uncomfortable idea of sharing the prize between Sholokhov and Akhmatova, who quite contrary to Sholokhov had endured decades of persecution by the Soviet authorities. He also rejected the possibility of a joint award for Borges and Miguel Ángel Asturias, with the Guatemalan winning the prize in 1967.

In 1969 and 1974, Nabokov seemed a particularly likely Nobel winner, but by the middle of the 1970s Borges’ complex but increasingly outspoken support for military juntas in Argentina and Chile – a result of his profound disagreements with and poor treatment at the hands of Peronism –  ruined his chances of ever becoming a Nobel recipient. According to his biographer Edwin Williamson, Borges’ candidacy was resolutely opposed by the socialist writer Arthur Lundkvist, a friend of the Chilean Communist and prize winner Pablo Neruda. Borges said, ‘Not granting me the Nobel prize has become a Scandinavian tradition; since I was born they have not been granting it to me’.

* * *

Jelena Ostapenko’s Tennis Racket Strikes Ball Boy

Safe to say that neither woman looked well when, on Wednesday in the third round of the ASB Classic in Auckland, Naomi Broady defeated Jelena Ostapenko in unusually controversial circumstances. Broady, twenty-five years old and ranked 126 in the world, overcame Ostapenko, eighteen and ranked 88, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 after saving two match points. But in the second set tie-break there was a furor when Ostapenko’s racket wound up hitting a ball boy. Ostapenko asserted that her racket had merely slipped from her hand, but Broady was reduced to tears as she pleaded for her opponent to be disqualified.

‘You’ll see on the replay, there’s no way it was accidental. She threw the racquet and it hit the ball boy’, said Broady. But beyond references to similar incidents in the past – Tim Henman was disqualified from Wimbledon in 1995 for striking a ball in anger which accidentally hit a ball girl in the face, and David Nalbandian was disqualified from the final at Queens in 2012 when he kicked an advertising hoarding which tore at the shins of a line judge – there is nothing in the WTA rules to firmly establish Broady’s case.

Racket abuse is defined as ‘intentionally, dangerously and violently hitting the net, court, umpire’s chair or other fixture during a match out of anger’, while physical abuse is defined as ‘the unauthorized touching of an official, opponent and spectator or other person’. Racket abuse violations carry a fine of $2,500, while physical abuse violations come with a fine of $10,000, but otherwise both are subject to the standard rules governing point penalties, which indicate a warning for a first offense, a point penalty for a second offense, and finally at the third time of asking a game penalty, with a default considered by the officials thereafter.

A case of ‘Aggravated Behavior’, defined in relation to physical abuse as an instance ‘flagrant and particularly injurious to the success of the Tournament’ or ‘singularly egregious’, can result in a fine of up to $25,000 and/or an immediate suspension which lasts between twenty-one days and one year. But it would be hard to argue that Ostapenko’s behaviour was injurious to the success of the ASB Classic, while ‘singularly egregious’ is a subjective phrase.

It seems clear enough that Ostapenko was not parted from her racket by accident. On the run, she tosses her racket in frustration in the vague direction of a ball she is nowhere near. But it is just as clear that Ostapenko bore no intent towards attacking the ball boy, her racket colliding with the back advertising and sliding down onto the youngster, who was left unhurt. After Broady argued with the umpire, the WTA supervisor was called and Ostapenko given a warning. The competitors quarrelled again at the end of the match, when Ostapenko allegedly criticised Broady’s response, encouraging the British player to shout back at her opponent and parade boldly about the court in victory.

Kinder scenes between Jack Sock and Lleyton Hewitt at the Hopman Cup, the international mixed-gender team tournament held annually indoors in Perth. After a Hewitt serve was called out, Sock sportingly informed Hewitt over the net, ‘That was in if you want to challenge it’ – advice Hewitt duly heeded, with Hawk-Eye confirming the ace. Hewitt’s 7-5, 6-4 success over Sock helped Australia Gold to a 3-0 victory in their tie against the United States, but they could only manage to finish third in their group, behind Ukraine and Czech Republic. The tournament was instead won by Australia Green, Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova getting the better of Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov and Elina Svitolina in the final.

* * *

Kanye West Releases ‘Real Friends’, Confirms Swish

Following the offering on New Year’s Eve of ‘FACTS’ – variously regarded as a New Year’s treat or a wasted certainty, with the consensus emerging that the song is not album material – on Friday after some hassle with the song’s loop Kanye West released ‘Real Friends’, accompanied by a teasing of ‘No More Parties in L.A.’ featuring Kendrick Lamar. ‘Real Friends’ features Ty Dolla $ign, with production by Kanye, drum programming by Havoc, and a sample from Frank Dukes and Boi-1da. ‘No More Parties in L.A.’ will be Kanye’s first collaboration with Kendrick, and it boasts production from Madlib apparently originating in the sessions for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Kanye could be in the process of bringing back G.O.O.D. Fridays, which in 2010 saw a new track appear each Friday around the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in late November. On Friday morning Kim Kardashian posted a tweet with the hashtag ‘#EveryFriday’:

And shortly after uploading ‘Real Friends’ with the snippet of ‘No More Parties in L.A.’, Kanye revealed an 11 February release date for his album Swish: