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Last Updated: Friday, 8 October, 2004, 05:56 GMT 06:56 UK
European press review

Friday's European papers focus on the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to a controversial Austrian writer.

They also comment on the Iraq Survey Group's report on weapons of mass destruction, the Spanish parliament's backing for a law on domestic violence, and the French president's tour of Asia.

Nobel literature prize

Vienna's Die Presse says Austria's Elfriede Jelinek is a deserving winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

While Nobel prize winners often tend to be merely "average" because of the compromises involved in the choice, the paper says, Ms Jelinek measures up to the greats in world literature.

But it notes that her critics regard her as "incorrigible" and "obstinate" in ideological terms.

"If your focus is sufficiently narrow," the paper concedes, "it is relatively easy to reproach Elfriede Jelinek over these negative characteristics."

But her mastery of language and of self-irony make it impossible to argue against the award, it concludes.

Also in Vienna, Der Standard questions the idea that Ms Jelinek's award represents a triumph for Austria.

The paper notes that the writer does not wish the award to have any significance for Austria, because of what she described as her "complete distance" from the government.

It points out that for decades the country's economic and political elite have kept their distance from the writer, too.

"So why should a woman whom people would have loved to banish stand up for Austria?" it asks.

The jury gave the award to a woman who does not mince her words, except to spit them out in your face
Tribune de Geneve

The paper describes Elfriede Jelinek as "probably the most difficult writer in the German language world" whose treatment of the situation of women marks her out from other authors.

In Germany, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calls the award "a big surprise", noting that the writer sees continuing undercurrents of fascism in Austria society.

"It is therefore unsurprising that Elfriede Jelinek's books are highly controversial," the paper observes, "and that, in particular in her own country, the author is less celebrated than insulted."

The paper's says the Nobel committee made "a good choice" because it would have been hard to find a more radical or challenging author.

The French daily Liberation feels that with their choice of Elfriede Jelinek the Nobel jurors "have redressed the balance of an award which is very masculine, surprisingly for a literary circle so careful to be politically correct".

According to the Swiss Tribune De Geneve, the Nobel jury "passed over other more comfortable authors, and gave the award to a woman who does not mince her words, except to spit them out in your face".

Iraq Survey Group report

Several papers comment on the Iraq Survey Groups's report, whose verdict, says Paris's Liberation, "will not surprise many people in France."

Although the report "vindicates" France's warnings about the US-led invasion, the paper notes, Paris "is being a little over-hasty in sweeping under the carpet what the report says about the indulgence shown by certain countries - France first and foremost - towards Saddam Hussein's dictatorship".

"Was Paris's policy towards Saddam's Iraq dictated solely by political and strategic considerations," it wonders, "or was it affected by an 'Iraq lobby' adept at influence-trafficking in exchange for tottering piles of crisp petrodollars?"

Spanish domestic violence

Madrid's El Pais applauds the unanimous approval by the Spanish parliament of a law against gender violence.

This "unusual" unanimity, the paper notes, "reflects a frontal rejection of domestic violence against women as well as the desire of all the parties not to be left behind in the fight against a social scourge which so far this year has claimed the lives of 55 women".

The paper finds special significance in the favourable vote of the opposition Popular Party because, it explains, when in government during the previous legislature, it opposed a similar piece of legislation on the grounds that it was "superfluous".

Chirac in Asia

"France to take China by storm" is Le Figaro's headline for its preview of the four-day state visit by President Jacques Chirac which starts this evening.

The paper describes the purpose of the visit as "fostering and developing French investment in China", which is why the president is accompanied by some 50 industrialists.

"Trade relations between Paris and Beijing," it notes, "are still very tentative" because, "with a few exceptions, French entrepreneurs have failed to realize the sheer sizes of the market opening up before them".

Judging by a correspondent's report in Le Monde, the French head of state was not at his 'storming' best when he met a group of university students in Hanoi on Thursday.

"Speaking with young people is the president's favourite exercise in any latitude on earth," it says, but in the Vietnamese capital it "degenerated" into "a procession of platitudes".

Mr Chirac "launched into a tirade against the Americanisation of the world," it concludes.

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.





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