19/10/2007

From the Feuilletons

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 19.10.2007

The Grand Palais in Paris has staged a major Courbet exhibition. Werner Spies uncovers lines of tradition and remembers how fascinated Cezanne was by Courbet's "doughy, tactile painting which, he said, called to mind the smell of damp leaves and mossy walls in the woods. The curators have hung the brown and greenish tonalities adjacently in an invitation to trace the tectonic picture structure though Cezanne and onwards. This was the palette of Braque and Picasso in the years of analytical Cubism. All this, the undergrowth, the slimy passage of vegetation in humidity, the tangible materiality of brush strokes on canvas, must have disgusted an urbanite like Baudelaire. In the face of Paris, in the face of fashion whose reply to Nature is the breathless whirlwind of social lability, Courbet held up the uncanny which lurks in caverns and zones of taboo."


Der Tagesspiegel 19.10.2007

Neil Young tells his astonished interviewer Marcel Anders that he has his own car graveyard on his ranch – just to admire. "I like the ways these cars look. I don't care what condition they're in. When I see a rare model I buy it and put it with the others in a clearing in the woods. By now I have a number of fantastically designed cars that are just rusting away. They don't work any more, all you can do is look at them."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 18.10.2007

The Americans have abandoned their plans for a war against Iran, writes Bahman Nirumand. But even softer pressure-exerting methods like financing the opposition strike him as questionable. "Because the regime deliberately fails to differentiate between provocation and infiltration attempts from the outside and the activities of critical citizens on the inside. Instead, Western activities are used as a pretext to denounce as foreign-instigated all criticism, as well as social or political activity that doesn't suit the leadership. The state propaganda apparatus is doing all it can to cast women, students, journalists, artists, scientists and human rights activists as foreign secret service agents."


Die Welt 18.10.2007

Journalist Adam Krzeminski takes a sceptical look at the attempts by the Polish government to make strategic use of the past in their election campaign. "Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski makes no secret that 'more capital should be made of German feelings of guilt' and that rather than going 'down on our knees,' Polish interests should be offensively represented in dealings with neighbour states. PiS election strategists are sure their victory in 2005 came from laying the 'German card' on the table precisely in the right moment. Now in the 2007 campaign, policy concerning Poland's history plays a central role. Yet somehow things haven't gone as smoothly this time. The PiS boycott of the festival organised by the city of Gdansk for Nobel laureate Günter Grass on his 80th birthday backfired, and Grass was celebrated as always. The second planned highpoint of the PiS campaign, the commemorative celebrations for the Polish officers murdered by the Soviets in Katyn in 1940, had to be postponed until after the elections following protests by family members and artists who were to read the names of the thousands of victims."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 18.10.2007

"The judges basically had no option but to side with the clearly identifiable woman and ban the book," comments literary historian Bernd W. Seiler on the decision by the German Constitutional Court to uphold the ban on writer Maxim Biller's novel "Esra". The novel, published in 2003, has been the subject of a legal battle between Biller and his former girlfriend, who saw her personal rights and those of her mother violated, claiming they could be recognised in the book's title figure Esra and her mother Lale. Now Germany's highest court has ruled the book contains too much truth and not enough art. Seiler continues: "It would be cheap to make fun of a court that has to judge whether such a book relates fact or fiction. The problem doesn't lie with the court, but with our constitution, which provides this special freedom solely to the work of art and allows it alone to set limits on the human dignity guaranteed in the constitution. (…) And things become even more complicated in that not only successful but also miscarried, ill-advised, incomplete artworks can lay claim to the special guarantee of freedom provided in the Basic Law. But if even successful art cannot be identified without dispute, just think of everything that could be defined as a failed artwork! The judges that have to decide on that are not in an enviable position."


Der Tagesspiegel 16.10.2007

"I've been stabbed in the back so often in recent years, it does me a world of good when my six decades of work are recognised," Günter Grass tells interviewer Matthias Hoenig on his 80th birthday, in answer to the question of why he is now ready to accept the Federal Cross of Merit, which he had always rejected in the past. As always, the author is good for a few political remarks. "This is the second time that we've spent years trying to build up a democracy. We've had varying degrees of success, but overall the attempt has proven successful. Now, however, we're in the process of dismantling what we've accomplished. Our hysterical fear of terrorism has increasingly turned us into a surveillance state. That's only been to the advantage of the terrorists, because we've ended up weakening exactly what they so hate, namely the democratic constitutional state. From week to week, however, we've now allowed our minister of the interior to fan the flames of fear. I look on and see how certain political achievements of the postwar years, of which we can actually be proud, are crumbling. We're kowtowing to terrorism by restricting our basic rights. And in the process we're demolishing the building of democracy constructed with such painstaking labours."

The response of the taz to this great occasion was to stick Grass moustaches on everyone whose photograph appeared in the paper on that day. Sadly only in the print edition.


Süddeutsche Zeitung 15.10.2007

The relocation of sculptures into the New Acropolis Museum in Athens is now underway, reports Christiane Schlötzer. And there's still room for the long-absent Parthenon frieze, he writes. "The presentation of the vacant areas is dramatic. The originals on display in London have been replaced by copies, and have retreated to a sort of nebulous area behind grey veils of gauze. 'Show what's missing' is the strategy of Dimitrios Pandermalis, the founding director of the new building. Only this can put 'maximum pressure' on London, he says. The minister of culture sees the new building as the 'most compelling valorisation of our claim for the restitution of the complete Parthenon frieze.' Because the British have always refused to return the frieze – even as a loan – on the grounds that they were much better preserved in London, pointing out that Athens had no museum equipped with the latest technology."


nachtkritik 13.10.2007

Ralph Gambihler watched Volker Lösch's "Woyzeck" staging in Dresden which was "as punch-packing as it is simplistic". Woyzeck, Gambihler learns, would be a neo-Nazi today. "Woyzeck's failing love has lost all its tenderness. It's more like a thrashing cockpit. The arresting Minna Wündrich who plays the nervous, stony-hearted, midriff-baring Marie barely sets foot in the tearful valley of guilty feelings. That would be weakness, and no one here is allowed to show such a thing. Not even when alone. Alone with his adversity is the soldier and barber Franz Woyzeck who is plagued by dark forebodings. He must play the scapegoat, and Viktor Tremel develops the character convincingly on his passage from beaten cur to murder machine. And the far-right mob which Marie rashly joins gets its kicks torturing Woyzeck. And then comes the really unpleasant scene here in which the drum major plays the whipcracking villain. He penetrates Woyzeck, robbed of all his hopes, with a revolver. Marie looks on and laughs out her last vestiges of feeling."

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