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04/01/2008

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 Rundschau 04.01.2008

Arno Widmann did not spend this New Year's Eve ironing at home, he went instead to the Frankfurt Oper to see the sensational Julia Fischer: "Before the break in the New Year's concert, she played one of the most glittering highlights in the violin repertoire, Camille Saint-Saen's 3rd violin concert, opus 61 from 1880. And after the break she sat down at the piano to play a perhaps yet more difficult piano concert in A minor, opus 16 by Edvard Grieg from 1868. I cannot promise but it is highly unlikely that something like this has ever existed before. But one thing is certain, no-one who has ever played both instruments in a concert, can ever have done so as freely, as confidently, as surely,as inspiringly as Julia Fischer. Otherwise we would have heard about it."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
04.01.2008

Barbara Frischmuth
has written a number of novels that deal with the Alevites, who are now back in the German public eye following their protests against an episode of the TV detective series "Tatort." Regarding the situation of the religious community in Turkey Frischmuth has the following to say: "On the one hand Turkish intellectuals in particular are showing a growing interest in Alevite culture. Because the religious model is non-western but it has proved far more compatible with modern life than Sunnism. Many Turks are suddenly discovering their Alevite roots. And on the other hand there are continual conflicts with orthodox Muslims. The Alevites have been very disappointed in Turkey. They were promised recognition as a religious community. But this has yet to happen."


Die Welt 03.01.2008

Zafer Senocak believes Islamism can only be checked through continued negotiations on Turkey's admission to the EU: "Can Muslim civilisation regenerate and become an integral part of western civilization, rather than an adversary? Muslims who would like to see Turkey incorporated into Europe say yes. Not everything they do but some of it – in culture and politics – is moving in this direction and confirming their ambition. Given these circumstances, the West, and Europe in particular, should take a closer look and pose critical questions."


Die Zeit
03.01.2008

Baroque princes often simply hacked century-old figures from Gothic church walls, and had frescoes plastered over with stucco. Today these churches are being restored to their "original state." But historian Philipp Blom is unimpressed with what he calls a fetishism for the antique. "Ours is a culture of eternal youth, of constant innovations that disappear into oblivion before they can mature. And between the random noise of trends and the mummification of the ancient, a sphere has emerged which abides neither transience nor any other form of decline. Just a hundred years ago people saw it as normal to put their own mark on their heritage. For us, however, that would a sort of desecration. But in this way our culture too becomes necrophiliac. In a world where you can't take a step without treading on a curator's toes, the best thing is to stay put."


Die Tageszeitung
03.01.2008

Colonialism is to blame for the unhappy marriage of Islam and democracy, writes Malaysian sociologist Norani Othman. But things don't have to be that way, she believes. When the Muslim countries "attained independence, many wanted to reintroduce practises they regarded as culturally authentic. You have to see this in context, because Islam is not alone here. Take a look at the rise of the BJP and Hindu fundamentalism in India – it's exactly the same. (…) As a result of the historic rupture caused by colonialism, the erroneous belief has spread among Muslims that laicism was imported from the West, and that we can counter it with a glorious Islamic state. This is a fiction we must deconstruct."


Die Tageszeitung 02.01.2008

A partial ban on smoking in restaurants and bars went into effect at midnight on January 1st in eight of the 16 German states. Media theorist Friedrich Kittler tells Detlef Kuhlbrodt how he was recently at a birthday party where smokers were relegated to the far end of a chilly corridor. "And then one incensed woman – from the upper crust of Hamburg society – couldn't hold back any longer, asserting: 'I want to smoke, but not at minus 3 degrees somewhere at the end of a hallway. I want to sit, I want a glass of wine, I want to smoke my cigarette in peace, and I want to be warm. I want to smoke and die with decency.' With these words she convinced our hostess that we should be allowed to smoke after ten o'clock."


Berliner Zeitung
02.01.2008

Sabine Vogel portrays Peter Gente, co-founder of the legendary theory publishers Merve Verlag, who has now handed over to his successor Tom Lamberty. For Gente, making books was always a passion, never a business: "That's why every Merve title holds a promise, and is both enigmatic and beautiful. The Light of Wars, The Desert Script, The Art of Trade, The Transparency of Evil, Post-Heroic Management, The Agony of the Real, Cool Killer, The Rebellion of Signs. These titles have taken wings, they've fled the academic 'network of systems' and spread over 'Mille Plateaux' ('A Thousand Plateaus' – a work by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari). These titles have become poetic phrases, whose elegance can easily veil the fact that one may not have fully understood them. People who like to dazzle or bluff are drawn to them like moths to the light. If there were such a thing as a footnote ranking, Merve books would be best-sellers, says Gente ironically."


Die Welt 31.12.2007

"Terror arises in the heart of Islam," writes Zafer Senocak in the wake of Benazir Bhutto's murder. But the West also doesn't come away unscathed: "The free world looks on as if paralysed. Many malicious words have been spoken in Europe about American policy in Iraq. Europeans are unbeaten when it comes to criticism, yet they themselves lack ideas or political concepts. European policy on Muslim terror amounts to dismantling any and every effective course of action. Some people want to negotiate with Hamas or with the Taliban. Nuclear reactors to Gaddafi, and the red carpet to the Saudi king. After all, petrodollars are at stake. The West hardly even notices how it is bringing about its own disintegration."


Die Tageszeitung 31.12.2007

Gabriele Goettle describes the discrimination against Gypsies that has gone on for centuries in Europe. Following the killing of a Italian woman in Rome by a Roma, the situation is particularly virulent. "In the wake of the murder authorities and politicians have given free reign to their resentments. It is truly astounding how quickly all forms of political correctness are dropped and labelled as empty talk. Now people are talking openly and it is the start of a pogrom mood against Gypsies of any description, whether they are Italian citizens or Eastern European. In an extraordinary parliamentary session, the cabinet in Rome passed an immediately effective law allowing the unproblematic expulsion not only of criminal EU citizens but also of EU citizens who have been labelled a 'danger to public security' by the authorities. Irrespective of whether they have done anything wrong."


Frankfurter Rundschau 31.12.2007

The Israeli writer Aharon Appelfeld talks to Nicole Henneberg about his father's love of Berlin, contemporary Israel as ghetto and the duties of a writer there. "I do not believe there are many writers among us who have a utopia. There were many anarchists and communists in my family who had a utopia and we know what came of them. I do not believe in utopian writers, and certainly not in political writing. The writer's only moral is a good sentence, a precise observation."


Der Tagesspiegel
29.12.2007

Artist Anselm Kiefer has been asked to hang a painting in the Louvre. Not that this makes him happy, as we learn in an interview with Sigrid von Fischern. "Love gives no meaning. It gives satisfaction but no meaning. We do not know where we come from, why we are here. Our ancestry, as the Israelites see it, goes back to Abraham. But no one knows what the point of it all is. Our universe is a completely irrational thing. Christianity and Marxism came along to make sense of the world. But it doesn't make sense."

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

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Colombian writer Hector Abad defends Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa against European Latin-America romantics. Wikileaks dissident Daniel Domscheit-Berg criticises the new publication policy of his former employer. The Sprengel Museum has put on a show of child nudes by die Brücke artists. The SZ takes a walk through the Internet woods with FAZ prophet of doom Frank Schirrmacher. The FAZ is troubled by Christian Thielemann's unstable tempo in the Beethoven cycle. And the FR meets China Free Press publisher, Bao Pu.
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Saturday 20 - Friday 26 November, 2010

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Saturday 13 - Friday 19 November, 2010

Dieter Schlesak levels grave accusations against his former friend and colleague, Oskar Pastior, who spied on him for the Securitate. Banat-Swabian author and vice chairman of the Oskar Pastior Foundation, Ernest Wichner, turns on Schlesak for spreading malicious rumours. Die Zeit portrays the Berlin rapper Harris, and the moment he knew he was German. Dutch author Cees Nooteboom meditates on the near lust for physical torture in the paintings of Francisco de Zurburan. An exhibition in Mannheim displays the dream house photography of Julius Schulman.
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Saturday 6 - Friday 12 November, 2010

The NZZ asks why banks invest in art. The FAZ gawps at the unnatural stack of stomach muscles in Michelangelo's drawings. The taz witnesses a giant step for the "Yugo palaver". Bernard-Henri Levy describes Sakineh Ashtiani's impending execution as a test for Iran and the west. Journalist Michael Anti talks about the healthy relationship between the net and the Chinese media. Literary academic Helmut Lethen describes how Ernst Jünger stripped the worker of all organic substances.
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Saturday 30 October - Friday 5 November, 2010

Now that German TV has just beatified Pope Pius XII, Rolf Hochmuth tells die Welt where he got the idea for his play "The Deputy". The FR celebrates Elfriede Jelinek's "brilliantly malicious" farce about the collapse of the Cologne City Archive. "Carlos" director Olivier Assayas makes it clear that the revolutionary subject is a figment of the imagination. The SZ returns from the Shanghai Expo with a cloying after-taste of sweet 'n' sour. And historian Wang Hui tells the NZZ that China's intellectuals have plenty of freedom to pose critical questions.
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Saturday 23 - Friday 29 October, 2010

Author Doron Rabinovici protests against the concessions of moderate Austrian politicians to the FPÖ: recently in Vienna, children were sent back to Kosovo at gunpoint. Ian McEwan wonders why major German novelists didn't mention the Wall. The NZZ looks through the Priz Goncourt shortlist and finds plenty of writers with more bite than Houellebecq. The FAZ outs two of Germany's leading journalists who fiercely guarded the German Foreign Ministry's Nazi past. Jens-Martin Eriksen and Frederik Stjernfelt analyse the symptoms of culturalism, left and right. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht demonstratively yawns at German debate.
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Saturday 16 - Friday 22 October, 2010

A new book chronicles the revolt of revolting "third persons" at Suhrkamp publishers in the wild days of 1968. Necla Kelek is appalled by the speech of the very Christian Christian Wulff, the German president, in Turkey. The taz met a new faction of hardcore Palestinians who are fighting for separate sex hairdressing in Gaza. Sinologist Andreas Schlieker reports on the new Chinese willingness to restructure the heart. And the Cologne band Erdmöbel celebrate the famous halo around the frying pan.
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Saturday 9 - Friday 15 October, 2010

The FR laps up the muscular male bodies and bellies at the Michelangelo exhibition in the Viennese Albertina. The same paper is outraged by the cowardice of the Berlin exhibition "Hitler and the Germans". Mario Vargas-Llosa remembers a bad line from Sweden. Theologist Friedrich Wilhelm Graf makes it very clear that Western values are not Judaeo-Christian values. The Achse des Guten is annoyed by the attempts of the mainstream media to dismiss Mario Vargas-Llosa. The NZZ celebrates the tireless self-demolition of Polish writer and satirist Slawomir Mrozek.
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Saturday 2 - Friday 8 October, 2010

Nigerian writer Niyi Osundare explains why his country has become uninhabitable. German Book Prize winner Melinda Nadj Abonji says Switzerland only pretends to be liberal. German author Monika Maron is not sure that Islam really does belong to Germany. Russian writer Oleg Yuriev explains the disastrous effects of postmodernism on the Petersburg Hermitage. Argentinian author Martin Caparros describes how the Kirchners have co-opted the country's revolutionary history. And publisher Damian Tabarovsky explains why 2001 was such an explosively creative year for Argentina.
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Saturday 25 September - Friday 1 October

Three East German theatre directors talk about the trauma of reunification. In the FAZ, Thilo Sarrazin denies accusations that his book propagates eugenics: "I am interested in the interplay of nature and nurture." Polemics are being drowned out by blaring lullabies, author Thea Dorn despairs. Author Iris Radisch is dismayed by the state of the German novel - too much idle chatter, not enough literary clout. Der Spiegel posts its interview with the German WikiLeaks spokesman, Daniel Schmitt. And Vaclav Havel's appeal to award the Nobel prize to Liu Xiabobo has the Chinese authorities pulling out their hair.
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Saturday 18 - Friday 24 September, 2010

Herta Müller's response to the news that poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant was one of overwhelming grief: "When he returned home from the gulag he was everybody's game." Theatre director Luk Perceval talks about the veiled depression in his theatre. Cartoonist Molly Norris has disappeared after receiving death threats for her "Everybody Draw Mohammed" campaign. The Berliner Zeitung approves of the mellowing in Pierre Boulez' music. And Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, allowed to leave China for the first time, explains why schnapps is his most important writing tool.
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Saturday 10 - Friday 17 September, 2010

The poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant, the historian Stefan Sienerth has discovered. Biologist Veronika Lipphardt dismisses Thilo Sarrazin's incendiary intelligence theories as a load of codswallop. A number of prominent Muslim intellectuals in Germany have written an open letter to President Christian Wulff, calling for him to "make a stand for a democratic culture based on mutual respect." And a Shell study has revealed that Germany's youth aspire to be just like their parents.
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Saturday 4 - Friday 10 September, 2010

Thilo Sarrazin has buckled under the stress of the past two weeks and resigned from the board of the Central Bank. His book, "Germany is abolishing itself", however, continues to keep Germany locked in a debate about education and immigration and intelligence. Also this week, Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard has been awarded the M100 prize for defending freedom of opinion. Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech at the award ceremony: "The secret of freedom is courage". The FAZ interviewed Westergaard, who expressed his disappointment that the only people who had shown him no support were those of his own class.
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