09/01/2009

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.

Berliner Zeitung 03.01.2009

In a wonderful interview theatre director Dimiter Gotscheff recalls his first meeting with the East German playwright Heiner Müller, who would have turned 80 this year: "It was 1964, in Dimitroffstraße on the corner of Schönhauser Allee in Berlin Prenzlauerberg. Hartmut Lange, the then dramaturg at the Deutsche Theater, took me along to a meeting with Heiner Müller whom I had never met. The first thing I noticed was this huge head atop a small man, who was sitting at the table – and a very warm hand. We were there to discuss Müller's 'Philoktet', a bloody parable about lies power and politics. Lange and Müller were doing all the talking and I just sat there in silence. Hartmut Lange suddenly piped up enthusiastically: 'This play turns Hegel on his head! 'Hm,' Müller replied. The next day I bought a copy of the play. On my way home from the public baths in the Oderberger Straße – I had no shower at home – I started reading it. After just a few lines it sucked me in, I was gone. On Kastanienallee I walked into a tree - a tree which is still there today."


Spiegel Online 03.01.2009

Credit crisis, climate change, state deficit – did I miss something? Much to the consternation of social psychologist Harald Welzer, it's business as usual for most people. "The fuel that powers endless growth is running dry. And there is no fresh supply from outside. From now on our only option is to raid and plunder the survival chances of future generations, piling up state debts and over-stretching natural resources. This colonisation of the future will come back to haunt us though, because generational injustice is one of the most ferocious forces for radical social change. And it will not necessarily be positive, as the Nazi's generational project showed."


Der Tagesspiegel 05.01.2009

In interview with Julian Hanich, director Christian Petzold talks about his new film "Jerichow" and places of longing in Brandenburg. "When we were driving around Brandenburg and Sachsen-Anhalt preparing for [my last film] 'Yella', I kept thinking about Jerichow, because of its biblical associations. It dawned on me that lots of places in Brandenburg are places of longing: Philadelphia or Neu Boston for example. These villages were inhabited by people who wanted to leave them in the 18th century but were prevented from doing so by the land concessions of Friedrich II who didn't want to lose his subjects. So this is an area of the countryside where the place names do not speak of origins but of desires to move elsewhere – and at the same time of the sense of defeat at having stayed. This is something that became ingrained in the historical structure of Jerichow and which is specific to the region. I don't believe you would have the same story to tell about somewhere like Chiemgau (Bavarian idyll – ed.)."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
06.01.2009

Harald Hartung pens an obituary to the great Danish poet Inger Christensen. "Her "Alphabet" has been welcomed as a revelation by growing numbers of readers: blazing life and explosion rolled into one. As bit of nature and filigree artwork at the same time. What is its secret? 'Alphabet' combines mathematics, linguistics, language and biology. It weaves together the sequence of the alphabet and the Fibonacci sequence in which each number is the sum of the two previous numbers. Christensen combines these two principles ingeniously. The poem is not simply a tree which pushes out leaves, it also proliferates like a cancer, exploding like the universe before returning to nothingness."


Perlentaucher
06.01.2009

It is twenty years since the fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie. In an article orginially published in Spiked, British author Kenan Malik takes western liberals to task for their tendency to treat anything Islam-related with kid gloves. As in the case of Sherry Jones' novel "The Jewel of Medina", which Random House America pulled out of circulation although no Muslim had expressed objections to it. "The lesson of the Rushdie Affair that has never been learnt is that liberals have made their own monsters. It is the liberal fear of giving offence that has helped create a culture in which people take offence so easily." And he dispenses with the multicultural myth that the Rushdie Affair was about religion; it was all about politics: "Hardline Islamist groups used Rushdie's book to try to win political concessions. It subsequently became an issue in Britain as it turned into a weapon in the faction fights between various Islamic groups.


Der Tagesspiegel 06.01.2009

Legendary US crime writer Donald Westlake alias Richard Stark died on New Year's Eve. In a final conversation with Dennis Scheck he explains the difference between American and French crime writing. "When an American crime novelist writes about a bank robber, the thief will want the stolen cash to pay for a desperately-needed operation for some little girl in a wheelchair. The French crime writer, on the other hand, will write about a bank robber because he robs banks. Which is why I take it as a compliment when people say I write like a Frenchman."


Der Tagesspiegel 07.01.2009

What can Brahms or Beethoven say about the current conflict in Gaza? Daniel Barenboim talks to Christine Lemke-Matwey about his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. "What should they say? What they always say or never say. It would be fatal to instrumentalise their music. But it is important that the orchestra takes a stand. And this is why we are showing the world that even in war it is possible to communicate with one another. And we will also be releasing a statement saying that the musicians in the orchestra have deep differences in opinion about who is to blame for what is happening in Gaza. We will not attempt to hide these differences which are extremely strong and go back a long way. When it's a matter of life and death, it is wrong to gloss things over."


Frankfurter Rundschau
09.01.2009

"The horror! The horror!" cries French-Tunisian philosopher Abdelwahab Meddeb in an article about the war in Gaza. He blames Israel for its disproportionate use of force, but he also launches an unforgiving attack on Palestinian protagonists. He sums up the situation in one paragraph: "The horror of martyrdom was tragically illustrated in the decision of Hamas leader Nizar Rayan, to remain in his house with his four wives and six children despite knowing that his home was on the IDF list of targets. In spite of the warning, he decided to sit it out with his entire family, so that he and all his loved ones could achieve martyr status together. His house was blown to pieces by one of those terrible rockets which follow a horizontal flight course and drop at right angles, plummeting towards their targets, and then penetrate thirty meters into the earth before destroying everything in the target zone." Read our feature by Abdelwahab Meddeb, "Islam's heritage of violence")


Jungle World 09.01.2009

Bernhard Schmid describes how the French comedian Dieudonne turned from being a poster boy of the left to a notorious antisemite. (Over the Christmas period he appeared on stage with the Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson in an act which even the Le Pens were said to have found distasteful -ed.): "One of the motives at work here is so-called 'victim competition' which has been the subject of much discussion in the US. There, certain strands of the black community have accused the Jews of enjoying a 'privileged position' as historical victim group, arguing that because people so frequently talk about the Shoah and antisemitic persecution, they are not talking about other crimes against humanity such as the slave trade. Dieudonne and people like Kemi Seba have taken this to another level of paranoia and are actually accusing the Jews of engineering the slave trade."

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

A clutch of German newspapers launch an appeal against the criminalisation of Wikileaks. Vera Lengsfeld remembers GDR dissident Jürgen Fuchs and how he met death in his cell. All the papers were bowled over Xavier Beauvois' film "Of Gods and Men." The FR enjoys a joke but not a picnic at a staging of Stravinsky's "Rake's Progress" in Berlin. Gustav Seibt provides a lurid description of Napoleonic soap in the SZ. German-Turkish Dogan Akhanli author explains what it feels like to be Josef K.
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Saturday 4 - Friday 10 December

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 27 November - Friday 3 December

Danish author Frederik Stjernfelt explains how the Left got its culturist ideas. Slavenka Draculic writes about censoring Angelina Jolie who wanted to make a film in Bosnia. Daniel Cohn-Bendit talks   about his friendship, falling out and reconciliation with Jean-Luc Godard. Wikileaks has caused an embarrassed silence in the Arab world, where not even al-Jazeera reported on the what the sheiks really think. Alan Posener calls for the Hannah Arendt Institute in Dresden to be shut down.
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Saturday 20 - Friday 26 November, 2010

The theatre event of the week came in a twin pack: Roland Schimmelpfennig's new play, a post-colonial "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" opened at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin and the Thalia in Hamburg. The anarchist pamphlet "The Coming Insurrection" has at last been translated into German and has ignited the revolutionary sympathies of at least two leading German broadsheets, the FAZ and the SZ. But the taz, Germany's left-wing daily, says the pamphlet is strongly right-wing. What's left and right anyway? came the reply.
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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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