10/07/2009

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.

Die Tageszeitung 04.07.2009

Christoph Haas portrays French comic artist Guy Delisle, who has made a name for himself with his graphic reportage from Shenzen, Pyongyang and Burma. One of the things that impressed Haas was Delisle's eye for detail: "In North Korea for example, he noticed that in the ubiquitous portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il that hang on the walls, the upper part of the frames are wider and more protrusive that the lower part: "On the one hand this prevents light reflections which might disturb the view of the 21st century son and his honourable offspring. On the other hand the effect combines with the forwards tilt of the picture to lend the eyes a more imposing stare.' Using details to represent the whole is a sign of a master. Delisle deploys the pars pro toto principle in place of systematic analysis."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
06.07.2009

In an comprehensive background article Zurich-based translator Wei Zhang explains how Chinese censorship functions. "The system of control is lent legitimation because both censors and the censored believe that all damns of self-control would burst if the control were suddenly to stop. The Cultural Revolution refined the system of mutual control, leaving the majority of the population preferring to avoid 'problems' rather than risk burning its fingers. The censorship system can therefore rely on its basis in society and the readiness of a huge voluntary police force from all walks of life."


Frankfurter Rundschau 07.07.2009

Hans-Jürgen Linke sticks his neck out for Richard Jones' "Lohengrin" (trailer) in the Munich Staatsoper, although the audience and most of the press reacted with loud booing. Why? Because Jones' Lohengrin is a petit bourgeois building a terraced house for his family, which he eventually razes to the ground. It is interesting to note that Linke describes the cooperation between Richard Jones and conductor Kent Nagano as harmonious (Joachim Kaiser, in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, for example, only hears dissonance): "Everything that's needed in terms of musical tools and material is introduced summarily and unceremoniously in the overture, as would please any craftsman. The courtly trumpet ceremonies are delivered from the side boxes by four curiously (and very Britishly) uniformed soldiers. Nagano's Lowengrin interpretation is perfectly tuned to the directorial stamp on the subject matter. It is immediate and free of devotional tonal gesturing, it neither savours nor prolongs, but moves along promptly even briskly, without even a hint of haste or superficiality. And when choir and soloists fill the stage in a construction-site tumult, the music surrenders to this tumult wholeheartedly."


Die Tageszeitung 07.07.2009

Jörg Sundermeier remembers the media's brutal treatment of Michael Jackson compared, for example with its handling of Phil Spector. "No one branded Spector a pervert whereas this was a truth universally known as far as Michael Jackson was concerned, no matter what he did, what the witnesses said, how porous the evidence was. I am not trying to absolve Michael Jackson, but it is interesting to compare the treatment of this black entertainer prior to his death with that of the heterosexual white man. Phil Spector, a junkie and a gun freak, shot an actress in the mouth, but virtually no one in the media thought of linking this with any sort of sexual perversion. To kill a woman, as long as it happens in a villa and not a far-off country, is considered a minor offence."


Die Tageszeitung 09.07.2009

Film production
in Iran has basically ground to a halt, reports Anke Leweke. "It is not unsual for Iranian filmmaking to stagnate before and after the elections. After all it takes time to adjust to each new cultural minister, film and censorship commissioner. The state closely follows every film project from expose to final cut. Filmmaking in Iran also requires a talent for shrewd handling of the censors and an ability to respond to their arbitrary decisions and unpredictability. Many a director has grown accustomed to taking a shoulder-shrugging Inshallah approach to the authorities, or processing his experiences with stubborn civil servants and moral-revolutionary specifications as anecdotes."


From the blogs 09.07.2009

Two Chinese authors rushed off a Michael Jackson biography within 48 hours of his death, writes Peter Glaser. It goes without saying that neither of them had ever met or interviewed Jackson. There was simply no time for proper research: "'The fans couldn't be kept waiting for months on end,' said co-author Jiang Xiaoyu."


Die Zeit
09.07.2009

The writer Navid Kermani, who was in Iran during the demonstrations, now calls upon Western governments not to recognise the Iranian elections and to isolate Ahmedinejad's regime. "We need an ice age," he writes. "The Iranian Republic is not what it was prior to the elections; it is no longer a system of rival centres of power which, within the parameters of its own, narrow understanding of statehood, allows a process of public opinion formation which justifies the hope of change. Today it is a military dictatorship, which has positioned itself against the majority of its people, but also against a large part of its political and religious elite. The prisons are not only filled with women's rights activists, ordinary citizens and students, but also former ministers, members of parliament, intellectuals, even a leader of the US embassy occupation of 1979. This means two things for Iran: the leadership will not stop at anything; and it has more opposition than ever.

"I maintain that there has never been a politician who, over the course of an entire hour, has managed to be as clever, as good, as prudent and as gracious as you." After watching the German Chancellor on a TV political talk show, writer Martin Walser outs himself in an open letter as an Angie fan, before appealing to her to withdraw German troops from Afghanistan. "It might be a private matter that I believe that there is no such thing as a just war. But I can still point out that the Soviet Union spilled blood in Afghanistan for 12 long years. Their own and Afghan blood too. And for what? Nothing."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 10.07.2009

On July 1, an Egyptian woman was stabbed to death in a court in Dresden by the Russian-German defendant. Marwa el-Sherbini was killed while giving evidence about how the man had insulted her for wearing the hijab. The Egyptian writer Alaa Al-Aswani is angered by the double standards of the Western media which clamours in outrage when a woman is killed during the demonstrations in Iran but ignores the death of an Arab woman at the hands of a white man. "The reason being that the murder of Neda was the fault of the Iranian regime, whereas the murder of Marwa shows that terrorism is not solely an Arab and Muslim domain. A white German terrorist kills an innocent woman, a stranger, and makes an attempt on her husband's life – and for the simple reason that she is Muslim and wears the hijab. The Western media couldn't give a damn. The West, its politicians and its media, always take a standpoint which is hostile to the Arabs and Muslims. This is an undeniable fact."

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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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