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09/10/2009

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.

Romanian-born German author Herta Müller wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

In the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Andrea Köhler is over the moon about the Swedish jury's decision, and describes Herta Müller's writing as a fight against the language of Ceaucescu's dictatorship. "Where the whole is a reality that is brutally forced upon every individual, you begin to live in the details. And perhaps it is only through a distance of a thousand deaths from this imposed reality, that the words become things again, things that don't exist in reality. Things like "dough-shoe" or "sky-birth-mark" or "spoon-bender". Cut out of its false context, language begins to build new alliances. Herta Müller's vocabulary constructs the world anew. But in the way they stand, her sentences always tell of the distance they have come."

In die Welt, Ernest Wichner, head of the Literaturhaus Berlin, pays a very personal tribute to Herta Müller. He followed Herta's project "Everything I Own I Have With Me" (English excerpt) from the outset, when she began interviewing the Romanian-German poet and Gulag survivor, Oskar Pastior, through his untimely death in 2006, when she was forced to complete the project alone. "And I was there when she finished the book, overjoyed and overwhelmed by the precision and love that Herta Müller invested in the portrait of her friend. At her ability to find language for hunger, death, suffering, the struggle for survival, opportunism, joy and shame and the countless mass of things that befall and plague a person in the process of their dehumanisation."

"A great day for German literature," Tilman Spreckelsen exclaims in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "By awarding Herta Müller this prize the Stockolm Academy is sending a message that could counteract some of the more foolish decisions of recent years. It is a tribute to artistry and ethics as two sides of the same coin, and not least to a shattered diaspora culture and its most articulate guardian."

Articles by Herta Müller at signandsight.com:
"Securitate in all but name" from 31.08.2009
"Romania's collective amnesia" from 17.01.2007

An article about Oskar Pastior's poetry at signandsight.com:
"The spell of a tender eel"

Read an excerpt from Herta Müller's latest novel "Everything I Own I Carry With Me" at signandsight.com

Listen to Herta Müller and Oskar Pastior read their poems at lyricline.org


Other stories:

Süddeutsche Zeitung
07.10.200

George Diez was in London to meet Ma Jian, the exiled Chinese writer whose epic "Beijing Coma" deals with the massacre of Tiananmen Square. He is fearful of contemporary China, which is repressing its history. "Today's prosperity has given many Chinese people a superficial self-confidence – but underneath there is not a vestige of self-respect. They feel persecuted by the rest of the world. They are not even citizens of their own country let alone citizens of the world. Their subservience translates into aggression and hostility towards others and a spreading nationalism which is merging with a shameless contempt for everything that western civilisation signifies."


Frankfurter Rundschau 08.10.2009

Bernhard Bartsch introduces the Chinese novelist and poet Qui Xialong, who has been living in the USA since 1988 and whose crime novels are heavily censored in China, if published at all. His first work of literature was a self-incrimination statement which he had to write for his businessman father in 1966. "My father was in hospital at the time, with his eyes bound after an eye operation, but the Red Guards insisted that he should continue to write regular self-incriminatory statements, Qiu explains. So his 14-year-old son was summoned. 'My father was very weak and so I had to write about what an exploiter and monstrous criminal my father was.' Qiu did a good job and the revolutionaries made no objections to his work then.


Die Welt
08.10.2009

Decades after his death, C.G. Jung's 100-year-old "Red Book" has now been published, in which the psychoanalyst bares his soul in a bizarrely ingenious manner. Thomas Lindemann describes it as a "strange journey through mythology, darkness and dogged soul-searching. Here are dreams, thoughts, mini essays, as well as dialogues with imaginary people who are refered to as 'Soul" or sometimes Izdubar, the ancient Babylonian bull-man. As a number of facsimiles in the book show, Jung adopted a medieval style of illuminated writing, in the style of the Carolingian miniscule. In between he added complex images, reminiscent of Byzantine art, and - it has to be said – 1970s record covers, from the esoteric periods of Chick Corea or the Mahavishnu Orchestra."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 08.10.2009

Twenty years after the mass demonstration of 9th October, Joachim Güntner visits the Leipzig civil rights activist to pay his respect: "When they talk about their achievements Uwe Schwabe, Rainer Müller and Oliver Kloss never get over-excited. No one boasts about the courage needed for resistance; no one blows his own trumpet, and even the head-shaking about nostalgia for the GDR or the survival of a SED-saturated milieu seems more amused than angry. But all three find it "disappointing and damaging" that a former SED supporter (as a member of the East German CDU), Saxony's President Slanislaw Tillich, is to make the commemorative speech tomorrow.


Die Zeit 08.10.2009

You don't have to have served or risked your life to be against the war in Afghanistan, writes the author Dietmar Dath, in response to another author Thea Dorn who, three weeks ago, voiced her criticism of petition signed by Dath and 24 other artists, for the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan. This has nothing to do with creating a civil society in Afghanistan, Dath writes. "Soldiers stationed in Afghanistan are not risking their lives for high ideals but for prior decisions made by global power politics. Those who make the decisions in the 'Berlin Republic' do not want to be ignored on the global stage, for strategic, prestige-related, economic or other reasons. These are being covered up more than exposed, by an assumed German responsibility for the bloody chaos which was left behind by the conflict between the Soviet Union and the West in Afghanistan."

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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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