04/12/2009

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.

The Swiss minaret referendum

Die Welt 30.11.2009

To argue that Muslims do not permit the building of churches in their countries, is no excuse for the outcome of the Swiss minaret vote, writes Clemens Wergin. "The EU rightly sees this issue, in Turkey at least, as a major hurdle to accession. But the West can only make a credible argument for genuine religious freedom in Muslim countries, if it takes the matter seriously at home."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 01.12.2009

The Swiss media failed in the debate surrounding the minaret initiative, ras comments. The reports on the initiative were "overly saturated in ideology", and the online readers' comments, which might have shed some light on the mood in the country, were ignored by journalists. "In this respect, the surprising outcome of the minaret referendum is not only a slap in the face for the opposition, as various editors put it on Monday, it is also a disgrace for journalism. It was a failure to read the situation."


Die Welt 02.12.2009

For Swiss-born Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, it is not only populism that is to blame for the ban on minarets. "The failure is greater than that: a lack of courage, a shockingly petty lack of faith in the new Muslim citizens." But he also believes Muslims were too slow to react: "In recent months, Muslims have been laying low, avoiding confrontation. But it would been more sensible if they had actively sought to forge new alliances with the Swiss organisations and parties, who were opposed to the initiative. So Muslims in Switzerland are also partly to blame. I should add, though, that the political parties in Europe and Switzerland have let themselves have be intimidated and have shied away from taking courageous steps to further religious and cultural pluralism."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 03.12.2009

The German-Egyptian historian Hamed Abdel-Samad, author of the book "Mein Abschied vom Himmel" (My departure from heaven), addresses the issue of Islam's failure to modernise. "Enemy stereotypes have cemented the victim role among Muslims and prevented them from taking responsibility for their own problems. It is time they reshaped their self-image and began looking for answers, leaving histrionics and conspiracy theories behind them. For its part, Europe should break off its unholy alliances with Middle East dictators and look for new allies. Europeans should press ahead with their criticism of Islam, ignoring fundamentalist threats and avoiding the lazy thinking of political correctness. This criticism should be tough, but it should steer clear of polemic and resentment. And if the Muslims can't take criticism from outside, then they should start practising it themselves."


Other stories

Neue Zürcher Zeitung
28.11.2009

"The European Union is the only social and political project that is profoundly revolutionary and real. All the others are either over or fictional," says Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa in a conversation about the state of the world, the role of the intellectual and the tradition of the caudillo. As for the much-vaunted new Latin American self-confidence, he doesn't believe it exists. "This is the European vision of a folkloric Latin America. Real emancipation comes with progress and in this respect, Chile is more emancipated than the rest, not because of self-confidence, but because it is prospering. It has less poverty and offers more education at all levels of society. This makes the country more confident and independent. The poverty in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua means there can be no emancipation, however many times a day their leaders insist otherwise."

Barbara Villiger was highly impressed by Martin Kusej's stage production of Theo van Gogh's film "The Interview": "A gruesome story - and fantastic theatre. Step by step, taking repeated run-ups from one place or other and always landing in a disaster of some sort, Birgit Minichmayr and her stage partner Sebastian Blomberg develop the mating dance as power struggle. A liason dangereuse between two champions of manipulation who - both soon notice - have grown to meet the other, even if they stem from different worlds."


Berliner Zeitung 28.11.2009

Petra Ahne talks to David Marwell, who has spent the past eight years working for the US Justice department hunting down Nazi criminals. He has the following to say about the John Demjanjuk trial: "If you look at his case per se, it is absolutely appropriate that the man should be held accountable for his deeds. But if you look at it in the context of the persecution of Nazi criminals, it is of course peculiar that a man like this should be at the centre of one of the last Nazi trials. He is not German and, let's put it this way, he did not chose his role in the crimes. He did was neither responsible for the creation of Sobibor, nor for its organisation, he was a part of it. Allegedly a willing and active part, but this does still not put him on a par with the people who recruited him, who gave him the choice between starving to death or taking up a weapon and learning by doing."


Die Welt 30.11.2009

The writer Michael Kleeberg calls for more recognition of the German soldiers in Afghanistan and more engagement for traumatised war veterans. "What is unacceptable is this halfhearted to-ing and fro-ing, breaking off the path to international responsibility half way, the fact that we send soldiers into a war zone and at the same time, try to cover up their existence and what they are doing. We have obligations towards the citizens who are risking their lives in the name of democracy in Afghanistan, and perhaps elsewhere in the future."


Der Freitag
03.12.2009

In a focus on German public TV, Walter von Rossum launches an attack on the Tagesschau, Germany's oldest news institution from the ARD. "Anyone crazy enough to self-inflict the torture of watching several hundred Tagesschau bulletins, will soon face symptoms of paralysis. We see hundreds of politicians getting out of their cars, posing to shake hands, utterly predictable speeches from mobile chancellors of every kind, and experts deep in thought, flicking through pages of writing against a backdrop of bookshelves. The Tagesschau stops the real in its tracks, freezes it into formal occasions. The Tagesschau and its ilk stage the world as if it continues seamlessly from the point where yesterday's Taggeschau left off, and as if this were the greatest concern in the course of events. When actually the world is wild, contradictory, manic and utterly absorbing."

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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

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