19/02/2010

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.

Berlinale news

Perlentaucher 12.02.2010

Thierry Chervel thoroughly enjoyed Roman Polanski's thriller "Ghost Writer" which plays in the polished world of political elders. As always in Polanski's films, the most merciless traps are the ones walked into with one's eyes open: "The trap snaps shut because our hero is too polite, too egotistical, too curious or too needy and because he keeps the machinery oiled with human errors of his own, however minor. 'Ghost Writer' also features an evil house which only a filmmaker as homeless as Polanski could so bring to the screen: the stylish and elegant bunker with its exposed concrete,stone panelling, roughly planed hardwoods, vast pieces of art and the best brandies which are the only thing that make such architectural torment tolerable."


Tagesspiegel
16.02.2010

Christiane Peitz celebrates Benjamin Heisenberg's film "The Robber" (trailer) which tells the story of the Austrian bank robber and marathon runner Johann Kastenberger, aka "Pumpgun Ronnie". In the film his name is Rettenberger. "He's not likable this Rettenberger, but you understand precisely what makes him run and what makes him tick, like when he suddenly feels hemmed in between the hedges of an allotment settlement and lashes out. You find, to your discomfort, that you can sympathise with him for a second or so, this violence, this obsession, this need to escape, this inner gunfire which sometimes explodes into the soundtrack."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
19.2.2010

There was a lot of booing at the press screening of Oskar Roehler's film "Jew Suess - Rise and Fall". It tells the story of one of the most infamous anti-Semitic propaganda films (more here) of the Third Reich and above all, of its leading actor, Ferdinand Marian. Marian was pressured by Joseph Goebbels into playing the role of the Jew. The film, which does not stick to historical facts, came under criticism even before the screening, for making Marian's wife "half-Jewish" and Marian therefore as more vulnerable to blackmail. In reality his wife was Catholic. But Roehler has made a feature not a documentary and, according to the critic Michael Althen, and the film's problem is actually that it takes history too seriously. "The way things are Roehler, should be the first person to welcome a scandal, but this is not that type of film. It treats its material in all earnestness. But when it suddenly veers off and Rohler actually sticks his neck out, the audience voices it disapproval immediately. But this precisely where he touches a nerve. It is the bit where Gudrun Landgrebe, as the wife of the Ghetto Commmandant, grabs the actor Ferdinand Marian (Tobias Moretti) and tells him to take her from behind at the window of her hotel room overlooking Berlin burning, while reciting the lines from the rape scene in 'Jew Süß".


Die tageszeitung 17.02.2010

Detlef Kuhlbrodt was delighted by Semi Kaplanoglu's film "Bal" about childhood in a Turkish mountain village. "What makes 'Bal' so impressive is the sparsity of language that never feels artificial, the breathtaking landscape photography, the perfectly composed images of interiors, the pleasantly restrained acting and a real corker of a soundtrack. How wonderful it is to see six-year-olds running!"


The "Axelotl Roadkill" plagiarism scandal

Since last week's revelation (more here) that Helene Hegemann's feted debut novel "Axelotl Roadkill" contained large chunks of plagiarised material the feuilletons have continued to fret. Now the debate has turned back on itself:

In the Frankfurter Rundschau on 13 February a "prominent literary critic", writing under the pseudonym of Axel Lottel, directs the criticism away from the 17-year-old writer and in the direction of the critics: "Hegemann is not the problem. The problem is the critics. Over the course of this affair, the literary business has shown itself in a new, clearer light. The literary business, this is the embarrassing thing, whose feathers no one wants to ruffle, has been taken in by its own fictions. The literary business assimilated a young writer because she ticked every box the business had ever dreamed up. " And later: "embarrassing, embarrassing and yet more embarrassing."

On 18 February in Die Zeit, literary critic Iris Radisch, who compares the meetings of newspaper editors with a "Yemeni tee house", gets straight to the point. She detects "a misogynistic tone that harks back to the days of whiskers" and sees a cultural clash between the male-dominated cultural establishment, and the "slightly more female" domain of the online media: "Hegemann's worst crime was not that she kept quiet about her sources, or that she was a little too coquettish with drastic vocabulary. That would hardly have been enough to provoke the sort of patriarchal brouhaha that we have been hearing. Her crime was that she transferred the chaos and the unscrupulousness of the internet media culture - a world that has yet to be subjected to the hierarchies of the male cartel - into the sphere of influence of the old literary culture, and provoked a head-on collision."

N.B.
Hegemann's publishers, Ullstein Verlag, have now listed the passages in her book where the writing of others is appropriated. In all there are around 3 pages of a total of 200. Here as a pdf


Other stories:

Die Welt 13.02.2010

The Czech writer Radka Denemarkova polemicises about her country's attitude towards its past (even going as far as to criticise the expulsion of the Germans). "Did Vaclav Havel not know in 1989 that his idea of starting from scratch and leaving the past alone would effectively mean sweeping the past under the carpet, where it is still fermenting today?" she asks. "After 1989 the criminals fled into parliament and into business circles. And what happened to all the crippled lives that were never lived? The victims had to keep their mouths shut. Still today, no one is interested in hearing the testimonies of the survivors. During the twenty long years following 1989, no one has talked about judging a person according to his deeds rather than his words. Words can be changed, according to whether you write 1953 or 1968 or 1989 or 2010. Anyone who has ever sided with a regime that committed murder should confess to his deeds."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 15.02.2010

Matthias Messmer lists the efforts that the Chinese government is making to clean up Shanghai for the Expo which begins in May: "Bank employees, according to a Chinese friend of mine, have been told to apply uniform makeup. On selected bus routes, attractive young women conductors will be replacing their cranky and glassy-eyed predecessors. And the 'chengguan', the hated security force, have already driven out to the outskirts the women who peddled meat, vegetables and fruit in city-centre markets - 'for hygenic reasons'. Nothing is allowed to sully the image of a modern nation."

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Saturday 20 - Friday 26 November, 2010

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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

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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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