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05/03/2010

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.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 27.02.2010

Why did Chopin play so quietly? Was it his small hands? And how should one play a Chopin attack today? The pianist Krystian Zimerman speaks his mind in the NZZ art and literature supplement: "We have to establish a clear line between volume and dynamism. The two terms are always being confused. These days dynamism is always equated with volume, which is criminal. Chopin played quietly but with incredible dynamism. I miss dynamism today, volume is all there is. Chopin's instruments were completely different. It all starts with the dampers. These days on a grand, when you take your finger off a key, the damper goes 'tack' and the sound is gone."

In Berlin 78 percent of working artists live below the poverty line, reports the art historian Christian Saehrendt. Time for a wake up call? The artist and art teacher Willi Kemper, whom he quotes, seems to think so. "It is clear that the majority of these 'starving artists' simply accept their fate and regard it as a given. As far as I can see, they are almost completely lacking the analytical skills to assess their situation. This is a rapidly changing world and they are essentially living a 19th century dream. At the age of 50 or even 60, it is embarrassing and undignified to still be clinging to the belief that your breakthrough to stardom is just around the corner."


From the blogs 02.03.2010

"We let Zapata die," writes Renaud Revel in his media blog Express. The case of the Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata, who died after 85 days of hunger strike, interested no one in Germany. He belonged to a large group of dissidents, who were thrown into prison by the caudillo of the tropical dictatorship. In prison Zapato's term was extended to 36 years without trial. "Zapata's hunger strike attracted almost no attention. Of course we knew not to expect anything from Chavez. But other Latin American leaders, who are familiar with the insdide of a prison cell, could have intervened. But no. The popular Lula refused to meet political prisoners on his visit to Cuba. Shame on him."


Die Welt 02.03.2010

Amidst of the Polish debate about Ryszard Kapuscinski, which followed the publication of Artur Domoslawski's biography, Gerhard Gnauk states that Kapuscinski had a problem with the truth but not with belief. "Kapuscinski did not believe in 'objective' journalism, he was biassed, he stood on the side of the Marxist 'liberation movements' and abhorred the ugly face of capitalism as he experienced it in the Third World. And as a partisan observer, he also saw it as his duty 'to be [his] own censor' - in 1975, for example, when, as the world's only journalist to find out about the presence of Cuban mercenaries in the Angolan bush, he kept the news to himself. He did not want to provoke an intervention by the Western powers who sympathised with the Portuguese."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
02.03.2010

The author and translator Martin Pollack announces that he will not be translating the Ryszard Kapuscinski biography into German. He does not like its tone: "It is not the perhaps embarrassing revelations which bother me, the social-realist poems, the ties with Polish Stalinism, the personal weaknesses, which Domoslawksi illuminates. I think it's a good thing that we now know about the previously unknown sides of a great writer, and perhaps it will lead to a discussion about how to deal with the past. But we must proceed calmly, avoiding maliciousness and speculation and assuming the worst – but this is precisely what Domoslawski has done."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
02.03.2010

First it was the Flick Collection in Berlin, and now the New Museum in New York has handed over its rooms over to the Greek-Cypriot industrialist Dakis Joannou to showcase his wares. Niklas Maak is deeply worried that the art world is falling into the hands of private collectors, which means that influence, fame and importance will increasingly be up for sale. "Who has the say in the art system? Who decides what will be shown, and what is considered important? Until now the answer has mostly been the state exhibition halls, museums, perhaps the biennials – and to a much lesser extent – the private collectors... But lately we have been watching a new breed of heavily loaded art collector, who not only buys art but snaps up the entire system and its inhabitants (curators, museum directors etc) into the bargain."


Die Tageszeitung 03.03.2010

On his way to Cologne literature festival on Tuesday the Chinese writer Liao Yiwu was escorted off the plane by the Chinese authorities and handed over to the police for interrogation. Now Liao Yiwu has sent an open letter (here in English) to his readers in Germany, thanking them for their sympathy and sending them a song. It is meant to be played on the dongxiao, a vertical flute which a monk taught him to play in prison: "To my dear readers in Germany whom I have never met, (...) I have the responsibility to make you understand that the life of the Chinese spirit is longer than the totalitarian government. Below I entrust my fellow writer in Germany Miss Liao Tianqi to read my piece, 'Chuigushou jian hao-sang zhe Li Changgeng.' The main character of this piece plays the suona, a Chinese musical instrument made of copper. The pitch is high, intense, and sharp like a knife. It contrasts distinctly with the dongxiao that my master taught, but the spirits of the instruments are the same.These two instruments, with the addition of wailing mourners, are also used to remember the dead and to console the living. In this China which is free for neither the living nor the dead, my readers, your attentive listening to this story will also comfort me at the edge of the grave."


Frankfurter Rundschau
04.03.2010

The FR correspondent Bernhard Bartsch met the writer Liao Yiwu in Chengdu shortly before he was due to fly to Cologne. Yiwu told him how prison turned him from a propaganda poet into a reportage writer: "The inmates recounted their stories to one another in an endless loop. One had kidnapped a girl and sold her into prostitution. Another had killed his wife and served her up to his unsuspecting family, until one day his mother found a fingernail in her soup... After Yiwu's release he sold clothes under a bridge and in his spare time, he began writing down the stories his cell mates had told. This process of soul-searching led to a fresh literary start."


Die Zeit 04.03.2010

Günter Grass has opened his Stasi files. The informer protocol extends over 2,000 pages and is to be published in book form soon. Die Zeit prints an excerpt in advance. In an interview with Christof Siemes, Grass talks about secret informers and state functionaries and explains why he never really set out to protect himself or others: "If someone chooses the profession of writer then he should use it. There are enough people who tread softly, in both East and West and the literary business as well."

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

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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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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

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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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