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10/09/2010

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.

The debate ignited by Thilo Sarrazin's book "Germany is abolishing itself" rumbles on

Der Tagesspiegel
04.09.2010

In an interview, Heinz Buschkowsky (SPD) the mayor of Neukölln, one of the more deprived districts of Berlin that are a focus of Thilo Sarrazin's book (more here and here), calls for the state to make daycare compulsory for children from the age of one. He cites a recent Bertelsman study which shows that children from uneducated families have an 80 percent better chance of making it into academic high schools if they attend day care centres at an early age. Encouraging words from the state are not enough: "Words have not been in short supply. But families from uneducated classes don't feel they are being addressed. And in migrant families, there is also cultural resistance. But the high birth rate in both these groups means that too many children are growing up with little chance of a decent education or integration. Our society is hurtling towards a massive problem and we can no longer afford to rely on powers of persuasion. We continue to turn a blind to more successful models in other countries where daycare, kindergarten and full school days [German school days end around 1 or 2pm] are the norm. We are sleepwalking into a crisis."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
07.09.2010

Will scientific debate follow on the heels of political controversy? Developmental psychologists Detlef Rost and Heiner Rindermann, whose research Thilo Sarrazin regularly refers to in his book, put the former finance minister's five main theories on intelligence and education to the test. Their conclusion: "As far as the psychological aspects of his book are concerned, they are largely compatible with the state of knowledge in modern psychological research." The same goes for his ideas on the effects of nature and nurture on intelligence: "On the basis of a series of studies carried out in numerous countries on twins, adopted children and patchwork families, we know that the differences in people's intelligence are attributable to genetic factors by between 50 and 80 percent. Among older children living in more favourable conditions, the influence of genetic factors on the interindividual variability of cognitive capacities is stronger than in younger children in less favourable conditions. The statistics listed by Sarrazin relating to the importance of genetics for differences of intelligence are correct." (btw: Detlev Rost told all this to die Zeit, back in 2007 and no one batted an eyelid.)


Frankfurter Rundschau 07.09.2010

Historian Götz Aly doesn't think that Thilo Sarrazin's comments on the Jewish gene make him an anti-Semite. After all, the banker expressly stated that he would like more Eastern European Jews to immigrate to Germany because their "IQ is 15 percent higher than that of the German population." Aly has not actually had time to read the book, but he was struck by two things. "I don't like the cultural pessimism of the title which is reminiscent of Oswald Spengler's 'Decline of the West'. Nor, however, do I like the inquisitional air of the left-wing liberal critics who pounced on Sarrazin. I live in such circles myself and I know how careful they are that their children and grandchildren attend the 'right' kindergartens and schools, in other words, solidly bourgeois, low on immigrants."


Perlentaucher 09.09.2010

Sarrazin is closer to his left-wing liberal opponents that either side suspects, writes Thierry Chervel in Perlentaucher: "Sarrazin dreads one culture out of concern for another. In a hundred years time, according to his calculations, no-one will know [Goethe's] 'Wanderers Nachtlied' any more, he despairs. The editorial team of the chat show 'Hart aber Fair' had a field day showing that no one knows it today either. But Sarrazin's opponents believe in 'culture' as strongly as Sarrazin does. In the debate about his book there is no mention of the idea that modern societies no longer live in 'their culture'. That idea was secularisation."


Der Tagesspiegel 09.09.2010

Thilo Sarrazin has made a bogeyman of Islam with all his scaremongering about birthrates and expansionism, writes political scientist Hamed Abdel-Samad: "To my mind, however, in its current state, Islam is anything but powerful. Quite the opposite is the case: it is extremely ill and both culturally and socially, it is on the retreat. It has no constructive answers to the questions of the 21st century which is why is barricading itself behind fury and offence."


Spiegel Online 10.09.2010

Thilo Sarrazin
has handed in his resignation from the board of the Central Bank, Spiegel reports. At a reading in Potsdam yesterday, he said that "he had come under 'enormous pressure' in the past two weeks. 'It has not been easy for me.' Sarrazin said that he asked himself whether he could afford 'to lock swords with the entire political class in Germany'. 'No one could stand a situation like that for long.' Now, however, he would be able to take part in all sorts of events without people saying that the executive board of the Bundesbank was speaking."


Kurt Westergaard wins M100 award for defending freedom of opionion


Die Welt 09.09.2010

Angela Merkel spoke at the ceremony in Potsdam where Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard was awarded the M100 media prize for defending the democratic value of freedom of opinion despite threats of violence and death. She didn't, the Chancellor said, want to criticise newspapers for not printing the Mohammed cartoons at the time because such things are always a question of priorities. But, she added: "The secret of freedom is courage." And: "I am no stranger to questions of priorities. Should the Chancellor give the principle speech at this event? Should she receive the Dalai Lama? Should she, for example, take seriously the letters she receives from 'Reporters Without Borders' and, when the new president of Ukraine visits Berlin for the first time, speak to him about the restrictions on freedom of the press in his country, or rather wait for a second meeting? Which is best way to deal with the values and interests, political and economic, which are important for our country – I ask this of you and of myself? All I can say is that I answered each of these three questions with a yes."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
09.09.2010

In an interview with Nils Minkmar, the Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard talks about how he was treated after publishing the cartoons. "All in all I was pleased at how much solidarity people showed. The majority of my fellow Danes protected or praised me for showing courage. With the sole exception, sadly, of my own class. You could call this the intellectual or creative class. These people remained sceptical and regarded my drawing as a capricious provocation of Islam."

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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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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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