01/10/2010

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 25.09.2010

In no other land, the USA included, is the media in a more permanent state of hyperventilation, avers Berlin correspondent Ulrich Schmid; nowhere else is there a greater divide between the "devastating averageness" of events and the way they are marketed by the media. "It is not the much touted fragmentation, but the factual uniformity of German politics that provokes media hysteria and political cock-fighting. German politicians suffer from a collective profiling neurosis. Their awareness of the minimal differences between themselves and their rivals results in rhetorical overkill. I don't know which is worse: the permanent polemics of the media and the politicians, or the broad factual consensus in the classe politique. Both have dire consequences. The broad political consensus encourages people to repress unpleasant issues and to create intellectual taboo zones."


Die Welt 27.09.2010

Vaclav Havel and the other signatories of the Charta 77 have appealed in the New York Times for Chinese dissident Liu Xioabo to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and they have been joined by 120 Chinese intellectuals. Johnny Erling outlines the grave concern that this has triggered among the Bejing authorities and Liu's wife, Liu Xia, tells him about the conditions under which Liu has spent his last 11 years in prison: "Liu shares a cell with five criminals. He is treated normally, Liu Xia says, and is allowed outside for an hour's exercise everyday. 'Due to stomach problems he is very thin, but he has a healthy colour in his cheeks.' Liu is exempt from hard labour. The former literature professor is permitted to read and write. Liu Xia recently took him a stack of books' as many as I could carry', among them novels, history books and a Bible published in China. 'I can bring him any book he wants as long as it has been published officially.'"


Spiegel Online 27.09.2010

The German Wikileaks spokesman, Daniel Schmitt (32) has stepped down after falling out with Julian Assange, the founder of the website which publishes classified documents, including the Afghanistan war logs. He talked to der Spiegel.

Spiegel: "Herr Schmitt, neither you nor WikiLeaks have been answering your mail for weeks now. What's going on?"
Schmitt: "We've had technical problems and no one is taking care of them. WikiLeaks has reached a point where it needs to make changes. We have grown so rapidly in recent months and we desperately need more professionalisation and transparency in all areas. There is internal resistance to this development. Even I no longer know how decisions are made and who is shouldering the responsibility. The pressure has been on since the publication of the U.S. Military documents and we have not had time to restructure the organisation. As a result not all the work is being done properly. Things have got out of hand."

Wikileaks tweeted in response: "Spiegel report Schmitt resigned which is misleading. Schmitt was suspended a month ago."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 30.09.2010

Fritz Göttler interviews last year's Palme d'Or winner Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, whose film "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" (trailer) has just opened on German screens. "'Of course Thai filmmakers welcomed the news about its success at Cannes. The situation here is so sinister that people are hungry for every bit of good news. For young filmmakers it came as a ray of light – the hope that is is possible to make a different kind of film in Thailand." Would you describe what is happening as a Thai New Wave? "We don't collaborate on films but we do meet very regularly, and we are united in the desire to make films which more strongly reflect the life and politics of our country – and to fight censorship together."


Die Zeit 30.09.2010

Luther would not have it easy in the Evangelical church today. In Germany, whitewashing is allowed but polemicists are ousted out of their jobs as soon as they raise their voices, the crime writer Thea Dorn notes in despair. "The overwhelming show of support for Thilo Sarrazin, is a rallying cry from those who can no longer bear to listen to any more false sweet-talk. This makes it doubly shocking when our political class demonstrates its inability to react to provocation or divisive ideas by turning up the volume of the lullaby against which the troublemaker is struggling to be heard."

Easy-reading, too, in the world of literature: the author Iris Radisch complains about the lukewarm prattling of the German contemporary novel: "This low-altitude storytelling, however much the new kind-hearted, children's-birthday-party literary critics might sing its praises, has seen off all magic, imagery, linguistic authority and stylisation." This style "might be the expression of our sober times and the epochal exhaustion, but as a result, the overwhelming majority of German novels which are written in this spirit of this disillusion, are devoid of any sustainable aesthetic experience."


Die Welt
01.10.2010

Martin Eich talks to three former East German theatre directors about 20 years of German unity. One of them, Sewan Latchinian, has still not got over the trauma: "Reunification trampled on a lot of emancipatory developments, careers were obliterated. This inflicted wounds which have still not healed." Tobias Wellemeyer, on the other hand says: "For a long time I believed that the majority in the GDR were against the system. I no longer believe this. It was a painful realisation." Wolfgang Engel says he had hoped that the GDR would become "a sort of Finland: poor but honest: a buffer between East and West."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
01.10.2010

Thilo Sarrazin has been relieved of his position on the board the German central bank in the wake of the controversy ignited by his book "Germany is abolishing itself" (more here and here). The FAZ editor-in-chief Frank Schirrmacher takes the opportunity to engage the former finance senator in a long talk about the controversial ideas laid out in his bestseller, his sources, and the potential ramifications for society. The two men are agreed about the demographic development of society, but Sarrazin is quick to deny that he is spreading biologistic or even eugenic ideas: "Biologism means that social factors are reduced to biology or, if you prefer to call it that, genetics. I reject this idea. What interests me is the interplay of nature and nurture." Asked about his allegedly eugenic ideas on immigration control: "The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all have tight controls on immigration. As a result the Pisa results of immigrant children in those countries are higher than those of the local population. People who want to see qualification-based immigration are pushing in this direction. This has nothing to do with eugenics."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 01.10.2010

"The honourable Munich middle class has disgraced itself," reports Peter Fahrenholz after an appearance by Thilo Sarrazin at the Munich Literaturhaus. "There was spitting, booing and loud heckling whenever either of the two other men on the podium, Handelsblatt editor-in-chief Gabor Steingart and Armin Nassehi, a sociology professor at Munich's Ludwig Maximilian-University, dared to criticise Sarrazin. The atmosphere in Munich's Reithalle was reminiscent of the Sportpalast (where Goebbels gave his speeches -ed)."

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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

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 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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