17/12/2010

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.

Berliner Zeitung 13.12.2010

After the Wikileaks data spill, experts have called for tighter, centralised control of access to government data. Arno Widman is more concerned that citizens should have control over their own data. "The Wikileaks action is an argument against centralised collection, storage and dissemination of data. (...) What we have seen how unquestioningly the state positions itself above the citizens. How unquestionly the state assumes it has the right to keep its dealings secret from the citizens, and how unquestioningly citizens are assumed to have no such rights. The protection of documents declared by the authorities as secret is more important that the right of citizens to access information about state business. [...] We need more Wikileakers!"


Frankfurter Rundschau 13.12.2010

Stravinsky's "Rake's Progress" under the direction of Krzysztof Warlikowski and Ingo Metzmacher at the Schiller Theater in Berlin might not be for the faint-hearted, but that does not curb Jürgen Otten's enthusiasm. "The absurdity of the opera, its dialectical absurdity cast a spell over both Krzysztof Warlikowski and Ingo Metzmacher. The evening is not about fun. It's about precision, it's about tormenting the audience. Life is not a picnic. At best it's a joke, which is up to you to get. This is what makes Nick Shadow, played furiously by Gidon Saks, so powerful, what raises him above all the other poor lost souls. Shadow gets the joke. And he plays it on anyone who is too easily seduced. Warlikowski demasks these Mephisto puppets... It is not the truth that needs to be revealed, it's the illusion."


Süddeutsche Zeitung
13.12.2010

In an interview the German-Turkish author Dogan Akhanli, who was jailed in Turkey on trumped-up murder charges (more here), tells Kai Strittmatter how overjoyed he is about his release – thanks in part to pressure from Germany. "Just imagine not having any idea why you are in prison. I was accused of murder and robbery which I did not commit and they said I was the head of a terrorist group. The state prosecutor never said a word to me during all those months. And then I read that in this terrorist group I had gone by the codename Dogan K! It's like Josef K."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
14.12.2010

Germany correspondent for the NZZ, Ulrich Schmid, strongly criticises the refusal of German media and politicians to reveal the names of the two German journalists, Marcus Hellwig and Jens Koch, who were kidnapped in Iran. The two journalists who work for Germany's leading tabloid, Bild Zeitung, were kidnapped on 10 October together with the son of Sakineh Ashtiani and her lawyer. "Even in Bild am Sonntag on 12 December, the talk was still of 'the two reporters'. It is as if Hellwig and Koch don't exist... And the debate in the German parliament at the beginning of December on human rights in Iran was utterly disturbing. A unanimous multi-party declaration was issued with the title "Improving human rights in Iran", but the names Hellwig and Koch were nowhere to be seen in the paper. It was the elephant in the room, Berlin style." Schmid reports that a campaign to raise awareness for the two journalists was nipped in the bud by the German Foreign Ministry.


Die Tageszeitung 16.12.2010

Together with Perlentaucher, Freitag, Frankfurter Rundschau, Tagesspiegel, and the ECCHR, the taz publishes an appeal against the criminalisation of Wikileaks: "These are attacks against a journalistic medium in reaction to the material it publishes. There are plenty of reasons to criticise these publications. We, however, are opposed to every form of censorship by state or private authorities. If Internet companies use their market power to block an organ of the press, this is a victory of economic means over democracy. These attacks are symptoms of a shocking interpretation of democracy according to which freedom of information is only valid as long as no one gets hurt."

Ekkehard Knörrer watched Xavier Beauvois' "Of Gods and Men", a film based on the true story of group of French monks in Algeria who were beheaded by Islamists - or the regime - in 1995. "The film is not merely a monument to the martyrs, but it nears current debate on Christianity, Europe and Islam indirectly and with the utmost caution. As problematic and debatable as this approach may be, in the cold light of realpolitik, as an aesthetic attempt which takes it upon itself to give ample space to each individual believer, using images that are not lofty but beautifully composed, "Of Gods and Men" is convincing and deeply moving."


From the blogs 17.12.2010

In Achse des Guten, Vera Lengsfeld remembers the GDR dissident Jürgen Fuchs (more here) who would have turned 70 this week. "He was imprisoned by the Stasi and taken to the Stasi interrogation centre in Hohenschönhausen. He was then interrogated there for nine months where he was also harassed by so called Zellenspitzeln or cell informers. These were undercover Stasi men or prisoners who were promised improved conditions in return for cooperating with the secret police. The Stasi-initiated cell wars were unbearable, even for a man as self-controlled as Fuchs. He writes: "On a warm, sunny day, I wanted to kill...I looked at him... I saw the fear in his eyes. Death had entered the cell. He was terrified, I was terrified.'" Fuchs died of leukaemia at the age of 48, probably as a result of Stasi.


Süddeutsche Zeitung 17.12.2010

The Napoleon exhibition in the Kunsthalle in Bonn (which travels to Paris in 2012) received rave reviews all round. Gustav Seibt gives a vivid description of how "the history of such a decisive epoch in Europe, which has been shredded into abstraction, has become palpable again" – all thanks to the use of soap. The exhibition shows "blocks of soap which have been shot at with Napoleonic bullets. Soap has the same consistency as the human body and the flat bullets are a centimetre thick. The bullet paths in the soap are over 20 centimetres deep. They gape outwards like funnels. At the beginning of the 19th century there was no way to keep them sterile. Most of the limbs that were hit inflamed so dramatically that they had to be amputated."

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From the Feuilletons

Saturday 4 - Friday 10 December

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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