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GoetheInstitute

13/04/2005

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.

Der Tagesspiegel, 13.04.2005

David Wagner interviews author Jorge Semprun, Spanish Minister of Culture from 1988-1991, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Buchenwald, where he was imprisoned during the war. Commenting on the media, film and literary obsession in Germany with the Second World War, Semprun says: "All that doesn't surprise me. It doesn't surprise me either that so many Germans wanted to see the film 'The Downfall'. I found the film very interesting. I read Wim Wenders' critique of the film, but I wasn't shocked by Bruno Ganz giving Hitler human characteristics. It shocks me much more when people try to convince you that the SS people in the concentration camps were barbarians. That was perhaps the one thing I didn't like about Spielberg's 'Schindler's List'. Did the camp commander also have to have strange sexual habits? Why? He can be a good family father and music lover and at the same time commander of a concentration camp. That is the secret of humans, that they can be a combination of all that. Equating sexual and political sadism is too easy." Asked if he intends to write about the camp again, Semprun answers, "In ten years there will only be historians and sociologists to write about the camps. And hopefully authors whose memories will be more lively. Maybe one day that will be the impulse for me to keep writing on the camp. I don't know."
Jorge Semprun's autobiographical books "The Long Voyage" and "Literature or Life" tell of his experience in Buchenwald and the immediate post-war period.


Die Tageszeitung, 13.04.2005

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi goes once a year to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo. Here Japan's fallen soldiers since 1853 are commemorated, including those who committed war crimes in the Second World War. Is he not ashamed of these crimes? Political journalist and author Ian Buruma explains in an interview on the opinion page the difference between the cultures of guilt and shame. "Both exist alongside one another in both cultures, although in one case, guilt dominates, and in the other, shame. The Christian culture of guilt is based on the notion that one must admit guilt and ask for forgiveness. No Japanese politician would even consider kneeling down to ask for forgiveness for crimes of the past, as Willy Brandt did in what was once the Warsaw Ghetto. The Japanese – even liberals from the left – would find it very untactful to waste a lot of words on the crimes they have committed. That's the difference between a culture of guilt and a culture of shame."

In a 614 line interview, Germany's Green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, a former student rebel who has become notorious for his arrogance, confesses: "True, people might find me arrogant from time to time, I don't deny it, sometimes I'm impatient and tough in my arguments. But as Foreign Minister I can't be so direct in the public. So I swallow a lot, and then from time to time I don't exactly come across like Francis of Assisi, I admit it."


Other newspapers, 13.04.2005

In the online edition of Der Spiegel magazine, Frank Patalong continues his highly readable inquiry into the German newspaper crisis and the Internet. Today's contribution - "Excuse me, how do I get to tomorrow?" - comments on the sad state of things: "German publishers have stuck their heads in the sand for years, but now even they have come to suspect that their newspapers are losing not only advertising space, but also readers. In contrast to the old days, adolescents no longer automatically mutate into newspaper readers. So while older people remain true to the papers, the impulse from new readers is missing, which does not exactly make it easier for them to modernise their product." Click here for part one of Patalong's report.


Die Welt, 13.04.2005

Holger Kreitling, who has been travelling through Canada at the invitation of the Canadian embassy, sees the country as North America's Switzerland. "The immigration country Canada is a cultural success story. Integration succeeds for many reasons; incredibly, the bilingual country is able to assert one identity. The aboriginal people feel just as much Canadian as those who have recently immigrated from Sri Lanka, Ukraine or Chile. Cultural diversity is the government's buzzword and it is used and applied at many levels." Comparing the Canada-USA relationship to that of David and Goliath, Kreitling writes, "Those who defend cultural diversity refer to the USA, slightly irritated, as 'our friends to the South'; one lives next to the 'strong neighbours' or 'next to those guys'. The phrases sound as respectful as when in East Germany, the Soviet forces were referred to as 'the friends'." But while in Germany, the "overload" of American culture is "castigated", Kreitling writes that Canada has come to terms with the reality that "the market is dominated by American products". Canada and France have put forward a convention at Unesco, to be passed in the fall, which would protect cultural diversity by exempting cultural products from international and bilateral free trade agreements. The USA, Australia and Japan – industrialised countries which boast significant cultural exports - all are bitterly opposed.


Berliner Zeitung, 13.04.2005

Ingeborg Ruthe has visited a retrospective of sculptor Wieland Förster in the Georg Kolbe Museum in Berlin. "His 'Large Bathing Woman' is a strong, erotic and at the same time aggressive work. Lying horizontally, seemingly rotating on her small base, the figure seems to grow out of the middle of her body. Optically, the bronze appears to monopolise and burst the confines of the exhibition room." Förster, now 75, had his last major exhibition twenty-five years ago in the Nationalgalerie in East Berlin; at that time, his work encountered considerable criticism. "Förster's figurativeness never corresponded to the dogmas of socialist realism, and was misunderstood and massively criticised in the early years of the GDR. In striving to find a dialectical balance between becoming and decay, beauty and destruction, peace and activity, Förster makes a painful show of the abysses of life and death, victim and perpetrator." According to Ruthe, art was resistance for Förster. "His decision as an East German sculptor to avoid the pathetic artistic dogma by seeking his own way between Brancusi's strict geometric abstraction and Marini's formal animatedness, stamped him in those days as a 'formalist'."
The Kolbe Museum in Berlin will show the Förster retrospective until 1 May. Here some images of Förster's work.

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