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20/11/2006

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.

Monday 20 November, 2006

Art restitution summit starts in Berlin

Bernd Neumann, Federal Minister of State for Cultural and Media Affairs, is convening a summit in Berlin today on art stolen by the Nazis, reports DW in Die Welt. The summit will address questions that have arisen about the proper dealing with restitution claims, in the wake of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's "Berlin Street Scene" being handed over to the heirs of its former owner in a single-handed initiative by Berlin's former cultural senator Thomas Flierl (see our feature "Raiders of the lost art"). "As Neumann puts it, 'The museums complain that there is now a highly-developed restitution trade operating along hard and fast commercial principles.' Neumann's goal, he says, is to meet with the museums and discuss the subject. After that he plans to meet with representatives of the victims."

In an interview with Die Welt, art detective Clemens Toussaint criticises the museums' lack of dynamism regarding their own collections. "It should not only be one of the tasks of German museum directors to do research into their museums' holdings. In addition, every museum director should consider it important to approach the families of the victims. That's part of a museum's inner hygiene, and its reputation. Because that kind of transparency creates confidence among lenders, collectors and foundations. My experience shows that entirely different solutions with heirs and their lawyers are possible if the initiative is taken by the museum."

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Stefan Koldehoff brings us up to date on the state of provenance research and registered restitution claims. It's mainly expressionist works that are being demanded back, among them Emil Nolde's "Buchsbaumgarten" in Duisburg, Karl Hofer's "Mädchen mit Frühstückskorb" in Köln and Max Pechstein's "Drohendes Wetter" in Mönchengladbach. "At the Folkwang-Museum in Essen there is a restitution claim for Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's 'Leipziger Straße' from 1914. The painting comes from the same Hess collection (more) as the 'Berlin Street Scene' which was restituted from Berlin. The same was the case with Franz Marc's 'Katze hinter einem Baum' from 1910/11, which, according to the files, was sold from a commemorative Marc exhibition in the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hanover in March or April 1936. Today the painting is on loan from the state Nord Landes Bank to the Sprengel Museum. Also from the Hess collection are Franz Marc's 'Kleine blaue Pferde' and Lyonel Feininger's 'Barfüßer Kirche I', both in the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, and Kirchner's 'Urteil des Paris' in the Ludwig Haack Museum in Ludwigshafen."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 20.11.2006

Milos Forman's latest film "Goya's Ghosts" is coming to German cinemas this week: an inquisition drama set in 18th century Spain. Forman explains that the average Spanish didn't expect much from the enlightenment. "The church had pretty much a power monopoly in Spain," Forman explains in an interview. "When Napoleon came to Spain, he did away with the inquisition and introduced the ideals of the French revolution. All correct. But he had no idea that a fifth of all Spaniards were living off welfare organised by priests at the time. When the Napoleonic troops gathered up the church representatives, the people were appalled that they were taking away precisely those people who protected their modest existence. Do you think that Napoleon wasted a single thought on this welfare system? The liberators were often greeted by people with crossed arms who called: viva las cadenas. Long live the chains."

Claudia Kramatschek reports that there's a "new freedom" in the Indian literature scene, which comes mainly from young authors between 25 and 35. "This was confirmed by the 34 year old literary critic Nilanjana Roy, who lives in Delhi and has been following developments in English language literature for years. And she emphasises that this freedom can also mean that the obligation of 'Indian' content is gone. 'I like the fact that contemporary authors are writing out of a feeling of freedom to do what they want. They can live in India and write about Bulgaria. They can write about their own world which contains both Bob Dylan and jazz music as well as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Bollywood songs. All of that is a part of us – why should we let ourselves be forced into a corset of one particular Indian narrative?"


Die Tageszeitung 20.11.2006

Speculator and philanthropist George Soros clarifies in an interview with Tarik Ahmia und Reiner Metzger his criticism of George Bush's politics: "I have been accused of comparing Bush with Hitler. That's wrong. I only noted a remarkable similarity between the propaganda methods of Goebbels and the neo-conservatives. Here I would cite the false metaphor of the 'war against terror' and the way that the horrible attack of 9/11 is being exploited by the government. But unlike the Nazis, we have an independent justice systems and rule of law. The USA is a lively democracy which recently turned against Bush."


Saturday 18 November, 2006

Frankfurter Rundschau 18.11.2006

Ferenc Puskas has died. Hungarian author György Dalos remembers the football legend (more here and here). "It's November 25, 1953. We're sitting in the poorly-heated common room of the Jewish orphanage in Old Buda and roasting apples on the oven – everything you can eat is a luxury in this hungry winter – and listing to Kossuth Radio together with our teacher. Soon we are not only warmed, but almost sated by the words of announcer György Szepesi. The Hungarian team has beaten the British team on their home turf. 6:3! 6:3! 6:3! The triumph is largely thanks to the captain of this team with five strikers: Ferenc ('little brother') Puskas. At this moment we share a strange privilege with the entire nation: We are happy in an unhappy land."


Die Welt
18.11.2006

Hungarian author Peter Esterhazy remembers how he once saw Ferenc Puskas play at a gala match in 1981. Puskas was 54, and sported a "prodigious belly." The spectators looked on with a "mixture of admiration and mockery. But then Puskas put his certainly legendary left to the ball in a 40 metre pass that grazed the goalie's head. The outside forward was just able to reach the ball and was alone in front of the net. 100,000 tired onlookers caught their breath. Human genius had appeared before their eyes like an angel."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 18.11.2006

The paper prints a speech given by poet Durs Grünbein on the philosopher Rene Descartes. Grünbein proposes a variation of a sentence by Russian writer Osip Mandelstam: "Turned on its head, the sentence should run: If Dante was the Descartes of metaphor, then Descartes was the Dante of imaginativeness. As a thinker who gave a radical new start to philosophy based on self-observation, he approaches his work like every good poet. With Descartes, thinking says 'I' for the first time. From that moment on, the human spirit plays by its own rules. The intellect and the imagination are no longer obstacles for each other."

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