14/04/2005

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.

Die Zeit, 14.04.2005

Orhan Pamuk is certainly the most renowned Turkish author. His last novel, "Snow", was celebrated in the USA and in Germany. The book deals with political disruption in Turkey, which today is a European Union membership candidate. Within Turkey the book caused fierce reactions, which increased in force when Pamuk named the Armenian genocide by name in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. Die Zeit describes scenes of "sheer hatred" and book burning. In an interview with Jörg Lau, Pamuk explains why even after its publication, his book has caused such vehement debates. "Some of my secular readers were furious that I showed so much empathy towards a young girl who wears the scarf of her own free will. I can understand that, especially when it comes from women. Women are the most hard hit by political Islam. My detailed descriptions of the cruelties of a military coup did not please some nationalists. And some did not like my understanding for the Kurds." For Pamuk, the question of Turkey's entry in the EU has changed the country's political landscape. "The possibility of the EU entry mixed up the cards. In every camp - the left, the right, the Islamists and the Kemalists - stereotyped thinking has been abandoned. Now pro-European Islamists are ruling Turkey. At one point they understood you can win elections with pro-European politics, because voters feel that will improve their living standards." But politics is only part of life... "Literature is my reaction to too much politics. I try to turn the game around and bring a certain humour to things, a certain distance. I want to tell my readers: Don't take things so damned seriously. Isn't life beautiful? Pay attention to life's details! The most important thing in life is happiness, and the possibility to survive in this intolerant society we've made for ourselves."

On the 30th anniversary of the death of German poet Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, two CDs have come out documenting his special brand of "spoken word poetry". "The Last One" documents a reading the young poet gave from "Westwärts 1 & 2" (Westwards 1 & 2) at Cambridge University in 1975 shortly before the volume was published. The second is a rudimentary recording made in an apartment in Cologne: "Wörter Sex Schnitt" (Words sex montage). Thomas Gross comments: "No German writer has so consistently focused his work on the idea that not all cultural power emanates from the written word. The focus on sound, the replacement of meaning by sensuality, the exploration of superficial thrills and stimuli, and last but not least, his penchant for self-stylisation. Practically everything that later made it big under the label 'pop literature' is already present in Brinkmann's work. What is entirely missing from his approach is any cheeriness. His entire literary legacy is a humour-free zone. The business of liberation is gone at with German thoroughness, and the result is correspondingly uptight."
"The Last One" and "Wörter Sex Schnitt", Intermedium Records, catalogue numbers 022 and 023.


Frankfurter Rundschau, 14. 04. 2005

Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" is premiering at the Paris Bastille Opera. Directed by Peter Sellars, conducted by Eka-Pekka Salonen with stage design by Bill Viola it sounds promising, but fails "insipidly", writes Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich. Salonen delivers a "skillful but syrupy flow of music", without a hint of drama. And then there's the set! - Viola's video installation. "The worst part, and here the expression kitsch orgy is unavoidable, was the illustration of Isolde's tragic death. The backwards (in other words upwards) flowing waterfall seemed at first to be a nicely fitting metaphor. But it was completely destroyed by the image of a ghost which rises quivering from her bed. Presumably it should appear 'weightless' but it is more reminiscent of a hanged corpse being hauled upwards. Scary!"


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 14. 04. 2005

Tobias Kniebe describes Florian Schwarz's film "Katze im Sack" (Cat in the bag), which won the German 'First Steps Award' for new talent, as an "astonishing" debut. For Kniebe "the greatest moment in this film is just a few seconds long - blink and you've missed it. A young drifter with a mysterious past (Christoph Bach) makes a bet with an otherwise prim barmaid (Jule Böwe) in her karaoke bar. The two are meant for each another, but they skirt around the subject laconically. The bet is basically a daft idea: the drifter has to take home any one of the other girls in the bar if he wants to have breakfast with the barmaid the following morning. Christoph Bach looks around for a girl to hit on, but before he turns away, the two protagonists exchange looks and a simple gesture and this exchange is one of the most enthralling moments in German cinema today. It says a lot for the young director Florian Schwarz that he avoids milking it."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 14.04.2005

Although now Catholic in its majority, the Republic of Geneva remains strongly influenced by Calvinism. Jürg Altwegg reports from the city, whose government sent a dry, twelve line letter of condolence to the Vatican after Pope John-Paul II's death. "No other religion is so influenced by the Enlightenment as Calvinism, in which the very secular ideas of freedom and tolerance, as Rousseau and Voltaire developed them, are strongly reflected. 'Post Tenebras Lux' (after darkness, light) is the inscription on the Reformers' Wall in Geneva." In April, a museum for the Reformation will open in the city. Its director, Isabelle Graessle, is also the first female head of the Compagnie des pasteurs, founded by Calvin to ensure the conformity of church doctrine. In her words: "West European Protestantism will be doomed if a movement comparable to the Reformation of the 16th century does not develop soon."

Last Tuesday, a huge Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective opened in the Centre Pompidou, with an exhibition, catalogue, DVD and screening of all his films. The French turned up en masse and there was not enough space to accommodate them all in the two cinemas. In 1997 the Museum of Modern Art in New York staged a Fassbinder retrospective of similar size and popularity. Twenty three years after the filmmaker's death, when Fassbinder's films are more or less forgotten in Germany and certainly never play in the cinemas, Verena Lueken assesses his appeal in France and the US. "For the French, Fassbinder's films are steeped in historical cinematic references, studded with quotes from the great days of the auteurs in French and American film, and represent a fabulous cinematic patchwork and a vividly bubbling fountain of the seventh art. But they are wrong to believe he was a torch-bearer of post-existentialist philosophy, a thinker and theorist like Jean-Luc Godard. The Americans on the other hand, who care less for philosophy, find in his films answers to their questions about living under the weight of German history, what it means to be a German after the war, what an impact history has on emotions and what happens to people adrift in the wasteland of a country devasted both internally and externally."

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles.
signandsight.com - let's talk european.

 
More articles

From the Feuilletons

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.
read more

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.
read more

From the feuilletons

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more

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.
read more