08/03/2007

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 08.03.2007

The paper prints a talk given by essayist, literature professor and multi-millionaire Jan Philipp Reemtsma in which he compares Dostoevsky's "The Devils" with the German terrorist group of the late 1960s and 70s, the Rote Armee Faktion (RAF). And he locates the same Avant-garde pretences among the German terrorists as among the Russian anarchists, which were based on nothing but action. "The accusation levelled by the RAF, which was identical to the one hurled by "The Demons" at their environment – that of cowardice namely – stirred in many people the uncomfortable feeling that they could be right. Which is why, I think, so many people found it very difficult to paint an appropriate picture of RAF reality, which was a series of pointless and brutal acts of violence. In order not to have to admit to this inability, many people continue to this day to focus on the purported political aspects of these acts of violence and not to see the extent to which the RAF's actions were driven by megalomania, hunger for power and lust for violence."

In a further essay in the political section, the author Peter Schneider sees clear parallels between the Islamic terrorists of today and those of the 1970s: megalomania, readiness to die and vanity. "In many parts of the Muslim world Osama bin Laden is world known as the Che Guevara of the East. On closer inspection it turns out that bin Laden's followers are not so far off in their comparison as the outraged Che Guevara community are claiming." See our feature "The panic savers" by Peter Schneider.


Der Tagesspiegel
08.03.2007

In an interview with Caroline Fetscher, the Iranian born, Germany based feminist Mina Ahadi comments on the multicultural debate launched by perlentaucher and signandsight.com, taking a stand against the position shared by Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash. "I'll ask the question again: where can I see active moderation? Europe continues to practice tolerance in the face of intolerance. Islam is just a different culture, they say, where different social rules exist. When politicians say this to me, in Germany too, I feel insulted. I am a state citizen and a woman first and foremost, not a [female] Muslim. And as an adult I have the right to define who I am. Misplaced consideration will not get us anywhere politically. No woman wants a 'culture' of humiliation, no woman wants violence or rape."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
08.03.2007

Fakhri Saleh reports on the case of Egyptian feminist and author Nawal as-Saadawi, who has left Egypt after receiving death threats from Islamists, but also as a result of pressure exerted by Al-Azhar University and the state. "The courageous author takes not only the situation of women in her sights, but also - increasingly - the apathy of Egyptian and Arab intellectuals, whom she accuses of defeatism vis-a-vis state authorities and threats from conservative Islamists. As-Saadawi sees a thick entanglement between Arab regimes and the conservative religious milieu."


Die Tageszeitung
08.03.2007

In a special entitled "Miss Feminism" marking international women's day, Anja Dilk debunks eight myths about men and women. Myth number 2: "Mothers can recognise their babies by their smell, fathers can't. The thesis is old: Like animals, mothers can smell which baby is theirs. Swedish scientists investigated the topic in 2001. 24 babies between one and four weeks and 24 children between two and four years of age were given specially prepared shirts for a night. Their parents and an equal number of childless men and women were then presented with odour samples. Only the men smelled their baby. Women couldn't distinguish between the odour of children and that of babies, let alone recognise the scent of their own children."

"Romania is currently transforming from a poor country into a low-wage labour market," writes Marius Babias. "Paradoxically, this change has led to a boom in the field of culture. Romanian authors and artists are more in demand than ever before. Suhrkamp has just purchased the rights to publish the young literary star Filip Florian. The filmmaker Cristi Puiu won a prize at Cannes in 2005 for "The Death of Mr Lazarescu." Since then, Romanian film has been an insider tip among critics. In art circles, Dan Perjovschi and Mircea Cantor are among the rising talents. Culture is the mop and bucket brigade of the economic reorganisation currently under way in Romanian society." For Babias, one of the most interesting new features of this new world is publisher Idea Design & Print, which aside from bringing out key translations of foreign authors, also publishes the journal Idea: arta + societate.


Süddeutsche Zeitung 08.03.2007

Volker Schlöndorff's film on Solidarnosc, "Strajk", has come out in Germany a week after it's release in Poland (more here). For Fritz Göttler, the film is a heroic ballad. "And just that is the problem with this film, the straightforwardness with which it narrates historic events, and its intense engagement. We're already familiar with that from 'The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum.' And it's just as annoying here too, because it's missing all the moments of inconsistency from which cinema - which never repudiates its Brechtian tradition - lives. What does come over fantastically, however, is Schlöndorff's fascination with the very physical stuff of the story, the steel and fire, the cranes which crawl along the workshop rooftops like huge insects. All of that has a liberating effect in these times that are so oversaturated with all kinds of computer tricks. Schlöndorff films enthusiasm, a Gdansk symphony. And at these moments he comes very close to the origins of cinema, between Eisenstein, Vertov and 'Modern Times'."

Swedish author and Central Europe correspondent Richard Swartz sends a short portrait of the Poles, who "have always been a bit different.... Slightly more free and anarchistic than other nations, more proud or perhaps more arrogant, a touch more courageous or perhaps, having been wedged in between the Russians and the Germans, a bit more out of touch with reality. And their flowering imagination sometimes seems to verge on the hysterical." They see themselves as having single-handedly brought down communism with Solidarnosc. "For their neighbours, though, things are less clear-cut: Tito after all was the first to rebel against Moscow; the Hungarians were the first to take up arms, and the Czechs showed that 'actually existing socialism' could not be reformed. Because there was nothing there to reform: any attempt to reform the system would would be instrumental in destroying it, as Mikhail Gorbachev discovered, twenty years after Prague Spring."

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