25/04/2005

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.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 25.04.2005

Udo Steinbach, director of the German Institute for Middle East Studies in Hamburg reflects on the various understandings of Euro-Islam, comparing those of Bassam Tibi and Tariq Ramadan. "The fact that Tibi's ideas find resonance among so many non-Islamic people is cause for scepticism among many Muslims. A watered-down Islam whose principal demand is a subjugation to Western values seems irrelevant from a religious perspective; the European Muslim Ramadan, on the other hand, projects a dynamic self-assurance that comes across as more of an action program than a theological solution to religious challenges. Thus for most Muslims, the catchword 'Euro-Islam' has a negative connotation. They prefer a pragmatic 'adjustment to European lifestyle without having to relinquish the basic principles of Islam'."

In an interesting background text, India correspondent Bernard Imhasly asks why there is so much violence in the land that is supposed to be non-violent. "Political murders, clan wars between landowners and the landless, mob law in village communities against young people who form liaisons across caste barriers, religious-motivated political uprisings like those in Gujarat in 2002: all part of everyday life in India, not to mention that structural violence of hunger. But the notion that Indians have an inborn aversion to violence is one of the most enduring myths associated with the country."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 25.04.2005

Gerhard Stadelmaier, doyen of conservative theatre criticism and traditionally no friend of Michael Thalheimer, the notorious de-constructor of the classics, experiences an unexpected moment of enthusiasm. Catalyst was Thalheimer's staging of Eugene O'Niell's "Long Day's Journey into Night" in Hamburg's Thalia Theatre. Stadelmeier doesn't actually like the play itself: "A theatrical shaking palsy in which the author is hardly able to get beyond himself: it belongs entirely to the dramatist and not to the world. Between the two is a gaping hole." In Thalheimer's interpretation, however, one sees "characters condemned to life, desperately searching for what is dead in themselves.... One doesn't see private figures but rather contemporaries. Of ours. Not of O'Neill's. Thalheimer has mercy on the dead. The director... suddenly begins to show affection for the people on the stage. The little miracle of the season: Thalheimer is also capable of love."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 25.04.2005


What Hamlet has to do with George W. Bush, WTC, Iraq and Rwanda is no clearer to Michael Skasa after seeing Lars-Ole Walburg's staging of the play in the Münchner Kammerspiel than it was before he went in. But "apart from the screwy references to current politics, this Hamlet functions exquisitely, and the actors are splendid. It is a social drama where the sparks fly and the gags go off like fireworks. The new verse translation by Wolfgang Swaczynna is flushed out with comments in many places, adding an outstanding radical touch. Indeed, Walburg has reworked the text at will, adding rap attacks that at times send the play skidding into the realm of the boulevardesque."


die tageszeitung, 23.04.2005


In the taz magazine, Heike Haarhoff presents Peter Heilbut, who survived imprisonment in the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen near Berlin. Heilbut has written about the treck the inmates were forced to go on to escape the oncoming Soviet troops: "'I should sit down at the computer, but I just don't have the energy', says Heilbut, who turned 85 a few days ago. Still, he has written a 100 page chapter on the last hours in the camp from his perspective as prisoner 65615. The fear, the uncertainty, the permanent hunger, suddenly being woken up by the SS in the night of April 20, 1945, the order to decamp, the twelve days and nights on the roads of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. Being driven, hounded and threatened until his lucky escape on May 2, 1945. And all this has now been printed and is available in brochure form, exactly 60 years after the end of the war."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 23.04.2005

Lilo Weber went to the debut premiere of the Forsythe Company, the trimmed down version of choreographer William Forsythe's previously municipally-financed ballet troupe. "The evening in the Bockenheimer Depot, featuring music by David Morrow and Thom Willems and a light installation by Spencer Finch, shows once more how far William Forsythe has come in 20 years of activity in Frankfurt." The new company is financed by a "private public partnership", combining funds from private sponsors, the cities of Frankfurt and Dresden, and the federal states of Hessen and Saxony. The new piece, "Three Atmospheric Studies", met a mixed reaction from the critics. Weber counts among the enthusiasts: "The first part of the evening is like an installation in which the dancers appear as sculptures in an artistic space. The second part is more like a horror scenario, where art is only a splinter of its former self. A nightmarish evening, light years from established ballet and opera aesthetics. And one that shows that breaking from complete financial dependence on the city of Frankfurt was the right decision."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23.04.2005

Sonja Zekri has travelled around the Ukraine, and reflects on waning German sympathies for the country: "Five to seven million Ukrainians work abroad illegally, and for many Ukrainians this is more a survival strategy than a crime. But they are now becoming aware that this is not how people in the West see things. To Ukrainians it is becoming clear that German solidarity with the orange revolution has not survived the visa affair, (in which thousands of Ukrainians are believed to have received visas to Germany without basic checks being carried out by consular officials – ed.). Overnight, the Ukraine has gone from being seen as Europe's darling to a hotbed of clandestine workers and sex slaves. The criminalisation of an entire people is the biggest collateral damage of the visa affair. And the fact that it is not based on any measurable changes in criminal statistics, but on a diffuse fear of these mobile foreigners whose labour Germany simultaneously takes for granted and villainises, doesn't make things any better."

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