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29/04/2005

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, 29.04.2005

Heinrich Breloer's docudrama "Speer und Er" ("Speer and Hitler – The Devil's Architect") about Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect and armaments minister, is playing on German television next week. Joachim Huber and Barbara Nolte have interviewed the filmmaker, who deplores the archive policies of the public broadcasters. These have lost an interview he did with Speer in 1981. "And the material for another television interview that historian Joachim Fest did with Speer in 1969 is also missing. All that's left is the finished interview. Fest asked: 'Do you feel responsible for Auschwitz?' and Speer answers: 'Yes, I feel responsible for Auschwitz.' There's a cut between the question and the answer. I'd like to know what's in between."


Die Welt, 29.04.2005


In an interview with Christian Pricelius, architect Albert Speer talks about his father, Hitler's armaments minister, and about urban demographic trends. Asked whether he believed his father was aware of the scale of atrocities in the concentration camps, Speer comments: "My father always insisted he new nothing. My view is that he in fact really did know nothing. But I think he could have found out and – this comes out very well in this film – that he suppressed the knowledge, so as not to have to see what was going on. And this suppression went on his whole life. I can't blame him for that." On his own work, Speer comments: "There's a huge urbanisation taking place. For example in Africa. We work in Abuja, Nigeria's newly established capital. The city was founded in 1970 or 1972, and initially conceived for roughly 1.2 million inhabitants. Now over two million people live there. And we've seen the same thing in Saudi Arabia. There are over a million people living in Riyadh, and experts reckon that in 15 years, the number will reach ten million. Here in Germany no one takes any notice of this. And then of course there are countries like China. We are busy in two large sectors in Shanghai. Shanghai is planning nine satellite towns. We are planning one of them, and it will be linked up with the auto industry."

French film director Bertrand Tavernier was in Berlin this week, talking with students about film making and power games, writes 'mh'. "Tavernier learned about the subtleties of dealing with actors from Pierre Granier-Deferre. While Granier-Deferre was shooting "La Veuve Couderc" with Simone Signoret, the diva refused to start a kitchen scene before the props person had found a special type of copper pot. An hour later the pot was there, and Signoret was ready to start. But then Granier-Deferre insisted he first needed a basket of strawberries. Signoret and the team had to wait until the strawberries had been found, in Paris in the middle of January. Tavernier recounts: 'That was the most brilliant demonstration of power relationships I've ever witnessed."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29.04.2005

"Painting in the past perfect", is how Holger Liebs describes an exhibition featuring a group of neo-romantic artists – from Christian Orr to Kaye Donachie to Justine Kurland – who "enthral the world with all-too-tender idylls, painted dream worlds and soulscapes." For Liebs, "It's tough going these days. Bush, the war, turbo-capitalism, the daily media tsunami, it's enough to make you want to stick your head in the sand. And that's exactly what many young artists between thirty and forty do, whether they live in Miami or Karlsruhe. They don't dare to go out, practice a sublime escapism and create painted parallel universes that come from the world of their dreams... And so we see, as Max Hollein writes in his foreword to the catalogue of the exhibition 'Wunschwelten', which opens on May 12 in the Schirn gallery in Frankfurt, 'the vehement artistic blossoming of a new romantic attitude.' But you could replace the word attitude with 'mannerism'."

The writer Richard Wagner asks: "Why when we hear Bulgaria, do we think of the assassination attempt on the Pope, or when we hear Romania, of Dracula, or even worse the Ceausescus? What makes these countries so poor and strange in our eyes that we don't feel we belong together?" Why don't we think of Christo, Eugene Ionesco or Mircea Eliade? The two countries which signed accession treaties on April 25th are slated to join the EU on January 1, 2007, bringing the total number of member counties to 27. Wagner feels that the problems associated with EU expansion lie less with Bulgaria and Romania than with the lethargy of the West: "Sure, Romania and Bulgaria have a long way to go before they have achieved the standards of the core EU countries. They shouldn't be given any advantages: the monitoring instrument remains the 'Aqui communautaire' (97,000 pages of rules and regulations that govern membership, ed). But on top of that, one should get used to the idea that the expanded EU will not only affect the East but also the West."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 29.04.2005

The NZZ ends its series on "Islam in Europe" today with an article by the Egyptian religious studies scholar Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid. He takes a critical look at three contemporary tendencies in the modernisation of Islam: Mohammed Arkoun's concept of the "critique of Islamic reason" from which a "practical Islamic studies" should be developed, Abdullah an-Naim's call for a new version of Sharia law "which would correspond to international and human rights law", and Tariq Ramadan's proposal to define a new "European Islam" for the 15 million Muslims living in Europe. Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid believes that the process of re-thinking Islamic values for Europe has to be coupled with an interrogation on the part of Europeans of their own traditions: "If Islamic intellectuals and in particular Muslims living in Europe want to re-think their own traditions and make them more compatible with modern values and the ethos of the civil society, then secular Europe will have to take some steps towards accepting Islamic values and ethos where these do not contradict their own."

Having visited an exhibition of August Strindberg's paintings in the Tate Modern in London, Georges Waser decides he prefers Strindberg the dramatist to the artist. Nonetheless he was fascinated by Strindberg's bleak scenes, painted with a technique reminiscent of finger painting: "Unlike Caspar David Friedrich, Strindberg does not conjure up an almost sacred awe of the breadth of the world when he paints that point where sea meets land. But little people are missing from his paintings – his world is subjected to elemental forces, it's a bleak cosmic chaos."


Die Tageszeitung, 29.04.2005

Andreas Hartmann writes a portrait of Mike Patton, the "King Midas of extreme rock", who spent practically his whole career working on other artists' projects. "Certainly, there are two solo albums by Patton, but almost no one has heard them. And those who have mostly say they're 'gutsy' or 'avantgarde'. But by that they mean: the two records are almost entirely composed of Patton's gurgles and screams. And you have to bear in mind who heard the albums, which were released in the late 90s by John Zorn's Tzadik label. Not only hardboiled types who listened to Diamanda Galas' shrieks while cooking, but most likely also a couple of Faith No More fans."

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