01/06/2007

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.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01.06.2007

Mark Siemons reports that China, guest of honour at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair, has agreed to tolerate dissidents as Book Fair guests. But more interesting than that is Siemon's description of the apparent liberalisation of the Chinese book market, where you can find "anything from Lao Tzu to post-structuralism, Karl Marx to Daniel Kehlmann (more). At first glance you can hardly tell it apart from Western markets. And it certainly is galaxies away from the earlier monoculture." But the reality is somewhat different: "Publishers must submit their titles and contents to the authorities for approval. For sensitive topics - political leaders, the military, religion, recent history - they have to submit the whole manuscript, which is then studied by a 'critical reading group' of dependable retired cadres. Publishing houses that submit too many unsuitable books receive fewer licenses the following year. The result is a public sphere that in certain respects looks very similar to an open society - just that everything that could jeopardise the power structure and the image of the country has been eradicated."


Frankfurter Rundschau 01.06.2007

As part of a special on Africa, the writer Abdourahman A. Waberi, who was born in Djibouti and today lives in Caen, searches Berlin for traces of Africa, "which are so sparsely scattered about the German capital. For Africans, the city remains synonymous with the conference convened by Bismarck between November 1884 and February 1885 to settle the repartition of Africa. (...) Today it's clear that in Berlin, unlike in Paris, London, Lisbon or Brussels, Africa is simply absent. It can happen, for example in the district of Schöneberg, that you pass a small restaurant, a hairdresser's or a nightclub managed by people from Accra, Asmara or Conakry. But much more often news reaches us about the legal obstacles that are the everyday burden of the stateless black people - these destitute wanderers, cousins of Walter Benjamin one and all, even if they don't know his name, who are consumed with longing in some asylum in Brandenburg - like in that in the small town of Belzig, for example. When they're not running from hordes of Nazi arsonists, that is."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 01.06.2007

Barbara Villiger is completely overwhelmed by Luc Bondy's "King Lear," which premiered on Wednesday at the Vienna Burgtheater. "Death befalls some in a bloody spectacle, the others are silent and invisible. Edgar reports on how Gloster died from joy at finding his lost son. Because Bondy does give us joyful moments, which only deepen the tragic disaster of his Lear world by contrast. Lear and Cordelia, the quintessence of father-daughter love, end intimately unified in a pieta, the sisters next to them, all dead. Luc Bondy has guided them through an indescribably rich existence, whose gruesome, wonderful, illusory, ghastly, lovesick, revenge hungry and consolatory aspects all come to life before our eyes - thanks to his art. Can theatre do more?"


Die Welt 01.06.2007

With German cyclists falling into disrepute, Uwe Wittstock puts them in noble company: "Writers and artists in particular are no strangers to the idea that total devotion to a passion, the struggle to fulfil a talent has very little to do with well-being but much more with self-destruction – and not uncommonly alleged or actual performance-enhancing drugs are involved. Novalis raved in his 'Hymns to the Night' about 'the brown juices of the poppy.' From absinth to opium, no hallucinogen was left un-sampled by Baudelaire and Verlaine. Georg Trakl followed suit and died from an overdose. Klaus Mann used to fire himself up with heroin and found it a hard habit to shake. Ernst Jünger experimented with mescalin and LSD, Walter Benjamin swore by hashish. 'The collapse of the ego, the sweetness, the deeply desired, all this you give me' Gottfried Benn wrote in praise of cocaine.

Only now have we discovered a report from Die Welt Online about the Fassbinder Foundation controversy. "On Wedensday, a group of 25 former Fassbinder co-workers, including actors, directors and producers demanded that Juliane Lorenz resign as head of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation. And that the entire Fassbinder oeuvre be handed over to the Deutsche Kinematek in Berlin. The petition was signed by directors Werner Schroeter and Walter Bockmayer, actors Ingrid Caven, Peter Kern and Udo Kier as well as Fassbinder's long time co-director and producer, Michael Fengler. See our interview with Ingrid Caven on the Fassbinder legacy.


Die Tageszeitung 01.06.2007

My God, The Scorpions are still around and they've just released a new album. Arno Frank is gobsmacked - "When this group started out Ludwig Erhard (Germany's minister of economic affairs from 1949 to 1963) was still in the Chancellery in Bonn" - and he went to meet (singer) Klaus Meine. "His handshake is dry, firm and authoritative. 'Meine,' he says amicably and his very blue eyes discretely add: I am Klaus Meine. Prophet in my own land. I wrote 'Wind of Change' and you all whistled along, even if you can't stand the sound of it today. So do me a favour and don't piss me about."

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