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11/06/2007

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.

Monday 11.06.2007

Süddeutsche Zeitung 11.06.2007

Jürgen Habermas writes a short obituary for philosopher Richard Rorty, who passed away on Friday. "One small autobiographical piece by Rorty bears the title 'Wild Orchids and Trotsky.' In it, Rorty describes how as a youth he kicked around the blooming hillside in north-west New Jersey, and breathed in the stunning odour of orchids. At the same time he discovered a fascinating book at the home of his leftist parents, defending Leon Trotsky against Stalin. This was the start of the vision which accompanied the young Rorty to college: philosophy is there to reconcile the celestial beauty of orchids with Trotsky's dream of justice on earth."


Frankfurter Rundschau 11.06.2007

In his obit, Christian Schlüter portrays Richard Rorty as a leftist for whom tolerance and irony played a key role. "Rorty's interest in 'classical leftist' questions - equality, education, social security, the minimum wage - may seem old-fashioned. But they suit the profile of this perhaps most European of American thinkers, and are social democratic in the very best sense. But the question remains whether Richard Rorty the philosopher was in fact an enemy of philosophy. With his typical ironic touch, he gave the following answer: 'I am very happy that I spent all these years reading philosophy. Because at the same time I learned something that is clearly still of utmost importance: distrust of the intellectual snobbery that prompted me to start reading philosophy in the first place."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 11.06.2007

Matthias Messmer tries to sound out the differences between China and Taiwan. As far as he can make out, it's primarily the postmodern that sets the two countries apart: "Strangely enough it's sometimes places which at first sight don't appear to be particularly thought provoking which turn out to be the more telling: 'One small step forward is a great leap for civilisation', are the words written in the men's toilets in Harbin airport in northern China. In a pissoir in a train station in Taiwan's capital, Taipeh, the visitor is crudely reminded in English of his own shortcomings: 'Do please come a little closer. Your big john isn't as big as you think it is.' Politically correct on one side and wittily postmodern on the other. They're both expressions of different Chinese mindsets which have developed independently of one another over the course of history.


Die Tageszeitung 11.06.2007

In Halberstadt a theatre group has been attacked by a gang of right-wing extremists while the police looked on with disinterest. Matthias Wolf, a playwright from the east German town of Neubrandenburg, explains in an interview with Ralph Bollmann why theatre has increasingly become a target for the right-wing scene. "Towns which have a functioning cultural infrastructure don't succumb as easily to right-wing hegemony. If you organise a local alliance for democracy and tolerance which reaches from the fire brigade down to the sport's club, the theatre plays an important role – often because it's the biggest institution in many places."


Saturday 09.06.2007

Frankfurter Rundschau 09.06.2007

The start of the grand tour of the art world's greatest shows. First stop Venice. And disappointment, at least for Elke Buhr, who finds the Biennale's contemporary art less than convincing. "What you see at the Arsenale is an exhibition which may recognise that the world is literally bursting at the seams, but which has failed to find any other form of expression than simple reproduction. Again and again you see the documentary style, with photographs of barriers, soldiers, demonstrations and destroyed cities. One of Paolo Canevari's pieces depicts a young boy playing football with a human skull, another is of Emily Prince, a young American girl, who copies passport photos of Americans killed in the Iraq war in pencil and then papers her wall with them. There is so much attention to political themes that a wonderfully poetical work, like Francis Alys' cartoon about polishing shoes nearly goes unnoticed.


Süddeutsche Zeitung 09.06.2007

Holger Liebs was also at the Biennale, and found the artworks exhibited as conventional as they are uninteresting. The German pavilion designed by artist Isa Genzken is riveting if unsettling: "And Isa Genzken? She puts the luggage at our disposal for a trip through a silvery LSD hell. The exhibition in the German pavilion is a shining metallic trip into a cold death, dazzling with the flair of nickel and dime stores, science fiction and military rigour. Small wooden statues of corpses in coffins perch atop metal posts, an armada of damaged baggage trolleys stand ready in waiting, charred puppets hang like corpses above camping stools... This vision of a gaudy, silvery coldness in which the very concept of sculpture is melted down into its smallest component parts is powerful, perhaps too powerful. And too caught up with detail." Jörg Heiser also had a walk around the grounds, and reports on more upbeat happenings in the pavilions of Lithuania, Ireland, Taiwan and Cyprus.


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09.06.2007

Art historian Werner Spies remembers the "Demoiselles d'Avignon," with which Pablo Picasso ushered in the modern era in painting one hundred years ago - to the horror of everyone concerned: "References to the 'philosophical bordello' evoke the unbridled attitude, licentious behaviour and exhibitionism that come marching onto the terrain of contemporary art with this new type of painting. Without the 'Demoiselles d'Avignon,' art would hardly have taken the course that now seems natural to us. Few people bore witness to the radical turning point taking place at the time in Picasso's studio. Andre Derain said the artist would surely be found hanged one fine morning behind his large painting. And Georges Braque, with whom Picasso would strike up an alliance a few months later that would take over cubism, suspected his friend had drunk petroleum so he could spit flames."

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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