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GoetheInstitute

25/07/2007

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.

George Tabori has died

Hungarian-born author, dramatist and theatre director George Tabori died on Monday aged 93 in Berlin, where he had lived since 1999.

In the Frankfurter Rundschau, Peter Michalzik praises Tabori as "a man who turned the Holocaust into a fairytale, a man with the most intimate relationship to wit and humour, a Geisterfahrer (motorist driving against the traffic on motorways - ed) of thought": "Among all the artists who have lived in the wake of the extermination of the Jews in Germany, Tabori was quite possibly the most salutary for the Germans. With him they could learn to laugh about themselves. For everyone who has seen his performances and read his books, this man's existence was an almost incredible stroke of luck. But it was also an unbearable paradox that he, whose father was murdered by the Germans, should be the one to reconcile them with their fate."

Alfred Schlienger tells in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung how Tabori came to believe that theatre must be existential, true and tragic: "When he was four years old, his father took him to the circus. There to the drumroll, a wondrously beautiful woman in a sparkling suit climbed the ladder up to a platform and little György peed his pants in excitement. 'Then she prepares herself for the salto mortale, misses the trapeze and crashes through the net.' For years he believed that that's how it went every night: a woman climbs up on high, smiles, 'the audience pee their pants, she swings out and falls, every night, to lie there on the ground in a puddle of blood and sand'."

In the Frankfürter Allgemeine Zeitung, Gerhard Stadelmaier describes Tabori's last public appearance. While lying on his deathbed, so the story goes, Tabori ordered: "Shirt! Trousers! Jacket! Shoes! Scarf!" and had himself carried to the Berliner Ensemble theatre just down the street, where he had worked for the last years. Surrounded by actors, Tabori held court in his customary plush armchair: "Amid all the activity he related that in the autumn he would direct 'a hitherto unknown play by Beckett.' It was not entirely clear, however, whether this very scene wasn't the unknown Beckett play, namely the most joyous, most optimistic, most touching, most death-defying of all Beckett plays. Afterwards he had himself taken home and put to bed, where he shut his eyes in such a way that all those present thought the end had really come. But then he opened his eyes again and said: 'Now I'll tell you about my war experiences.' And that's exactly what he did."


Die Tageszeitung 25.07.2007

German director Volker Schlöndorff was supposed to direct the film "Die Päpstin" ("Pope Joan"), to be produced by Constantin Film. Recently, however, he gave an interview to the Süddeutsche Zeitung in which he raged against films that are produced such that they can be easily re-cut into television series – a technique with which Constantin is quite familiar. Now Schlöndorff is one directorial project less, and Constantin is looking for a more amenable director. Ekkehard Knörer sees the story as evidence that film funding has been taking cinema downhill since the 1970s. Back then, "the auteur film had reliable funding sources and a place in German television. Today, in the great public private partnership of film and television subsidies, everyone shits on the biggest available heap – and that heap has almost invariably been, in recent years, the Constantin productions."

In an interview with Gernot Knödler, the Dalai Lama reflects on the widespread German fascination with Buddhism, the finite future of the institution of the Dalai Lama and why it is that monks tend to be happier people than the rest. Asked if he was ever in love, he says, "Because I became a monk in my childhood, I've been curious what others experience. But when I hear about family problems, about divorce, fights and the difficulty in finding the right partner, I feel comforted: we monks are pretty lucky ducks. The monk's life is much more stable. Family life must be very happy at times, but it also involves a lot of pain."

Given the mounting concern about terrorism, which many fault interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble for turning into a climate of paranoia, author Ilija Trojanow explains that his greatest fear is not of terrorists but of those purporting to protect him from them. "I don't have a fear of terror, which the media claims affects most of us, but I do have a fear of the state. When I think of the state at night, I can't sleep. Maybe this is due to my modest understanding of human history: hasn't the greatest hostage of humanity always been the state? Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and Mao's China suffice as examples. When I'm being felt up at the airport, I have horror visions of people in uniforms who could arrest me and do to me what they wish."

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