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GoetheInstitute

16/08/2007

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.

Die Zeit 16.08.2007

"What actually happened in a person who has checked his conscience as if it were a coat at the cloakroom?" wonders author Fritz J. Raddatz in a major self-critique in which he admits his own "failure as a GDR citizen." Clearly aware of the existence of Bautzen prison and the Vorkuta camp, he voluntarily lived in the GDR from 1950 to 1959. "I can't use the 'I knew nothing' with which millions of Germans exculpated themselves after 1945. I knew – of plays dropped from theatre programmes, withdrawn films, banned books (often enough 'my own' published by Volk und Welt). All the while I stretched the tip of my foot beyond the chalk circle, rejoiced over a subversive poem in an anthology, a book by Heinrich Böll listed in a publisher's catalogue, even my own small impertinences. One example, the communist party secretary was also head of sales, and often asked me in a humming and hawing tone for more 'licences from the West', because these books sold so well. I told him: You always talk about 'the party' I'm supposed to join – which party do you mean? A puny protest."

The weekly also pre-prints Hanno Rauterberg's book "Und das ist Kunst?!" (So this is art?!) Rauterberg examines the helplessness rife among artists who think they must compete with advertising and fashion. "Painters have long been haunted by the feeling of being dispensable. As early as the 19th century, some artists felt their existence was threatened by the invention of photography. Even today, the competition seems unbeatable; all the pictures seem to have already been made. Some therefore happily give up as artists. Like Inka Essenhigh or Takashi Murakami they paint wobbly comic-like jellyfish, or like Fiona Rae or Fred Tomaselli they design neat patterns. Very often the result is opaque pictures at a level of perfection that meets all industry standards."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
16.08.2007

Pakistani journalist Shehar Bano Khan takes a critical look at Pakistan's government 60 years after independence: "This theoretically independent, politically colonised people has no memory of a time of glory. Every decade of independence was shadowed by political, cultural and social strangulation. Instead of British colonial rulers, the country is now colonised by the local oligarchy. Little has changed in the process. Islam, which politicians inscribed on the flag when the state was founded, is used today by president Musharraf's regime to legitimate its own claim to power." Bano Khan has no time for allegations that the country is increasingly under the sway of the Taliban: "The only person in all of Pakistan who people actually went out onto the street and demonstrated for was the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mohammad Iftikhar Chaudhry, who had been suspended and is now back in office.... In 2006 he took up suo moto more than 6,000 cases of human rights violations throughout the country."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 16.08.2007

East German author Uwe Tellkamp joins in the debate around how East German writers may deal with the GDR in their literature (more here), asking what the GDR was like and how it may be used: "Was it a pedagogical province, which pursued its mission to educate people for higher purposes with the help of teachers who were punished as sons and became punishing fathers? A paternalistic project? Rewards for good conduct, 'instruments' for deviation? Was it a large-scale combine with the name Bread & Lies?" Literature, according to Tellkamp, will not provide a simple answer. "The further this little country sinks into the maelstrom of time and history, the more it will take the shape of a tower in Atlantis. The literary future of our past is open."


Der Tagesspiegel 16.08.2007

"If the really good debates were more important, and the important debates were better, Germany would have an enviable culture of debate," writes the author Thomas Brussig. Unfortunately, however, the opposite is the case. For the most part what he calls U-debates (from U-Musik, Unterhaltungsmusik or entertaining music - ed), - for example Günter Grass' membership in the Waffen SS (more here), the current debate on the discovery of the East German order for guards to shoot illegal border crossers (more here) or the protection of Berlin's Holocaust memorial from graffiti - are conducted on a very high rhetorical level. The important E-debates, however (from E-Musik, ernsthafte Musik or serious music - ed), - for example the Pisa study on education or the quality of food products - are not as brilliant. "Now it's not the case that U-debates are designed then created in editorial offices. Certain topics have a potential to excite interest - and this potential remains uncertain until the interest has actually manifested itself... With debates it's a bit like in kindergarten. When the teacher - here in the guise of the culture and opinion pages - claps her hands and calls 'Gather round, we're going to play climate discussion!', the children all shrug it off the first day, but the next they jump for joy and all join in. What exactly causes debates to arise is unpredictable. Only one thing is sure-fire: comparisons with Goebbels."

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