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GoetheInstitute

14/09/2007

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.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 14.09.2007

Sonja Margolina takes issue with the views expressed by Richard Wagner two weeks ago in the same paper on Eastern Europe's way of dealing with its past (full article in English here), and is less optimistic about the benefits of "confronting the past": "Central Eastern Europeans never had it so good as they do today. Rampant consumerism and political abstinence give politicians a free hand. At the same time, the political class fails to address important topics with which they could win voters. As a result populism is gaining ground. In the struggle for power, this triggers political eruptions capable of developing a destructive force in the absence of a strong civil society. In Poland, the last Romantics are now in power. They are seeking to champion their history in face of the future, with no holds barred. The Baltic countries are generally considered pragmatic and flexible. Yet now they seem to have abandoned this pragmatism once so important to their survival. This is due to the protection they now receive from Nato and the EU. Their combativeness doesn't attest to courage, but a lack of political responsibility, and will be at the expense of Europe."


Der Tagesspiegel
, 14.09.2007

"Italy's cultural system is on the brink of collapse," prophesies the soprano Cecilia Bartoli in an interview with Ulrich Amling and Frederik Hanssen. "Opera in Italy is a museum with dusty exhibits. But it used to be the country with the greatest composers, artists and singers! I hardly perform there anymore. Organising a tour in Italy is a nightmare. Everyone is saying 'si', 'no' and so forth until the last minute. It's not as though we have no audiences. But we live in a condition of paralysis and are not able to do anything about it, to liberate ourselves from the lethargy. You might call it a coma. Maybe it has something to do with the state of Italian television."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.09.2007

Andreas Kilb has spoken with Roberto Saviano, the author who has been forced by his bestseller "Gomorrha," about the Neapolitan Camorra, to go underground. According to Saviano, the Italian Mafia took root in Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall: "In East Germany there were hardly any controls, anyone could found a company. The hoped-for investors from West Germany stayed put, however, and in their place came many foreigners, particularly Italians. The Neapolitans started importing Western goods into Eastern Europe. The first Italian construction firm to set up in the former GDR was Alba Nova s.r.l., which belongs to the Camorra. It had already had connections to the old communist regime. For the Mafia, East Germany was the gateway to Eastern Europe."


Die Tageszeitung 14.09.2007

Bulgarian cultural anthropologist Ivaylo Ditchev reports on a new trend among Bulgarian businesspeople: founding political parties to wield direct influence on municipal administrations, and save on bribe money. "It's simply cheaper to found your own party than to regularly 'sponsor' political representatives in city governments. The names in the new party landscape are programmatic, and have nothing to do with traditional political labels. Instead of being conservative or liberal, on the right or on the left, they offer citizens a poetic name. What should the alternative be, for example, to the 'Black Sea Initiative'? Perhaps 'Mountain'? This name has already been taken by a business party in Nessebar (the richest city in Bulgaria, which also lies on the coast) and suggests, at the same time, criticism from the anti-political realm: 'mountain' is the Bulgarian synonym for 'facts'. Who can fail to be attracted by such a programme? The acronym of the most recent party gives the Bulgarian word for 'leader', and represents the team of Hristo Kovachki, probably the richest man in Bulgaria. His party is represented everywhere where his economic interests are pursued." (See our feature "Lifestyle nationalism" by Ivaylo Ditchev).


Frankfurter Rundschau 14.09.2007

Socialism has failed but its ideological leftovers are hibernating in the bourgeois middle of European societies, writes Ulrike Ackermann, referring to the old bourgeois discomfort with the notion of freedom. "The individual who takes responsibility for himself, who takes his life, his freedom and quest for happiness into his own hands, is still regarded with suspicion today. In the critique of individualism, still commonly to be heard, the egoistical, profit- and goal-driven individual is seen as a product of decadent, cold capitalism. Salvation is expected to come from the state, increasingly responsible for all life's risks, and from cozy communities which serve egalitarian desires. But in the past, individual freedom as an invaluable treasure and an accomplishment of modernity, has all too often been sacrificed to collective and consolidated interests. So it's high time to put self-determination and the individual's autonomy on the agenda."

Peter Michalzik calls Armin Petras' play "Heaven (to Tristan)" in the Frankfurter Schauspiel "dead sad and heart-warmingly funny, relaxed, charming." The play was written by Petras under the name, as always, of Fritz Kater. "Fritz Kater wrote a play about Wolfen, where ORWO films were once produced and where, as in many parts of the East, the population is now shrinking. He did what he does best – focused on the forgotten, the lost, the disoriented. (Which is why it's so nice when their fantasies become independent.) Where people are becoming garbage and a world is disappearing, Kater has a big heart."


Die Welt
14.09.2007

In an interview with Wieland Freund, the Singhalese-Tamil-Dutch-Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje talks about the internationalism of English literature. "Rushdie's novel 'Midnight's Children' (from 1981) changed English literature. Before it, there was an author by the name of G.V. Desani who wrote a novel called 'All about H. Hatter' (1948). That was the first Indian novel that hit English literature with a bang. And perhaps that's the great thing about English literature: that it's open to all tones. There was a time when the best English authors were Irish; Synge, Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Joyce, Beckett. Or think of Joseph Conrad, the Pole."

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