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02/11/2007

From the Feuilletons

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 27.10.2007

After years of stagnation, an "existential debate" is raging about theatre in Poland, Dirk Pilz reports. "How much topical content can the theatre afford to show? Should theatre not essentially serve the mediation of (Catholic) values, instead of reproducing reality? Krystyna Meissner, at 74 the grande dame of the Polish theatre scene and director of the biannual Dialog festival in Wroclaw, believes that rather than ignoring reality as it has done up to now, theatre should participate in it: 'Everything may be said, everything may be shown,' she says. For that reason, she gives the young, wild voices a platform at the Dialog festival, as well as at the influential Teatr Wspolczesny in Wroclaw, where she is artistic director... Many accuse the theatre of concentrating solely on topical content. Reviewers and critical voices speak of a 'Tsunami of youth' - a tempest blowing the political and social conditions of the day onto the stage."


Berliner Zeitung 27.10.2007

In a interview, Berlin Volksbuhne director Frank Castorf told Ulrich Seidler that it is not his theatre that is in crisis, but an over-saturated Germany. "At the beginning of the nineties Berlin was angry, politicised, and a very different intellectual climate reigned. Now we have a new Mainz, a Castrop-Rauxel – and the new wealth has fed into this. I am bored of this Mitte thinking, which does nothing but self-reflect. So it's not bad to go out into the world and look at what's happening there. In Sao Paolo, Germany is about as interesting a weather report from last year. I was working in conditions over there which are almost impossible to imagine in this country. When it's rains, you can't hear a word. The cars basically drive through the rehearsal room. There's no stage design, not even a play as such, and the actors have a completly different attitude to work. And you only have 4 weeks. It can't work you think. Here in Germany, you have everything there, but at the end it's hardly better than at the start."


Süddeutsche Zeitung
29.10.2007

The paper prints excerpts from a speech given by Frank Schirrmacher, head of the Feuilleton section and one of the four publishers of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, on being awarded the Jacob Grimm Prize. The award – and 30,000 euros prize money - go to someone who has contributed to the creative development of the German language. In his speech, Schirrmacher warns of the pornographic and criminal content on the Internet, arguing that only the major quality papers hold out salvation. "This is today's challenge, and there is no better: to conquer the Internet, but also to hold one's own against it and offer a viable alternative. One option is the newspaper itself, whose death knell some – in fact those very people who make a living exploiting the editorial contents of other publications - are only too quick to sound. Almost everything taken seriously on the Web originated in the newspapers." (Such as the speech apparatus posted in the SZ today perhaps, which allows readers "to make CSU leader Edmund Stoiber say what you always wanted to say," or the "top ten faux pas of progress" or an article on the virtual pop princess Mina. Hmm...)


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
30.10.2007

Franz Haas reports on the uproar among Italy's Catholics and devotional object producers. The cause is a book on Padre Pio by historian Sergio Luzzatto, who has cited previously unpublished Vatican souces, according to which the Capuchin Pater "purchased large quantities of carbolic acid at a local chemist, with the aim perhaps of helping along the miracles with a little corroding of the hands. The chemist turned in confidence to the local bishop, who then wrote an outraged Pope Benedict XV in 1920. Until recently these letters have been silenced in the archives of the Holy Officium. Padre Pio is such a beloved saint in Italy that such unpalatable facts cannot go uncontested. The right-wing conservative media is protesting against such 'slander' and in the thickets of the readers' blogs even anti-Semitic tones are surfacing. In the online edition of the Berlusconi paper Il Giornale, or example, reference is being made to Sergio Luzzatto's background with talk of a "Jewish-Freemason plot."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 30.10.2007

The exhibition "Manifestations of Contemporary Art" has just opened in Tehran's Museum for Contemporary Art. It is an exception to the rule, writes Iranian author Amir Hassan Cheheltan, that the museum is showing its treasures, although it was never closed completely. The collection must "continue to exist behind closed doors as a warning sign to the Mullahs about the ever continuing denial of modernity. Because many former revolutionaries are now implementing changes and experiencing a return to modernity. It is a process they cannot avoid. An exemplary u-turn can be observed in a director who is also known in the west. Once a Muslim revolutionary, in the first decade of the revolution he screened the films of a secular director and then declared that he was prepared to tie hand grenades to his body, embrace his colleague and blow them both to smithereens. This revolutionary Muslim recently became a French citizen and in his last film put a naked woman in front of the camera!"


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 31.10.2007

At the Belgrade Book Fair, writers such as David Albahari and Dragan Velikic paid a flying visit to their home town. But Michael Martens has found that very few writers in exile want to return in the long term. And Serbo-Croat has long been in decline. "How long will people in Croatia be able to read a book from Serbia without linguistic difficulties? This starts at the issue of whether it is printed in Cyrillic or Latin lettering... Those who opt for Cyrillic will certainly have a difficult standing in Croatia. But it not only in the script, but also the vocabulary where Croat and Serbia are drifting apart. Serbo-Croat apparently cannot exist any longer. It has turned into Siamese twins who since their bloody operation that separated them insist that they hated each other all along."


Die Welt 30.10.2007

Following the election victory of Donald Tusk's liberal-conservative Civic Platform (PO), Adam Krzeminski has great hopes for Poland: "From an Archimedean distance, it would be only a slight exaggeration to say that a fresh wind is blowing through Poland, as it did with Kennedy in the US in 1960, with Brandt in Germany in 1969 and with Blair in Great Britain in 1997. A youthful and seemingly candid politician has beaten a distrustful authoritarian who has an almost autistic vision of politics as battle rather than teamwork. We must let Tusk be Tusk and not rush to put him on a pedestal along with the other greats. ... Tusk is on an upwards spiral, but only to a certain extent, because the presidential palace can be a very stormy place. The conflict within Poland continues: Poland's presidential elections are in three years' time. Nonetheless, over the past week the West (and with it the EU) have grown in importance here in Poland."


Frankfurter Rundschau
01.11.2007

Martina Meister gives a breathless resume of the huge Gustave Courbet exhibition in Paris' Grand Palais. "And then the egregious 'L'origine du monde', first hidden, then lost, and still controversial toady: the legendary nude which Courbet painted for the Turkish-Egyptian collector Khalil-Bey, who kept it meticulously hidden away behind a green velvet curtain in a secret cabinet. When the collecter had to part from this painting it was concealed behind Courbet's 'Le Chateau de Blonay' and offered up for sale with a Parisian art dealer. The painting ended up in Hungary and was presumed missing until it reappeared in the estate of Jacques Lacan. Lacan supposedly purchased it in 1943 and had Andre Masson make into a panel which could be opened up at need. Marguerite Duras and Claude Levi-Strauss were among the guests at the house of the psychoanalyst who had the privilege of a private viewing. The painting depicts a woman's torso. And only that. It has no neck, no arms, no legs. The only part you see of them is spread wide. In the centre is the sex, the pubis, the origin of the world. It is like an invitation to a new age. From here on, no boundaries exist."


Die Welt
01.11.2007

Kai Luehrs-Kaiser is very impressed by Enrique Sanchez Lansch's documentary film "Das Reichsorchester" (the Reichs orchestra), about the Berliner Philharmoniker during the Nazi era – a topic many feel still has not been adequately dealt with: "Face up to the past? What on earth for! The sins of the past are easily shifted onto ex-director Wilhelm Furtwängler. His affiliations to the Nazis continue to badly damage his reputation, but not that of the Philharmoniker. The film lives from people's memories, which themselves are brought to life by the naivety of those interviewed. The sole word of remorse is spoken by the wonderful Hellmut Stern, one of the few Jewish orchestra members after the war: 'I never asked.' The history of the 'Reichsorchester' was even taboo for its musicians. That he went along with this taboo still causes Stern great embarrassment today."


Die Welt
02.11.2007

Andre Glucksmann writes an appeal for Mikhail Khodorkovsky who is locked up in Siberia and who, Glucksmann predicts, will play a similar role in his country to that once played by Andrei Sakharov. "Khodorkovsky no innocent lamb. But then neither was Sakharov, the physicist who invented the Soviet hydrogen bomb. But when he became aware of the suppression and bondage around him he started hiding dissidents and made a stand against the red dictatorship. Khodorkovsky, the boss among bosses, struck against the return of autocracy. Many Russians, and Anna Politkovskaya in particular, told me that because he was rich, ordinary people mistrusted him, but in Russia, 'if you go into jail and you don't bend to the will of the powerful, you are purged in the public eye.' Abandoned by the world, Mikhail Khodorkovsky's resistance has made him a oppositional figure in the ranks of Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Bukowski." (The article originally appeared in Le Monde.)



Martin Mosebach's speech on receiving the Georg Büchner Prize

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 30.10.2007

Frankfurt author Martin Mosebach was awarded the Gerog Büchner Preis, Germany's most important literary prize, last Friday (more here). All the feuilletons comment on his acceptance speech, which deals principally with Büchner's play "Danton's Death." The FAZ prints the speech almost in its entirety. In it, Mosebach connects a line spoken by one character in the play, French revolutionary Antoine de Saint-Just, with the words of SS commander Heinrich Himmler. Saint-Just condones the idea of mass murder, Mosebach argues, "a doctrine which (Saint-Just) announces in an ominously foreboding passage: 'Shouldn't an idea destroy what resists it just as effectively as a law of physics? … The universal spirit makes as good use of our poor in the intellectual realm as it does of volcanoes and floods in the physical realm.' (…) All we need do is add to these words the phrase: '… to have recognised this, and to have remained decent in the process …', and it is suddenly one hundred and fifty years later, no longer in Paris, but in Poznan, at Himmler's notorious speech to SS leaders."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 29.10.2007

Lorenz Jäger was captivated. "Mosebach … delivered his speech with unparalleled bravura. One could really say that the subject of the French Revolution, and the subsequent revolution of 1830, both of which run so diametrically counter to Mosebach's sympathies, demanded his undivided mental energies. Here, confronted with such a theme, he rose to the demands required of a fine speaker… Revolution, the revolutions, arose in their highest dignity, dark and sublime, terribly magnificent, in his speech. It is no exaggeration to say that such a thrilling speech has no equal, not only among the acceptance speeches for the Büchner Prize, but among all the speeches given by writers in recent years."


Die Tageszeitung 01.11.2007

"How can you compare the revolutionary terror resulting from civil war, counter-revolutionary interventions and pressure from the starving masses with the Nazi murder machine? asks Christian Semler. For Semler, the only record Martin Mosebach's speech breaks is the one for stretching the patience of his audience. "Mosebach's parallel between the murderous rhetoric of the revolutionary Saint-Just and Heinrich Himmler's speech in Poznan about how the SS murderers remained 'decent' is not only historically absurd, it also promotes an idea of history that ignores the expressly democratic impulse within the French Revolution."





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