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23/11/2007

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.

Die Welt 22.11.2007

Author Rolf Schneider calls to his fellow writers not to abandon the stage to the director's theatre of "Castorf, Thalheim, Pucher, Kriegenburg, Kimmig, Perceval e tutti quanti" without a fight. "The majority of the protagonists of director's theatre see themselves as representatives of left-wing sensibilities. These include, now as ever, a strong sense of history and its conveyance. The products of director's theatre neither deliver stories, historical insights, nor inspiration for engaged collective behaviour. They remain emanations of a somewhat reactionary, irrationalist, late bourgeois ego mania, their so-called avant-gardism is literally that, a pure question of form. As such, the directors contradict and betray themselves with their plays."


Der Freitag 23.11.2007

We need another Susan Sontag sighs Daniel Schreiber, who has just written a book about her. "However out of date this idea might sound in the Vanity Fair era from Paris Hilton to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the time seems ripe for a figure of her stature. A figure who is prepared to take risks, with brilliance, charm and ruthlessness, and to throw into the ring a hat which will only fit after provocative thought impulses and collective self-questioning. A figure who masters what Derrida once called 'the art of taking a public stand".


Die Welt 22.11.2007

In an interview with Nathan Gardals, Bernard-Henri Levy analyses the situation in Pakistan, lends his approval to Bernard Kouchner's policy on Iran – and demands that his fellow Frenchmen make Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary citizen, now that she is no longer protected by the Netherlands. "France is the birthplace of the Enlightenment, and we should defend this legacy. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the embodiment of the universal freedom of reason and for this she is risking her life. We should extend to her the principle of the right to protection beyond borders. I hope that Sarkozy agrees to making her an honorary French citizen. Beyond that we ask the European Union as a whole to answer for Hirsi Ali's protection, at all times and wherever she goes. She is a citizen of Europe after all."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 21.11.2007

Adolf Wild reports from the book fair in Algiers, where even the religious publishers have a major presence. "At least their customers are making a self-confident appearance. Bearded men are piously uniform in white kaftans, skull caps and sandals, the women heavily veiled. And even if they are probably not in the majority they are setting the atmosphere. Last year the main hall was left entirely to the religious. All the other publishers shared a second hall. The idea was to break up this dominance this time around by mixing up the stands. But now bearded men are everywhere. And this is not going down well, either at the fair or in the columns of the relatively free press. Crime author Yasmina Khadra who, as the star of the fair, is hopping from one interview to the next, is disturbed by the situation between neighbours. Everyone just looks blankly past past each other. Deep rifts in a divided society."


Die Welt 21.11.2007

Hanns-Georg Rodek joins in the chorus of critical approval for Cristian Mungius' film "4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days" about a young girl who has an abortion under the Ceaucescu regime. Rodek admires how Mungiu evokes the repressive atmosphere using purely cinematic means: "Mungiu composes it from atmospheres outside – bare trees, dimly lit crossroads, abandoned paths – and meetings with deeply corrupt individuals. Any of these with even a trace of power, will use it to humiliate the next person who comes their way.


Süddeutsche Zeitung 21.11.2007

Sonja Margolina uses the example of Alexei Ivanov, Igor Sachnovski and Olga Slavnikova to portray Russia's new literary hopes from the Urals. "It is no accident that, after a decade of chaos, the rocky Urals should emerge as the birthplace of important contemporary prose. The Soviet weapons makers hired scientific and technological excellence from all over the USSR. Their talented and risk-embracing children went their own ways, profiting from the post-Soviet chaos and from the distinctive genius loci: the lure and magic of the treasures buried deep in the mountains. In the 1990s, when governmental controls had ceased to function, the obsession with gemstones reached fever pitch and the ancient mythology of the Urals region experienced a renaissance. With its harsh climate, social and ecological problems, its impoverished underclass and criminal upper class, the Urals are near unparalleled in this vast land as a treasure trove for the literary imagination.


Die Tageszeitung 20.11.2007

Cristian Mungiu's Cannes-winning film "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days" hit the screens in Germany this week. Bert Rebhandl extols the Romanian film portraying the post-communist world in the style of neorealism, although his all-time favourite is "California Dreamin' (Endless)" by Cristian Nemescu. "Nemescu died in a traffic accident just before the film was finished, not even thirty years old. The film shows a train pulling into the provincial town of Capalnitam where a secret mission is underway. The train bears a radar system destined for Kosovo, as support for the American airforce in the war against Serbia. On the train are two groups of soldiers, American and Romanian. But some customs forms are missing, so the local station master has no alternative but to stop the train's journey and move it to a side track."


Die Welt 20.11.2007

Author and historian Manfred Flügge discusses a book by two French journalists on Nicolas Sarkozy's cheerless victory celebrations in Fouqet's hotel on the Champs-Elysees. "The invitation list included directors of TV stations and newspapers, leading businessmen, film and sports stars. It was drawn up by Cecilia Sarkozy, who also decided which politicians to invite. She herself refused to attend the celebrations, however, just as she had refused to cast her ballot. This president would not receive her vote. A huge crowd awaited the victorious candiate that evening on the Place de la Concorde. The candidate himself, however, awaited his wife in vain. The future president brooded, gloomy as Napoleon after a pointless battle. He stared at his Blackberry like a child at his toy telephone, waiting for messages that didn't come. Cecilia, presumably, was doing the same thing in her hotel..."


Frankfurter Rundschau 20.11.2007

Almost fifty years after it was written, Vassily Grossman's novel "Life and Fate" has now appeared for the first time in a complete - more than 1,000-page - German edition. Olga Martynova wholeheartedly recommends the book, and is overwhelmed by the "inner freedom" of this work written by a former hard-line Communist: "With unspairing honesty, Grossman examines the situation in which he too found himself. Shortly before Stalin's death, the most famous Jewish artists and academics were forced to publicly condone the late Stalinist anti-Semitic hate campaign. Among the signatories: Vassily Grossman.“


Die Tageszeitung 19.11.2007

Björn Gottstein is enthralled by the "wildly beautiful music" of German composer Sebastian Claren's new album, inspired in part by Sergei Eisenstein and Daniil Charms. "If 'Potemkin I: Baby Baby' is the most beautiful track on Claren's new portrait-CD, it's not because it harks back to Eisenstein's legendary film. It's because of the wondrous blend of the accordeon and the three string instruments. Claren composes gestures, intertwining them in such a way that the instruments clutch, grasp and pervade one another. Of course, the piece thrives on Claren's use of the rhythm of the film sequences, with which he transforms camera angles into musical close-ups and tracking shots. But all of that is secondary to the sound itself."


Die Welt 19.11.2007

Johnny Erling was at an exhibition in Beijing, and sees signs that open discussion about the Cultural Revolution may not be long in coming: "Beijing art critic Yin Shuangxi stated that China could no longer act as if an event like the Cultural Revolution simply didn't take place. He referred to art and literature from the years 1976 - 1985 that had already sought to deal with the past. These attempts were stopped, however. Yet in Yin's words, 'The time has come for a new confrontation with the past.'"


Die Welt 17.11.2007

Ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl has just published his memoirs from the years 1990 - 1994. Writer Michael Kleeberg defends Kohl against his detractors, who say his term in office was marked by prolonged stagnation. Because in that time, Kleeberg writes, Germany became hedonistic: "When I left the country, my friends were stuck in their studies or vocational training. They shacked up in small dives or shared flats, drove old Opel Kadetts, drank sour 'La Pinte' wine and held the military industrial complex responsible for the oncoming nuclear war. Then when I came back, I met Mercedes Benz drivers, house owners, golf players, Cohiba smokers and bordeaux drinkers, suddenly graced with a sense of self-irony. And they all told me how they'd suffered under intolerable boredom and stagnation of the Kohl era. All of them had just voted for Joschka Fischer, and all of them had made something of themselves in those years of boredom."

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