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22/02/2008

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.

Süddeutsche Zeitung 16.02.2008

The recent case in Afghanistan of a student who is being threatened with execution for printing and distributing an article about women's rights, shines for Ilija Trojanow and Ranjit Hoskote a revealing light on the country. "The Kambakhsh case shows that behind the over-simplified tale of religious fanaticism is a puppet regime characterised by widespread corruption, massive abuses of power and a contempt for state control. The key actors here are politicians who are in control of substantial western aid for reconstruction, civil servants who see torture, rape and extortion as legitimate instruments of administration, and regional leaders who control both parliament and poppy production and line their pockets with drug profits several times larger than the state budget."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
16.02.2008

Hungarian writer Peter Zilahy remembers the first time it dawned on him that he was an EU citizen, while in the queue for EU passport holders at the airport. "What came over me is hard to put into words. It must be how coal feels when after millions of years of stone-hard waiting deep inside the earth, it suddenly mutates into a diamond. Or liquid gold, when Cellini gave it form. I stood there like a lost sheep which, with the final chord of its prolonged and joyless bleating, to its great surprise finally reaches the right place, a yapping dog at its heels. I handed over my passport which betrayed my provenance, the border control officer inspected it at length, as if it was fake, bent it this way and that, shone a light at it, subjected its holder to thorough staring as well, and then waved his hand. I could go through."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.02.2008

Marjane Satrapi's film "Persepolis" has been shown to a selected audience in Tehran - albeit with 20 minutes cut out – and a complete if not subtitled pirate copy has also been circulating the country. Simon Fuchs was at the official screening and talked to students afterwards. "No one would argue that the rejection of the religious state system by the young is greater and more widespread than in Satrapi's generation. But why, Farshad interjects, are people who want change not getting support from abroad. He holds out his mobile phone with photos of a public square full of students demonstrating. That was two months ago. We were shouting 'Death to the dictator! Death to the fascist system!' Why does CNN only show Ahmedinejad saying yet again that he wants Israel wiped off the map. Why doesn't it show us as well?"


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 20.02.2008

Fidel Castro's obituary is written by Norberto Fuentes, a once close associate of Castro's who also published a fictional autobiography (excerpt in English here) of the caudillo. It was during the Cuban Crisis, Fuentes writes, that Castro and his kind understood their mission. "The Russians needed them. These old men were no longer even capable of motivating their own committees. And so Fidel Castro became the last Soviet hero, following his previous incarnation as the Robin Hood of American TV:"


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 21.02.2008

The recent outbreak of youth violence in Denmark has sparked intense national debate about integration and tolerance. For Danish writer Jens Christian Grøndahl the violence is more a reaction to a new wave of drug raids than to the re-publication of the Mohammed cartoons: "When it comes to the uneducated, traditionally oriented ghetto-dwellers of middle-eastern or north-African descent, the charitable Dane is torn between the anxiety he feels at what he suspects is the return of a class society, and his need to show someone his empathy and improve his or her lot with socio-political initiatives. ... The accommodating, flagellating self-criticism of the welfare state has become so entrenched in our minds that even arsonists and killers are seen as victims. In this particular point, integration, which has failed otherwise, is astoundingly successful: there's a very telling correspondence between the social-moral tendency toward empathy, and the over-sensitive rhetoric regarding arsonists or rather fundamentalist Muslims."


Die Zeit 21.02.2008

Following the recent exposure of what is being called the greatest tax evasion scandal in German history, Marc Brost and Uwe Jean Heuser look at the rich German elite which is withdrawing from society to live in a parallel universe. To the rich, high taxes are a "predatory attack by the state. (...) What we have here is more than just a couple of tax criminals who've been flushed out. Something has gone awry in this country. … It's not merely a dozen or so managers who have dropped out of society bit by bit. This tax scandal involves family businesses and entire wage brackets. No matter that their villas are getting larger, and that their children have a greater head-start in the society than ever before. What is evaporating is their desire to integrate. And to finance the state. Germany's class struggle is coming from above."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 22.02.2008

Agron Bajrami,
editor-in-chief of the newspaper Koha Ditore, writes about Kosovo's independence. "Like every newborn, Kosovo is a tiny, helpless and weak creature. It is a penniless country with an impoverished and poorly educated population, high levels of unemployment, an underdeveloped economy, unstable political institutions, major ethnic tensions and a bad image. And its neighbours, the Serbs, are furious about its birth. These are all grounds for considerable concern for the stability of this newest of European states."


Frankfurter Rundschau
22.02.2008

Jonathan Littell's novel "Les Bienveillantes" (originally published in French) about an SS officer in WWII, is due out in German translation this Saturday. Inspired by the criticism levelled by Georg Klein (feature to follow next week) that the book lacks the 'style of evil', Ina Hartwig compares Littell with the French poetes maudits. "In the writings of de Sade and Bataille murder itself is linked with lust. And lust - this would be a criteria for 'the style of evil' – becomes the ruling principle. But even in moments when his drives kick in, Littell's hero Max Aue is still himself. In full control and with a morceau of self irony, he concludes: 'And so I decided, my arse full of sperm, to join the secret police.' Morality is not warped into amorality, but the ruling criminal law is deceived, outwitted."

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

A clutch of German newspapers launch an appeal against the criminalisation of Wikileaks. Vera Lengsfeld remembers GDR dissident Jürgen Fuchs and how he met death in his cell. All the papers were bowled over Xavier Beauvois' film "Of Gods and Men." The FR enjoys a joke but not a picnic at a staging of Stravinsky's "Rake's Progress" in Berlin. Gustav Seibt provides a lurid description of Napoleonic soap in the SZ. German-Turkish Dogan Akhanli author explains what it feels like to be Josef K.
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Colombian writer Hector Abad defends Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa against European Latin-America romantics. Wikileaks dissident Daniel Domscheit-Berg criticises the new publication policy of his former employer. The Sprengel Museum has put on a show of child nudes by die Brücke artists. The SZ takes a walk through the Internet woods with FAZ prophet of doom Frank Schirrmacher. The FAZ is troubled by Christian Thielemann's unstable tempo in the Beethoven cycle. And the FR meets China Free Press publisher, Bao Pu.
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Saturday 27 November - Friday 3 December

Danish author Frederik Stjernfelt explains how the Left got its culturist ideas. Slavenka Draculic writes about censoring Angelina Jolie who wanted to make a film in Bosnia. Daniel Cohn-Bendit talks   about his friendship, falling out and reconciliation with Jean-Luc Godard. Wikileaks has caused an embarrassed silence in the Arab world, where not even al-Jazeera reported on the what the sheiks really think. Alan Posener calls for the Hannah Arendt Institute in Dresden to be shut down.
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Saturday 20 - Friday 26 November, 2010

The theatre event of the week came in a twin pack: Roland Schimmelpfennig's new play, a post-colonial "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" opened at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin and the Thalia in Hamburg. The anarchist pamphlet "The Coming Insurrection" has at last been translated into German and has ignited the revolutionary sympathies of at least two leading German broadsheets, the FAZ and the SZ. But the taz, Germany's left-wing daily, says the pamphlet is strongly right-wing. What's left and right anyway? came the reply.
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Saturday 13 - Friday 19 November, 2010

Dieter Schlesak levels grave accusations against his former friend and colleague, Oskar Pastior, who spied on him for the Securitate. Banat-Swabian author and vice chairman of the Oskar Pastior Foundation, Ernest Wichner, turns on Schlesak for spreading malicious rumours. Die Zeit portrays the Berlin rapper Harris, and the moment he knew he was German. Dutch author Cees Nooteboom meditates on the near lust for physical torture in the paintings of Francisco de Zurburan. An exhibition in Mannheim displays the dream house photography of Julius Schulman.
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Saturday 6 - Friday 12 November, 2010

The NZZ asks why banks invest in art. The FAZ gawps at the unnatural stack of stomach muscles in Michelangelo's drawings. The taz witnesses a giant step for the "Yugo palaver". Bernard-Henri Levy describes Sakineh Ashtiani's impending execution as a test for Iran and the west. Journalist Michael Anti talks about the healthy relationship between the net and the Chinese media. Literary academic Helmut Lethen describes how Ernst Jünger stripped the worker of all organic substances.
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Saturday 30 October - Friday 5 November, 2010

Now that German TV has just beatified Pope Pius XII, Rolf Hochmuth tells die Welt where he got the idea for his play "The Deputy". The FR celebrates Elfriede Jelinek's "brilliantly malicious" farce about the collapse of the Cologne City Archive. "Carlos" director Olivier Assayas makes it clear that the revolutionary subject is a figment of the imagination. The SZ returns from the Shanghai Expo with a cloying after-taste of sweet 'n' sour. And historian Wang Hui tells the NZZ that China's intellectuals have plenty of freedom to pose critical questions.
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Saturday 23 - Friday 29 October, 2010

Author Doron Rabinovici protests against the concessions of moderate Austrian politicians to the FPÖ: recently in Vienna, children were sent back to Kosovo at gunpoint. Ian McEwan wonders why major German novelists didn't mention the Wall. The NZZ looks through the Priz Goncourt shortlist and finds plenty of writers with more bite than Houellebecq. The FAZ outs two of Germany's leading journalists who fiercely guarded the German Foreign Ministry's Nazi past. Jens-Martin Eriksen and Frederik Stjernfelt analyse the symptoms of culturalism, left and right. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht demonstratively yawns at German debate.
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Saturday 16 - Friday 22 October, 2010

A new book chronicles the revolt of revolting "third persons" at Suhrkamp publishers in the wild days of 1968. Necla Kelek is appalled by the speech of the very Christian Christian Wulff, the German president, in Turkey. The taz met a new faction of hardcore Palestinians who are fighting for separate sex hairdressing in Gaza. Sinologist Andreas Schlieker reports on the new Chinese willingness to restructure the heart. And the Cologne band Erdmöbel celebrate the famous halo around the frying pan.
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Saturday 9 - Friday 15 October, 2010

The FR laps up the muscular male bodies and bellies at the Michelangelo exhibition in the Viennese Albertina. The same paper is outraged by the cowardice of the Berlin exhibition "Hitler and the Germans". Mario Vargas-Llosa remembers a bad line from Sweden. Theologist Friedrich Wilhelm Graf makes it very clear that Western values are not Judaeo-Christian values. The Achse des Guten is annoyed by the attempts of the mainstream media to dismiss Mario Vargas-Llosa. The NZZ celebrates the tireless self-demolition of Polish writer and satirist Slawomir Mrozek.
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Saturday 2 - Friday 8 October, 2010

Nigerian writer Niyi Osundare explains why his country has become uninhabitable. German Book Prize winner Melinda Nadj Abonji says Switzerland only pretends to be liberal. German author Monika Maron is not sure that Islam really does belong to Germany. Russian writer Oleg Yuriev explains the disastrous effects of postmodernism on the Petersburg Hermitage. Argentinian author Martin Caparros describes how the Kirchners have co-opted the country's revolutionary history. And publisher Damian Tabarovsky explains why 2001 was such an explosively creative year for Argentina.
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Saturday 25 September - Friday 1 October

Three East German theatre directors talk about the trauma of reunification. In the FAZ, Thilo Sarrazin denies accusations that his book propagates eugenics: "I am interested in the interplay of nature and nurture." Polemics are being drowned out by blaring lullabies, author Thea Dorn despairs. Author Iris Radisch is dismayed by the state of the German novel - too much idle chatter, not enough literary clout. Der Spiegel posts its interview with the German WikiLeaks spokesman, Daniel Schmitt. And Vaclav Havel's appeal to award the Nobel prize to Liu Xiabobo has the Chinese authorities pulling out their hair.
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Saturday 18 - Friday 24 September, 2010

Herta Müller's response to the news that poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant was one of overwhelming grief: "When he returned home from the gulag he was everybody's game." Theatre director Luk Perceval talks about the veiled depression in his theatre. Cartoonist Molly Norris has disappeared after receiving death threats for her "Everybody Draw Mohammed" campaign. The Berliner Zeitung approves of the mellowing in Pierre Boulez' music. And Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, allowed to leave China for the first time, explains why schnapps is his most important writing tool.
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Saturday 10 - Friday 17 September, 2010

The poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant, the historian Stefan Sienerth has discovered. Biologist Veronika Lipphardt dismisses Thilo Sarrazin's incendiary intelligence theories as a load of codswallop. A number of prominent Muslim intellectuals in Germany have written an open letter to President Christian Wulff, calling for him to "make a stand for a democratic culture based on mutual respect." And a Shell study has revealed that Germany's youth aspire to be just like their parents.
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Saturday 4 - Friday 10 September, 2010

Thilo Sarrazin has buckled under the stress of the past two weeks and resigned from the board of the Central Bank. His book, "Germany is abolishing itself", however, continues to keep Germany locked in a debate about education and immigration and intelligence. Also this week, Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard has been awarded the M100 prize for defending freedom of opinion. Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech at the award ceremony: "The secret of freedom is courage". The FAZ interviewed Westergaard, who expressed his disappointment that the only people who had shown him no support were those of his own class.
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