13/06/2008

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.

Der Freitag 13.06.2008

Ingo Arend was in Istanbul to meet Müge Gürsoy Sökmen, the left-wing feminist publisher responsible for the Turkey's guest appearance at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. The motto, "Diversity" has more to it than the usual PR facade of a system that takes its writers to court for insulting "Turkishness", writes Arend: it represents minor victory for civil society: "Who has ever heard Mario Levi (born 1957), the Jewish-Turkish writer whose novel 'Istanbul Bir Masaldi' enjoys cult status in Turkey? Or Murathan Mungan? Born 1955 in Istanbul, he is a master of literary crossover who balances between pop, drama and poetry in his reworking of Arab-Kurdish-Alevite legends. His writing is not only highly athletic, he is also extremely politically outspoken. When Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was murdered by nationalists in 2007, he caused a sensation by lashing out at Turkish nationalism in a newspaper article. And being an avowed homosexual, in a widely macho country like Turkey, is a statement in itself. And who has heard of Asli Erdogan, born 1976 in Istanbul? This former particle physicist who moved into literature, represents an entirely new generation of Turkish women writers, a world away from forced nationalist identity?"


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
12.06.2008

A new series in the NZZ focusses on radical Islam. It is opened by Maajid Nawaz, a former member of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (here the internet site of the organisation which is banned in Germany), who turned away from Islamism while serving a five-year prison sentence. "But where to turn? Which message offers an alternative? As an Islamist, I knew of thousands of hard, strong-willed men behind me, men who had sacrificed their lives for their beliefs. Where were the Muslim martyrs of pluralism? Why were the few who represented this position, ridiculed or ignored? I would be turning my back on a global movement in which I was a hero, to become an outcast. I was literally married to Islamism; all my friends and countless family members were also part of it. What would I say to my wife who had held out like a saint all those years I was in prison – that the things she believed in were not worth all that suffering." (More links: Maajid Nawaz's blog and videos from a conference with Nawaz organized by The City Circle.)


Die Zeit
12.06.2008

Author Tanja Dückers travelled through Moldavia and Transnistria with Moldavian playwright and "intellectual punk nihilist" Nicoleta Esinencu. Transnistria is a "pro-Russian phantom state with a stabilised de facto regime on Moldavian territory". There she met Mrs Bondarenko, "an army major with a degree in law, whose response to questions about illegal arms trading in Transnistrien was thematically pertinent: 'Even if you were to hold a kalashnikov to my head I wouldn't give you an answer!' And she's has no interest in discussing culture. Only realistic art can talk to people.'"


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10.06.2008

Alessandro Topa visited the set of the first Iranian film about the revolution leader Khomeni, and met the director Behruz Afkhami. "Afkhami clearly enjoys using dialectics to think about history: 'Every process has something within it that produces the opposite effect.' But the terms he uses in his figures of thought hold strange connotations: The Imam was not 'antimodern' but 'postmodern'. This sounds like high praise, even when Afkhami adds a qualifying 'from a certain point of view'. 'It was a turning point in world history. But he even made a lasting impression on my personality as filmmaker. We all thought that he could implement global changes, usher in a new era. He was a tragic hero, ahead of his time, which is why I said earlier that he was postmodern.' It's becoming clear that Afkami's 'postmodern' vaguely means the time after the collapse of the current world order. Being postmodern to him has nothing to do with excercising the art of pluralism."


Frankfurter Rundschau 09.06.2008

Arno Widmann attended an obviously a fascinating event at the new Chair for Islamic Religion at the University of Frankfurt, which is financed by the Turkish-Islamic Committe for Religious Affairs known as the DITIB. But he was left with a host of unanswered questions about the Turkish reform movement known as the "Ankara School" for example, or the relationship between the state and Islam: "Should the state really be an advocate of religious belief? And which state? Should Turkish state institutions really be responsible for the religious education of German citizens? But what line of argument does the secular state intend to use to deny Muslims, Buddhists, Confucians, Hindus and Sikhs things which are entitled to Catholics and Protestants? According to Wikipedia, Frankfurt alone is home to 150 Zarathustrian families. If they can collect together enough money, will they also be able to buy a chair at Frankfurt University? The Turkish-financed Chair for Islamic Religion seems to be creating more problems than it is solving. "


Frankfurter Rundschau 07.06.2008

In the wake of the recent earthquake disaster Mi Jian, a writer who is banned in China, strongly objects to his country's refusal to remember the massacre on Tiananmen Square. "The government must reveal the truth about the tragic events and apologise to the victims and their families. It must release the hundred or so people who are still sitting in prison because of their links to the democratic movement, as well as the ten thousand other political prisoners who are wasting away in prisons and work camps, and they must usher in democratic reforms. The earthquake opened the eyes of the Chinese people to the irreplaceableness of human lives and the importance of remembering the dead. This insight signals a decisive change in the nation's political and moral landscape."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 07.06.2008

Roman Hollenstein talks at length to architect Jacques Herzog about his Olympia stadium in Bejing and the role of architects in China. "There is no denying that for the past 5000 years, China's leadership has been occasionally brutal and hardly ever democratic and that human rights are still being violated today. This is something we can neither understand, nor accept from the standpoint of Swiss grass-roots democracy. But we should not forget that until 60 years ago there were also countries in Central Europe that were ruled by dictatorships. In other words, democracy, as we understand it, is a rare commodity which must be safeguarded and which takes many years to evolve. You cannot force democracy onto other countries, let alone one the size of China which has such an ancient, self-contained culture."

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