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26/09/2008

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 20.09.2008

In his series of interviews of people "At Work" Axel Rühle visited Ulrich Blumenbach. The translator has been working for several years on "Infinite Jest" the thousand-page mammoth by US author David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide last week. The German version, incidentally, will be 600 pages longer. Rühle reports: "He remembers vividly how flattened and euphoric he felt after his first reading of 'Infinite Jest'. Euphoric at the thought of translating this great book, flattened at the prospect of the incredible density of the vocabulary, of the countless wild meandering distributaries and worlds which Wallace drew upon for his book's incredibly obscure vocabulary. When Blumenbach signed with publisher Kiepenheuer in 2003, he still thought he would have the job done in four years and would be able to attend to other authors on the side. 'I was completely naive'. Within no time at all Wallace consumed his energy.'"


nachtkritik 22.09.2008

With his "The church of fear before the alien in me" Christoph Schlingensief has opened "a new dimension of authenticity on the stage". The director who has been treated for lung cancer now "addresses his own death", writes Dorothea Marcus. "But it is primarily an exorcism and a religious mass. We are the ones who make the bidding prayers for Schlingensief as he offers himself up to us in sacrifice. Then he tightens the screw even further, and turns the evening into his own funeral, his legacy, his resurrection. And in so doing, even the brutally personal tale of sickness of the 'future deceased' is turned into one of those bewilderingly complex and dialectic double somersaults that he loves to pull off. Because in the search for God, there's no way Schlingensief can pass art or himself."


Die Welt 23.09.2008

The film "Baader-Meinhof Komplex", which opened in German cinemas last week, claimed it was going to "destroy the RAF myth". Oh really? In conversation with Hanns-Georg Rodek, the film's director Uli Edel and the actor playing Andreas Baader, Moritz Bleibtreu, managed unwittingly to deliver plenty of evidence to the contrary. Bleibtreu recalls how during the preparation for the filming the two of them listened to a number of audio recordings of Baader's statements in court: "Baader spoke, and he spoke quite slowly, with a slight lisp, and most of what he said was drivel. You could literally watch all number of illusions sliding off our faces. Then I turned to Uli and said: 'Do you really want me to play it like that?!' Edel: 'Of course not! We're not making a comedy!' Bleibtreu: 'It would have been unintentionally funny. As an actor you don't have to produce an exact copy of reality.'"


Süddeutsche Zeitung 23.09.2008

Reinhard J. Brembeck is tickled pink by the last concert of Berlin's musicfest at Tempelhof airport. Among other pieces the Berlin Philharmoniker participated under Simon Rattle in playing Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Groups for Three Orchestras". Rattle, Brembeck writes, "wanted the piece to be pleasant on the palate, full of playful French accents, somewhat tart in the pizzicato passages and percussion salvos, with a menacing hint of calamity in the brass movements. Perhaps that is why he chose Michael Boder and his former assistant Daniel Harding as co-conductors. The two are all-rounders, not at all dedicated modernists. Slightly pastelled in this way, Stockhousen's work creates a formidably imaginative musical panorama, like flying over a mountain landscape in a helicopter. Pizzicati from the right, violin melodies from the left, in the centre the percussion instruments. Doggedly refusing to be programme music, the piece moves in stringent, absolute sound gestures, demanding of hearers that they should interpret and evaluate it for themselves."


Der Tagesspiegel 24.09.2008

Flies have been painted in some spotless Berlin urinals so as to give the men a better target, writes Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov in surprise. Gospodinov quickly lists the differences with toilets in the Balkans: "First of all, there's going to be more than one fly. Secondly, they're going to be alive. And thirdly, they don't just sit in one spot. At this point however I will interrupt my story, because sensitive readers would not be able to stomach it, women would feel left out and the analogies would metamorphose into allegories. It's simply not possible to tell a story any more without hurting someone's feelings."


Frankfurter Rundschau 25.09.2008

Uwe Tellkamp's thousand page novel "Der Turm. Geschichte aus einem versunkenen Land" (The tower. Tales from a lost land) has hit reviewers like a bombshell. Tellkamp, himself born in Dresden, describes a small elite of doctors, litterati, musicians and directors of state enterprises who lived a sealed-off, cramped but comfortable existence in an old neighbourhood high above Dresden in 1982, seven years before the break-up of the GDR. Anyone who was there will not fail to recognise others, Sabine Franke writes. But Tellkamp's novel "is not about uncovering facts, but about making history experiencable and plausible through literature. Tellkamp looks at history and myth from both inside and out, at a time when history itself is becoming a mythologized. This is a book for insiders, for those who remember, who were there themselves. But at the same time it is a book for posterity and parallel worlds, for those who come after and for whom this moment in history can only be contemplated from the outside. Tellkamp has enriched German literature with a wealth of experience, free of bitterness and resentment. This was a story well worth telling, not least because otherwise it may well once more have slipped by unnoticed."


Die Tageszeitung 26.09.2008

Brigitte Werneburg has been to the retrospective of works by star artist Takashi Murakami in Frankfurt's Museum für Moderne Kunst. "The highpoint of the show is a temporary Louis Vuitton shop set up inside the museum," she writes before exploding altogether: "The force currently holding fashion and art together is the intensified encroachment of corporate culture, marketing and PR in both. In fact the economic rationale of marketing is summed up in the attempt to give a radical new twist to a dictum of Andy Warhol's: now art and fashion can only exist as brand-name products. The extension of the battle zone leads to a re-feudalisation of the contemporary aesthetic, and to a renewal of authoritarian structures. No sooner have we escaped the dictates of haute couture than we are menaced by the dictates of the coolest labels. Now being provincial does not mean knowing nothing about fashion, but not knowing the hip bands. No sooner do we think we have escaped the dictates of the avant-garde, than contemporary art needles away at us. In place of the well-known religious wars over artistic styles and movements we are now subjected to lavish publicity wars." And ultimately, Werneberg writes, all we are left with is conformity.

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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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Saturday 4 - Friday 10 December

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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