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31/10/2008

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.

Die Tageszeitung 25.10.2008

In an interview with Ambros Waibel, Italian crime writer Massimo Carlotto describes the lack of culture, the ideology and the racism of the Lega Nord. "The Lega is not interested in culture. Wherever it gets into power, the first thing it does is to slash money for culture. They have cooked up a completely unreal ideology about homeland and history that never existed. And this homeland is all about economics. Because it was foreigners who made the North-East rich, predominantly through illegal labour. But now, when the crisis hits, they are being told to leave. This is the guiding principle behind the Lega's racism."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
27.10.2008

In an interview with Angela Schader, South African writer Ivan Vladislavic talks about literature in his country and the sorry state of culture in Africa. "African countries are still haemorrhaging university graduates, and lots of writers also live abroad. A few years ago I was invited to a literature festival in Mali and of the thirty or so writers participating, exactly three lived in Africa. The situation is crazy."


Frankfurter Rundschau
28.10.2008

Arno Widmann was in Liblice at the conference about Kafka and the Liblice Kafka Conference of 1963, which was monopolised by the Communist Party. "Jiri Hajek, who went on to become one of the leading spokesmen of Charter 77, put his finger on it back in 1963: "The difference between us and Kafka and is not, as some Marxist critics maintain, that Kafka did not recognise the revolutionary historic role of the working class, and we do. No the overwhelming difference is that we have power, while he and his heroes were powerless.' The Kafka Conference of 1963 was a moment of self-reflection for those in power. No, it was the moment, when intellectuals, who believed they had a hand in power, began to reflect on their powerlessness within the Communist regime they were supporting. There was no better author better suited to this than Kafka." More than anything else, says Widmann, Kafka could teach them "that there are no victims who are not perpetrators as well."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 28.10.2008

The paper features a wonderful interview with the cellist Anner Bylsma. He talks about the loss of language in the music of Wagner and Strauss, about young virtuosos and the plague of the prolonged vibrato: "One movement of Brahms's violin concert is enough to kill the listener with vibrato emotion. But Brahms is so much about landscape too – the heavy air near Hamburg! We Dutch think of him as an uncle from beyond Groningen. You shouldn't take his music so personally, just let it happen. What's missing is the variety in differentiation, also in the movement of the bow, which is overly geared towards uniformity. Long tones shouldn't remain 'stiff'. There have to be dynamic changes within them. If someone holds the tones uniformly, it drowns out the small lively notes of the others. Then all you have is a competition for volume. It's a shame. Sadly it's often the experts who ruin things. (Here an article about Bylsma in Freitag, here an interview with Bylsma on cello.org and here Bylsma plays Bach's Prelude in G-major.)


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 29.10.2008

Verena Leueken was not overly impressed by Ewin Wagenhofer's documentary "Let's Make Money". But the film shines in the bits when Wagenhofer doesn't have an answer waiting. For example in an episode with cotton pickers in Burkina Faso: "We will come to Europe when our country has collapsed," says agrarian economist Yves Delisle 'however high you build your walls.' Then comes Gerhard Schwarz, the head of the financial editorial staff at the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, who sees things rather differently. While money and commodities travel freely through the world, people on the run from poverty, should pay entrance. Like in a tennis club, as he puts it. The film is worth seeing, if only for sound bites like this."


Other papers
29.10.2008

In the Lidove noviny, Bohumil Dolezal, a prominent Czech commentator, criticises the attacks on the Prague Institute for the Study of Totalitarianism (Ustr) and the weekly newspaper Respekt, which followed the publication of a document signed by Milan Kundera in which he allegedly denounced a western agent. The publication of a photocopy of the police report "naturally entails risk, firstly that the document might be a fake and the denunciation never took place. But there is another, much greater risk involved, and this is that the efforts to lie, keep quiet and to sweep the truth under the carpet prevail, when celebrities are involved." This is not only about the media assault on Ustr and Respekt, Dolezal says, but also about large-scale political intervention. "Democracy is based on trust in the public, in its ability to differentiate between truth and lies. And on its not needing a curator. In this country, as we are seeing, this sort of trust is struggling to get a foothold."

The New York Times reviews Ingo Shulze's latest novel about the collapse of the GDR, "New Lives": "This very long novel describes a moral, social and economic plundering by an invading capitalism - unrestrained in the absence of any countervailing force. Unlike Mr. Schulze's earlier work, the book has a tone of unalloyed bleakness. This bleakness colors not just the new situation but also the pre-wall society that he had previously treated with a measure of human complexity. 'New Lives' is all scorn, for the old as well as the new."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 30.10.2008

Novelist Slavenka Drakulic describes Croatia's dense network of politics and mafia, which has finally caught the attention of the media with the murder of the publisher Ivo Pukanic: "In recent years several mafia bosses have been murdered in the centre of the city, but perhaps they were not close enough to the centre of power. Not so with Ivo Pukanic, who was famous for his close ties with both organised crime and politics. While one of the mafia bosses was supposedly protecting his newspaper, he was also on first name terms with the head of state who turned up at his funeral. No wonder that the shockwaves from this crime have reached the highest levels of government and that it is being read as a political killing. For the first time it has become frighteningly clear that the state organs are not up to their job. The attack in the heart of Zagreb is the result of at least two decades in which capital crime has been diligently overlooked."


Jungle World 31.10.2008

Bernhard Schmid talks to the Turkologist Corry Guttstadt about Turkey's cowardly behaviour during the Holocaust. "Of the Turkish Jews who lived in Berlin, for example, many were expatriated in 1939 and then, as stateless individuals, were the first to be deported in 1941. It turned out to be particularly fatal that Ankara had carried out the expatriations, in Germany for example, with the cooperation of the local authorities. The Turkish consulate in Berlin asked the 'Ausländerpolizei' (foreigner police) to summon Turkish Jews and remove their passports."

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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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