12/12/2008

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 06.12.2008

It was in Buchenwald that he learnt the meaning of freedom, writer and Holocaust survivor Jorge Semprum explains on his 85th birthday. "In comparison to normal life, you eat and sleep less and die quicker. But the main difference is that you have a freedom of choice. In normal life people rarely need to make decisions. Society, family etc. take care of such things. But under the extreme conditions of the concentration camp, where everything is speeded up, and is sharper and stronger than anywhere else, decisions are of the essence. The decision to resist. The decision to offer solidarity. The decision not to surrender to an SS man for an extra ration of bread." Or indeed the "freedom to do evil. That was a fundamental experience for me, which determined and structured my personality."


Die Welt 08.12.2008

The paper prints the speech given by sociologist Victor Zaslavsky on receiving the Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought. Zaslavsky spoke about the massacre at Katyn – the common characteristics of Communism and National Socialism (class murder and race murder respectively) and opportunism. "In the 20 months leading up to the German attack on the Soviet Union, over 400,000 people were imprisoned, deported or shot in Eastern Poland. The deportations were meticulously planned. All operations took place during a single night, to prevent news from spreading and allowing people to escape or hide. Alongside the thousands of NKVD agents and militiamen, communists and members of regional communist youth organisations as well as so-called local activists were deployed to identify, monitor and arrest the target groups. And the NKVD official in charge of deportation reported that the local Polish communists performed their duties with dedication, with the help of 15,000 'local activists'. No doubt they were also motivated by the prospect of seizing the property of the deportees."

Georg Heuberger, representative of the Jewish Claims Conference in Germany, explains what, in his opinion, constitutes fair restitution. And this is dependent on the museums confronting their history: "As far as I know almost every section of society has confronted their Nazi past. Dentists, accountants, chemists, lawyers... But where is the history of the museum from 1933 to 1945? What happened to the Jewish employees and directors from that time? How many museums have never examined their role as accomplices. This is another reason why provenance research is still in such poor shape."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 09.12.2008

While reading the diaries of Witold Gombrowicz, Serbian writer Bora Cosic stumbled across a passage from 1967 in which the Polish writer enthuses about the literary Nobel Prize laureate JMG Le Clezio – in terms not dissimilar to Thomas Mann's description of the young Tadzio: "Le Clezio (is) – it seems to me – threatened on two fronts,' Gombrowicz writes. 'The first danger is the way of life that has been bestowed on him, one that is all too paradisical and idyllic. Healthy, strong, suntanned amid the flowers of Nice, with a beautiful woman, prawns, reputation and a sandy beach... ' What a paradox! 'His novels breathe the impenetrable twilight of extreme desperation, while he himself, a young god in tiny swimming shorts, dives in the salty Mediterranean veneers."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 10.12.2008

Greenland is striving for independence. Danish author Jens Christian Gröndahl describes why the Danes were  - and still are  - so indifferent to the suffering and suppression of the Inuit. "Greenland was forgotten. It was too big and too wild to be assimilated in the self-image of a gently buzzing community of enlightened, emancipated children of farmers and workers. We only feel responsible for others in our Liliputian paradise because we look almost identical to one another and everyone fulfils their duty. Sadly, though, Greenland is just a weight around our necks, economically and otherwise. Not least because of the cost-intensive plagues which we inflicted on the Inuit population from alcoholism and unemployment to cultural poverty. Negotiations over the independence of the giant colony in the North will be a mere formality, because the little colonial ruler has long since written it off."


Die Tageszeitung 10.12.2008

He could certainly hear with his eyes, writes Cord Riechelmann on what would be the 100th birthday of the composer Olivier Messiaen. "Which is why Messiaen was often described as a synesthesiast - not incorrectly but imprecisely. He did not think of the relationship between sound and colour as visible. Messiaen knew from his studies of birds that the singers best versed in rhythm and melody generally have the plainest feathers, while colourful crowing cocks and male pheasants have a very limited repertoire of sounds. But this couldn't stop his thoughts on colour from turning into kitsch in the hands of New Agers and hippies.


Frankfurter Rundschau
12.12.2008

Christian Thomas tries to fathom the extent of the crisis in Greece and the source of the enormous desire for violence. "The crime novelist Petros Markaris who lives in Athens spoke recently, without condoning the police or the politicians, of a 'certain tolerance' of the violence. ' This harks back to the uprising of the polytechnic students against the military junta all those years ago'. This anarchic act and political fantasy certainly has a fifteen-year old's death as an alibi, but it is also an attempt to relive the political myth of resistance and civil war. Greece's desire for violence in recent days has not only put Karamanlis's government in a tight corner, it has also put pay to the state's monopoly on violence."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 12.12.2008

Heribert Seifert and Stephan Russ-Mohl look at the drop in foreign news coverage in the American media: according to a study by the Joan Shorenstein Center, there are only 140 US reporters working in foreign bureaus. But Seifert and Russ-Mohl are reluctant to interpret the figures as proof of the 'stupid American phenomenon'. "Further information presented recently for the Project for Excellence in Journalism indicates that the strong local orientation of the US media is not a result, as chief editors and media managers claim, of the public's wishes. While the newspapers are cutting their foreign coverage, there is a growing demand for it online."

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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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