24/04/2009

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.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 18.04.2009

Freshly octogenarian, literary critic, essayist, author and professor, George Steiner, talks in an interview about the new anti-Semitism, the value of rote learning and the art of understanding: "When you enter someone's house you wash your hands. You try to approach a text cleanly. There is an ethics to understanding – you don't try to reshape a text while reading it. And above all: You should not forget the billions of kilometres that lie between the best critics, teachers, readers, publishers and the person that created the work. It is one of the evils of modern that Messrs Tutor and Critic take themselves so seriously. A great teacher or critic is just a postman, delivering the letter to the right address."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 20.04.2009

During the Russian Orthodox Easter celebrations, Russian poet Olga Martynoa remembers how the Church regained its hold in the Soviet Union: "Even at that time, lots of members of the party elite were being drawn to the increasingly fashionable Russian nationalism and their goodwill towards the Orthodox Church was tangible. When, in Petersburg in 1981, an official association was founded for unofficial writers, the KGB supervisor rang up the leading underground poets over Easter to say: 'Christ is risen.' Another parallel with Roman times. Almost immediately after Constantine proclaimed equal rights and freedom for all religions, Christianity became the most equal of them all." Read our feature by Olga Martynova, "The source we drink from".

Urs Schoettli sounds out China's world political strength in a full-page article, only to conclude that it's much wobblier that we might think. "All the whole world is picking on the western financial markets from New York to Zurich. The Chinese banking system seems like the land of milk and honey. But it would be useful to cast an eye into the poison cabinets of the People's Banks. You are likely to come across the sort of problem loans that make UBS or Citigroup 'toxic papers' look positively harmless. It's all too easy to forget that China's big state-controlled banks are essentially the financing instruments of the autocratic Chinese Communist Party."


Frankfurter Rundschau
21.04.2009

Open Access
and Google Books critic, Roland Reuß, has by now collected 1,300 signatures for his "Heidelberg Appeal" for the freedom to publish and protect copyrights, and has written to Chancellor Merkel to ask her to take up the fight. Matthias Spielkamp and Florian Cramer have the feeling that these scholars, authors, publishers and journalists have essentially signed the appeal out of some "diffuse, generalised sense of unease about the Internet." And "precisely this insistence on familar structures will ultimately only play into the hands of the global players, who now have the opportunity to expand their oligopoly into the humanities, literature and arts. But Open Access is not some 'new economy' business model; it's an attempt by academics to try to regain some control and create a medium for independent research. From a philological perspective the 'Heidelberg Appeal' looks like a grotesque, with tragic potential.


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 22.04.2009

Mona Naggar gives a depressing view of the cultural pages in the Arab newspapers. "The poverty of cultural life in the Arab world is just one factor that is reflected in the cultural pages. Considering the ongoing crises afflicting Arab societies, starting with the desperate state of education through to issues of violence, there is an astounding lack of serious debate. The exponents of Arab intellectual life make a point of writing regularly in the cultural pages – the Syrian poet Adonis and the Egyptian literary academic and cultural official Jabir Asfur, for instance, have regular columns in the national daily Al-Hayat. But they don't have much to say." (One important exception being the Al Ahram theatre critic Nehad Selaiha whose recent article, on the 10th Golf Theatre Festival in Kuwait, describes the consequences of censorship in the Arab world."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
22.04.2009

Dutch writer Adriaan van Dis has been in South Africa researching a new novel. Despite the dire state of violent crime, disease and corruption in the country he does see grounds for hope: "Writers and intellectual campaigners who once raised their voices are standing up in opposition once again. Stronger still is the choir of critical black voices, trade unions and social movements like the Treatment Action Campaign. It is a hopeful sign that the South African media does report in depth about the social evils in the country. And when this is no longer possible, because the South African government bans bad news, then it's up to us to fight the censorship."


Die Zeit 23.04.2009

"From the point of view of the past, the book might seem to be losing its soul – but if we look to the future, it looks as if it's freeing itself of its body," writes the author and Darwin biographer, Jürgen Neffe, as he waves farewell to print and welcomes in multimedia. "We can admire 17th century Venice, take a tour through the Vatican or the Pentagon, read an epistolary novel via email, or find out the biographical background to key scenes in Robert Walser. Others can write round books with eternal stories that never begin or end. (...) And only in the blink of an eyelid you can access all-you-can-eat secondary literature – happy days for scouts on the trail of K, who want to understand more than they can grasp single-handedly."


Die Welt 24.04.2009

The German environmental protection group PAN is staging a press conference for World Malaria Day tomorrow. A million people die every year from this disease and half the world's population live under its shadow. But the press conference has just one aim: to keep up the pressure on outlawing DDT, the one chemical proven to fight mosquitoes effectively. Ulli Kulke writes an impassioned appeal to reintroduce it. "I am not talking about deploying DDT as it was used in the 60s, when in any one day, US fields were sprayed with several times the amount needed to kill off malaria in entire African states by spraying interior walls over the course of a year. But the ban on the chemical, which could have saved 40 or 50 million human lives, is responsible for the deaths of just as many."

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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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From the Feuilletons

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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