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GoetheInstitute

31/05/2005

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.

Frankfurter Rundschau, 31.05.2005

Martina Meister takes an unbelieving look at reactions in France to the failed referendum, commenting that opponents to the EU constitution either evoke the spectre of the "plombier polonais", the Polish plumber, or hide behind the pompous words of Andre Malraux: 'The slave always says yes; only the free man can say no.' Such slogans are perfect for the political self-dramatisation that France needs now more than ever, which cast the 'non' as the highest expression of political freedom. 'Down on your knees, Europeans, before our no!' jokes Serge July, editor-in-chief of the daily paper Liberation, which otherwise calls the 'non' a 'masochistic chef d'oeuvre'. Other commentators talk of a 'cold uprising'. May 2005 is being compared in all seriousness with May 1968."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 31.05.2005

The FAZ is also full of the French "non". Michael Jeismann is all for it. "By voting against this European constitution, a stance that combines domestic political motives with fears about the new member states, the French have voted objectively for a better Europe, for a tangible Europe they can believe in." And Europe is a completely alien concept for Christian Geyer: "Europe is for the majority of us Euro citizens little more than a fairy tale, it's only a few International Charlemagne Prize winners who can't get it out of their heads, but the rest of us are asking ourselves where we can hear this wonderful, powerful melody."

The flip side of the coin is a unanimous cry of outrage from a number of intellectuals the FAZ has collected together. These include the following:

Russian writer Viktor Yerofeyev says: "My love for France notwithstanding, it seems to me that on Sunday, this country released a hugely unsavoury noise that has thoroughly polluted the air in Europe."

Adam Krzeminski, editor of Polityka and one of Poland's leading journalists, writes: "The French can be seen as partners on which we cannot necessarily rely in case of emergency, and who dodge responsibility in the hour of reckoning."

British writer and translator Michael Frayn: "The news is heartbreaking."

French historian Emmanuel Todd: "Only Europe can establish the institutions that will have any weight on the competitive international scene. The no is a brilliant own goal for the opponents."


Der Tagesspiegel, 31.05.2005

"Berlin's French population are slowly adjusting to the feeling of woe that overwhelmed them after the vote in their homeland. We move about our adopted city with lowered heads, hoping no one will recognise us. When a neighbour calls out to us: 'Talk about a bunch of nationalists!', we would like nothing better than to sink into the ground," admits Pascale Hugues. She then does her best to retrieve the honour of her countrymen. "You can't accuse the French of reacting with blind, unreflected anger. The level of participation was higher than it had been for ages. Europe loosened people's tongues and unleashed heated discussion. Whether at home or in the office, everyone was talking about the European constitution. Four dry textbooks on the constitution topped the best-seller lists. Anyone would have thought that for months on end the entire nation was obsessed with European constitutional law. There's no comparison with the overcooled session in the Bundestag when the constitution was adopted in Germany."


On Rainer Werner Fassbinder...

German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder was born 60 years ago and died in 1982 at 37. Over the course of 17 intensely productive years, he made 42 films. In the Tagesspiegel, Peter W. Jansen remembers his encounters with the charismatic and enigmatic figure, for instance in May 1974 in Cannes: "Fassbinder stood at the pinball machine in the BarPetit Majestic, in a small side street between Croisette and rue d'Antibes, and we talked about the Hungarian American film director Michael Curtiz. One cigarette lay burning in front of him on the pinball machine while he was busy lighting another. That's what he was like every time I saw him: a non-stop smoker. The fire department was alerted every time he went on television."

Since the nineties Fassbinder 's work has been honoured by major retrospectives in New York, Paris, and soon Tokyo. Only in Germany is there a general silence, apart from a few birthday articles. In the tageszeitung, Thomas Elsaesser quotes Jean Luc Godard who said: "It might be true that all his films are bad, but Fassbinder is still Germany's greatest filmmaker. He was there when Germany badly needed film in order to find itself. He can only be compared with Rossellini, because even the Nouvelle Vague was not able to make France so acutely present as post-war Germany was in Fassbinder's films."

In Die Welt film producer Günter Rohrbach has this to say: "Whether Fassbinder was Germany's most important filmmaker remains open. What sort of authority could decree such a thing? Without a doubt however, he was the only real genius of the last 50 years, thanks to this explosive mixture of talent, energy and his ability to make things happen. Time, as we know from Einstein, is a relative concept. Fassbinder only reached 37 but he lived at three times the speed. So he would have been well over 60 when he died."


Berliner Zeitung, 31.05.2005

Philosopher Walter Benjamin left Germany for Paris in the early years of the Nazi era. His entire manuscripts have now been collected under one roof, in the Berlin Academy of Arts. Yesterday they were presented to the public, together with plans for a definitive critical edition of Benjamin's works. Jens Balzer writes in the Berliner Zeitung: "First there are the manuscripts that Benjamin had to leave behind in Berlin when he emigrated to France. They were confiscated by the Gestapo, taken to Moscow in 1945 and travelled from there to communist East Germany in 1957. Then there are the drafts Benjamin took with him when he fled Paris. After his death in Portbou on the Spanish border they eventually made it into the hands of Theodor W. Adorno by circuitous routes. Thirdly, there are the texts that Georges Bataille hid in the Bibliothèque Nationale and retrieved after the war. It was only in 1981 that the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben found the fourth part, when he was conducting research for the Italian edition of Benjamin's works." This complete edition of Benjamin's writings will comprise 20 volumes, and will appear starting spring 2007.

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