19/06/2009

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 15.06.2009

In an interview with Andreas Breitenstein, Chinese author Yu Hua, whose epic novel "Brothers" comes out in German in August, talks about how "sensitivities" in China have changed since 1989. "You shouldn't forget that the freedom-loving students of the 80s had all lived through the catastrophes of the Cultural Revolution. They knew what a life of poverty meant, and they recognised that the lack of freedom in which they were forced to live was the reason for this poverty. Today's student generation has grown up in a boom era. They have no idea about poverty, and they delight in absolute personal freedom... China is a strange country. On one hand we are still living under the dictatorship of a party that can control everything with administrative measures. On the other, we are much more free than the West. We can bad-mouth anybody or anything to our heart's content and with impunity. You just can't criticise the government."


Die Welt 16.06.2009

The German Iranian poet, Said, cannot accept that Moussavi is being sold as a reformer in the Western media. "The man was prime minster in the 1980's, the worst years. He knew about the arrests, murders and mass executions. I feel sorry for these young people who are once again pinning all their hopes on bringing about democratic change in Iran. The question now is, how often can you fool the people?"


Berliner Zeitung 17.06.2009

Jörg Michel welcomes the fact that over 130,000 people in Germany have signed the petition against the law, adopted today in German Bundestag, which allows the government to block access to offensive Internet sites. The government initiative was spearheaded by the CDU family minister, Ursula von der Leyden, on the back of wholly founded claims, that the move will prevent the spread of child pornography. "The law may only be effective for three years initially but the damn burst has happened. The government now has a censorship infrastructure in place which can be extended at any time. The potential hitlist is long. Why not ban violent films or other supposedly objectionable material? Politicians have long been discussing other potential uses for the system. Often in hushed voices, but they are getting louder all the time. The education minister Annette Schavan, for example, has her sights set on violent sites. The government of Hessen wants gambling sites blocked. For the CDU politician Thomas Stroble, it's shooter games. At some stage it will be the turn of undesirable opinions."


Frankfurter Rundschau
17.06.2009

In an interview with Peter Michalzik stage director Calixto Bieito reveals the source of his inspiration: "I am a Spanish mix. The Jesuits who raised me and exposed me to the world of Bunuel. I was able to see all his films there. At the same time they beat me and tried to sexually abuse me. That was normal in those days and I certainly wasn't the only one. Today it's an ongoing scandal in the news, in those day it was normal. It is the Catholic world."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
17.06.2009

Exiled Iranian legal scholar Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari explains why the alleged electoral rigging in Iran is not only a breach of the constitution but also of basic Islamic law. "Individuals who have been granted a mandate by society are obliged to fulfil the criteria of justice. ... If the results of the election are false or imprecise, the votes of the majority of the population are disregarded and the president elect is no more that the product of an election coup, then it must be recognised that the elections constitute a violation of republican principles – and also a deliberate breach of the Islamic principles of sharia."


Die Welt 18.06.2009

Mariam Lau, a German journalist and daughter of the Iranian dissident Bahram Nirumand, asks what Hussein Moussavi stands for: "The Azerbaijani has often explained that he would disempower the moral police, abolish – legally at least - the suppression of women, push forward the privatisation of TV in the name of a free flow of information. He talks about putting an end to an economy based on handouts and subsidies. It makes Moussavi nervous that oil-rich Iran has to import energy and failed to profit from last year's soaring oil prices. He recognises and condemns the Holocaust. As for the nuclear programme, he is not looking for 'radical solutions', whatever that means. But he sees it as Iran's national right. As for the 'Great Satan' , Moussavi is prepared to talk but only if 'He' is serious."


Jungle World 19.06.2009

Pirate Bay has changed its name to Persian Bay and has transformed itsself into a support forum for the Iranian opposition.

In an interview with Daniel Steinmaier, Christian Engström, the first Euro MP for the Swedish Pirate Party, calls for copyright to be cut to five years in total (down from the current period of 70 years after the death of the holder): "Copyright is there to allow investors to invest in something, by creating the legal groundwork for the expectation that they will see returns on their money. But no investor in the world reckons with a payback period of 120 years! No one thinks, ok, well I won't be earning anything with my intellectual endeavors for the first 100 years but they'll start to pay off after that. ... The main argument against the current regulation is that the lion's share of 20th century culture cannot be used and distributed as it would be illegal to do so. Because either these cultural treasures are owned by a handful of large corporations, or no one knows who the rights belong to."


Frankfurter Rundschau 19.06.2009

The prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is going this year to Italian author Claudio Magris. "At long last", Arno Widmann cries, because it was this author from Trieste who opened our eyes to Europe as a whole. "Magris's books ("Danube", "Microcosms") tear the protective layers from our bodies. They make us sensitive. Sensitive not only to the elegance of a broad-sweeping clause, for the rhythms of dialogue, for the shaming gaps in the restrictive narrowness of our knowledge and focus, but also for the diversity and variety of others. In four words: Claudi Magris's prose disarms."


Die Tageszeitung 19.06.2009

German sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf died today at the age of 80. Jan Feddersen writes: "Dahrendorf was the first intellectual star of the fledging Bundesrepulik to seek and find acknowledgement abroad. He also studied in USA, received his first PhD in 1952 for a dissertation on the concept of justice in the writings of Karl Marx. In 1957 he obtained his 'habilitation' - recognition of the right to lecture in German universities - with the publication of 'Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society'. Jürgen Habermas, who celebrated his 80th birthday last week, and had been an admirer of Dahrendorf's since that time, as he admitted at Dahrendorf's birthday celebrations a few weeks ago, said: "With his constructive intellect that preferred to create clarity with idealised stylisations than to juggle with hermeneutics, Dahrendorg was remarkable for his powerful eloquence, his natural command of authority and his somewhat angular manner of speech. What singled him out from his peers was his ability to see off received ideas with avant-gardist aplomb."

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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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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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