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03/07/2009

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.

Berliner Zeitung 27.06.2009

In good Austrian literary tradition, author Josef Winkler used his opening speech at the Festival of German-Language Literature in Klagenfurt, to criticise the city for not having a public library and to blame the death of a young boy two years ago, on the city's construction and traffic policy. Karsten Krampitz picked up on this story and reports: "People who were at the scene of the accident are now stepping forward to explain that the nine-year-old Lorenz Woschitz was crossing the road on a red light at a pedestrian crossing, and had almost reached the other side, when some adults called out to reprimand him. The boy did as he was told and turned round, and that was when tragedy struck." (A cautionary tale that deserves to be inscribed into the tarmac at every German pedestrian crossing to ward off the over-zealous watchmen of the red light -ed.)


Die Welt 27.06.2009

The writer Georg Klein takes an alchemical approach to the Michael Jackson phenomenon, in which, he says, "physical presence and media propulsion" entered a new alliance. "Even as a child Michael Jackson was a performer, one who was forced mercilessly into the spotlight on countless tours. Night after night he was sent out to use his stage presence and talent to seduce a more or less welcoming collection of concert goers into the sphere where an audience's fascination fuses with the artist's love of performing, to form an intoxicating substance. Charisma is a synthetic gas which makes the person who inhales it forget that he is participating in its synthesis. In the early film footage that show Michael as a member of the Jackson Five, you see the mercurial substance lighting up the eyes of the young Jacko. The lad can hear how well he's singing, and at the same times he senses with every bone in his body, the burgeoning enthusiasm of his audience."


Berliner Zeitung 30.06.2009

Ingeborg Ruthe visits the Hungarian city of Pecs, European cultural capital 2010 alongside Istanbul and Essen, which now has to contend with a right-wing government and crisis conditions: "The multicultural city of 160,000 inhabitants and its surrounding region has a wealth of culture to offer and a defiant goal of attracting one million guests next year. Even if at present, it has no more than 6,000 hotel beds and a restrictive budget, which means the 17 beautiful but rather moth-eaten classical museums will not be treated to more than cosmetic renovation."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
01.07.2009

Lilo Weber grieves for the choreographer Pina Bausch (68) who died suddenly on June 30 just 5 days after being diagnosed with cancer. "She was less interested in how people move, than what moved them – the choreographer's much-quoted credo ran through her entire oeuvre. Her first pieces "Iphigenia in Tauris" (1974) or her 1975 version of 'The Rites of Spring' (excerpt on youTube) were still indebted to modern dance. But soon the members of the Tanztheater Wuppertal started talking on stage, singing, warbling, even screaming. Into a dance world that had waved goodbye to narrative and in which expressive emotions were considered anti-modern, Pina Bausch reintroduced storytelling and emotional explosions."


Die Tageszeitung 01.07.2009

The paper prints excepts from diary of the Iranian blogger "anonyma": "Sunday 28 June, just after midnight, I wake from a nightmare. I've just heard that a crowd of people has gathered in front of Evin prison, to try to find out what has happened to their friends and loved ones. They have obviously set up camp in front of the prison. I will go there in the morning myself to find out more. A friend told me they are taking prisoners to Karaj, where thousands of demonstrators are already behind bars. He said they are putting them in cells with brutal criminals to make their stay a horror trip."


Frankfurter Rundschau
01.07.2009

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is leaping in protest against the censorship and spy software which Chinese censors want installed on every computer in the country, as Bernhard Bartsch reports. "Ai's naked jump is a double insult to the censors. On the one hand Ai is cocking a snoot at the failings of the 'green damn's automated porn-detectors. Bloggers have showed that plenty of naked images manage to slip through, but pictures of swimmers and Garfield comics get sifted out. On the other hand the soft toy which Ai is using as a fig leaf is an icon of Chinese blogger resistance. It is a fictitious creature named 'Cao Ni Ma', which literally means 'grass-sludge-horse' but phonetically sounds like an unpleasant swearword meaning 'screw your mother'." More photos on Ai Weiswei's blog. And here are two photos from a competition launched by Ai Weiwei showing Chinese people giving their country the bird.


Süddeutsche Zeitung
01.07.2009

Susan Vahabzadeh listens raptly as John Malkovich tells her why he decided to play the serial killer Jack Unterweger in "The Infernal Comedy" at the Viennese Ronacher theatre. "What attracted him, when five days filming in LA would obviously have generated a lot more cash? The music, the bizarre story of the murderer-cum-writer who was given a second chance by Austrian intellectuals (Elfriede Jelinek included) in the 80s – only to return the favour by strangling a series of prostitutes. 'I saw him on TV,' John Malkovich says shaking his head, 'and I could tell that Unterweger was obviously lying, although I didn't understand a word of the language he was speaking. It intrigued me, that people were taken in by him."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
02.07.2009

In a fictitious dialogue Serbian-Canadian author David Albahari explains why Serbian writers don't have it easier than their, say, Canadian counterparts, just because Serbia is riddled with problems: "No matter what Serbian writers do, they will not be able to avoid stepping on toes. If their books appear in Latin script, they are betraying Serbian tradition; if they are printed in Cyrillic, they will have pro-EU faction breathing down their necks. If they write about Serbian issues, they will be branded nationalists; if they don't they will be accused of pandering to the enemies of Serbian orthodoxy. If they use the language of Northern Serbia they will be attacked for neglecting the dialect of the South.


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 03.07.2009

Iraqi author Najem Wali has written a book about Israel, "Journey into the Heart of the Enemy" (due to be published in English by MacAdam/Cage), in which he allows himself to sympathise with the country. Now he is being accused of naivete by the Israeli Left, Arabs and Germans alike. But he is determined to remind the world, and also the Israelis, of the ideals which they have realised, at least in part. "All of a sudden they remember the shattered visions on which the founders of the Jewish state wanted to build a multi-ethnic democratic state – a state which respects human rights and which protects the non-Jewish minorities living there. Over the course of 60 years of confrontation, conflict and war, this image has paled beyond recognition, suppressed by the later militarisation of Israeli society." See our feature by Najem Wali about his book.

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

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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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