17/07/2009

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.

Die Welt 11.07.2009

Chinese writer Yu Hua remembers the first time he really grasped the meaning of "the people". It was the end of May 1989 in Peking. Emergency rule had been imposed on the city and Yu Hua was riding his bicycle. "Somewhere in the darkness around Hujialou I suddenly felt a warmness in the air, it was barely noticeable at first but it was becoming more and more pronounced. Then in the distance I heard singing, and finally I saw lights. An astonishing image opened up before my eyes: the brightly illuminated Hujialou footbridge was packed with thousands upon thousands of people. (...) And emanating from this densely packed throng was such a powerful heat, it was as if each person was a burning torch. It was a key moment in my life. Until then I had always assumed that light travelled further than voices, and that people's voices carried further that their body warmth. But on this night I realised that when enough people get together, their voices travel further than light and their warmth can be felt before their voices become audible."


Der Tagesspiegel 11.07.2009

First Ingo Metzmacher threw in the towel with the German Symphony Orchestra (DSO) in Berlin, and now Lothar Zagrosek has resigned as head conductor of the Konzerthaus Orchestra. Jörg Königsdorf sees "obvious parallels": the conductors who are leaving are the ones who have tried to raise the profile of their orchestras with intelligent, daring programmes, whereas the conservatives Barenboim and Janowksi, who prefer to nurture classical-romantic repertoires, are now sitting even more firmly in the saddle. And hasn't Simon Rattle's contract renewal been called into question because he is supposedly endangering the 'German sound' of the orchestra? Such fears are propagated less by audiences than by orchestras themselves. While the DSO made a tepid appeal for Metzmacher's contract renewal (and the orchestra reacted to his resignation with little more than shoulder shrugging), the Konzerthaus Orchestra was active in throwing out its conductor. While it obviously did not bother the musicians that Zagrosek's predecessor, Eliahu Inbal, had injected very little vibrancy into the Mahler and Bruckner symphonies, the tangible boost in expertise that Zagrosek brought his orchestra in matters of Hadyn, Mozart and also contemporary music, seems to count for nothing."


Frankfurter Rundschau 11.07.2009

Chinese author Mo Yan talks to Bernhard Bartsch about why his books are all so extreme. His reply touches on a comment by John Updike, who once said that the Chinese novel had never undergone a Victorian age to teach it some decorum: "My books are all set against the background of the last 100 years of Chinese history, and these consisted primarily of war and misery. This has also been my personal experience. I was born in 1955 in a poor farming village and I grew up in the age of class war. During the Cultural Revolution I was only able to attend school for five years before being sent out into the adult world. The people were engaged in constant mutual annihilation, sometimes verbal, sometimes physically violent. How should John Updike, a well-educated middle-class American, understand such things? China's truth is not so elegant."


Frankfurter Rundschau
13.07.2009

Dijiboutian writer Abdourahman A. Waberi was delighted by Barack Obama's visit to Ghana. "In his fine and encouraging manner President Obama opens the way for political Africa to enter adulthood. He creates a tension between attentive and emphatic listening and firmly placing responsibility with Africa's politicians. He reminds Ghana's parliamentarians of the obvious fact that the future of Africa is in the hands of Africans, and that the West cannot be held responsible for everything. He has got Africa's politicians cornered. They cannot call him a colonialist or a racist and they cannot resort to their usual way of doing business with finger pointing and moral blackmail. (...) Thank you for your forthrightness Mr. President!"


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 13.07.2009

Roman Bucheli remembers the 'fiche affair' which was uncovered in Switzerland twenty years ago. The Swiss Federal Attorney's Office had been spying on hundreds of thousands of politically active citizens for years. Bucheli went to inspect the files, and found the following bizarre reports on author Max Frisch: "The entry for 30 December 1970 is a summary of a bugged phone call: 'TAB 8635: BRETSCHER Walter 38 asks for F. and talks to him about the Autonomous Zurich Youth as well as an ultimatum issued by the city council about the closure of the bunker.' Four years later another entry from a tapped conversation: 'PINKUS Theodor 09 informs Mr.and Mrs. F that MARCUSE Herbert 98 would like to meet with them. He stays with PINKUS for some time.'"


Süddeutsche Zeitung 14.07.2009

Grand Ayatolla Hossein-Ali Montazeri issued a fatwa against the Iranian regime on July 10, which the theologian Mohsen Kadivar has published on his website (here in English). Katajun Amirpur believes that this fatwa could have wide-ranging consequences because it follows a long tradition of protests by Shiite clerics against abuses of power: "If Montazeri is giving religious legitimisation for toppling the Iranian government, in the longer term this fatwa could also be a death sentence for the dictatorship in Iran. Because many scholars have already followed Montazeri or will do so soon. Two high-ranking clerics, the Ayatollahs Bayat-Zanjani and Ghaffari, have also declared the Iranian government illegitimate." Here Montazeri's homepage in English)


Die Welt
16.07.2009

Matthias Heine looks back over the long history of Grimm's German dictionary which will no longer be updated after 2012. "The old method of revising the Grimm was so labour-intensive that no-one wants to continue to do the work under today's conditions," Heine cites the director of the project at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences as saying, and asks whether it wouldn't have been possible to speed things up a little – until now, updates were taking place at approximately five letters every fifty years."


Die Zeit 16.07.2009

Christian Denso, Martin Spiewak, Michael Thumann and Bernd Ulrich look for an answer as to why German society and the media in particular only reacted to the murder of the Egyptian woman Marwa al-Sherbini in the Dresden court, after protests from Muslims abroad. "It was not malicious intent, it was a question of apathy and ignorance,' writes Aiman Mazyek of the Central Council of Muslims. We still lack sensitivity about the emotional world of Muslims. It still feels as if German society lives with its back turned to its immigrants, giving them too little and demanding too little from them. It is still very much 'us' and 'them' – there is a lack of identification and unquestioning solidarity, and this is what Muslims will have felt in the laggardly reaction to the murder in Dresden."


Die Tageszeitung 17.07.2009

The murder of the Russian human rights activist Natalia Estemirova who, just a few hours after being kidnapped in Grosny, was found dead in the neighbouring Republic of Ingushetia, is all over the front page. Bernhard Clasen comments: "The explanation of the human rights organisation Memorial about the death of their leading representative smacks of resignation: 'Ramsan Kadyrov has made the work of human rights activists impossible. Estimirova's murderers wanted to prevent true information getting out of Chechnya. It is possible that they have achieved their aim'. We cannot watch on in silence as Memorial abandons camp in Grosny."

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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

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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

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