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19/03/2010

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.

Child abuse by the Catholic Church

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.03.2010 dedicates its entire feuilleton section to child abuse in Catholic boarding schools, churches and choirs. Eleonore Büning looks at the connection between music and violence. "The sweet, androgynous fusion of boys voices has always has a sexual component as poets and composers from Bach to Goethe, Benjamin Britten to Thomas Mann were all too aware. Thousands of children were subjected to violence in the name of music, so that a few of them could raise their angelic voices in praise of God. Yes, it used to be acceptable to castrate boys, just like only a few decades ago, it was considered normal and acceptable to box the ears of young choir boys."

In Die Welt 16.03.2010, Gerhard Amendt expresses his outrage at Josef Haslinger's recollections (see our feature "Don't let it turn into a witch hunt") of his encounters with tender paedophile priests, discrediting entirely his ability to assess the events. "He is stuck in a state of childlike impotence with regards to the past. His arguments are a clear indication of the immense cruelty of the institution and the mental shackles that were placed on its wards. This did not just ensure that the victims held their tongues and fell into a conflict of loyalty, it also left them so confused that they could no longer distinguish clearly between right and wrong, between the childish need for tenderness and the sexual desires of adults, particularly the perverse ones."

"Men abused boys, men covered it up," writes Susanne Mayer in Die Zeit 18.03.2010. "The question remains as to why a society that has so successfully sustained its patriarchal status, with closed circles of men in all positions of power, seems to be so helpless in this matter, in protecting the male child of all things, from paedophile aggressors. Perhaps it can only be understood as the defence of a homophile element, which can be found in any group of men, flocking together according to the narcissistic principle of similarity, as any board-meeting photograph blantantly flaunts."


The plagiarism/intertexuality debate over 17-year-old Helene Hegemann and her novel 'Axolotl Roadkill' has flared up again. On the eve of the award ceremony for the Leipzig Book Prize, the German Writers Union issued a "Leipzig Statement for the Protection of Intellectual Property"


In the Tagesspiegel 16.03.2010, Gerrit Bartels quotes from the statement which, he says was presumably written to ensure that Helene Hegemann would not take home the prize: "If plagiarism is deemed worthy of prestige, if intellectual theft and forgery are accepted as art, it is a clear demonstration that the established literary business has adopted an attitude of negligent acceptance towards the violation of rights." Among the signatories were Günter Grass, Günter Kunert, Christa Wolf and Sybille Lewitscharoff. (Read the full statement in German here)

In his article from Die Welt 17.03.2010, Uwe Wittstock points out that the first sentence of Christa Wolf's book "Patterns of Childhood" was copied from William Faulkner – without crediting or using quotation marks: "Was Christa Wolf a pioneer of the copy-paste aesthetic?" His answer: "Contrary to what the 'Leipzig Statement' suggests, the issue is not whether a writer picks from others' pots and copies without permission or without naming her sources, but whether she actually thinks through those ideas or sentences, developing them, thereby turning them into something new that is her own."

In Die Welt 18.03.2010, Brigitte Preissler talks to Julia Kristeva, the poststructuralist who coined the term 'intertextuality' to describe the dialogic nature of literature. It turns out that she has some unexpected arguments against digitalisation and the internet: "It is so easy to copy and plagiarise and pass the result off as your own – by simple copy-pasting. I regard this as one of the weakest aspects of modern culture and it throws our understanding of creativity into a huge crisis. The concept of the subject and the creative individual, this personal constructed unit, which we inherited from Judaism and Christianity, is collapsing."

The "Leipzig Statement" is all about exploitation rights and not about art at all, writes Felix Neumann in the blog Carta 19.03.2010. "It seems that conventional and real art feel threatened by the new technology and the new mentality. The statement makes no mention that art might have a duty to react to such things. ... Nor does it mention that 'the internet' not only has economic but also cultural consequences. ... Nor does it mention that the problem might lie less with the understanding of art and new forms of artistic expression than with copyright. We should be familiar by now with the different reactions to changes in society: some people write historical romances and pastoral verse; others write 'Berlin Alexanderplatz'."

As it was, Georg Klein won the Leipzig Book Prize for his book "Roman Unsere Kindheit" (novel about our childhood). Read a selection of Georg Klein's articles and short stories here.


Other stories:

Die Presse 18.03.2010

Germany's most famous interviewer Andre Müller tells Christian Ultsch why growing up without a father was good for his profession: "It means you have no Super-ego. You have no limits, no moral directives. And I have always connected this with my talent for interviewing people. I never come at people with opinions, I am like a hole into which they can pour themselves, until they no longer even notice how they are whirling about in there. Because I am a moral and ideological void." Read two of Müller's interviews here.


Süddeutsche Zeitung 19.03.2010

Sonja Zekri portrays the Chechen writer Kanta Ibragimov, who is convinced that he has been listed for the Nobel Prize. Writers, says Zekri, do not have it easy in a country which has "a lot more Kalashnikovs than books" and whose ideological reorientation is bordering on the "grotesque". Ibragimov's lastest book "The Problem House" has just been published in an edition of 1,000 "and this, Ibragimov says, was only because he sent a copy on his USB stick to a businessman in prison who sponsored the printing."

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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

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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

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