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08/10/2010

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.

Spiegel Online 02.10.2010

Darwin and Einstein biographer Jürgen Neffe presented his "Libroid" to the world – a multimedia text scrolling device he hopes will preserve the essence of reading in the digital age, and that also allows writers to publish their work independently. (more on the website) Konrad Lischka was impressed but comments: "That this idea was conceived and paid for by an author out of his own pocket, says a lot about the situation in the book industry. Everyone in the branch is talking about the ebooks but hardly anyone has said anything about the new possibilities for presentation and narration."


Frankfurter Rundschau 02.10.2010

Peter Michalzik was in Stuttgart to see the premiere of Sibylle Berg's play "Missionen der Schönheit" (missions of beauty). More than half of his review is reserved for a description of the "civil war" drama raging outside in the city over the construction of a new train station (more here). But things inside the theatre don't seem to be have been much more peaceful. "They are all Judiths here, disillusioned avengers, destroyed women turned murderesses, cutting each other to pieces, commenting on it bitterly. 'Being beautiful only means you get raped more than the others.' Another Judith has just said that beauty is the only thing women have. And then she takes revenge, cutting off men's balls and heads, leaving them lying in the cellar."


Die Tageszeitung 04.10.2010

"I am not political. My opposition is critical, moral and aesthetic," says writer Liao Yiwu in an interview with Susanne Messer about his life and work in China. He explains what he expects from the West: "The West has to understand that a lot of people went underground after the 1989 massacre and still live there. These are the people who have never given up. What they need is a glimmer of hope. Some emergency funding would be good. I know one underground artist who did a performance on the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China last October. He ate sixty living flies. The West has to let him know that there are things that taste better than flies."


Die Tageszeitung 05.10.2010

Argentinian author Damian Tabarovksy explains in an interview how in 2001, he founded the publishing company Interzona Editora and what made that year so unique: "It was an incredible time in Argentina. In 2001, just when Argentina seemed to be on the point of collapse, a very intense cultural life – new Argentinian films, new theatre groups, new independent publishers - started blossoming. In the case of the publishing industry, this was linked to two factors: firstly a cultural shift was happening among younger publishers. We were waving goodbye to the idea of the old, prestigious publishing houses and looking for new ways of distribution and cheaper production forms. We had ceased to focus on the mainstream. Secondly, with the devaluation of the Argentinian currency, a whole new world of opportunities opened up."


Frankfurter Rundschau 05.10.2010

In an article on the pitfalls of Argentinian politics of memory, the writer Martin Caparros heavily criticises the Kirchners, the presidential couple, for deliberately falsifying history and presenting themselves as the heirs of the opposition to the dictatorship: "This is why so many Argentinians believe that those in power today were actually the political activists of 1970. Subsequently they believe that the exercise of power has brought these supposed revolutionary activists to show their cruellest face today: because they are lying, because they are issuing threats, because they are lining their pockets. This in turn allows the leaders of the establishment to revise the usual forms of memory. For decades, society pressured them into accepting the image of a good-natured younger generation, who died for their beliefs. Now, thanks to the current government's shameless manoeuvring, they now feel that they can return to the the image painted by the mass media in 1976 to justify the murders: that of political activists as violent, dangerous, false, evil people, full of hate and greed who got what they deserved."


Der Tagesspiegel 06.10.2010

On October 3, the new German president Christian Wulff gave a speech for the 20th anniversary of German Unity, in which he also spoke at length about immigration. He talked about country's Judaeo-Christian history and added that  Islam had become part of Germany. Author Monika Maron is not so sure: "When Christian Wulff talks about our Judaeo-Christian history, putting it on a par with Islam which, he says, now belongs to Germany, he is mixing up cultural traditions with religion. When we talk about our Judaeo-Christian cultural tradition, we don't just mean religion but also the criticism of religion and the enlightenment. Our Judaeo-Christian tradition not only includes Christians and Jews but everyone else who feels rooted in this culture, people of other faiths and atheists too. Judaeo-Christian history also contains our greatest crime – the genocide of the Jews. And that, too, had left its mark, making us fear ourselves more than anything, and this obviously blinds some people to other dangers."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 06.10.2010

A recent inventory of Russia's museums revealed that around 250,000 artworks are missing. Not all of them were stolen, according to the writer Oleg Yuriev, many of them were sold by the Soviet leaders for hard currency. "Back in the seventies there were rumours that the Soviet government had sold a lot of Rembrandt's and Titians in addition to the other works listed. These were secretly replaced with brilliant copies by a master counterfeiter who was at work in the Hermitage and later disappeared without a trace. Since then not even the employees at the Hermitage know what is real and what is fake in their own museum. This is postmodernism born of the spirit of Stalinism!"


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 07.10.2010

"This land has become uninhabitable," fumes Nigerian writer Niyi Osundare, in an article on the ruling clique which has allowed Nigeria to sink into corruption, inefficiency and a lack of prospects. "Nigeria's leaders are thieves in more ways than one. First of all, they go all out to steal our money, money which should be used for the development of this country. Secondly, they have stolen our voting mandate, because they continue to interfere in the elections and push people upon us who we never voted for. The third point – and this is the most important one of all – is that they have stolen our moral essence. Nigeria has become a country in which is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between right and wrong."


Die Welt 07.10.2010

Melinda Nadj Abonji, the winner of this year's German Book Prize is a Hungarian-Serbian born writer who lives in Switzerland. Her book "Falcons Without Falcons" (excerpt in English) describes how an ethnic Hungarian family from Vojvodina in Serbia relocates to Switzerland and opens a restaurant. She tells Paul Jandl: "My relationship to today's Switzerland is not without friction because I am extremely sceptical about political developments there. The achievements of the racism convention have been hollowed out by the right-wing burgher movement. But things are not so different in other parts of society. People pretend to be liberal, but it's very different when it comes to immigration."

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From the Feuilletons

Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

A clutch of German newspapers launch an appeal against the criminalisation of Wikileaks. Vera Lengsfeld remembers GDR dissident Jürgen Fuchs and how he met death in his cell. All the papers were bowled over Xavier Beauvois' film "Of Gods and Men." The FR enjoys a joke but not a picnic at a staging of Stravinsky's "Rake's Progress" in Berlin. Gustav Seibt provides a lurid description of Napoleonic soap in the SZ. German-Turkish Dogan Akhanli author explains what it feels like to be Josef K.
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Saturday 4 - Friday 10 December

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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From the feuilletons

Saturday 27 November - Friday 3 December

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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From the Feuilletons

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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