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Siegfried Lenz, one of the great writers of German post-war literature is dead. He died on 7 October 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.... more more

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29/10/2010

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.

Die Welt 23.10.2010

Ian McEwan was in Berlin to present his latest novel "Solar". In conversation with Wieland Freund and Jacques Schuster, McEwan, who shot to fame in Germany with his Cold War novel "Innocent", explains his great surprise that almost no German author of note has written about the Wall: "If the Wall had run through Manhattan, American writers would hardly have avoided the issue. So why all this silence on the Western side? I believe there are two answers to this question. One is that most German writers were politically left-leaning and had they written about the Wall they would have had to have been against it. But in the divided world of the Cold War, writers did not want to side with the CIA. The other, more aesthetically interesting answer, came from a fellow German writer who, when I asked him why he didn't write about the Wall said: the Wall is for journalists."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung 25.10.2010

For Jürgen Ritte, Michel Houllebecq's bestseller "La carte et le territoire" is cold coffee compared with other books on the Prix Goncourt shortlist. Virginie Despentes' "Apocalypse Bebe" for example: "If you read sexuality and pornography as metaphors for the play of power and oppression, for the struggle between integrated and excluded escatologists, for the language of violence and the violent language of the powerless, then you can confidently read Virginie Despentes' novel as a truer and more radical representation of the current state of French culture than any of Houellebecq's game-playing. 'Only the most dishonest Frenchmen could persuade themselves that an understanding can be reached,' one figure in her novel says, a teenage boy from the infamous banlieu, 'there will be no apology and the matter will not be discussed."



Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 25.10.2010

Nils Minkmar sums up the results of a report by the Independent Commission of Historians  on the role of diplomacy and the Foreign Ministry in the Third Reich: "After reading the first part of the commission's report, there is no way to avoid describing the Foreign Ministry under the Nazis as anything but a criminal organisation, whose considerable talents in propaganda and argumentation were left largely in tact after the end of the war and deployed to remove all traces of the crimes.... Until very recently, any historian who sought to describe the guilt of Germany's diplomats had to reckon with fierce journalistic resistance from the likes of Rudolf Augstein (the late founder and co-owner of Der Spiegel) and Countess Dönhoff."


Perlentaucher 27.10.2010

Two Danish writers Jens-Martin Eriksen and Frederik Stjernfelt analyse the symptoms of culturalism, the ideology which is warping people's reaction to Islam in both political camps - on the Right, in the push for a 'guiding culture' and on the Left, in the defence of the headscarf: "This strident antiphon of particularisms, in which the reinforcement of the culturalism of the Left frightens more voters to move towards the culturalism of the Right and vice versa, ought not to persuade anyone into believing that culturalisms of the Left and the Right constitute the main antithesis in modern politics. On the contrary, the conflict is between Enlightenment and culturalism."


Die Welt 27.10.2010

German debates are dull as ditchwater, cultural scientist Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht complains in an interview. No surprises and too much dogmatism. "Take Angela Merkel's reaction to the Thilo Sarrazin affair (more here): his 'unwelcome opinions' were "not helpful". Fantastic! Only welcome opinions are to be expressed in debate. If you articulate an unsolicited opinion, you will lose your job. This is exactly the point: the 'welcome opinion' syndrome."


Jungle World 28.10.2010

Ivo Bozic talks to SPD politician Michael Bauer, who defends the newly formed secular working party against its pious social democratic opponents. He is not denying that Christian-Judaeo values exist, he says, but "it would interest me to know exactly what is meant by 'Christian-Judaeo values'. If these supposedly include such things as human dignity and human rights, then it should be noted that the Vatican, as representative of the Catholic church, still refuses to recognise the European Charta of Fundamental Rights. So it seems the aforementioned values are not necessarily Catholic values."


Die Zeit 28.10.2010

"Capitalism makes great art possible," writer and businessman Ernst-Wilhelm Händler tells Ijoma Mangold. And then he goes on to complain about the lack of decision-making skills in society, self-replicating control systems such as the enterprise resource planning system in the book industry and the flatness of contemporary literature: "As far as prose in concerned, we are seeing almost no innovative formal experimentation. But this is not the biggest problem I have with German contemporary literature. As a reader I find two elementary motivating forces completely absent: the pursuit of power and the pursuit of money. Power words and numbers fill the business section of the newspapers but not the novels. I find this surprising and regrettable. Everyone has problems with money and power issues, but this is entirely ignored by literature."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 28.10.2010

Eastern European historian Martin Schulze Wessel is deeply critical in his assessment of the freshly published "corner stones" (German pdf) for a planned permanent exhibition (more here) in Berlin on flight and expulsion. He was appalled that "Bromberg Bloody Sunday" has been highlighted to play a key role in the exhibition - the term refers to the shooting of minority Germans by Poles in the aftermath of the invasion of Poland in September 1939: "The war begins with German victims - this is the message sent by this particular part of the exhibition. You have to ask how the curators came up with Bromberg in the first place. 'Bromberg' is a part of the violent history of WWII but it has nothing to do with flight and expulsion. Are the curators perhaps more interested in historical revision? "


Die Welt 29.10.2010

Doron Rabinovici, author of the novel "Elsewhere" describes in a shocking article how the moderate Austrian parties have become lackeys of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) and are sending the children of asylum seekers back to Kosovo at gunpoint: "Immigration laws demands that babies born in Austria who do not leave their mothers' bellies with the correct passports, require a resident's permit - if not quite in the delivery room, then within their first six months.  The racist antagonism of populist politicians and the tabloid press has left an indelible mark on Austria. The ruling coalition of SPÖ and ÖVP are aiding and abetting the right-wing agitators."

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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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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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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 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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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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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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