26/11/2010

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.

Reactions of the papers to "The Coming Insurrection"

Die Tageszeitung
23.11.2010

"The Coming Insurrection", an anti-globalisation manifesto by a French anarchist group calling themselves "The Invisible Committee" caused quite a stir when it was published in France and the US last year (where it was published by Semiotexte – read English version here). It has finally been translated into German and had had surprisingly warm reviews in two of Germany's leading broadsheets, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (here) and the Süddeutche Zeitung (here). In the left-wing paper taz, however, Johannes Thumfart describes the pamphlet, as decidedly right-wing: "The pamphlet explicitly calls for political acts of violence, to 'liberate territory from police occupation'. Democracy is the authors' sworn enemy. The post-war era is tersely described as 'sixty years of pacification, sixty years of democratic anaesthesia'; and anyone who insists on 'the democratic character of decision making' is a 'fanatic of process'. In the 'bourgeois parliaments', there is nothing but 'palaver' – which immediately calls to mind the situation in the Weimar Republic when extremists on the left and right described the Reichstag as a 'schwatzbude' or chattering-shop. The authors summon up Carl Schmitt, the 'crown jurist' of the Third Reich, and his ideas on the "state of emergency', 'partisans' and the concept of the political. Another influence is the philosopher Martin Heidegger, whose ideas served the Nazis well. In particular the book is inspired by Heidegger's ideas on technology and modernism". Thumfart adds: "FAZ and SZ were so enthusiastic in their reviews of the pamphlet that that one Berlin book shop felt obliged to send out an ironic circular mail saying that the leading German dailies were now actively calling for terrorism."

On 25.11.2010, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Süddeutsche Zeitung both responded to Johannes Thumfart's accusations in the taz.

In the FAZ Jürgen Kaube argues that the pamphlet is neither left nor right but "youth literature" that demands to be taken seriously. "It makes no sense to discuss whether this theory stems from the far-left or far-right, as the booklet's anti-modern affects are currently leading people to do. Because the motifs of cultural criticism have long been blurred. The 'Invisible Committee' does not cite Heidegger and Carl Schmitt; this is merely a Rorschach reading by the taz – and has no bearing on any political position."

In the SZ, Marc Felix Serrao does see traces of conservative revolution in the pamphlet and an affinity with Ernst Jünger's "Waldgang" [an essay on the individual's choices of resistance against an oppressive society -ed.]. But he thinks it wrong to "dismiss it as anti-modern simply by pointing to its role models. Because what do children care about their intellectual fathers? What once might have been genuine disgust at the world is now firmly ensconced in mainstream pop culture. (...) It is the acerbic tone of 'The Coming Insurrection' which makes it so impressive. The description of the wasteland is shared by every politically interested individual, if they are not completely cynical about the state of things."


Other stories of the week


Frankfurter Rundschau
22.11.2010

In Peter Michalzik's comparison of two stagings of Roland Shimmelpfennig's new play "Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God", Martin Kusej's version at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin fares better than Wilfried Mink's at the Hamburg Thalia. The play itself, which The Africa Trilogy neatly dubs a sort of "post-colonial 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf'", takes place during a boozy reunion dinner party of two couples, all four of them medics. One couple have just returned from working in Africa under difficult conditions, fleeing in fear of their lives; the others opted for the easy life. "In Hamburg it soon became clear that that 'Peggy Pickit' is an intelligent theatre parable, if played as comedy. Four people provide four answers to the scandal of African misery, and none of them are solutions. ... Roland Schimmelpfennig is a postmoralist author and a strong voice of a generation that is sceptical about itself more than anything else. It is a generation which, if you want to be unkind, wants a clear conscience even as feelgood home-owners. Or, if you want to be kind, has never given up trying to make the world a better place. 'Peggy Pickit' stands up to moral uncertainty and gives no false answers."


Frankfurter Rundschau
23.11.2010

Christian Thomas wandered in awe through the huge exhibition on the Celts in the Völklingen Ironworks. At the end, though, he still had some unanswered questions: "There was no word about the Celts' love of gruesome rituals, and of human sacrifice in particular. All the helmets, round, conical, iron and bronze, say no more about the Celtic cult of decapitation than the 2,800 year-old razor blades, torques, or spindly spiral-headed needles."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 23.11.2010

Suicide rates in Lithuania are four times as high as in Germany, reports Cathrin Kahlweit. The reasons hark back to the country's communist past. The rock star Andrius Mamontovas (singing here) is deeply committed to improving thing but there is a long way to go yet: "The suicide hotline in the capital Vilnius takes 100,000 calls a year, 24 hours a day, seven day a week but it is not enough. Two million calls come in every year, and sometimes people have to try 30 times before they get through."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 24.11.2010

Prompted by the closure of the TV show fronted by Russian journalist Anna Urmanzeva, Kerstin Holm reports on a string of recent hair-raising cases where critical journalism has been silenced by force in Russia. Urmanzeva broadcast a story on the abuse of orphan children in psychiatric clinics: "Russian psychiatry is deliberately producing 'human vegetables' the journalist reported in her programme on the Moscow channel TVZ. Children in care who complete their school studies are eligible for state housing – but not if they are hopeless cases. On top of this, their invalid benefits are automatically transferred to their carers."


Die Tageszeitung 26.11.2010

Jürgen Gottschlich reports that the literary Nobel Prize laureate V.S.Naipaul, who was due to give the opening speech at the "European Writers' Parliament" in Istanbul, cancelled after a heated debate blew up about his alleged vilification of Islam. The secular publisher Ragip Zarakolu comments: "If things continue this way, it won't be long before we can't invite anyone from outside the Islamic world."

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