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03/12/2010

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.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 27.11.2010

Gerhard Gnauck explains why the Nazis so feared Chopin: "In 1940 the German authorities issued their "cultural political guidelines" which imposed tight restrictions on musical life in occupied Poland. 'Primitive entertainment' was permitted, also erotic music, but nothing with any elements of 'artistic experimentation'. Polish 'marches, folk songs and classical works' were verboten. And the 'spirit of Polishness' was to be kept out of every occasion (...) Among themselves – and illegally of course – the Poles most loved to play the 'Revolutionary Etude' and the Polonaise in A flat. 'The most interesting thing was that you could still buy works by our greatest poets in book shops but it was illegal to play Chopin,' explains the pianist Jan Ekier and quotes Robert Schumann's famous saying that Chopin's music was a 'canon buried under flowers'."

...as Swjatoslaw Richter ably demonstrates:




Die Welt 29.11.2010

After it was discovered that a high-ranking employee at the Hannah-Ahrendt Institute for totalitarianism research in Dresden had been a Stasi informant, Alan Posener lists a number of other blunders from the within the Institute and calls for its closure. He even calls into question the concept of totalitarianism itself: "The trouble with the concept of totalitarianism is that it does away with the responsibility of the conservative elites. They were the ones who handed over power to Hitler, and supported what at first was a weak and anything but 'totalitarian' dictatorship. This is precisely why the institute attracted historians who wanted to 'historicise' the Holocaust and relativise German guilt in the interests of a new cultural patriotism."

Die Welt 02.12.2010

Thomas Schmid, who shares Posener's poor view of the Hannah Ahrendt Institute, disagrees with him over the concept of totalitarianism, calling to mind the Berlin Congress for Cultural Freedom in June 1950. "It was run by intellectuals who were persecuted under the Nazis but who were not prepared to follow the siren calls of the communists which were promising a perfect world free from class-related antagonism, when what they had actually established or were establishing was another violent system. These intellectuals had no other choice but to talk about National Socialism without keeping quiet about communism. This anti-totalitarian anti-communism belongs to the best traditions of the West, it is liberal and anti-authoritarian, and there is no reason to abandon it."


Berliner Zeitung
29.11.2010

Birgit Walter sums up the spending cuts in the various German federal states and communities: "Of course it is an outrageous cultural achievement that every seventh opera house in the world is in Germany. According to die Zeit we have 84 of 560. As long as they are full and people love them, the nation is willing to fork out subsides of as much 100 Euro per opera ticket. But if the theatres are half or even a third empty and the respective cities are on the brink of collapse, it should be permissible to ask questions about cutting cultural budgets."


Die Tageszeitung 30.11.2010

Obviously hoping to score some points by showing up the USA again, the Arab papers made a big-splash announcement about the Wikilieaks cables. But since their release, writes Karim El-Gawhary, things have been eerily quiet, and not a word has been said about the statements by Arab potentates. Not even on al-Jazeera: "This gives a particular piquancy to the words of the Saudi ambassador in Washington who quoted King Abdullah as saying: 'Cut off the head of the Iranian snake.' Or when the Egyptian president Husni Mubarak calls the Iranians 'big fat liars' and describes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a man who is 'incapable of rational thought', and who 'is always causing trouble'. Or when the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, suggests to the USA that they 'send in ground forces if air strikes are not enough to take out Iranian nuclear targets. The diplomatic cables paint a picture of Arab leaders who are too cowardly to speak their minds in public and who want the US to do their dirty work."


Jungle World
03.12.2010

One of the sources for left-wing culturalism, in the case of the Green party for example, is ethnology and anthropology, according to Danish author Frederik Stjernfelt, whom Ivo Bozic interviews about his book on culturalism (excerpts in German at perlentaucher: "Many of the discussions that are taking place now were more or less anticipated in 1949 when the association of US anthropologists protested against the United Nations draft Declaration of Human Rights, on the grounds that individual universalism violates cultural rights. Since that time culturalism and human rights have been competing with one another in the UN and in international politics."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
03.12.2010

Censorship is the only word for it writes Slavenka Drakulic on the move by Bosnia's cultural minister to stop Angelina Jolie making a film about a rape victim who falls in love with her tormentor. No one has even read the script yet. "There is no doubt that the rape of Bosnian women is an extremely controversial issue. But this does not mean that it  should be-off bounds for cultural interpretation.[...] Would it not be more prudent to deal with the real problems and frustrations of women who have actually been raped in Bosnia [an estimated 20 – 50,000 of them in total] instead of creating new problems. Their suffering – through no fault of their own – from marginalisation and rejection within their own communities, is much worse than anything that could result from a love story from a Hollywood star who wants to make a directorial debut."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
03.12.2010

Green Euro MP
Daniel Cohn-Bendit writes a long, meandering text on Jean-Luc Godard's 80th birthday, which touches on their shared but very different backgrounds as revolutionaries, on Godard's "Antisemitism" and their fallout after Cohn-Bendit praised "Breathless" too loudly. Towards the end Cohn-Bendit describes the visit he paid to Godard earlier in the year. "I think he was determined to make his peace with me. I got the impression that there is something precarious about his relationship with the outside world. With me, I believe, Godard felt something he rarely encounters, meeting on equal terms. We are not in competition, we are working on different planets. He finds that relaxing, and interesting... At the end I asked him: 'Don't you want to make another film?' He answered: 'Yes, yes, I do. And I want to make it with these.' He pulled out two gadgets from of his pockets. The first was a ball point pen. He held it up and said: 'Look, this is what spies have today, it has a camera on one end.' The second was an alarm clock. It also had a built-in camera."

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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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From the Feuilletons

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 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 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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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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