23/06/2005

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.

Orhan Pamuk is Turkey's leading author. His books have been burned and his life threatened in his home country in reaction to his statements on the Armenian genocide. The German Book Trade annouced yesterday that it would award Pamuk this year's Peace Prize (more here). We have collected some of the initial reactions:

"Turkey's frequently radical modernisation in the 20th century was also a technique of forgetting", Orhan Pamuk tells Nathan Shachar Carmona and Thomas Steinfeld of the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "And knowledge of many pleasant, beautiful, intelligent and glorious things from Turkish history got lost in the process. The humanism of the Ottoman Empire, its tolerance, but also Sufism fell victim to modernity's secular programme. This created a void, and not only that: it made the country incapable of dealing with itself. Radical Islam has also reacted to this void. And it is not modern Western culture that is going to fill it."

"'An excellent decision'", writes Jürgen Gottschilch in the Tageszeitung, quoting the overjoyed director of the German Centre for Turkish Studies, Faruk Sen on hearing the news of Pamuk's nomination. "It is a critical prize', Sen continued, 'it will make waves'. For Gottschilch: "Although no reaction came from Turkey yesterday, there is no doubt that Sen is right when he says that the award for Pamuk will not be greeted with undivided enthusiasm. Particularly after the controversy over the German government's resolution passed last week (urging Turkey to openly address the massacre of Armenians that took place 90 years ago - ed.), the Turkish nationalists will see the award as payment for someone who fouls the nest."

Hilal Sezgin in the Frankfurter Rundschau is not quite as euphoric as her colleagues about the jury's decision. She is especially skeptical about the dissident role ascribed to him, and quotes writer Nedim Gürsel who lives in Paris and, says Sezgin, belongs to a group of left-wing intellectuals who interpret Pamuk's statements on the Kurds and the Armenian question as a crudely opportunistic attempt to gain favour with the Europeans. Gürsel once said, in reference to a Turkish saying, that "in an attempt to win the Nobel Prize, colleague Pamuk 'had done everything but strip naked'."

Read an interview in English with Orhan Pamuk: "The Turkish trauma".


Die Zeit, 23.06.2005


The German Literature Days opened last night in Klagefurt, where they will run until Sunday. Coinciding with the event, writers Martin R. Dean, Thomas Hettche, Matthias Politycki and Michael Schindhelm have published a "Manifesto of Relevant Realism" with which they hope to constitute a "new middle". "What is the stance of Relevant Realism? Put in stylistic terms: a tightrope walk between the narration of life as it is lived, and what remains from the virtuosity of the erstwhile avant-garde. Put in moral terms: the consistent examination of our foundering world, and the struggle to create new utopias. Maybe we eternal left-liberals should get used to the idea that in the end we will have to adopt conservative values to control the rampant cultural cannibalism. Then the writers of our generation would be once more in a place they have avoided for decades for good reason, but that they can no longer avoid. And that is the centre of the public eye, where they must not only examine and shape, but also take sides. What we need now above all is intolerance."

Four other writers criticise the manifesto in the same edition, among them last year's winner of the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize awarded at Klagenfurt, Uwe Tellkamp: "Distinguished colleagues of Relevant Realism! We must write good books, and avoid writing bad ones. The rest is irrelevant."

Claus Spahn writes on Italian conductor Carlo Maria Guilini, who died last Tuesday aged 91. For Spahn, the most vibrant phase in Guilini's career came in the 50s: "Such verve, such recklessness, such impatience of appetites! You just have to listen to the few minutes of the champagne aria and you will be riveted by this 1959 recording of Don Giovanni. The young Eberhard Wächter sings a downright bawdy Don, and the strings kick down the doors of modesty with raving accents. Never before had Don Giovanni given such an aggressive and demanding invitation to his feast. Conductor of this studio recording is the 45-year-old Carlo Maria Guilini. He had jumped in impromptu for Otto Klemperer in the fourth session, who had suddenly fallen ill. And he created ad hoc a recording of the century, produced by Walter Legge with Joan Sutherland as Donna Anna, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as Donna Elvira and Giuseppe Taddei as Leporello. Guilini hurled himself into the piece with fiery tempos and the pizazz of a spitfire, letting the plot flicker and flare between breathlessness and standstill, unfurling an atmosphere of deepest night over the racing emotions of the singers."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 23.06.2005

Swiss author and literary critic Iso Camartin expresses worries about literary style in his speech opening this year's German Literature Days. He warns: "artists must not let questions of literary style degenerate to the personal question of lifestyle. In dozens of books today you find the same bleak existential prose, which both publishers and authors evidently take for an authentic expression of our time, but whose common attribute is just the epidemic spread of an absence of style. That means: a renunciation of that omnipresent stylistic will that can save the contents of a book, whatever they be. We want distinctive literary voices, not ones that can be interchanged at will. They can be raw and acerbic, loud and shrill, soft and mellow. But they must have an unmistakeable quality, they must be recognisable and believable, even when they tell us that the reliable and the believable does not exist."


Der Tagesspiegel, 23.06.2005

Bernhard Schulz writes about "the CDU and federal cultural policy". After speculating about possible candidates for a Minister of State for Culture and Media, or even a federal Culture Minister under a conservative government, he continues: "Such personal speculations have Berlin holding its breath. But these say nothing about questions of content. Three major problems await a CDU/CSU government, or a coalition with the FDP, that the present government couldn't even start to solve. First, there is the federalism problem, that is the question of the relationship of federal jurisdiction to that of the Bundesländer. Secondly, there is the associated question of the federal government's role in the capital Berlin. And thirdly there is the composition of international cultural policy." The fact that the Goethe Institutes, for example, lie under the control of Joschka Fischer and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, writes Schulz, had also been criticised as a mistake by Christina Weiss, acting Minister of State for Culture and Media. See In Today's Feuilletons of June 17 for an interview with Christina Weiss.

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