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GoetheInstitute

27/06/2005

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.

Monday 27 June, 2005

This weekend in Klagenfurt, German-speaking writers comepeted in a three-day reading marathon for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize (more here). The press were unimpressed.


In die Welt, Elmar Krekeler was left cold by the "institutional prose". "Just as being a professional politician eventually leads to the death of politics, being a professional writer ends in the death of literature. Just one look at the CVs of the majority of the Klagenfurt writers reveals the extent of this professional writing. They have lived off grants since leaving college or university. They learned their skills in literary institutions. These are their only skills, their only apprenticeship, their only life. There is no doubt that they can write. The stories are well constructed. The pictures hang straight on the walls. But they are of no interest to anyone. They can write, but they have no idea what to write about. They risk nothing, writing safe, neatly cut literature. But it reeks of detergent and of dust, sweat and blackboard chalk."

Andreas Breitenstein of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung was also unmoved by the "well-crafted conventionality" and "escapism" which defined the literary output at Klagenfurt and which he said, evaded all burning questions of our time. But Breitenstein is at least satisfied that the Bachmann prize went to Thomas Lang for "Am Seil" (on a high wire): "The story of a father-son relationship is told in tortuous technical jargon. Without ever falling back on a metaphorical safety net, it comes to a head 'on a high wire' in a barn somewhere, high above the ground. Euthanasia or double suicide – Lang's painful and painfully embarrassing male dual is full of archaic power and sociocritical volatility. Things that even in better writing only smouldered, flare up here in full force."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 27.06.2005

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder needs to push through and lose a motion of confidence in the Bundestag, or German parliament, in order to call new elections for September. And everyone believes the titular head of state, President Horst Köhler, will allow him to do so. But political scientist Wilhelm Hennis, who was involved in protests against a similar manipulation when Helmut Kohl purposefully lost a motion of confidence in 1982 to prompt fresh elections, sees another scenario: "If Horst Köhler decides not to dissolve the Bundestag after a jimmied 'motion of confidence', Schröder would have to step down. The current Bundestag would have to elect a successor – on the recommendation of the president. Köhler would recommend the man or woman the polls showed stood the greatest chance of being elected. He could join his recommendation with a request that the new government should revise the German Basic Constitutional Law before the end of their term in office."

Dirk Schümer describes how the people of Naples increasingly come to the aid of the Mafia by hindering the police in scenes reminiscent of Vittorio de Sica's "The Bicycle Thief": "Just this week twelve police officers were injured as they tried to apprehend two moped thieves near the central station. Immediately the residents started hurling rocks and bottles at them, and ragazzi came at them branding sticks. In the end it turned into a street battle with over two hundred Neapolitans who the police could only control with heavy reinforcements. In other cases, women pour soap onto the street like in slapstick films to make the police slip and fall. Or groups of children block the way, allowing gangsters to slip off behind them. Naples now has the highest police presence in Europe, but the state can't get the better of a good one million inhabitants once the majority of them have come down on the other side."


Saturday 25 June, 2005

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 25.06.2005

Turkish writer Ahmet Altan asks himself whether Orhan Pamuk will be receiving the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for his literary qualities or for the courage he showed in speaking uncomfortable truths about the Armenian genocide. "The impression Europe gives in its appraisal of writers living beyond its borders is that political courage weighs more than literary value. And it gets more applause. One gets the funny feeling with the Europeans that, were Emile Zola a Pakistani, they would rate his 'J'accuse' over 'Germinal'.


Die Welt, 25.06.2005

"If hate is directed at the Americans, the Jews or women, it concerns the entire West," writes French philosopher Andre Glucksmann, warning against turning a blind eye to anti-Western sentiment. "Until September 11, the decision about the survival or the annihilation of humanity was the exclusive privilege of those who possessed the absolute weapon... Today the 'major powers' have lost their monopoly on destruction. The students who planned the attack on Manhattan lived in Hamburg alongside others who were peacefully preparing for their exams. What do you do when you're not able to cope with a situation, when you feel too weak in face of a danger? As Sartre said in his theory of emotions, you become unconscious. Faced with Manhattan, a large part of humanity has closed its eyes and goes on sleeping a sleep it no longer has a right to."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 25.06.2005

Hubert Kleinert, former Green party politician and now professor for political studies at the University of Wiesbaden, gives a critical roundup of the years of the SPD/Green party coalition. "Red-Green was not the break pad, but rather the locomotive in the transformation from party democracy to media democracy. From the crowning of Schröder as chancellor candidate in Leipzig in April 1998 to the Red-Green electoral campaign today: there has never been so much play acting, so much attention to appearance, polls and popularity. And never before has there been so little substantial public debate beyond talk-show politainment."

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