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04/07/2005

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 4 July, 2005

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 04.07.2005

Kerstin Holm writes a furious article about a recent newspaper announcement signed by fifty prominent Russian actors, singers, writers and athletes, welcoming the arbitrary verdict in the Yukos trial of former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in which he was sentenced to nine years in a labour camp and a fine of half a billion dollars. "That ambassadors of intelligence and artistic life again stoop to collectively reiterate the excommunication of a victim of state purging, comes as a shock. The editors of Isvestiya acknowledged the declaration with an indignant commentary, recalling the collective letters of vilification with which intellectuals of the Soviet era distanced themselves from colleagues such as Boris Pasternak, Vassili Grossman and Andrei Sinyavsky who had fallen from grace, and promised subservience to the state pursuers." The signatories include historian Roy Medvedyev, film director Stanislav Govorukhin, theatre director Alexander Kalyagin, ballerina Anastasia Volochkova and fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin.

Julia Spinola is enthusiastic about Jean Jourdheuil's new staging of Mozart's opera "Idomeneo" which premiered on Saturday at the Staatsoper in Stuttgart, Germany's foremost opera house. The opera deals with the Cretan king Idomeneo who returns from the Trojan wars and founders at sea. For Spinola, the work has remained relatively unknown because of the staging difficulties of translating the blustering tempests at sea into raging inner storms. "Jean Jourdheuil has now come up with an impressive scenic solution that is profoundly motivated by the music. The set is made up solely of movable sea-blue coloured flats, so to speak the empty hull of a baroque stage apparatus. It is in constant motion, creating the most diverse spaces in ever-changing patterns of light (set and costumes by Mark Lammert). In this space the young, vivacious ensemble move with sparing, exactly choreographed, almost dance-like gestures, which are nonetheless anything but stiff."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 04.07.2005

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has listened to the shrill cadenzas in Beethoven's Ode to Joy (now Europe's anthem, text here, music here), and detects certain ironies relating to the possible entry of Turkey in the European Union and the tensions between globalisation and the social state now shaking the EU. "Beethoven's finale is a fantastical mixture of orientalism and regression, a twofold retreat from the historical present. It is a confession that 'Joy', in all its world-embracing brotherliness, is a chimerical figure. (...) The interplay with a contrasting motif that breaks in after bar 331 can be heard as the return of the suppressed, a symptom for something that was an illusion from the start. Have we over-domesticated this ode? Have we become too accustomed to it, wrongly seeing in it a symbol for joy and fraternalism? Maybe we should listen to it once more, this time with a sharp ear for dissonance and exaggeration."


Der Tagesspiegel, 04.07.2005

Sebastian Handke is happy to defend Bob Geldof against all criticism of naivity, but he was still not impressed by the Live8 spectacle. He found it soulless. "Geldof came onto the stage, accompanied by images from 1985 of starving African children. Suddenly the video froze on one face. Then this child, now an attractive 24-year-old woman, walked onto the stage. Brihan Woldu's life was saved by Live Aid and she has just completed an Agricultural Studies degree in Ethiopia. It could have been a moment to cherish. But then on waltzed Madonna with her troupe of dancers. It was the high point of a whole list of soulless performances, the only exception being Michael Stipe and REM, with his blue stripe painted across his face. Will Smith demanded a 'Declaration of Interdependence' and later performed his current hit 'Switch'. Bon Jovi were loud and stupid, Destiny's Child routine and uninterested."


Saturday 2 July, 2005

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 02.07.2005

If Angela Merkel wins the elections planned for September 18, she will be able to govern under highly favourable circumstances: majorities in the Bundestag and Bundesrat, the second German house of parliament composed of representatives of the 16 German states, and a federal president from her own camp. But what can we await from the conservatives? asks Gustav Seibt. "The unsettling thing is: we don't have the first idea. Nothing can be made of the contradictory statements coming from marginal figures who fail to respect the silence imposed by the leadership. And Merkel has perfected the art of evading all questions and not committing herself to anything at all. Her ability to say nothing surpasses even Neues Deutschland, the communist party newspaper in the former German Democratic Republic. After all, Neues Deutschland did not have to deal with a critical public. Frau Merkel's interviews in recent days are little more than a mockery. If she doesn't want to say anything, she shouldn't talk to journalists. Even in her answer to Chancellor Schröder's call on Friday for a vote of non-confidence necessary to hold new elections, she didn't present the vaguest hint of an alternative."


die tageszeitung, 02.07.2005

The taz features a long interview with Klaus Theweleit, author of several works dealing with male fantasies and the psychopathology of fascism, on the question of how far violence was condoned by the 68er movement in Germany. The question is being subjected to new scrutiny following Wolfgang Kraushaar's presentation of his book identifying the perpetrators of a failed bomb attack on the Jewish Community Centre in Berlin in 1969 (more here). The culprits were members of the "Kommune 1" political commune, which has caused some to see anti-Semitism at the root of German left-wing terrorism. Theweleit sums up: "Subversive action means political acts must be carried out publicly. That can only work if you infringe rules. You have to go where you're not allowed, to a council meeting, a parliament, a lecture where you're not permitted to speak. You go there, you have a sit-in, a go-in, a teach-in. 1968 and its anti-authoritarianism involved a permanent violation of rules. But for bourgeois academics, the university and the police, the actions of the SDS (Sozialistische Deutsche Studentenbund the German socialist student federation) were seen as a breach of the law: that is, as violence."


Berliner Zeitung, 02.07.2005

Arno Widmann talks to author Elif Shafak about her novels, mysticism and the situation in Turkey. "Turkey is a polarized country. On the one side is the secular Left. It has no interest in the past, in Islam, not to mention Islamic mysticism. It has absolutely no interest - I'm caricaturing a little - in history. The Left is utterly fixated on the future, on progress. It doesn't look back. The people who are interested in history, in the Ottoman empire, are mostly conservative. They long for a return to a glorified past. Their viewpoint is not critical, either of the past or of themselves. A third option in Turkey is rare."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 02.07.2005

Historian Karl Schlögel visited Kalingrad during its 750 year celebrations and found few traces of its history. Now a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania, the city was formerly called Königsberg, the capital of East Prussia and was annexed by the Russians at the end of World War II. "It remains a mystery of disappearance. How can an entire city disappear? Was it in a frenzy of annihilation? Or was it out of pure animosity towards everything German? Was is simply a case of pulling down buildings for material to reconstruct Soviet cities? Or was it just about taking bits of other people's crumbling buildings to build your own houses? In Gusev stands the famous statue of the elk, a relic of a lost city."

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