05/07/2005

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.

Berliner Zeitung, 05.07.2005

Early this morning the Berlin police removed the 1065 crosses which Alexandra Hildebrandt, self-appointed head of the Mauermuseum at Checkpoint Charlie, erected in autumn 2004, on her own initiative and without official approval, at the former East-West border crossing Checkpoint Charlie. Arno Widman mourns the loss of this "bungled installation" which, he says, has become one of Berlin's main tourist sights. "It attracts more tourists than the Pergamon Museum. Berlin might be known for all sorts of things but the Wall made it famous. Everybody who visits Berlin wants to see the Wall. They want to see how a city was cut in two. This is what made Berlin so dramatic. The world was divided in this city. The visitors want to see that, to understand it. Alexandra Hildebrandt understood this. Without her work, there would be nowhere to take visitors to show them what things looked like, more or less, before the Wall fell. The city should celebrate Mrs Hildebrandt. It can't be very often that local authorities get tourist attractions this cheap."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 05.07.2005


Tim B. Müller declares the European Left bankrupt. Instead of getting to grips with Tony Blair in any serious way, they can only trot along behind Jacques Chirac, the "Godfather of all structural conservatives". "All that remains ideologically to unite the Western European Left - whether they actually use the name or not – is Brit bashing. This variant of the Left has ossified as protector of compromises and structures well past their sell-by date, and it plays with the monsters of nationalism. The rest of the world has become a foreign body, if not an enemy, best kept at bay with politics of fear and resentment: globalisation, America, Israel, Irak, Turkey, the Indians and the Chinese, the Polish asparagus pickers and the Ukrainian prostitutes." Müller recommends they look at Martin Walzer's online Dissent magazine for some ideas.


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 05.07.2005

In a speech in June, former SPD finance minister Oskar Lafontaine, who is now spearheading the new leftist alliance 'Linkspartei' with Gregor Gysi (former chairman of the PDS, the successor to the Communist Party of East Germany), referred to "Fremdarbeiter" or foreign workers he said are taking jobs away from Germans. Andreas Platthaus talked to historian Ulrich Herbert (author of the book "Fremdarbeiter" of 1986, published in English as "Hitler's Foreign Workers) about the origins of the controversial word. Apparently it was not invented by the Nazis but "anyone who isn't completely blind must realise that the word cannot be used innocently after 1945. (The word was used by the Nazis as a euphemism for workers in the forced labour camps). On the other hand, the term does not have such unequivocal connotations as somthing like 'fremdvolk" (foreign race), which is directly linked to racist ideology. 'Fremdarbeiter' oscillates a little and that was also Mr Lafontaine's intention."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 05.07.2005

Thomas Frahm visited the Bulgarian provincial nest of Ruse on the lower reaches of the Danube, home town of Nobel Prize winning author Elias Canetti. "In the socialist decades, the small commercial town had the second largest harbour on the Danube and was radically, almost brutally industrialised... As a result, the population grew to over 200,000 by 1985. The streets were widened, and the first large precast concrete-slab highrises went up. The orchard behind the house in General Gurko Street where Canetti was born, and which he so vividly evokes, fell victim to the need for space. Now the town now has only 160,000 inhabitants. This is not only due to the expulsion of the Turkish inhabitants around 1985, the ecological problems threatening the city, and the ruthless exploitation of the former state-owned enterprises by the nomenclatura after the return to democracy in 1989. It is also because Bulgaria was massively over-industrialised under the socialist leadership."


Tagesspiegel, 05.07.2005

Dorothee Wenner reports on the independent VCD industry (low resolution video CDs) in Nigeria, which employs 125,000 people and is growing fast. "The booming sector has aroused considerable amazement. Only a few days after they're released in Lagos, the videos are available in Europe and the USA, where they're the bread and butter of many Afro shops. It's true, the home movies are at best amateur quality, but they're hugely popular among African customers. That has to do with the everyday subjects that take up current themes in soap opera format with plenty of action and horror thrown in, and frequent supernatural explanations for sudden windfalls, inexplicable streaks of bad luck, marital problems and crises of faith."

Willi Jasper reviews a newly published study "Die ungleichen Brüder" (the unequal brothers) by Helmut Koopmann, about the personal and literary relationship between two of Germany's foremost authors, Thomas and Heinrich Mann. Jasper relates how the brothers spurred each other on: "According to Koopmann's thesis, the first years of the new century were seminal for the brothers' fraternal strife and literary exchange. The decisive moral, aesthetic and political catchwords that returned again and again over the next decades were expressed in the literary quarrel of this time. Heinrich complained that Thomas had 'cut all the sexual energy' from his 'Buddenbrooks', (1901)... Heinrich's 'The Hunt for Love' (1903) was a direct reply to and 'continuation' of his brother's family novel, with a clear plea for the 'passions of the senses'. It was no wonder that Thomas was irritated by his brother's 'thickly smeared colportage psychology' and 'the unrelenting flaccid rutting season and continual stench of meat'. For Thomas, Heinrich's amoral empire of the senses was like an anarchic realm of 'apes and other Southerners'."

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