25/08/2005

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.

Die Zeit, 25.08.2005

"The country has now reached the moment of truth in its history," says Israeli author Amos Oz in an interview with Gisela Dachs on the current situation in Israel. "This isn't just about the occupied territories and the settlers' resistance. It's about theocracy versus democracy, the role of the Rabbis and the Torah, the foundation of a democratic civil society. After all the arguments about security, historical rights, settlements, feelings, guilt and peace, we arrive at the real sticking point." On the subject of Europe's own yearning for peace, Oz believes: "The interest that people in Europe have in the Middle East peace process appears sometimes to verge on the obsessive. Such people seem to believe that peace is an emotional issue, something between group therapy and family counselling."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 25.08.2005


Recently Edmund Stoiber, Bavaria's premier and head of the Christian Social Union, complained that East Germans were "frustrated". His remarks were heftily criticised by Brandenburg's interior minister Jörg Schönbohm, who said Stoiber should steer clear of the East in the current federal election. Jens Bisky comments: "The mistaken belief that there is something like an overarching 'inner unity' that could breach all the antagonisms and conflicts of interest has prevented free debate about the form the 'Aufbau Ost', or East German reconstruction, should take". For Bisky, "the patriotic taboo has done more damage to German unity than anything else. The differences and distinct interests in the East and the West are not argued out with civilised aplomb, because everybody's stubbornly trying to deny that contrasts exist - to marginalise differences as something that will soon be overcome. Almost every season this results in a short outbreak of inner-German bickering. The latest example was provided by Schönbohm and Stoiber. Once more therapists and appeasers rushed to the scene to end the debate before people could discuss the interesting problems it raised."

Swedish journalist Natalia Kazmiersak managed to track down and interview the author Peter Hoeg ("Smilla's Sense of Snow"). Impressed by her pluck, the shy writer gave away his big secret. "The rain drums against the window. And he says bluntly: 'I'm going to publish another book. I've been working on it for several years. It's going to be big.' He shows me with his hands. Peter Hoeg's first book in ten years is going to be a brick. 'It'll come out next year. February or March', he says. 'My publishers know I've written it, but no one's seen the manuscript yet.'"


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 25.08.2005

Iraqi poet and publisher Khalid al-Maaly complains about the lack of quality in the Iraqi feuilletons, or culture pages. "Despite the high number of intellectuals in the country, two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein there is not a single cultural magazine in Iraq with a minimum of professionalism, despite several magazines launched by the cultural ministry, or by official or unofficial institutions. And no book worth reading has appeared that draws lessons from the current phase of upheaval, or the last years of the dictatorship. By contrast, what you do find are vociferous utterances by writers and artists still debating about structuralism, referring to even worse translations of Western works. Or they produce prose texts about Ancient Athens or the island of Malta."

Aram Lintzel is astonished at the childish lyrics emanating from Germany's 'new wave' of pop music. They all want to go back to the nursery! says Linzel. It's not just bands like "Juli" or "2raumwohnung" that consciously cultivate "this juvenile habit of wandering off into the realm of the cute, infantile and pubescent." More progressive bands like "Kettcar" or "Tomte" are also at it. "Kettcar is like a present from your parents, like an Astrid Lindgren book or your first trip to the cinema to see 'The Jungle Book'. The music doesn't recall the secret places teenagers jealously guard from their parents; it merely recalls an ideal family-centric world."

Kerstin Stremmel went to the 36th Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles, and was above all impressed by a "small miracle" by Joan Fontcuberta (more). "He's put together an extensive pseudo-documentary exhibition on miracles, with relics, explanations and photos, which for example, 'prove' the miracle of dolphin-riding. And there's a DVD whose undisputed highlight is a sea bream which has just come back to life and sings 'Don't worry, be happy' on a simmering bed of vegetables."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 25.08.2005

"We have reached the summit of literary cynicism, the climax of platitude," says Martina Meister, panning Michel Houellebecq's new novel, "The Possibility of an Island". "Effectively, one has the choice of regarding this novel as anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, misogynistic, child-hating, even misanthropic. Strangely enough though, these stabs at provocation fade away quietly, without echo, because the author's only interest is in breaking every single last taboo."

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