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GoetheInstitute

31/08/2005

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.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 31.08.2005

Konrad Schuller visited a visionary and voluble Lech Walesa in Danzig to coincide with the anniversary celebrations of Solidarnosc. He paints a moody portrait which ends on a celebratory note. "To the question about the existence of a hand of fate which men like him guide in the hour of struggle, a 'yes' shoots out of him with all the force of a bullet. One minute he's comparing his leadership powers with those of Lenin, Stalin or Kim Il-sung and the next he's prophesying that when the Chinese enter the globalised world they will eat every last blade of grass. And they all go barefoot so no one will hear them. 'Only joking' the president concludes."

French author Michel Houellebecq's latest novel, "La possibilité d'une ile", published in English as "The Possibility of an Island", hits the bookshops in France today. Most French papers have already reviewed the work – with or without authorisation. Jürg Altwegg reports on media battle surrounding the publication, in which Angelo Rinaldi for example, literature editor of Le Figaro, claims to have found the book in a park, whereupon he panned it in his paper. "But behind the skirmishes in the press, a major war between media corporations is taking place. Hachette-Lagardère, which publishes Houellebecq, is battling Dassault, owner of the Figaro. Both enterprises are also involved in the arms trade." The result? "'For all eternity', Houellebecq will give no more interviews to the Figaro, or any other of the 70 papers belonging to the Dassault group. Like Le Point and L'Express, Figaro will not receive any advertising contracts for Houellebecq's book. These were transferred to Chiens 2000, a widely-circulated magazine for dog owners. Of all the media, the magazine is 'the only one that can't be reproached for anything', says Houellebecq. He himself has a dog, and no doubt that must have impressed the literary critics of Chiens 2000."


Die Welt, 31.08.2005

In Die Welt Wolf Lepenies portrays writer Mario Vargas-Llosa who currently lives in London. "When did he become a political writer? 'End of the fifties, when Sartre's concept of literature engagee was gaining hold. There was a lot of naivete involved – at the time we believed every word Jean-Paul Sartre wrote. We were absolutely convinced that a novel only had to reflect the right attitude for the world to be changed forever. But my enthusiasm for Sartre's political meanderings soon cooled off.' Vargas Llosa however continues to see himself as a political writer. "I think literature has to be more than just entertainment. When I write I want to provoke something. In this respect I am still Sartre's disciple."'


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 31.08.2005

Joachim Güntner makes fun of the band of writers headed by Günther Grass who are discovering their devotion to Chancellor and state in the run-up to the federal elections slated for September 18. "Like old lefty Peter Rühmkorf, writer Michael Kumpfmüller is now surprised to see in himself a friend of the state. Kumpfmüller (as for Julie Zeh, another recent convert to the social democratic idea) says it's not so much a question of SPD or Red-Green (the SPD/Green Party coalition). 'But I'm gradually realising – getting old has something to do with it – that it's is my state that now faces certain threats'. A strange shifting of fronts. On the Red-Green side, politically engaged authors are stepping out like model students from an East German social studies class. But on the conservative side represented by CDU and FDP, there's no author for miles around willing to go out on a limb the way Grass and company are doing."


Die Tageszeitung, 31.08.2005

Jan-Hendrik Wulf interprets an essay by Slavoj Zizek in Lettre International in which the Slovenian philosopher analyses – and pans – the third Star Wars episode "Revenge of the Sith". Zizek arrives at the insight that "the allegedly evil is to be preferred over the 'value neutral'. The wondrous transformation of the good Anakin into the evil Darth Vader is a 'pop form of Buddhism' for Zizek: 'He changes into Darth Vader because he falls victim to the seduction of things... That makes him greedy. And when someone is greedy, he's already on the way to the dark side, because he's afraid of losing something.' From this it becomes clear why an elected politician, as opposed to the representative of God or the Dalai Lama, should have nothing to do with an ascetic society like the Jedi Order. That's why you can only laugh at German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's timely nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize." (Chancellor Schröder's nomination for the prize was made known last Tuesday, just three weeks before the federal elections scheduled for September 18 – ed.)


Der Tagesspiegel, 31.08.2005

Christina Tilmann sums up the foreshortened period in office of Minister of State for Culture and the Media Christina Weiss: "According to Weiss, it's only normal that the first successes are only announced after three years. They include the amendment to Film Promotion Act, the media funds and the reform of German foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle. But a lot has only been half-done. The problems include the German theatre system with its inflexible pay system, and the planned foundation to oversee Berlin's memorials – not to mention Germany's foreign culture policy in questions like the negotiations over art looted from Germany during and after World War II."

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