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13/09/2005

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, 13.09.2005

In his thank-you speech at the award ceremony for the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, the winner, author Julian Barnes, presented his vision for an "anarchistic, rowdy and friendly Europe," defined by its regional differences. "You cannot be a European painter or writer without first being a British, Austrian, Dutch or Portuguese painter or writer. Anyone who consciously attempted to write a 'European' novel would end up with the literary equivalent of an aeroplane meal – by all means nutritious, not exactly poisonous but nothing you'd actually eat if you had the choice."

Reflecting on the 'wobbles-but-won't-fall-down' gumption of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the run-up to elections this Sunday which he is exptected to lose, literary scholar Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht paints him as "a chancellor who speaks out for social protest against his own politics, and a leader who disempowers himself to reclaim power". Gumbrecht portrays these paradoxical politics against the background of 20s Germany, calling them the first steps to Caesarism.


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 13.09.2005


Lutz Wingert, professor of practical philosophy at Dortmund Universtiy, refers to Aristotle's "Nicomachian Ethics" in explaining why the flat rate tax of 25% for companies and individuals (more here) proposed by CDU shadow finance minister Paul Kirchhof is unfair. But Wingert is even more annoyed that in his taxation scheme, Kirchhof seems only to take account of citizens as market entities. "His may be a vision, but not one for the 21st century. It is simply the liberal viewpoint of the 18th and 19th centuries, in which the social element and social duties remain pre-political. There is no sign of the wage earner as a political citizen, as a 'citoyen' who participates in the social orientation of his community. In contrast to the simple market player, the 'citoyen' sees equitable taxes not just as fees that have to be paid for services provided by the state. For him equitable taxes are also contributions for worthwhile goals that should be achieved by means of fair laws, that is laws that have emerged democratically."


Die Tageszeitung, 13.09.2005

Now that Social Democratic rule threatens to come to an end on with the election on Sunday, the taz looks back on how it all started. Social scientist Claus Offe chats to three taz journalists about the good old days when the German Left was still a beacon of hope. "I would never use the term liberal to describe the CDU state in the 50s. In 1959 I had an important politicising experience in the Cologne university canteen. It was there that I came across the magazine Konkret which at that time was being run by Ulrike Meinhof and her then husband Klaus-Rainer Röhl. It contained political and literary material that was absolutely unthinkable in the post-war Adenauer environment. At that time there was no Marx, very little Freud, and no real studies of psychoanalysis at all. And this also explains why Adorno and the Frankfurt School were so massively important. You can't imagine how strong the pressure to conform was under Cold War conditions. Reading Thomas Mann was pushing it; Brecht was practically out of bounds."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 13.09.2005

In the literature section, Matthias Biskupek reports on the thriving literary landscape in Estonia. "This nation survived centuries of more or less harsh occupation through its language. Is it any wonder that Estonian newspapers feature full-page photo spreads of their writers and poets? Or that the country has eleven professional theatres – for just one million ethnic Estonians and barely a half a million people from other linguistic groups? The 'cultural capital' uses tobacco and gambling taxes to ensure the existence of four literary reviews, and that translations are not dependent on publishers' whims. The writers' association Kirjanikeliit – there has only been one since 1923 – has 300 members and a staff of seven in the Tallinn and Tartu. And it owns a romantic holiday house where earlier a Soviet military base blocked access to the Baltic."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 13.09.2005


Martin Zehnder meets writer Neil Bissoondath, who – himself an immigrant from Trinidad – thinks Canadian multiculturalism is a grave mistake. Bissoondath makes a case for real integration, not just living side by side. "Instead of fostering commonality, cultural minorities are defined by their diversity and differences. This means that immigrants remain trapped in their community and are marginalised." (Here an essay in English by Bissoondath on multiculturalism in Canada)


Die Welt, 13.09.2005

In an interview with Stephan Schlak and Alexander Cammann, sociologist Heinz Bude looks back on his days in the "K-Groups", a term referring to the various communist parties in the 60s and 70s (more here in German). "I went through the whole 'Das Kapital' study group thing in Berlin. And in Tübingen I joined the group of internationalist Trotskyists. On the Left, the Trotskyists were always the equivalent of the liberal FDP: from there you could take stock of the whole spectrum. Even today I can smell members of the German Communist Party (founded in West Germany in 1968 as a replacement of the Communist Party of Germany, banned in 1956 – ed) a mile off. And in the West German media world there are so damned many of them. Even back then they were impossible: people who read Pablo Neruda with fervent looks in their eyes, or Peter Wiess' 'The Aesthetics of Resistance'. For God's sakes! When you read Weiss, then at least the Auschwitz piece 'Meine Ortschaft' or the early things, but not the 'Aesthetics of Resistance' and all that Leftist edifying literature. The Maoist girls were always very friendly – but I was always a bit suspicious of their pietistic fervour."

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