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29/09/2005

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.

Die Zeit, 29.09.2005

This week the paper features a long interview with the popular East German author Christa Wolf (more here and here), who discusses the German unification, life in the GDR, remembering and forgetting. Asked what she recalls as a really good time in the former East Germany, she answers: "Maybe it was the mood of enthusiasm in the fifties, the feeling that here in the GDR a better, a more socially equitable state was being created. It was in those years that we got our anti-fascist mindset. I came into contact with leftist authors who had returned from emigration to the GDR: Louis Fürnberg, Anna Seghers, Willi Bredel, F.C. Weiskopf, KuBa, Alex Wedding – and many more. We read their books and shared their conflicts. I still think today that those were the most interesting people in Germany at the time."

Tomorrow the exhibition "Räume und Schatten" (spaces and shadows) featuring art from South East Asia opens in Berlin's Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Thomas E. Schmidt was in Bangkok and met up with some Thai artists. "When someone in Bangkok says they live in an old house, they mean an apartment building from the 1980s," says Michael Shaowanasai, born in 1964 in Philadelphia as the first child of Thai immigrants. Shaowanasai later studied art in Chicago and moved to Bangkok ten years ago. 'The tempo of change is crazily fast and there is an extraordinary tendency to forget.' Indeed, Bangkok seems to be in a feverish sky scraper delirium, as though every form of urban at-homeness, every little tree and every street surface, every form of shelter and every form of life is constantly being dissolved from below in an acid bath."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29.09.2005

"That was a great moment," reports Holger Liebs on an appearance by provocative theatre director Christoph Schlingensief at the awards ceremony of the Nationalgalerie's prize for young artists at the Hamburger Bahnhof museum in Berlin. "When the invited speaker Christoph Schlingensief finished declaiming his manifesto for the abolishment of art, he tore up the envelope with the winner's name saying: 'I hereby terminate this artistic competition and declare it to have no result. Art knows no winners!'" Of course the art world did not then grind to a halt. The Nationalgalerie's prize for young artists was awarded to Monica Bonvicini (more here).
(See our feature "Merkel's a total cutie!", an interview with Christoph Schlingensief.)

Criticism notwithstanding, the European Parliament voted on Wednesday to commence negotiations for Turkey's entry into the EU. Only the Austrians are strictly opposed – after all Vienna was besieged by the Turks in 1529 and 1683. For Michael Frank their reaction is like unfriendly treatment of relatives: "After the second Battle of Vienna – which was a world metropolis with around 65,000 inhabitants at the time – 20,000 Turks were taken prisoner. They then remained in the city and became assimilated. One quarter of all 'true Viennese' are Turks? When you think of Heinz-Christian Strache (head of the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party FPÖ), that smart-looking fellow with the jet black hair, you seem to understand the call of the blood – the term these gentlemen actually use – that runs through their veins: Whether Czechs, Slovaks, our southern Slavs, the Viennese have always disliked those people the most with whom they have the most intimate relationship."


Die Tageszeitung, 29.09.2005


Yet another comedy about the former East Germany: Leander Haußmann's "NVA" has opened in German cinemas. NVA refers to the Nationale Volksarmee, the national army of the GDR. "The NVA was, not unlike the GDR, an extremely Prussian institution," writes Jochen Schmidt and regrets that Haußmann didn't go further. "It's become a comedy. Why not? Anyone who lived through it knows there was a lot to laugh about. What else should one do to kill the time? And the absurdity of the regulations and the language rules could hardly be topped. Now the army is a slapstick paradise."

The paper features two articles on "Paradise Now", Hany Abu-Assad's film about two Palestinian suicide bombers. Cristina Nord describes the heated discussion over whether the film is anti-Semitic or not. She feels the debate is informed by an assumption that liberties can only be taken in art "on an aesthetic level". And the director of Israel's Film Fund Katriel Schory says in an interview: "It would be good if the Israelis had a chance to see it, because the film tells the story from an other standpoint. Thus, we could get a sense of how people on the other side find the whole situation. It's a piece of a art. A piece of art – why not?"


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29.09.2005

This season's hit play is unequivocally Moritz Rinke's "Cafe Umberto", writes Gerhard Stadelmaier, who has seen the first performances in Düsseldorf and Hamburg. It takes place in the halls of an employment centre, and is peopled with unemployed geography teachers, painters and composers – which Stadelmaier is not entirely thrilled about: "You can see after two stagings of the play what the author, and of course the theatres, find most interesting: their peers. The characters are members of the academic middle class, from whose ranks the theatre recruits its audiences. It's a vicious circle. True social misery, real unemployment, the down and out, are nowhere in sight – or homage is paid to them when the director decides to have a few toilet seats and the customary stage trash lying around the employment centre."

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