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03/03/2005

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.

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 03.03.2005

Author Jens Bisky reports on a new round in the Berlin culture wars, instigated by the Federal Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs Christina Weiss. It was sparked at a debate on the future of Berlin's National Socialist memorials, held at a colloquium on Tuesday evening. "Three worlds stood faced against each other: the defenders of the status quo, veterans of the existing Berlin memorial system; the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs, who appeared very surprised that the discussion she had called for actually began; and a small group of historians calling for a thoroughgoing new organisation for the memorials. Freiburg historian Ulrich Herbert asks the decisive question: Where in the memorial landscape is an 'overall statement' about National Socialism? His answer: Nowhere, and that has to change." Along with the new Monument for the Murdered Jews of Europe, which will be inaugurated this spring, the three monuments commemorating the victims of the Nazi era in Berlin are the German Resistance Memorial, Topography of Terror and the House of the Wannsee Conference, where the "Final Solution" was reached in 1942. As we reported two days ago, historian Götz Aly criticised the state of the memorials in Berlin.


Frankfurter Rundschau, 03.03.2005

Dorothea Marcus visits the Fadjr Festival, the largest theatre festival in the Middle East, which is running for ten days in Tehran. Established 23 years ago as a "Celebration of the Revolution", the festival is anything but theocratic today. Marcus reports on a performance of "Hamlet". "Hamlet is set in a parliament, the Danish royal family is made up of present-day power-hungry bureaucrats. Hamlet's stepfather King Claudius has become an Arab dictator, his father's ghost is an American. At night, he persuades Hamlet that his father has been killed by imperialist agents. Hamlet is driven by a will to 'purify'. He puts on a Mullah robe and becomes a terrorist. Hamlet's obsessive equation of goodness with religious fundamentalism doesn't interest the audience in Tehran today. The auditorium is empty in a matter of minutes." Audience members told Marcus, they've had enough of politics, they want more art.

"Visitors will hardly believe their eyes," predicts Roland Mischke in his ode to the latest creation of Basle architects Herzog & de Meuron, the library of the Brandenburg Technical University in Cottbus. "On one side of Karl Marx Street is the main building, a typical East German concrete high rise with orange and blue painted facades from 1969. Opposite it is this playful monumental novelty. 32 meters high with curved façades all round, it is totally foreign to the pine landscape surrounding it. Like a Mecca in the Brandenburg sand - the building seems more like an oil sheik's palace or a mosque than a library."


Die Tageszeitung, 03.03.2005

Dorothee Wenner reviews the wildly successful Bollywood hit "Main hoon na" (I am here), by first time filmmaker Farah Khan. Khan, a London-based choreographer whose her last project was Andrew Lloyd Weber's musical "Bombay Dreams", returned to India to render homage to classical Bollywood. "The cross-eyed obsession these days with the 'overseas market' is resulting in obscure films: productions that try to serve Western tastes are en vogue, even though most of them are flops. Farah Khan ignored current trends and made a modern classic with 'Main hoon na'. The film is shot exclusively in India, and offers a political alternative to Bollywood cinema."


Die Zeit, 03.03.2005

Peter Kümmel asks "Is an East–West split dividing theatre in Germany? Is Berlin's cultural senator Thomas Flierl an agent of evil socialist forces? Is a new Wall going up through the middle of our capital?" Kümmel talked with Flierl and others, and got partial answers. Flierl, from the PDS, the successor party to the East German communist party, admits he is looking for people with "East-West competence". He points to director Armin Petras, who is set to become intendant of Berlin's Maxim Gorki Theatre in 2006/2007: "He can interpret various cultural patterns and has inter-cultural translation skills that others don't. He has an 'in-between' biography, but the appointment is a productive challenge, not an 'Eastification'. We need people like him in Berlin." Carl Hegemann, dramatic advisor at East Berlin's trendy Volksbühne Theatre, affirms the need for such people. "The East is still traumatised by the conquest by the West. Soon all but two of the East German theatre intendants will be gone, and only West German intendants will remain. Some of these are dodgy characters who would probably never have got such a job in the West. That's odd."

Klaus Dermutz had a wide ranging interview with German painter Anselm Kiefer, who is about to celebrate his 60th birthday. Kiefer says, with a mystic note, "Man is a profoundly evil being. Man can be abysmally evil. We see this today. We are continually appalled by what people do. Culture can progress, civilisation can progress, but the abyss in man's false polarity remains." Kiefer comments on his own work: "I paint to understand and I understand to paint. With each new subject I approach and every new experience I work through, there is no discourse at first. Understanding only comes with painting. But then painting changes what I have understood. This circular process takes place in the course of each individual painting."

In a portrait of French pianist Helene Grimaud, Claus Spahn comments on her "compulsive speed". "Some pianists play the virtuoso passages with the calm of jet pilots. When Grimaud plays fast, it's more like a ride on an out-of-control merry-go-round, that spins and spins and can't stop. You can't help feeling dizzy in the intoxicated rush. Beyond the sheer delight of the music, the listener feels the danger of the tempo. And Helene Grimaud is not someone who likes to put on the brakes."


Die Welt, 03.03.2005

Die Welt has an original piece on the hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the syphilis virus. Ulrich Baron recounts the cultural history of the sickness: "The disease, whose virus Fritz Richard Schaudinn discovered 100 years ago, affected Europe more than any other. But no one has dedicated a novel to syphilis, the way Albert Camus did with the pest. It was unsavoury but discreet, you could live with it for long time, powder over its ulcers and handle it with quicksilver salve. But until the discovery of penicillin, there was no cure for it."

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