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24/10/2005

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.

Monday 24 October, 2005

Orhan Pamuk awarded Peace Prize of the German Book Trade


Turkish author Orhan Pamuk (interview here) was awarded the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade awarded by the German Book Trade Association on Sunday.

In the run up to the event, last week the FAZ criticised Pamuk for allegedly tailoring his remarks on the Turkish genocide of the Armenians with an eye to the Nobel Prize (more here).

These remarks were then criticised by the taz on Saturday (before Pamuk gave his speech):

Daniel Bax portrays the Turkish author and rails against the "salon journalists" of the FAZ who on hearing back in June that Pamuk was to be awarded the Peace Prize accused him (here and here) of not of not being clearer in his condemnation of the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. "Is the FAZ trying to tell us that Pamuk should jolly well go to prison for his convictions? And if this is the case, to what end? The barefaced cheek of some of these salon journalists never fails to amaze, demanding as they do that others show courage they themselves have never been required to display. Orhan Pamuk would be only too happy to be the first Turkish writer of note not to be been thrown into prison – and not only on grounds of self-protection, but because this would be a sign of progress in Turkey. A writer for whom 'the West' and 'Islam', 'Orient' and 'modernity' or 'freedom of speech' and 'Turkey' are not forever antithetical is obviously too much to bear – and not only for some people in Turkey."

The taz on Monday quotes from Pamuk's acceptance speech, in which the author used the occasion in part to plead for a reconciliation of the EU and Turkey in the interests of both sides. "The fuelling of anti-Turkish sentiment in Europe is resulting in an anti-European, indiscriminate nationalism in Turkey. Anyone who believes in the European Union should recognise that the two alternatives here are peace and nationalism. This is the decision we have to make: peace or nationalism.

After the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung criticised Orhan Pamuk's "sudden enlightenment" when he qualified his comments on the Turkish genocide of the Armenians in an interview with the Turkish CNN, Hubert Spiegel today criticises Pamuk's excessive patriotism in his acceptance speech in Frankfurt's Paulskirche which links Turkey's rise of nationalism with European anti-Turkish sentiment: "Unfortunately in his speech he said nothing about Turkish nationalism, the deficit of democracy in the country, the role of women in Islam and in general the differences in questions of culture and religion that also give opponents to Turkey's entry pause for thought."

In Die Welt, Uwe Wittstock focuses on Orhan Pamuk's comments on the murder of the "Osmanian Armenians": "His remarks can be seen as putting forward the historically accurate comment that it was in the state that preceded modern Turkey, namely the Ottoman Empire, that the Armenians were murdered – which casts the trial against Pamuk for allegedly demeaning the Turkish identity in an all the more questionable light. On the other hand, the word 'Ottoman' could also be taken to mean that the crimes committed 90 years ago have precious little to do with Turkey today. Pamuk remained entirely silent on where responsibility for the murders lies."

In the Frankfurter Rundschau, author Hilal Sezgin summarises Pamuk's acceptance speech (excerpts in German here), and comments on the excitement surrounding the Turkish author, who was much praised in Germany for his bold comments on the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, "until Thursday, when exactly three days before the awards ceremony the FAZ heard that Pamuk had qualified his comments on the Kurds and Armenians. From that point on things developed at a whirlwind pace: On Friday rumours started circulating that Pamuk's family may have received threats, and that was why he was now waffling... All balderdash. Because on Saturday morning Pamuk said at a press conference that he in no way distances himself from his earlier political statements. At noon yesterday the prize was finally given out in the Paulskirche. It was a harmonious, dignified ceremony, which betrayed nothing of the foregoing commotion. And this order of events – first the scandal, then the prize, then the ensuing joy – is undoubtedly the better one."
See our feature "A stone's throw from Europe" by Hilal Sezgin.


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 24.10.2005


"It's true, Korea strode into modernity with seven-league boots, but tradition is waiting just around the next corner." This is how Andreas Breitenstein sums up the presence of guest of honour Korea at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. Apparently the statement goes as much for politics as for art. Breitenstein describes an appearance by poet Ko Un at the stand of Suhrkamp publishers. "Ko Un recited 'Arirang' a homage to Siegfried Unseld, the late head of Surhkamp. The work is a simple popular song expressing lament and making room for solace. While the poet's lanky body was rocked by the verses you could see the audience getting fidgety. Singing belongs to the cultural graces that are shied away from here in Germany, because it makes a public show of one's feelings."


Saturday 22 October, 2005

Die Welt, 22.10.2005


Sociologist Wolfgang Sofsky (book info here) weighs up the precarious balance between freedom and security in the time of the War on Terror: "It is wrong to equate freedom with democracy. Freedom is no means guaranteed by the regular change of elites through secret ballots. It is also not an equivalent of majority rule or equal opportunities. The freedom of a political order is first and foremost measured by the strength of the barriers protecting individuals from measures adopted by the authorities, encroachments by neighbours and enemy attacks. Democracy, by contrast, means majority rule. Freedom can expect nothing from the rule of a majority regime that is guided by a passion for security. Placing the right of the general public over that of the individual has nothing to do with freedom at all. There is no necessary connection between freedom and democracy."


Spiegel Online, 22.10.2005

Historian Dan Diner talks in an interview about the trial of Saddam Hussein, the rule of law in Iraq and the democratisation of the Arab world. "The Arab world is more about plurality than majority rule or democracy. The majority is more likely to define itself along ethnic lines than social or political differentiation. In these countries, aside from pluralism great value is attached to "good governance" and political transparency, to transparent administrative and governmental structures, and to stability of the law. The division of powers is important, as is an independent judiciary. The path to secular, civil society will necessarily be a different one in the Arab world. Of course democracy must be the aim there, but – as is the case in Iraq – this can by no means be based solely on the majority of one group which just happens to make up the numeric majority."

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