28/10/2005

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.

Thomas Ostermeier stages "Hedda Gabler" at the Schaubühne

After "Nora", which became a hit with audiences reaching the 40,000 mark at home and twice that number abroad, director Thomas Ostermeier has staged his second Ibsen production at Berlin's Schaubühne theatre. "A great thriller", writes Reinhard Wengierek in Die Welt. "Certainly Hedda didn't imagine her exit would have the effect it did when she left the parlour and shot herself outside the door. The gun goes off and everyone says: 'Oh dear, there goes Hedda firing Papa's pistol again... But this time things are different. Hedda falls dead to the ground – and no one notices. It is clear no one is even going to miss her. Looks like things have backfired. Yet she really should have known, she was always the one to say 'Everything I touch becomes ludicrous and small.' So why shouldn't it be the same with her end, her incidental death? Thomas Ostermeier is absolutely right. In fact, his entire staging is entirely incidental. The play is a light yet finely-tuned chamber piece, creeping on cruelly silent tiptoes. Not a hint of the crude, sweaty amok run of a femme fatale, ostentatiously beating her hands against her forehead in existential frustration. Here we have the understated, minor yet major world tragedy of a cramped, faint-hearted woman entirely unable to forge her own way through life's dangers. She is incapable of taking a risk, unable to dare to be free."

A "triumph", writes Christina Tilmann in the Tagesspiegel. "Thomas Ostermeier has found the ideal face for Hedda in Katharina Schüttler. The 26-year-old can change her tactics like quicksilver. One minute a tender, fawning waif, the next an understanding friend, she is malignant as if by accident. Yet her every action is planned and premeditated. It is impossible to pity this Hedda, not even for a second. We see her for the monster she really is."

See our feature "Disillusioned but not disoriented", an interview with Thomas Ostermeier.


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 28.10.2005

Gottfried Knapp has inspected every last nook and cranny of Dresden's newly restored and recently opened Frauenkirche and he still can't believe his eyes that this gesamtkunstwerk is actually standing. And is was all done on "a budget that a commercial business would spend on a second-rate shelving unit." Dresden has always profited from sacred buildings. "The ruins of the church functioned as an impressive warning gesture which prevented socialist urban planners from wiping out centuries-old urban structures with concrete blocks as they did in most war-torn city centres. The church that has been rebuilt by the people will now force investors to meet similarly exceptional quality standards."

For Sonja Margolina, Mikhail Khodorkovsky's prison sentence is the result of Putin's irrational and wanton lust for revenge on the oligarch for getting wise to his tricks. "The political scientist Andre Piontkowski ascribes these destructive desires to the fatal meeting between Putin and the oligarch when Khodorkovsky made the flippant remark that the president's officials were a bunch of 'racketeers and thieves'. And to prove it he cited the purchase of an allegedly highly over-valued private oil company by a civil servant with close ties to the Kremlin. The difference, which was a sum in the thousands of millions, was split between the civil servants, as is usually the case in deals of this sort. According to Piontkowski, Khodorkovsky unwittingly exposed the secrets of the system: in the Kremlin the redistribution of cash resources of dizzying proportions into the pockets of 'nationally-minded security oligarchs' is a tried and tested scheme."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 28.10.2005

Günter Seufert presents the books of 30-year-old Turkish best-selling author Burak Turna. In novels like "Metal Storm" and "The Third World War", the Turks – at times together with the Russians – make mincemeat of the Europeans and Americans, leaving their cities in ashes like James Bond. The books are a huge success, above all with younger readers. "Finally the Turks are not only morally, but also technically and politically superior to the Europeans. You can feel everyone who Europe has been telling for the past thirty years that they are different now sucking in their breath. 'Yes, we are different', they say. 'And we're better!'"

Jürgen Ritter reports on new releases on the French book market. The spotlight on Michel Houellebecq's "The possibility of an island" is being shared by Francois Weyergans' "Trois jours chez ma mere", a small but sparkling gem of a book. The narrative voice in the book belongs to a writer by the name of Francois Weyergraf who has at least half a dozen books on the go (including 'Three days at my mother's') and has his publisher, the tax man, a string of mistresses and a loving spouse all breathing down his neck. Of course he's already spent the advance payments. In a nutshell: the man is obviously pressed for time and cash but not brilliant ideas. With drop-dead caustic wit, this writer - Weyergraf or Weyergans, who cares! - presents us with a smorgasbord of musings on everything and anything, his mother included,– and tries to convince his patrons (readers and publishers) that many an unwritten book is superior to those that have been written. Never before was a book more ballsy or nimble-fingered about the impossibility of writing one."

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