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16/11/2005

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 Welt, 16.11.2005

Matthias Heine talks to Ukrainian theatre director Andrey Zholdak, whose play "Medea in der Stadt" (Medea in the city) premieres in the Berlin Volksbühne tonight, about what brought him to Berlin. "In September, after two years as the head of the Shevchenko Theatre in east Ukrainian Kharkov, he stepped down – or rather was forced to - although the politicians and media in their grip are now circulating the lie that the whole thing was just a PR gag to promote his work in the West where he earns ten times the amount he would at home. 'One day before the dress rehearsal for my last play, Romeo and Juliet, they threatened me, saying: 'You will hand in your resignation as if by your own free will. If you hesitate we will send a fact-finding committee to the theatre. You might be a good stage director but as head of the theatre you have broken the law, which is why we can put you under pressure'. It was all highly unpleasant and pretty severe.'"


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 16.11.2005


Detlef Felken, chief editor of Beck publishing house, explains in an interview why he doesn't want to publish Luciano Canfora's book "Democratie. Geschichte einer Ideologie" (Democracy. History of an ideology). Canfora, a historian and Euro-communist, had written the book for the series "Building Europe", published by Beck together with four other European publishers. Beck Verlag is renowned in particular for its social sciences publications. The problem with the work is Canfora's "way of dealing with historical facts", Felken explains. "For example, Canfora says it is just a myth that the Hitler-Stalin Pact prepared the way for the division of Poland. But he makes no reference to the Pact's secretly appended protocol, which researchers have known about for decades. Even Katyn, where 4,400 Polish officers were liquidated by the Red Army after the signing of the pact, doesn't fit into his historical scheme.... And finally, his statement that the government of Konrad Adenauer stood for a 'policy of revanchism, if not of barefaced Nazism,' is at best his own private opinion. The academic standards of our publishing house, and of the entire series, have to be preserved. Adenauer was no Nazi."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 16.11.2005

Twenty-six years after Herbert von Karajan conducted Beethoven's fourth symphony in a sports stadium in Beijing, the Berlin Philharmoniker has returned to China under Sir Simon Rattle. Henrik Bork writes that much has changed since the last time they were there, when Karajan flew into a rage at one rehearsal and forbid his audience from spitting and walking around. "Today the acoustics in Beijing's Poly-Theatre and the futuristic Oriental Art Center in Shanghai are incomparably better. Outside on the streets, more cars drive past than bicycles. The Chinese 'no longer wear blue or green uniforms', comments violinist Peter Brem, who was there in 1979. Simon Rattle adds: 'I would be delighted if audiences in New York were as silent and concentrated as they are here'. The crowds are familiar with Haydn's Symphony Nr. 86, and Strauss' "Ein Heldenleben", bursting into thunderous applause as soon as the last note fades."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 16.11.2005


Barbara Spengler-Axiopoulos reports on the efforts of Karl Marx's birthplace, the German city of Trier, to cater to the hordes of Chinese tourists. "On over 80 store fronts are red stickers with "welcome" written on them in big yellow Chinese characters.... These efforts have not gone unnoticed by the Chinese media. 'The Marx Factor: a German city speaks Chinese!' proclaimed a recent headline in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post. The city's most important cultural monuments will soon be inscribed in Chinese, as will street names. And a Chinese guide book and shopping guide are also in preparation."


And what say those who have sipped from the goblet of fire?

Felicitas von Lovenberg is thrilled by Mike Newell's film version of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". "The film makes fewer detours and digressions than the book, but it is just as bold in relating dark elements, for example how Voldemort sneaks up on Harry – and finally gets him in his clutches. True, the film can't do justice to Rowling's meticulous plot development. But Newell does a splendid job with the author's figures that hang between good and evil, light and darkness. He shows this in the imponderability of puberty; the characters have become more moody, more unpredictable, more secretive."

"You can forget this film," gripes Elmar Krekeler in Die Welt. "A relatively charm-free puberty-action-growing-up-magic-war-fantasy-thriller ... that feels twice as long as it is."

Thomas Binotto of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung was overwhelmed by the "irresistible fantasy bombast": "Kitsch deluxe certainly, but also the very finest in retro-eclecticism".

Dirk Knipphals in die Tageszeitung finds it "more pragmatic" than the earlier films because "it doesn't even attempt to create an artistic whole, but its serious underpinnings nevertheless make for challenging entertainment, even for adults."

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