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21/11/2005

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.

Germany's Beck publishers are refusing to publish Luciano Canfora's book on democracy which has already been or is about to be published in France, England and Spain.

Classical philologist Luciano Canfora's book "La democrazia" was set to be published in German with the title "Democratie. Geschichte einer Ideologie" (Democracy. History of an ideology). The book is part of the series "Building Europe", put out by publishers in five European countries under the direction of French historian Jacques LeGoff. Now C.H. Beck publishers are refusing to publish the book. In Monday's Neue Züchner Zeitung, Joachim Güntner endorses the accusations by Beck's chief editor Detlef Felken that Canfora is palliating communism. "We carried out the test and the word 'gulag' does not make a single appearance in the German translation. But the USA is sharply attacked for its support of 'fascist regimes worldwide, from Indonesia to South America' and for the violation of international law in Iraq. Is the author blind in his left eye? The main problem is that he has not broken with the communist idea of historical 'necessity', according to which Stalin was not simply blood-thirsty and power-crazed but someone who did what he had to do for the Soviet Union."

In an interview on the subject, Jacques Le Goff tells the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Saturday: "It's not that I want to defend Canfora, I just think that a contract should be kept." After all, he says, the series on democracy was planned four years ago and "Canfora's political and academic positions were widely known." Should the publication be banned in Germany he says, "it would look very like censorship."


Monday 21 November

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 21.11.05

Paul Jandl attended Viennese painter and performance artist Hermann Nitsch's civilised six-hour performance orgy staged on Saturday in the Burgtheater in Vienna: "There's nothing new in Nitsch's 122th action composed for the Burgtheater. Pigs and lambs are still being disembowelled and then filled back up with entrails. Tubs of blood are kept at the ready, then poured over crucified actors." The Viennese take it all with a pinch of salt, like the Burgtheater. "The cleaning lady appears with a mop behind the orgiastic ongoings with dripping innards. The theatre slowly starts to stink, but then people come on swinging frankincense. Hermann Nitsch tromps through the slaughterhouse landscape with a glass in his hand, with the benign look of the parish priest after a sermon. First the danger then the celebration. That's part and parcel of the Austrian psychology."


Die Tageszeitung, 21.11.2005

The Nuremburg trials of Nazi war criminals started 60 years ago. Thilo Knott talks with Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld, who rose to fame for publicly slapping the face of Kurt Georg Kiesinger, German chancellor from 1966 – 69, and former deputy head of the radio department of the Nazi Foreign Ministry. Klarsfeld talks about plans she had had to kidnap Kurt Lischka, the former head of the Gestapo in Paris, and bring him to France. "I had found out everything: where he lived, when he went to work, when he came home for lunch. But the group we hired weren't up to the job. Things started going wrong with the car we'd rented. It was a sport coupé and only had two doors, which makes a kidnapping difficult." Klarsfeld's husband Serge then threatened Lischka in with a pistol in Cologne. "With a pistol? - Yes, but it wasn't loaded."


Saturday 19 November


Die Welt, 19.11.2005

Author Salman Rushdie explains in an interview with Nathan Gardels why an Islamic Enlightenment is necessary, and argues against a ban on differing interpretations of the Koran. "One of the reasons I'm called Rushdie is because my father was an admirer of Ibn Rush'd, a 12th century Arab philosopher known in the West as Averroes. He advocated an interpretation of the Koran that doesn't take the written text literally. One of his theories I sympathise with says that in Judeo-Christian theology God created man in his own image, and for that reason they are similar. The Koran, by contrast, assumes that God has no human features, as that would belittling him. We are just men. He is God. Ibn Rush'd and others of his contemporaries believed that speech is also a human quality. This means it would be wrong to assume that God speaks Arabic or any other language. Saying God speaks would mean he had a mouth, and so a human feature. For that reason Ibn Rush'd concluded that if God doesn't use human language, then the written text of the Koran, as the human understanding of the archangel Gabriel received it, is in itself an act of interpretation."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 19.11.2005

The weekend literature and art supplement is devoted to the novel, its potential and its limits. The writer Klaus Modick explains why after three postmodern books, he stopped writing novels which went down well with the critics. "After completing my trilogy of unsaleableness, there I was, with two small kids and a wife who was not working at the time, faced with the alternative of either throwing in the towel or starting to write books again that had more popular appeal. I then wrote the novel 'Der Flügel' (the wing/grand piano) which brought me a desperately needed success and which was a result at least partially of the book being reviewed in 'Das literarische Quartett' on TV. And presumably it would have been even more of a success had the loud old man (see our biography on Marcel Reich-Ranicki here) praised the book instead of slating it. Much has been written about the difficult relationship between writers and critics. One critic tried to conciliate me with the remark that we, by which he meant critics and writers, were all 'in the same boat'. 'Yes', I said, 'but the writers do the rowing'."

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