07/03/2005

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.

Saturday 5 March, 2005

Frankfurter Rundschau, 05.03.2005

The Goethe Institute in Cairo invited German and Islamic intellectuals to participate in a discussion in the Egyptian desert oasis of Bahareyya in mid February. As Markus Meßling's report shows, there were substantial differences between the two parties: "It became clear that fundamentally different concepts underlie what it means to understand. Whereas from a European philological standpoint, reading always represents an active process from which even the Bible is not exempt, on the Egyptian side the reading of the Koran means passive comprehension of a manifest truth." Moreover, for the advocates of Islam, "the massive and total rejection of Western culture in Islamic thinking, as in Arab society as a whole, is intrinsically linked to the traumatic experience of political impotence both before and after the colonial period. Similar sentiments were also expressed at the public podium discussion in Cairo which rounded up the events."


Die Welt, 05.03.2005

Jan Philipp Reemtsma, head of the Hamburg Institute for Social Reseach, presents "Abgesang '45", the last volume of Walter Kempowski's ten part collective war diary "Echolot" (more). "Echolot" is a vast collection of quotes telling the story of the Second World War in a myriad of individual, unrelated voices. Reemtsma comments on the simultaneous joy and despair in spring of 1945. "No single perspective could bring together all these events, no history could tell all these stories. Not even compassion can do that. Arno Schmidt once wrote that you cannot tell the nationality of a screaming man. But those who make others scream know who they are dealing with and why. Murderers always have good reasons for what they do, even if it is only to kill time. Not even the absurd is simply absurd: it is the realm between meaninglessness and meaning."

In a joint contribution on the opinion page, SDP politician Markus Meckel and Matthias Wissmann from the CDU share their concerns about the planned festivities for the celebration of the end of WW II in Moscow. However much suffering Germany inflicted in the Soviet Union, "it cannot be ignored that the peoples of the Soviet Union and half of Europe continued to suffer oppression and confinement under a communist dictatorship. Poland's ex-minister of foreign affairs Bronislaw Geremek hit the nail on the head: 'If on 9 May the whole historical truth is not heard, nothing good will come of the commemorations.'"


Die Tageszeitung, 05.03.2005

In the taz author Else Buschheuer tells the "story of her disillusionment" as intern in a Mother Theresa Home in Calcutta: "Most interns are Christians. But isn't Christianity (practising charity to get to heaven) completely different from altruism (individual sacrifice to secure the continuity of others, for example in ants and chimpanzees)? Already on the second day the morning mass started getting on my nerves. This endless esoteric standing, sitting, kneeling, sitting, standing... The guest preacher, an American, said 'United States of America' about 30 times in his sermon. Then he put a biscuit on everyone's tongue – except mine."


Sunday 6 March, 2005

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 06.03.2005

Dagmar Zurek speaks with conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt about Monteverdi, making art pay, and the comedy in 'Carmen'. Asked whether the international careers of the most successful conductors could result in the world's top orchestras all sounding the same, Harnoncourt replies: "For me the real danger is that the top orchestra positions are so rare that musicians from all over the world apply for them. Orchestras used to recruit from their immediate surroundings, and that's how they preserved their instrumental traditions over many years... I want to be very clear: for me this is a real danger. Greater mobility does not at all guarantee a higher quality of sound. Orchestras with a very distinctive sound are few and far between. In my conducting, I want to limit myself to orchestras that have such a specific tonal 'personality'. The Staatskapelle Dresden, for instance, has retained the pure quality of its sound until today."


Monday 7 March, 2005

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 07.03.2005

Jürgen Müller visited the exhibition "Mannes Lust und Weibes Macht" (Man's Desire and Woman's Power) of erotic renaissance engravings in the Copperplate Engraving Cabinet in Dresden, and was very taken by what he saw. "Cleverly, the exhibition begins with sin, and shows a whole series of works that show from a Christian perspective that sexuality and shame emerged simultaneously. Here the most beautiful engraving is by Hans Baldung, also known as Grien. His Eve is not content to seduce Adam, but locks eyes flirtatiously with the viewer as well."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 07.03.2005

Why on earth would anyone come here? Uwe Stolzmann visits the last vestiges of European wilderness where the last wild people of the old continent live by Lake Inarijärvi (more) in Finnish-Lapland. "It is midsummer, the nights are white, there's only a little snow between the moss and the rocks, and the mosquito plague has just begun. On the way a street sign says: 'Inarin Porofarmi, a reindeer farm at Lake Inarijärvi, two kilometres.' On arrival, a woman says in harsh German, 'I am Heidi, your leader. You can feed the reindeer, then we will go and throw lassos, and then we will go to the Kota Lapp tent and drink coffee and sing Joiks.' A crash course in Sami culture, twenty franks, to be paid in advance at the cash desk."

The NZZ printed a translation of American poet Charles Simic's journey through Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia "Down there on a visit". "I was told that the more run-down the town, the better the music and spareribs. Unfortunately it's not true. The majority of poor people eat bad food, and the good musicians move to towns where the audiences have money."
The story was originally printed in the New York Review of Books in August 2004.

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

A clutch of German newspapers launch an appeal against the criminalisation of Wikileaks. Vera Lengsfeld remembers GDR dissident Jürgen Fuchs and how he met death in his cell. All the papers were bowled over Xavier Beauvois' film "Of Gods and Men." The FR enjoys a joke but not a picnic at a staging of Stravinsky's "Rake's Progress" in Berlin. Gustav Seibt provides a lurid description of Napoleonic soap in the SZ. German-Turkish Dogan Akhanli author explains what it feels like to be Josef K.
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Colombian writer Hector Abad defends Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa against European Latin-America romantics. Wikileaks dissident Daniel Domscheit-Berg criticises the new publication policy of his former employer. The Sprengel Museum has put on a show of child nudes by die Brücke artists. The SZ takes a walk through the Internet woods with FAZ prophet of doom Frank Schirrmacher. The FAZ is troubled by Christian Thielemann's unstable tempo in the Beethoven cycle. And the FR meets China Free Press publisher, Bao Pu.
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Saturday 27 November - Friday 3 December

Danish author Frederik Stjernfelt explains how the Left got its culturist ideas. Slavenka Draculic writes about censoring Angelina Jolie who wanted to make a film in Bosnia. Daniel Cohn-Bendit talks   about his friendship, falling out and reconciliation with Jean-Luc Godard. Wikileaks has caused an embarrassed silence in the Arab world, where not even al-Jazeera reported on the what the sheiks really think. Alan Posener calls for the Hannah Arendt Institute in Dresden to be shut down.
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Saturday 20 - Friday 26 November, 2010

The theatre event of the week came in a twin pack: Roland Schimmelpfennig's new play, a post-colonial "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" opened at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin and the Thalia in Hamburg. The anarchist pamphlet "The Coming Insurrection" has at last been translated into German and has ignited the revolutionary sympathies of at least two leading German broadsheets, the FAZ and the SZ. But the taz, Germany's left-wing daily, says the pamphlet is strongly right-wing. What's left and right anyway? came the reply.
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Saturday 13 - Friday 19 November, 2010

Dieter Schlesak levels grave accusations against his former friend and colleague, Oskar Pastior, who spied on him for the Securitate. Banat-Swabian author and vice chairman of the Oskar Pastior Foundation, Ernest Wichner, turns on Schlesak for spreading malicious rumours. Die Zeit portrays the Berlin rapper Harris, and the moment he knew he was German. Dutch author Cees Nooteboom meditates on the near lust for physical torture in the paintings of Francisco de Zurburan. An exhibition in Mannheim displays the dream house photography of Julius Schulman.
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Saturday 6 - Friday 12 November, 2010

The NZZ asks why banks invest in art. The FAZ gawps at the unnatural stack of stomach muscles in Michelangelo's drawings. The taz witnesses a giant step for the "Yugo palaver". Bernard-Henri Levy describes Sakineh Ashtiani's impending execution as a test for Iran and the west. Journalist Michael Anti talks about the healthy relationship between the net and the Chinese media. Literary academic Helmut Lethen describes how Ernst Jünger stripped the worker of all organic substances.
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Saturday 30 October - Friday 5 November, 2010

Now that German TV has just beatified Pope Pius XII, Rolf Hochmuth tells die Welt where he got the idea for his play "The Deputy". The FR celebrates Elfriede Jelinek's "brilliantly malicious" farce about the collapse of the Cologne City Archive. "Carlos" director Olivier Assayas makes it clear that the revolutionary subject is a figment of the imagination. The SZ returns from the Shanghai Expo with a cloying after-taste of sweet 'n' sour. And historian Wang Hui tells the NZZ that China's intellectuals have plenty of freedom to pose critical questions.
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Saturday 23 - Friday 29 October, 2010

Author Doron Rabinovici protests against the concessions of moderate Austrian politicians to the FPÖ: recently in Vienna, children were sent back to Kosovo at gunpoint. Ian McEwan wonders why major German novelists didn't mention the Wall. The NZZ looks through the Priz Goncourt shortlist and finds plenty of writers with more bite than Houellebecq. The FAZ outs two of Germany's leading journalists who fiercely guarded the German Foreign Ministry's Nazi past. Jens-Martin Eriksen and Frederik Stjernfelt analyse the symptoms of culturalism, left and right. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht demonstratively yawns at German debate.
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Saturday 16 - Friday 22 October, 2010

A new book chronicles the revolt of revolting "third persons" at Suhrkamp publishers in the wild days of 1968. Necla Kelek is appalled by the speech of the very Christian Christian Wulff, the German president, in Turkey. The taz met a new faction of hardcore Palestinians who are fighting for separate sex hairdressing in Gaza. Sinologist Andreas Schlieker reports on the new Chinese willingness to restructure the heart. And the Cologne band Erdmöbel celebrate the famous halo around the frying pan.
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Saturday 9 - Friday 15 October, 2010

The FR laps up the muscular male bodies and bellies at the Michelangelo exhibition in the Viennese Albertina. The same paper is outraged by the cowardice of the Berlin exhibition "Hitler and the Germans". Mario Vargas-Llosa remembers a bad line from Sweden. Theologist Friedrich Wilhelm Graf makes it very clear that Western values are not Judaeo-Christian values. The Achse des Guten is annoyed by the attempts of the mainstream media to dismiss Mario Vargas-Llosa. The NZZ celebrates the tireless self-demolition of Polish writer and satirist Slawomir Mrozek.
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Saturday 2 - Friday 8 October, 2010

Nigerian writer Niyi Osundare explains why his country has become uninhabitable. German Book Prize winner Melinda Nadj Abonji says Switzerland only pretends to be liberal. German author Monika Maron is not sure that Islam really does belong to Germany. Russian writer Oleg Yuriev explains the disastrous effects of postmodernism on the Petersburg Hermitage. Argentinian author Martin Caparros describes how the Kirchners have co-opted the country's revolutionary history. And publisher Damian Tabarovsky explains why 2001 was such an explosively creative year for Argentina.
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Saturday 25 September - Friday 1 October

Three East German theatre directors talk about the trauma of reunification. In the FAZ, Thilo Sarrazin denies accusations that his book propagates eugenics: "I am interested in the interplay of nature and nurture." Polemics are being drowned out by blaring lullabies, author Thea Dorn despairs. Author Iris Radisch is dismayed by the state of the German novel - too much idle chatter, not enough literary clout. Der Spiegel posts its interview with the German WikiLeaks spokesman, Daniel Schmitt. And Vaclav Havel's appeal to award the Nobel prize to Liu Xiabobo has the Chinese authorities pulling out their hair.
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Saturday 18 - Friday 24 September, 2010

Herta Müller's response to the news that poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant was one of overwhelming grief: "When he returned home from the gulag he was everybody's game." Theatre director Luk Perceval talks about the veiled depression in his theatre. Cartoonist Molly Norris has disappeared after receiving death threats for her "Everybody Draw Mohammed" campaign. The Berliner Zeitung approves of the mellowing in Pierre Boulez' music. And Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, allowed to leave China for the first time, explains why schnapps is his most important writing tool.
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Saturday 10 - Friday 17 September, 2010

The poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant, the historian Stefan Sienerth has discovered. Biologist Veronika Lipphardt dismisses Thilo Sarrazin's incendiary intelligence theories as a load of codswallop. A number of prominent Muslim intellectuals in Germany have written an open letter to President Christian Wulff, calling for him to "make a stand for a democratic culture based on mutual respect." And a Shell study has revealed that Germany's youth aspire to be just like their parents.
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Saturday 4 - Friday 10 September, 2010

Thilo Sarrazin has buckled under the stress of the past two weeks and resigned from the board of the Central Bank. His book, "Germany is abolishing itself", however, continues to keep Germany locked in a debate about education and immigration and intelligence. Also this week, Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard has been awarded the M100 prize for defending freedom of opinion. Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech at the award ceremony: "The secret of freedom is courage". The FAZ interviewed Westergaard, who expressed his disappointment that the only people who had shown him no support were those of his own class.
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