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25/11/2005

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, 25.11.2005

"Until this day in late summer of 1973, Pinochet was the perfect second-in-command, an obedient and useful shadow. In just a few hours it became clear that he was going to be a hard, remorseless leader," writes Chilean author Jorge Edwards on former dictator Augusto Pinochet, who turns 90 today. A few days ago Pinochet was put under house arrest for tax fraud. Yesterday charges for human rights abuses under his regime were made. "My European friends criticise Chileans for not blaming Pinochet for his crimes, and only going to the barricades after it came out that he had secret bank accounts and had embezzled public funds. It's not hard to explain this phenomenon. Abominable acts were committed under Pinochet's rule, and all Chileans are aware of this. But guerilla warfare raged in neighbouring countries, and some feel that Pinochet's cruelty prevented it from also crossing over into Chile. Doubtless that is no moral explanation, but it does makes sense in light of recent Latin American history."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 25.11.2005

Swedish publisher Svante Weyler has travelled to the Republic of the Congo, and describes the political situation in a country that has been immersed in civil war since the end of the 1990s. "Of all the heads of state that the country has had since its independence from France, only one has not been murdered. He is living in forced exile, and was sentenced to death in absentia. Normally mausoleums are not built for heads of state that have been shot; then why is an eternal flame burning for Marien Ngouabi? 'Because he was a simple man, with frugal habits,' explains the guide as he leads us through the former presidential palace. Today it is enough to have frugal habits to be honoured as a hero in the Republic of the Congo."


Berliner Zeitung, 25.11.2005


Ulrich Seidler and the audience around him needed a few moments to recover from Isabelle Huppert's performance of Sarah Kane's "4.48 Psychosis" in Haus der Berliner Festspiele. It was the last play that Kane wrote before taking her life at the age of 28. In Claude Regy's staging, the protagonist, played by Huppert, remains planted in one position. "It is only at the end of the performance that one realises that Isabelle Huppert is more than aura and spiritual force, that she actually possesses a body. With care and effort, she engages her stiffened legs, her hips and her intervertebral disks to teeter off the stage (astonishing that she doesn't keel over). The pause to follow was longer than one knows it to be in theatre, then jubilation."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 25.11.2005

For the Guardian, he's a "cross between Sid Vicious and Oscar Wilde". For Thomas Winkler, Pete Doherty is a gifted songwriter who has just made a new album and with it, a whole bunch of enemies, together with his group Babyshambles. "Again and again he blows off performances, which leads angry fans to engange in material damage; then when he does appear, he pukes on the audience from the stage; he beats up friends who refuse to lend him more money; his ex-girlfriend Katie Lews calls Doherty, the father of her son, 'pure evil'; hotels bill him for cleaning costs after he leaves messages written on the walls with his own blood; Kate Moss hired bodyguards to keep him away; and finally Doherty lurched around the stage and made a fool of himself at his Live-8 performance with Elton John. The guy's a junkie, but a well read one."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 25.11.2005

Ralph Fiennes plays the lead role in the film version of John Le Carre's pharma thriller "The Constant Gardener", directed by Brazilian Fernando Meirelles. Fiennes defends the many abbreviations to the script: it was "simply too verbose; he shortened it and cut some scenes. Thus he gave the actor some space to develop in front of the camera. When there are lots of words and they have to be acted, then the actor feels that he's been called upon to mobilise all his strength to survive using his word power – in the worst case, it gets theatrical. The simpler the better. That's the way Fernando likes it and he remains cool. We always laughed when he interrupted with 'Boring! Boring! Too many words! Get rid of them!'"


Zaha Hadid's Phaeno Museum in Wolfsburg


Dieter Bartetzko of the FAZ is very impressed by Wolfsburg's new science museum Phaeno, designed by star architect Zaha Hadid. "Hadid, pleasantly ironic, explains with a smile that she 'massaged' the urban landscape and the mountain of cement for weeks before bringing into being what now stands. Indeed, 'Phaeno' is a ravishing architectural sculpture, a gliding and damming, a stab and stroke of space from which it is impossible to withdraw; it's more a question of whether this building could not in fact house an opera, a parliament or a concert hall."

Rainer Haubrich in Die Welt is of another view: the city of Wolfsburg would have been smarter to invest in a few basic repairs to its infrastructure. "Inside the museum, one wonders, after all the PR bluster, where the content is. In the breath of the upper floor are 250 state of the art experiment stations, amongst them a souvenir shop, a restaurant and a lecture hall. Behind the magic term of 'Science Centre' as a place of innovation and science of the 21st century is a hall where kids can press buttons – Germany's most expensive kid's playground."

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