05/12/2005

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.

Monday 5 December, 2005

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 05.12.2005


With marked bitterness, the Iraqi poet and publisher Khalid al-Maaly comments on Saddam Hussein's appearance in court. "The executioner, who like other executioners before him seeks a haven in oblivion, is now claiming that he no longer knows anything of his deeds and other carryings-on. He's now demanding his rights, including the right to a lawyer. Saddam has committed every crime you can think of – and any number of others which are unthinkable. It's astounding that he now enters court with the Koran in his hand. One inevitably thinks of all those tragedies in the course of history, in particular Arab history. The worst massacres are committed when holy books are brandished, or they have been committed already. And the victims, who can never forget, can only watch the spectacle."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 05.12.2005


Finally! The republic is honing its response to the rioting in the banlieues. French politicians have charged seven rappers and handed in a draught law to combat all forms of "injury to the dignity of France and the state". Martina Meister can only shake her head. "Hip Hop is answering the accusations thrown at the rioting youth from all sides: it is articulating the unease and the hate. Because this is precisely what France's intellectuals were complaining about, that this 'blind hatred' was not coupled with demands of any sort, that it was not a means to a political end. The rappers have answered this cultural witch trial. Axiom First, a rapper from Lille, followed the example of Boris Vian and composed a letter to the president. With the Marseillaise in the background, he raps out a condemnation of 30 years of racism, 30 years of blindness and 30 years of discrimination: 'My grandparents defended this country in the War, my parents helped rebuild it,' the lyrics say."


Die Welt, 05.12.2005


Is the German Wikipedia being taken over by communist nostalgia? Guido Heinen lists several pertinent cases: "In the article on Fidel Castro, for example, there is practically nothing about violations of human rights. All phrases that could ruffle the feathers of the maximo lider have been systematically deleted by an apparently intractable Castro fan. The crude rationale: as long as they are not discussed in detail, listing them is 'not neutral'. The disbelief many users expressed in the accompanying discussion board has yet to have any effect on the article's wording." Meanwhile, the advertising industry is also attacking Wikipedia: "A few days ago in Spain, marketing expert Steve Rubel published a detailed guide on how to manipulate Wikipedia."


Saturday 3 December, 2005

Die Welt, 03.12.2005


Andrea Seibel is full of admiration for Polish reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski's new book, "Travels with Herodotus": "At the age of 73, his body weak from recurrences of malaria, tuberculosis and ravaged by six bypasses, he is still as restless as ever. For him the time remaining is a luxury, and he reveals the secret of his life and work: Kapuscinski had a travel guide by the name of Herodotus. His book, 'The History', written two and a half thousand years ago, was given him by his boss, Mrs Tarlowska ('From me, for your travels', what a clever boss!). He began to read it in India. That's where 'I started developing a strong liking for him', because Herodotus, the first chronicler of antiquity, took a 'kindly view of humanity, was curious about the world, full of questions and always ready to travel thousands of kilometres' to find the answers."

Thirty years after the death of philosopher Hannah Arendt, Hannes Stein talks to Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who even back in the seventies understood what a great thinker this friend of his parents was. When asked how he explained the love between Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger, he replied, "There can be no philosophical or rational explanation for love and sex. I always say that Hannah Arendt is the Madonna of philosophy. Madonna is a woman who says: I will have the man I want. Whether this means Christ, who she famously took down from the cross in one of her videos, or her sports instructor – she can just take her pick."


Der Tagesspiegel, 03.12.2005

The Berlin cabaret singer Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester evidently brought the house down in the New York Carnegie Hall. According to Matthias B. Krause, "The audience was putty in his hands after only a few bars, they adored his introductions to the songs, the way he chews through the select English words, stretching them out and cloaking them in such pregnant pauses, that by the time he's done, he only needs to raise half an eyebrow and the audience is in stitches. Meticulously dressed as ever in 20s and 30s chic, Raabe oscillates around the mike stand like a bean pole, using only the most minimal of gestures to accompany the extensive baritone vocal gamut he handles with such ease. The finale unleashed a thunderous storm of applause which didn't subside until after the fourth encore. Extatic 70-year-old New York ladies threatened to go through the floor with all their feet stamping, while au pair girls clapped their hands raw."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 03.12.2005


After Andrea Breth's much acclaimed version in May (see "In Today's Feuilletons" of May 2), Jürgen Gosch has staged Anton Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" in Zurich. One by one the critics have panned the production, among them Barbara Villiger Heilig, who writes that Gosch's staging not only missed the point, it "missed the entire play": "The expectations, and the pressure, were running high. Before Gosch's directing debut in Zurich, reports had been circulating for some time about the successes the 62-year-old East German had booked up in other theatres, for example in Bochum while Matthias Hartmann was artistic director. But theatrical success cannot be programmed, and Zurich tends to be unlucky. Chekhov's plays cannot stand up to the nervous pressure here that weighs down new productions and bullies them into submission from the first moment. They explode like over-inflated balloons."

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

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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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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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