14/12/2005

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.

Die Welt, 14.12.2005

Sociologist Wolf Lepenies met the Nobel Prize Winner Kenzaburo Oe in Tokyo, who recounted how he met Mao Zedong 25 years ago as member of an writer's delegation. "Mao didn't look at any one of us other than Zhou Enlai. He talked at him. We didn't say a word. Mao smoked one cigarette after another. On the table was a cigarette pack, the brand 'Panda' - the most expensive to be had. From time to time, Zhou tried to push the box away from him so that the great Chairman would smoke a little less. Then Mao grabbed the box and pulled it back towards him. And smoked non-stop. I had studied Mao's writings and suddenly realized that he was not talking to Zhou Enlai but to himself, quoting his own texts. And Zhou just nodded and said almost nothing. Suddenly, after about an hour, Mao stopped talking, looked at me and said to me, before he left the room: 'You are young, you are poor, you are completely unknown. You will be a good revolutionary!'"


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 14.12.2005

Mark Simeons reports that the Chinese economy is being required by the country's senior bureaucrats to create brands that will make it big in the West. The strategy has not worked so far but Siemons is optimistic: "There's no shortage of flexibility, to the point that standards are changed to please the customer. The Chinese restaurants in Germany have been demonstrating for decades that Chinese business people are willing to deny and alienate their own high culture - in this case, culinary culture - in order to accommodate other's taste."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 14.12.2005

Hoo Nam Seelmann tells the fascinating story of the "chin-il-pa", the fraction of the Korean population that collaborated with the Japanese occupiers for decades and retained its influence after the war. Only recently has interest in this history been expressed and a research centre devoted to it been proposed. "In Korea today, a democracy in the Internet age, it is no longer possible to hide behind the carefully constructed taboo. When the parliament refused to guarantee the research centre funding, a campaign began immediately in the Internet, which succeeded in raising money. Throughout Korea, civilian initiatives have sprouted up which are collecting information at the local level and putting it online. For the first time, an exhibition showing works of the 'chi-il-pa' artists has been held which, for most Koreans, was a shock."


Spiegel Online, 14.12.2005

The Green politician Cem Özdemir has read Dan Diner's much-discussed "Versiegelte Zeit" which explains the backwardness of the Islamic world as being due to the weight of the sacred Arabic language, among other things: "Diner's emphasis on the sacred as an obstacle to modernisation should not be understood as a recommendation that religion be driven out of the Islamic world tout de suite. Living together democratically and successfully involves reducing the influence of the sacred, which is what happened in Europe after the Enlightenment."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 14.12.2005

Martina Meister explains the complex debate which has erupted in France over their colonial past. The debate was fuelled by disagreements over a new law which wants to see the positive role of colonialism included in the school curriculum. "Various groups who all feel neglected by the official versions of history are staking their claim to recognition; expellees, Algerian fighters and Harkis (Algerians who fought for France -ed.) as well as the victims of colonialisation. Proper lobbies have been formed to pursue their individual interests. This new style of rivalry between various victims and their memories of the past is a just cause for concern for the republic as these identity struggles begin to pit colonial xenophobia against antisemitism. Blacks complain about racism, the French about 'racism against whites'. The controversial law is also the product of an historical lobby: It's the franco-french Algerian fighters who are hoping for posthumous recognition as the heroes of history."


Die Tageszeitung, 14.12.2005

Tobias Rapp witnesses the downfall of The Strokes who presented their third album at a concert in Berlin. "It's not enough. 'First Impression of Earth' will not save the Strokes. After the flop of their second album this can't rekindle the magic of their debut album, 'Is This It'. An album can immortalise, but it's not enough to make a career. The third clinches it. Otherwise you're a has-been. The Strokes were not innocent bystanders to the hyped release of their new album. But the way they were standing on the stage of the small Berlin club, Maria am Ostbahnhof for their only concert in Germany on their short promotional European tour, you felt rather sorry for them. It's suddenly such an effort to generate the excitement which four years ago needed no coaxing at all."

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