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19/12/2005

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 19 December, 2005

Frankfurter Rundschau, 19.12.2005

Peter Michalzik waxes lyrical about Christoph Marthaler's "Fruchtfliege" (fruit fly), a "terribly beautiful" little play about the superfluousness of love in the time of artificial reproduction, which premiered last Friday at Volksbühne in Berlin. "Seven scientists in white lab coats whose utter non-contemporariness leaps out at you from the start, three women and four men who spend their days in a changing room that time has forgotten, human material left behind by the relentless pace of scientific progress, the by-product of a species bent on its own perfection. They awake only when they sing. And they sing the whole evening - 37 numbers from Verdi to Lloyd-Webber. These songs, which are mostly about love, are the play's real leading actors, creatures borne of bygone feelings. The 'fruit fly' is a long chain of sung inserts, or ironic islands of emotion, which Christoph Marthaler and the sensationally self-assured and multi-faceted pianist Stefan Wirth string together like pearls."


Andrea Breth's "Minna von Arnheim" in Vienna

After receiving general acclaim for her production of The Cherry Orchard (more here) this spring, stage director Andrea Breth has received mixed reviews for her new production of "Minna von Arnheim" at the Burgtheater in Vienna. The play, which many consider Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's greatest drama, deals with love and honour in the aftermath of war.

Writing in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Barbara Villiger Heilig is very taken by the production: "Despite its somewhat stilted 18th century language, the play goes straight to the heart, and audiences are in for three hours brimming with high tension, sharp wits, hard-bitten violence and broken-hearted tenderness. Thanks to Sven-Eric Bechtolf's Tellheim and Sabine Haupt's Minna, the play culminates in a grandiose and reciprocal near-miss."

Uwe Mattheiss in Die Tageszeitung is less complimentary: "Breth does nothing but bluntly confront two German ideologies - the Prussian and the pacifistic consensus of the former German Federal Republic - and as a result forfeits the analytic moment that normally sets her investigations into classical theatre apart. Breth is caught between wanting to bring out the antagonisms in the content and showing an affirmative harmony in the form. But her attempt to do justice to the text while creating self-contained characters results in a conflict that fails miserably. Even the time-honoured Burgtheater atmosphere cannot help things. Despite all the vituosity of the actors, Breth's production collapses on its own pre-suppositiions."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 19.12.2005


Markus Jakob diagnoses an ongoing "pact of forgetting" in Spain. For Jakob, the country is still unable to address the political murders and mass executions of the Franco era, or even call the crimes committed at the time by name. "Can it be that large parts of the Spanish population are even today beguiled by the simplifications of the Franquist ideology, and still live in the holy innocence and conformism that the regime assigned to its subjects? A job, an apartment, a family, and all for life... And of course a Spain – the Falange motto 'Espana, una, grande y libre' still fills many heads today. No wonder this country has brought forth the most abject masses of dull-headed conformists, and at the same time the most outlandish eccentrics imaginable. And sometimes both types are combined in one and the same person."


Saturday 17 December, 2005


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 17.12.2005

With an eye to the success of authors Arno Geiger, Daniel Kehlmann and Raoul Schrott, Paul Jandl announces the rebirth of Austrian prose. "The young Austrian writers are no longer calling for an 'End to the Occident!' (Schluss mit dem Abendland! - more here), as the avant-garde of forty years ago did. They lay no stress on genius, and are not at all angry or bad. The writers of today are affable, clever and around 30. Most already have a couple of novels under their belts. And they keep on writing away. The German feuilletons have almost nothing but praise for them, while their own literature seems to be stalled in the competition for the first great novel about the fall of the Berlin Wall."


Die Welt, 17.12.2005

"Deafeningly loud" is Sonja Margolina's description of the German government's silent reaction to a new Russian law aimed at preventing the work of foreign foundations and the 450,000 or so foreign-funded NGOs in Russia. But then again, she adds, "It's time to admit to ourselves that the furtherance of democracy has completely failed in Russia. The country is becoming ever more authoritarian, the human rights and environmental situation is deteriorating rapidly. NGO activities have absolutely no influence on political development in Russia."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 17.12.2005

Hannes Gamillscheg is pleased to hear that Denmark's intellectuals are finally protesting against their country's tightening of the laws on foreigners. But they've taken their sweet time about it. "When it was ruled that a person who wants to bring a foreign spouse to Denmark has to prove not only that they have work, accommodation and a bank guarantee, but also that the couple jointly have more ties to Denmark than to any other country – there was not a peep of protest. When it was made illegal for people under 24 to marry a foreigner – not a word. When welfare for immigrants was halved – nothing."

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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

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