29/12/2005

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.

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29.12.2005

German archaeologist Susanne Osthoff was taken hostage in Iraq in late November and freed just before Christmas. She has been much criticised in Germany after refusing to return home. The Marburg orientalist Walter Sommerfeld is loathe, in an interview with Sonja Zekri, to criticise her decision to return to Iraq. "She knows the risks and was never a frivolous person." Sommerfeld also refuses to have her successes in Iraq downplayed. "Since the early nineties, since the introduction of the embargo, aid organisations have taken advantage of their knowledge of the language and geography. And aside from humanitarian work, what she has done for archaeology is absolutely invaluable. It's mainly down to her that we know about the illegal excavations of Iraqi antiques. She directed worldwide public attention to the protection of these ancient cultures. The Unesco team saw these illegal excavations from the air, she brought TV teams there and ensured that pictures were taken. The most spectacular thing was a report in the New York Times from Isin two years ago. The images are still almost the only ones of the illegal excavations. That Britain and Switzerland ratified the Unesco Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict has a lot to do with this.


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29.12.2005


Birgit Svensson has visited the German Institute at Baghdad University, which is now slowly getting back on its feet in the wake of plundering and war destruction. For Svensson, one fact has not got the public attention it deserves: Iraq's intellectual elite is living particularly dangerously. "In the past two years, almost one hundred professors and teachers have been murdered in Baghdad. Doctors, schoolteachers and lawyers have not had it any better. It seems that the entire Iraqi intelligentsia is slated to be wiped out."


Die Zeit, 29.12.2005

Filmmaker Peter Greenaway talks in an interview with Hanno Rauterberg about Rembrandt, his painting "The Night Watch" and the film he wants to make about it. According to Greenaway, the painting was the ruin of Rembrandt, because it accuses influential members of Amsterdam society of murder. The work "is full of indications of murder. Have a look at the soldier in the white uniform. To the left of his hat you can see the end of a rifle barrel. A shot is fired from this gun. Someone is killed, and everyone in the painting is in the know. They cover up the murder. The painting shows a group of conspirators."

"This film is about the great tennis match of life" enthuses Katja Nicodemus about Woody Allen's latest offering. "Matchpoint" is apparently not only his best but luckily also his most cynical film in years. "Woody Allen, the little Jewish boy from New York, this wonderful creator of Holocaust and Nazi jokes, has never been one to believe in the moral power of art. But then again he has been so clear and so sobering in his demonstration of this. He probably felt it was time pound his fist on the table."


Berliner Zeitung, 29.12.2005

"Someone who doesn't have melancholy inside them knows only half", explains the poet Helga M. Novak in an interview. She developed her prose style in a mental home in Switzerland. "In this mental home I found a way to write a prose not of epic progression, but a juxtaposition of emotions and reactions, explosions and implosions – in fragments, like film images. This is what I started trying out in this mental home, because I was not supposed to write, I was told to do knitting. This was ideal in my case because I used to do handicrafts as a child, knitting in fact, so they certainly got the right person there. And anyway I had such headaches because of the pills that I couldn't have written longer sentences or progressional reports anyway. And so I hit upon this way of writing and I thought to myself, not bad."

Ingeborg Ruthe has visited the Albertina in Vienna, now showing the most complete exhibition to date of artist Egon Schiele's drawings and watercolours. "What is it about Gustav Klimt's student that exerts such a fascination even today? People have come from afar to see his works. Schiele's way of viewing and representing people in his epoch has pushed its way through into the artistic and emotional world of the young 21st century. Our own time still has nothing that can stand up to it, when it comes to portraying one's own body as a playing field – or battlefield. 'Your body is a battleground'. This maxim of conceptual art in the late modern era has everything to do with Egon Schiele, who died of the Spanish flu at 28, just three days after his pregnant wife Edith. It is precisely Schiele's morbid portrayal of his body that hits the nerve of our time so painfully, where Aids patients, radiation and civil war victims are so visible in the cinema and on TV."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 29.12.2005

Roman Hollenstein presents the congress and cultural centre Magma Arte y Congresos (image) designed by architect Fernando Menis for the tourist enclave Playa de las Americas on Teneriffa: "The roof is made of fibre-cement slabs and set on a steel framework. Below it, twelve huge concrete blocks are set with local chasnera stone and marked by hammer blows, housing the offices and other rooms. The building is functional, and yet alive with a tension between morphological density and technical ease. The classically conceived, yet extravagantly realised construction was constructed by Menis according to a scale model. The supporting concrete blocks which frame the rows of windows were made of play dough, and the roof grooved with wells of light was made of sand and foam plastic. In this way Menis could enter the complex results into the computer to come up with a realisable blueprint."

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