13/01/2006

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.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 13.01.2006

Reinhold Vetter portrays the former dissident and founder and editor of Poland's second largest newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Adam Michnik, who has become the subject of a major public debate. In the 1980s, Michnik was at the forefront of the Solidarity movement; since 1989 his editorials and increasingly seldom public statements suggest that he has grown closer to, even friendly with, former communists such as Wojciech Jaruzelski. "As though through a burning glass, the public debate over Michnik reflects the current political, social and cultural contradictions in Poland. This discussion is not just about the transformation that's taken place since 1989, but also about the democratic quality of Polish parliamentarianism, the social deficits of the Polish market economy and the compounded public influence of a newspaper like Gazeta Wyborcza."
See our feature "In search of lost sense" by Adam Michnik.

Florian Harms has surfed around the Arabic websites and noticed that it is not the hard-line Islamic terror sites that dominate, but professionally presented portals that "encourage an Arabic and Islamic style of life." Commenting on a list of the 140 most popular Arabic sites put out by the web-statistic and traffic ranking site Alexa, Harms writes: "Right after Microsoft Arabia, the television broadcaster al-Jazeera and the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, the list shows sites like Islam Online, Islam Web and Raddadi, which offer a mix of political news, religious counselling and discussion fora for Muslims, and propose the peaceful implementation of Islamic principles in public life. A bit farther down the list come websites of Amr Chalid, the Egyptian television sermoniser popular among youths across the Arab world, and the Islamic women's portals Lakii and Laha. Websites that propagate Salafism or Wahhabism, the conservative Saudi variant of Islam, also have a strong presence."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 13.01.2006

This year no Swiss book made it into the top twenty works shortlisted for the German Book Prize. Pia Reinacher writes that this is definitive proof that Swiss literature is in a deep crisis: "This country has a problem with its younger generation of authors. The most successful writers of the older generation are now pushing seventy. The so called 'next generation' talents have already reached mid-life. And the youngest generation has fallen off altogether. As opposed to Austria and Germany, both of which have a vital young literary scene, in Switzerland there is a lack of cheeky, risk-taking, imaginative and poetic young visionaries. And above all, there's a lack of material that would move writers existentially. It's no wonder that emigrants like Agota Kristof or Aglaja Veteranyi have written the most harrying 'Swiss books'."


Die Welt, 13.01.2006

Gerhard Midding enthuses at the sensuality of Asian actresses, and the legacy of silent film diva Ruan Lingyu (1910 – 1935). "Ruan Lingyu charged her audiences with the emotional power of her acting, stirring them to discover echoes in their own souls. Her legend weaves together art and life in a tragic way. She was discovered at the age of 16 and shot 29 films in the next nine years, until she became the victim of a mud-slinging campaign. It was alleged she was involved in a love triangle with a rich tea merchant and a gambler. This was the revenge of the boulevard press, which had been sharply attacked in her most recent film. Her suicide in the early hours of March 8, 1935, international women's day, was a last message of protest and rebellion. The funeral procession of her admirers went on for five kilometres."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 13.01.2006

Axel Rühl praises journalist-cum-entertainer Jürgen Kuttner, who can take a 20 second clip from the evening news and turn it into a whole evening's entertainment. "Giving a speech after September 11, Kuttner showed an excerpt from the declaration of then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. While Schröder is speaking, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's mobile telephone rings. Kuttner comments: 'Here you can see everything that's going on in Fischer's face. There's a whole Kabul in there, a total disaster zone. He stands there, hears his cellphone ringing and thinks, I'm standing here up at the front, I'm full in view.' What follows is an exact analysis of the sound Fischer has chose for his cellphone, Bach's D minor toccata and fugue, a digression into Bach's life and a fantastic portrait of Fischer's putatively innate 'foreign minister compatibility'."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 13.01.2006

Tom Mustroph seems to be pretty much the only critic to have enjoyed choreographer Meg Stuart's debut at Berlin's Volksbühne: "Replacement." "The piece, which Stuart spent a year preparing and researching and for which she re-organised her ensemble and sent them out to gather experience in Berlin, begins like a horror film. The camera, bound to a spotlight, probes a dark room. It follows the light of a lamp and encouters the details of a human body - scuttling feet, trembling hands - that are then torn from the darkness and refuse to be united in a complete shape. Gradually, the ensemble is captured; the atmosphere is that of a lonely house in the woods, where horror is on the prowl."

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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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