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14/03/2005

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.

Saturday 12 March, 2005

Die Welt, 12.03.2005

Friedbert Pflüger, member of the federal Executive Committee of the conservative CDU, writes that strange longings came over him when he visited the RAF exhibition at the Berlin Kunst-Werke. The exhibition features works on the iconography and media images surrounding the terrorist Red Army Faction. Pflüger writes: "I was on the point of attacking the works! In the exhibition ... I felt a desire for a little 'spontaneous rule breaking' and 'violence against material things'. But not being a '68er, I decided not to engage in 'liberating resistance' against the 'structural violence' of the exhibited works. Instead I decided to write this article." For Pflüger, most of the works are attempts to make the RAF presentable, and bear the message: "The terror was certainly 'regrettable', but ultimately the goals of the RAF were very good." One example, "Hans Niehm's 'Hollywood Boulevard' is a monument to terrorist Holger Meins. The murderer's name is set within a five-pointed star from the famous 'Walk of Fame'. Only an in-depth look at the catalogue reveals that the work is meant to be an 'ironic look at the star cult' of the RAF. Doesn't the picture do much more to add to the star cult?"


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 12.03.2005

In the literature section, poet Olga Martynova (here a poem of hers in German) reflects on Joseph Brodsky's posterity. "In Pushkin's day, people often said this or that poem copied Pushkin, and everyone knew what was meant. A generation later this reproach no longer had any common currency. Pushkin had become what he remains today – a poet without intonation, who can't be tied down, who can do anything, like the sea god Proteus who could change his shape at will. The same is happening with Brodsky today. A few decades ago, people had a solid understanding of what distinguished Brodsky's poetry. That's no longer the case today."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 12.03.2005

The debate surrounding Berlin's National Socialist memorials continues. Disagreeing with Ulrich Herbert and Götz Aly (see In Today's Feuilletons, Friday 4 March and Tuesday 1 March), Christine Fischer-Defoy of the "Topography of Terror" foundation, located on the site of the former Nazi headquarters in Berlin, argues in favour of the "authentic sites" and against the proposition that the memorials be united in one central body. "People go to the idyllic House of the Wannsee Conference, where the 'Final Solution' was agreed on, to trace the murder of the European Jews. They go to the courtyard of the Stauffenberg Street memorial, where the conspirators of the failed assassination against Hitler were shot, to reflect on the possibilities and limits of resistance. And they visit the Gestapo grounds to learn how and why respectable neighbours became desktop criminals. These memorials would lose interest for visitors if they tried to provide one definitive statement about National Socialism."

Kolja Mensing sings high prise of Louis de Berniere's latest novel,"Corelli's Mandolin", which has just appeared in German translation as "Traum aus Stein und Federn". "'Corelli's Mandolin' is no more and no less than an attempt to capture in literary form the history of the end of the Osmanian Empire and the founding of modern Turkey.” The novel follows two narrative lines: “While describing the everyday life of the city of Eskibahce and the greater and lesser dramas of its countless fictitious inhabitants, de Berniere also tells the story of an anything but fictitious character... Mustafa, born in 1881 in Thessaloniki to Turkish parents. Named 'Kemal' or 'the perfect one' at school for his extraordinary talents, he makes a steep career in the military and many years later goes down in the history books as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder the Turkish nation." This combination of "detailed historic synopses" and "fantastic stories" draws comparisons with Tolstoy's "War and Peace". Mensing writes: "But more striking than the similarities are the fundamental differences. Because while Tolstoy described war in the middle of the 19th century as a natural force that comes over humanity, elevating history metaphysically to 'the unconsciousness of mankind', Berrnieres, born in 1954, traces... how the carefully worded decisions of politicians and commanders form the basis of the further catastrophes of the 20th century and their remarkable consequences."


Die Tageszeitung, 12.03.2005

Cambridge economic historian Adam Tooze accuses Götz Aly of having 'simply miscalculated' in his latest book "Hitlers Volkstaat" (see In Today's Feuilletons, Thursday 10 March, 2005). Aly puts forward the thesis that Hitler mobilised support for his "dictatorship of benefits" through the exploitation of the occupied countries and the Jews. Tooze supports Aly's initial proposition: "The characterisation of the Holocaust as robbery and murder is something we have become used to in recent years. The courts and historians tend to understand this process as an act of private sector enrichment. A false assessment, as Aly's work amply demonstrates." But Tooze notes many flaws in Aly's calculation of war benefits to the public treasury. "Aly miscalculates badly, he proceeds asymmetrically. On the German side, he only considers taxes as contributions to the war. In the case of the foreign contributions, he takes all the revenue together, irrespective of how it was financed." Accusing Aly of disciplinary myopia, Tooze writes: "If Aly could prove that the financial injection from abroad really made it possible for the war costs to be redistributed, then his thesis would be very convincing. At least three generations of economists have worked on this question. But Aly calculates in his own way." Tooze concludes: "To describe the society of Nazi Germany as a dictatorship of complaisance is utterly missing the point."


Monday 14 March, 2005

Frankfurter Rundschau, 14.03.2005

"Is German culture really so poor that it cannot accept such a rich inheritance?" Hungarian author György Dalos is worried about the fate of Werner Schweikert's collection of almost 50,000 German translations of 20th century literature and 20,000 editions of German authors. Since Schweikert's recent death, there have been no offers from the German state to help purchase the collection, while Russia has expressed interest. "In the Federal Republic of Germany, there is no lack of institutions that are ready and almost predestined to give such a collection a worthy home. Evidently, the will to house the Schweikert collection, and the recognition that the expense should be borne, is missing today at both the federal and state levels."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 14.03.2005

Hubertus Adam visited "Die Neuen kommen! Weibliche Architektur der 20. Jahre", an exhibition of modern women architects in the Kestner-Museum in Hanover, and discovered works that "throw light onto careers that have been widely ignored by architectural historiography until today. Paula Marie Canthal, for example, who together with her fellow student and husband Dirk Gascard was a rising star on Berlin architecture scene in the late 20s. The illustrated magazines printed her picture, and she won competition after competition. After 1933, an order from the Maharaja of Indore for a luxury train allowed Canthal to emigrate to England."

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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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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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