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17/01/2006

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.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 17.01.2006

Kerstin Holm asked a few Russian intellectuals about their expectations of Angela Merkel, who has just visited Moscow for the first time as Chancellor. They're not overly optimistic. "The author Viktor Erofeyev suspects that Frau Merkel will view Russia with a certain GDR reserve. He's certain, however, that her Russian partners will quickly show her how to dispel that. Angela Merkel will learn fast how to wear a smile and regard the circumstances in Russia as wonderful, just as Schröder did." See our feature "Russian dichotomies" by Viktor Erofeyev.


Die Tageszeitung, 17.01.2006

The paper is starting a new series on the middle-class way of life. Does it still exist? Has it resurfaced? Norbert Bolz kicks things off: "Any number of bozos these days are trying to pose as original thinkers, just for the pleasure of being uncomfortable," he writes, arguing for a middle-class Left. "Forget Einstein! People you notice on the street have nothing in their heads. Much would be gained if we stopped looking for what is distinct about modernity in people's outfits, and started looking for it in what they think. Having the freedom to say what you think doesn't amount to much if you don't think what you're not allowed to say. Agreement and certainty are symptoms of brainwashing. Precisely those people who see themselves as being on the Left, that means who aren't willing to renounce alternatives to the status quo, will have to learn to choose between cognitive styles. But that also means accepting moral and cognitive relativism."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 17.01.2006

Patrick Roth interviews Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, and learns what a heart rending experience it was to shoot the film "Memoirs of a Geisha": "I remember the scene where the general wants to show me his – as he calls it – kimono collection. I found this scene especially atrocious for Sayuri. I had such pity for her. The director Rob Marshall wanted her to cry. But I said: 'Maybe Sayuri is so afraid she can't even cry. She trembles, but she can't utter a word or shed a tear.' And so that's how we did it. It was terrible. I couldn't get out of the role once we'd started. I was trembling, and couldn't stop between the takes. My two assistants who helped me with my kimono after each take couldn't stop crying, and that infected the whole set."

Alex Rühle went to a symposium in Basel honouring Albert Hofmann, the inventor of LSD, and found a lot of cult and not much science. "There's a major clash of civilisations between Albert Hofmann and his devotees. A few years ago when Hofmann was invited by the Swiss radio programme called 'Music for a Guest,' he played nothing but Mozart recordings. In the congress centre in Basel you can hear shaman drumming, a watery infusion by Keith Jarrett played by a physician from Heidelberg who wanted to 'express the elements of earth and air', as well as heavy underground music from the sixties."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 17.01.2006

Tom Mustroph writes on the "creeping acceptance" of surveillance cameras in society and the arts, reminding us that things were not always that way. "Groups like the Surveillance Camera Players put together maps of camera locations and developed a whole arsenal of guerilla strategies. Camera lenses were shot 'blind' with lasers and camera masts were coloured like maypoles. Trips were organised through heavily cameras-infested areas, and the anonymous observers were presented with provocative performances. But these activities soon stopped. Nowadays it's really just for the fun of it and not for fear of anything in particular that people check the web software i-See for the paths of least surveillance through Manhattan. 'Big Brother' has lost his scariness, and become a friendly neighbour."


Die Welt, 17.01.2006

Author Peter Schneider responds to a polemic by Thea Dorn by clarifying his position on the "Muslim Test" (news story). Schneider doesn't object to having Muslim immigrants answer questions about their principles; it's the "ethos check" that he has problems with. "The 'orientation course' which is foreseen for the naturalisation law should not just be talked about; it should be financed and implemented. There's no reason for new citizens not to swear an oath on the constitution – which of course only makes sense if they have already read and understood the constitution. It's quite conceivable that this knowledge be taught and tested in an introductory course. Such a test would not test 'ethos' but rather 'knowledge'."

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