30/01/2006

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.

Monday 30 January, 2006

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 30.01.2006

Hassan Khader, editor of the Palestinian literary magazine Al Karmel, fears the election victory of Hamas will promt a brain-drain from Ramallah, the cultural centre of the autonomous Palestinian territories. "I can picture a scenario of mutual suspicion and antagonism. The modern national culture is seen by fundamentalists as a sort of corruption of traditional values and ideas. Even the national flag is problematic. A leading Hamas representative recently tried his hand at literary criticism and decided that from now on, poems and short stories should only be written to inform future generations of the struggle for their fatherland."


Die Tageszeitung, 30.01.2006

Gabriele Goettle visited Navena Widulin, curator and preparator at the medical museum in Berlin's Charite hospital (info in German), who tells of her experience in Bosnia. "I went there with the UN in 2000 and 2001, to a place near Sarajevo where mass graves were being excavated. All of a sudden we had 200 corpses on our hands, all shot or killed with hand grenades. Almost entirely men, civilians, hardly any women or children. Together with a forensic doctor we took turns at separating the corpses, at least as far as that was possible. A lot of them were little more than skeletons. We removed their clothes, and you know what, we found gallstones among them. They were already so decomposed that the gallstones practically fell right out of their gallbladders into their clothes. The anthropologists didn't believe me. Even the forensic doctor didn't believe me at first. They thought it was jewellery. Eventually they came round and saw they were gallstones. I was proud that I'd seen what they were right away."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 30.01.2006

It was premiere weekend in Berlin: Jürgen Gosch staged Roland Schimmelpfenning's play "Auf der Greifswalder Straße" (on Greifswalder Street) at the Deutsches Theater, while Thomas Langhoff directed Botho Strauß's new play "Schändung" (desecration) at the Berliner Ensemble. Gerhard Stadelmaier asks why the theatres in relatively snug and cosy Germany are awash with blood: "If we think back on both performances, what primarily comes to mind is: red. Blood red. It seems to flow, squirt and splatter incessantly, as if the theatre had wrapped a dirty, streaked and clotted bandage about our eyes. The blood is fake, certainly. But just as a corpse that is seriously portrayed on stage really signifies the death of all of us, so fake blood really means real blood. So that our blood is shed as well. This means, however, that the blood shed up there on the stage must, in some way, have to do with us."


Die Welt, 30.01.2006

Manuel Brug is ambivalent about film director Michael Haneke's first opera staging: Mozart's "Don Giovanni" in Paris. The setting is the film industry. "Don Giovanni is a self-loathing Casanova who bears his breast to his victims so they will attack him back; who wants to jump out the window before the champagne aria starts; who later on, hungry for protection and tenderness, wraps himself up in Elvira's still-warm trenchcoat. This hyperrealism functions brilliantly for quite a time, until the opera lays claim to its own in-built surrealism - in the form of ariatic back-pedalling. Then the self-assured director Haneke shrinks to an assistant who merely paraphrases the libretto. Of course there's no graveyard, no hell. The stony guest is just a bloody corpse in a wheelchair. Elvira puts a knife in Giovanni, then the maniac cleaners with Mickey Mouse masks (straight out of 'Benny's Video') dump him out the window."


Saturday 28 January, 2006

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 28.01.2006

Italian-American writer Alexander Stille, author of "The Sack of Rome, How Silvio Berlusconi Took Over Italy", explains in an interview how it is possible for one man to amass so much power and money. "Like Germany, Italy has only existed in its present form since the middle of the 19th century. After the unification democratic forces were relatively weak, and they were then displaced by fascism. In a country like England by contrast, democracy has had 300 years to develop certain forms and rules. The result is something like muscular memory in sports. The more you perform a certain movement, the easier it gets. It's not enough just to have a good constitution. You need a strongly entrenched rule of law, you need respect for independent institutions like the judiciary and you need to be aware of conflicts of interest. No law prevents Vice President Cheney from heading the Haliburton Group. It's custom that prevents him. And that kind of custom doesn't exist in Italy."


Berliner Zeitung, 28.01.2006

The 56th Berlinale, Berlin's film festival, kicks off on February 9. In an interview, a very up-beat Dieter Kosslick, the festival's director, outlines what's in store this year. "We actually have a positive problem which is not something I could ever have imagined five years ago. Seventy-six films were entered for the official competition from Germany alone. We could and would have liked to have shown at least six or eight of them." After last year's fiasco with the superstar jury which included Roland Emmerich, Bai Ling and fashion designer Nino Cerruti, high art is back on the agenda. "We opted only for dead certs this year. All members had to be both belt-and-braces-wearers, so to speak. There are famous producers, wonderful directors, actresses and Armin Mueller-Stahl is a fantastic German representative." The artist Matthew Barney is also on the jury.


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 28.01.2006

Commemorative speeches don't suit Mozart, writes the conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt. "What Mozart demands of us, and has done for over two hundred years, is this easy: that we listen quietly and attentively. And if we understood his wordless plea then as I've said before we should really be embarrassed, rather than proudly strutting. In celebrating Mozart it really sounds as if we're celebrating ourselves. But we've got no reason to be proud of anything related to Mozart. Ever since the days when he lived in Salzburg and Vienna, he's challenged us with the inexorable rigour of a genius. And we offer him our jubilees with their profit-making and deals. We hack his music apart and dribble it piecemeal from every advertising channel imaginable. That is simply wrong, it's a scandal and a disgrace. I don't know how we tolerate it."

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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

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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

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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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