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13/02/2006

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 13 February, 2006

Der Spiegel, 13.02.2006


"This country is no longer the sole domain of the religiously indifferent", comments playwright Botho Strauß in this week's edition of Der Spiegel. For this reason, he states, the violation of the sacred feelings of others now has a different significance than it did in the former West Germany. "It should be just as punishable as the violation of one's honour." Satire and poking fun will not be of any help to us in the conflict with Islam, Strauß writes, because we live in a "preparatory society. Today we are more dependent on the state, society, and public life than we are on our own family. And this 'preparatory society' teaches us that it is possible to avoid social collapse, that it is possible to be non-blasé and that not all values are always valid. It teaches us how to measure our words, it teaches us the gradations of social responsibility, and how to stay together in times of adversity and affliction." For Strauß, Islam has brought the "prevailing arbitrariness" of the West into a crisis. "Perhaps I could even say: We have put that time behind us. It was a time of weakness!"


Die Tageszeitung, 13.02.2006

Katrin Bettina Müller was at the premiere on Saturday of Luk Perceval's staging of Friedrich Schiller's "Maria Stuart" at the Schaubühne in Berlin: "Seldom does one so hang on the actors' lips in anticipation of each new word; seldom does one so admire the tactical intelligence and the refined speech of the lords and the two queens. Friedrich Schiller suddenly takes on a sophisticated shine as if he had been injected with a dose of Anglo-Saxon humour for his English court drama. The audience see and feel how the characters are inhabited with conflicting emotions and political conniving, how they seem to calculate the effect of every sentence, and how their tongues are honed with ironic acidity."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 13.02.2006

Author and poet Olga Martynova (here a poem of hers in German) has visited Moscow for the first time in fifteen years: "We were prepared for a lot, but not for what we saw. Moscow today is an almost comfortable, bustling, slap-happy business metropolis, and not the grave superpower capital it has been misused as since 1918. Moscow is slowly lifting the Soviet mask from its face. I know of no other city that wears street advertising so well. And the squiggly, ornate fountains, the new turrets and towers and the Holy Georges. And the new monuments all over the place. Erecting them seems to have overtaken the city like an epidemic: Pushkin and his wife Natalie in an arbour of cast iron and gold; the songwriter Vladimir Vysotsky with his guitar; Sergei Yesenin with a tiny Pegasus at his feet. There's even a monument for a processed cheese!"


Frankfurter Rundschau, 13.02.2006

Oskar Roehler's film version of Michel Houellebecq's "The Elementary Particles" is making waves at this year's Berlinale film festival. Daniel Kothenschulte is not completely convinced by Moritz Bleibtreu as Bruno: "It's as entertaining as ever to see a man as attractive as this having such bad luck with women. But there's one thing that Roehler fails to bring off, and that's to endow this character with that cynical vein so decisive for Houellebecq. What is missing is the barb that would prevent Bruno from becoming the darling of this film."


Saturday 11 February, 2006


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 11.02.2006

Alice Schwarzer springs to the defence of writer Necla Kelek, whose book "Die fremde Braut" (the foreign bride) criticised the practice of forced marriage in the Turkish community. Kelek's work provoked 60 migration researchers to write an open letter to the weekly paper Die Zeit, criticising Kelek and other authors for their lack of seriousness. Schwarzer now takes a swing at the signatories. "Yasemin Karakasoglu is herself a long way from scholarly objectivity, and she's on the most intimate terms with the Islamist scene in Germany. (...) Karakasoglu, for whom a ban on headscarves in the public sector constitutes a 'German fatwa', and all headscarf wearers are 'Allah's happy daughters', quotes her own 'scientific investigation', which apparently proves that the Islamic headscarf is absolutely compatible with a 'modern way of life'. Her research was based on a survey of twenty-five (!) hand-picked Turkish pedagogy students. And for the record, Yasemin Karakasoglu herself has never been photographed wearing a headscarf." (See our feature "So long Marianne" by Alice Schwarzer)


Die Welt, 11.02.2006


The Turkish writer Elif Shafak gives her contribution to the cartoon conflict: "The two sides in the cartoon conflict might seem to be talking two different languages, but in fact they are speaking the same one: invective. A cartoon which shows the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb for a turban is invective. A Muslim demonstrator brandishing a sign which says 'behead those who insult Islam' is propagating invective." Shafak therefore demands: "We need a lot more Muslims prepared to express their belief in democracy and to criticise those Muslims whose reaction to people in the west is pure invective. We need a lot more people in the west who express their support for Muslim cultures and criticise the western powers that use invective to react to Muslims." (see our feature "I like being several people", an interview with Elif Shafak.)


Frankfurter Rundschau, 11.02.2006


Contrary to popular belief, there is no ban on humour in Islam. Katajun Armirpur sets the record straight with a series of excellent links to a collection of Iranian cartoons, the work of the (exiled) Iranian satirist Ebrahim Nabavi, and a collection of Muhammad depictions. Allah and the Mullahs do not escape mockery, but Muhammad clearly does.


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 11.02.2006

The paper's supplement on literature and art focusses on modern Arab literature. One anonymous writer registers a new diversity in poetry which follows the classical tradition. For Fakhri Saleh, however, the novel has taken over as the more important genre, because it is here that young writers are dealing most head-on with their history. "The younger generation of writers are concentrating principally on reactivating Arab history of the 19th and 20th century and bringing it to bear on the present day. Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian and Jordanian writers are hacking their way through the lava of recent history in an attempt to write it anew, but they continually come up against the rigid power structures which stand behind the historical processes." (Original articles in German)

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