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18/03/2005

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.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 18.03.2005

France's publishing world is in the throes of change, reports Marc Zitzmann on the opening of the Salon du Livre in Paris. Large companies like Hachette are consolidating their supremacy at the expense of smaller publishing houses. Now, however, renowned publisher Les Editions du Seuil, which was taken taken over in 2004 by Herve de La Martiniere, has also been hit. But de La Martiniere's distribution company which markets books from Seuil and others, "was so pitifully unsuccessful that Les Editions Odile Jacob went over to Sodis, at Gallimard publishers. During the 'rentree litteraire', the event in September and October when numerous books are released after the summer holidays, many dealers had to wait up to 15 days for their orders. Four of them then sued Seuil–La Martiniere for revenue losses. Jacques Binsztok, who had headed one of the group's major editions, finally quit the firm in November, and in December employees went on strike for the first time since May 1968. Binsztok expressed doubts about the fusion, while the strikers were incensed at 'the lack of a business plan, or any form of social dialogue'." Claude Cherki, Seuil's general director since 1989, also had to go. But he "earned money on the transaction with La Martiniere. And many in the publishing house saw this as immoral."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 18.03.2005

Hannes Hintermeier takes a critical look at the UK book market. "The world is English," he says. "Germany is still the blessed island of the 'Buchpreisbindung' – the agreement among booksellers not to offer discounts – in the midst of European standardisation, and growing numbers of tricky price reductions. The legally established store price for books is long passe in many countries, and the UK is at the head of the pack." This autumn will mark the tenth anniversary of the end of the Net Book Agreement (NBA) in the UK – the equivalent of the German Buchpreisbindung. Since then, says Hintermeier, the British market has changed dramatically. "Prices in the competitive best-seller segment have plummeted. Nowhere in the world are books as cheap as in the UK. '3 for 2' is as standard today as the drop in prices, which is caused by the supermarkets. Their share of the book market at 6% is not alarming, but without their sales clout a best-seller is unimaginable. The way onto their shelves can be bought, and their discounts are enormous, sometimes well over 60 percent of the recommended price. Of 125,000 annual new releases, only around 100 titles make it to this sales Olympus... The paradox of the situation: despite the brutal price dumping, the open pricing policy has meant books in general have become more expensive on average." For Hintermeier this trend is not set to stop. "Falling number of editors, shrinking backlists, half the number of deliverable books, the devaluation of the book as a cultural commodity: the loss of these values is certainly acknowledged 'off the record'. But as dyed-in-the-wool Darwinists, most here believe the development is irreversible."

Frank Schirrmacher watched Heinrich Breloer's docufiction on Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect who later became minister for armaments. After the war he was tried at Nuremberg and served a 20 year sentence. Breloer's film "Speer und Er" (more) is due for broadcast on TV in the coming months. Words fail him in face of this "milestone in the cinematic treatment of National Socialism". And Tobias Moretti as Hitler is no less than a "sensation". "The Austrian actor picks up Hitler in the gutter, and brings the dictator's vulgar and violent traits to the fore without turning the film-Hitler into a caricature. Through precise set design and camera, Breloer interweaves acted scenes with historical documentation so successfully that the two become almost indistinguishable. Famous photographs come eerily to life, leaving the viewer gazing in amazement." Hot on the heels of "The Downfall", the film is for Schirrmacher a second Hitler masterpiece in only a year!


Die Welt, 18.03.2005

Mystery novels have a dubious reputation in Germany. Author Anne Chaplet thinks she knows why: "Germans are uptight. They read reams of page-turners but won't admit it in public. They like to be difficult. How else do you explain why the best audiences, who hang on an author's every word during a reading, cannot bring themselves to fork over the equivalent of two cinema tickets for a hand-signed hard copy if the genre is 'detective novels'? Certainly the most charming explanation would be: 'I only read detective novels in paperback,' because 'you would never dare throw away a hardback.'"


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 18.03.2005

Henning Klüver reports on the dispute at La Scala Theatre in Milan. "The excitement here is on a par with a football game between Inter Milan and A. C. Milan. The opposition finally sees a way to trip up the Berlusconi majority a year before the next local elections, possibly even forcing the current government to resign. The Milan city councillor responsible for cultural affairs has already resigned, disgusted at how long-time artistic director Carlo Fontana had been laid off by the theatre's board of directors at the behest of Riccardo Muti. Mayor Gabriele Albertini now insists that Fontana took advantage of his last hours in office to prolong contracts, raise salaries and double severance pay for members of two unions. All lies! cry the unions, who like Fontana have filed libel suits. Mayor Albertini threatens in return to impose a state commissioner as emergency administrator on the fractious Scala."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 18.03.2005

Silke Hohmann reports enthusiastically on the exhibtion of museum director Udo Kittlemann's new purchases for the Museum for Modern Art (MMK) in Frankfurt. It is not so much the new acquisitions that appeal to Hohmann as the way they have been combined with the older works in the collection: a wide selection of Pop Art classics by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Rosenquist, Wesselmann and others. "Kittelmann solves the problem with a cheeky sleight of hand, cramming all the older chestnuts onto one wall in the large entrance hall. In the white void opposite, he has placed a glass bell jar containing an auction hammer. This sculpture by Andreas Slominski was itself recently procured at an auction." Kittelmann's newly acquired works "hurl themselves at the viewers, dancing around with vertiginous elephantine grace in the case of Douglas Gordon's video 'Play dead', or dazzling the viewers with flickering lights as in Carsten Höller's 'Light wall'. Or the works plunge viewers into a foggy chamber, as in Anthony McCall's spinning light ball at the centre – light you can touch: wow, wow, wow!"
The exhibition "What's new pussycat?" starts tomorrow and runs until July 31.

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