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GoetheInstitute

04/04/2006

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, 04.04.2006

The FAZ prints Andrzej Stasiuk's bitter summary of the happenings in Minsk. "Democratic Belarus has lost. Anyone who has the slightest clue of what's going on in the east of this continent will not be surprised." Stasiuk is deeply disappointed by Western Europeans' lack of interest in Eastern Europeans' aspirations to the EU. "Being European means committing to and being willing to fight for European values. Risking your life for them. If other criteria are now supposed to define being European, we can forget the old continent. You have to be really blind, deaf and clueless not to notice that Europe is constantly getting weaker and less significant, that its military, economic, innovative and demographic potential is on the wane..." (see our feature "The sweet taste of underground" by Andrzej Stasiuk)


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 04.04.2006


Hans-Joachim Müller gushes about the large exhibition of the work of Hans Holbein the Younger in the Kunstmuseum Basel. "There is a modernity to the work that makes the painter seem much closer and more contemporary today. Never before has a Holbein exhibition succeeded in making so fascinatingly clear the brilliance with which this artist transformed his visual impressions, his mastery of the grammar of particular techniques, his ability to respond to local customs and cater to the taste of the times. Holbein flatters the Lady with a secretive smile, a decent investment of power through the subtle means of iconography."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 04.04.2006

The paper interviews Georgian-German author Giwi Margwelaschwili and German-Iranian author Said, two winners of this year's Goethe Medal for promoting German culture abroad. For Said, Iranians know much more about European authors than vice-versa. "Almost everything by Ignazio Silone has appeared in Iran, and it's still hugely influential today. His attitude towards fascism under Mussolini has so many analogies that Iranian readers identify easily with the protagonist. They read the way people used to in the GDR, between the lines. And like in the Soview Union, paper is in the hands of the state. That's still the best means of censorship. For years Bulgakov's 'The Master and Margarita' was the novel par excellence in Tehran, by the way. Everyone read it.... Bulgakov's target was the structure of brain-washing. And that's just as acute today as it was in the past. You can simply take out Stalin's name, for example, and put in Khomeini. That's the advantage of literature. It retains its immediacy through the distance in space and time. And it creates a global space for reflection."

Last week, during a heated discussion at the Literarische Colloquium in Berlin of Volker Weidermann's recent anthology of German literature "Lichtjahre", literature critic Hubert Winkel got called "an asshole". This appellation has prompted a debate in the feuilletons over the basis of literary criticism in which two identifiable camps have emerged. The "emphatics" are driven by emotional impulse while the "gnostics" try to apply more objective standards. Aligning herself with the latter, Ina Hartwig sees "Lichtjahre" less as a history of literature and more as "authors' biographical kitsch." "Discretion, appropriateness- these are the categories that tend to get ignored in this approach that is calling itself 'passionate', that is looking to be 'excited'. Instead, assumptions are made, praise is spouted, as in the following paragraph about Gottfried Benn: 'His poems really shone. They sounded like nothing else. Nobody else could or can do that. So clear, lonely, strong, light, wonderfully optimistic, wise, knowledgeable, questioning and simply very, very nice.' Such a statement seems to presume that others will undertake to think about literary works, to explain their structure, to identifiy the criteria that inform their judgement. Weidermann, literature editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung, has made passion programmatic. Me and the famous writer at the Italian restaurant! But what is a passion that constantly has to attest to itself? A boring passion."


Die Welt, 04.04.2006


Kai Luehrs-Kaiser praises Kirill Petrenko, first conductor and musical director at Berlin's Komische Oper, calling him a major exception among maestros: "With Petrenko, the maestro has learned humility. Petrenko has all the self-doubt of Woody Allen, and the charisma of a ginseng root." But: "Wherever he's performed in the last year and a half – including the Berlin Philharmoniker -, his aplomb, his authoritative manner and his musical depth have made a huge impression. 'I'm as slow as I can be, I'm working on an anti-career,' he says, putting a damper on booking agents' expectations. Petrenko hates the pressure put on conductors to keep improving, and is continually a half-hour's preparation short of happiness. But since 2002 the orchestra at the Komische Oper has been sounding smoother, more wilful, more weighty than ever."


Berliner Zeitung, 04.04.2006

In an interview with Johannes Wetzel, French historian Max Gallo puts his faith in the national pride of the French as an answer to the current crisis: "It's time we rediscovered the strength and modernity of patriotism. France is the oldest nation in Europe, and that's why we resist globalisation, and the way European unification is taking place, more than other countries. There will be no solution to the national crisis in France that does not – as historian Fernand Braudel says – allow for the 'central problematic' of the nation. To that problematic belongs the fact that the state and the nation that created it are tightly aligned. To it belongs the need for equality – exactly what is behind the unrest. And to it, thirdly, belongs the relationship of the citizen to the state, which is increasingly threatened by group identities. Citizens no longer feel represented by their politicians, or by the state. And if you measure a democracy by its efficiency at renewing the ranks of its elites, things don't look good for France."


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