06/04/2006

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.

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 06.04.2006

Alex Rühle introduces the new feel-good propaganda guidebook to Germany, "Land of Ideas" which lists a different place for every day of the year. "These are places where innovation is at home, places which Christian Democrat politician Wolfgang Schäuble asks the readers, in his foreword to the book, to visit with foreign guests 'to show them how much creativity there is in Germany.'" One of the innovations is Xan beer, which contains the salutary prenylflavonoid, Xanthohumol. "Unfortunately to get your hands on one of these beers at the beer research academy of the Weihenstephan brewery, you have to get past one of the toughest receptionists in Germany. No, she says, there is no way of getting an appointment, everyone is busy. I should apply in writing or go to one of the other 364 places in the book."

"German mothers have got it good." So begins Jeanne Rubner's explanation of the connection between state-financed motherhood and childlessness in Germany. "Six weeks of maternity leave prior to birth, eight afterwards. Three years of long-term maternity leave; family allowance payments; ten days' child sick leave per year; the right to work part-time. Who's worried? German mothers fall back on the soft cushion of the welfare state – then never get up again. As paradoxical as it sounds, the public welfare system that is supposed to promote childbirth and support motherhood in fact puts a brake on women's careers and slows the birthrate. Maternity leave does more harm to women than good. The state is fostering childlessness."


Die Zeit, 06.04.2006


Wolfram Siebeck has been sampling the niceties of Icelandic cuisine: "a halved, boiled and scorched head of lamb, head aspic, whale meat, fatty and smoked, smoked lamb, blood sausage terrine, mutton testicles, and dry scraps of stockfish. This is all eaten cold and swilled down with schnapps. The eyes must be particularly tasty, as they were already missing from my lamb's head. It was the very essence of horror for the anxious eater; it looked like Tutankhamun's little brother."

Christoph Siemes and Claus Spahn visit the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich in Paris. For the 79-year-old, his generation is characterised by its panache. "I even played under French conductor Pierre Monteux. I remember when we played Dvorak's cello concerto in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. There the musicians have to climb down a set of stairs onto the stage. Monteux, who was a frail old man at the time, stood at the top and said to me: 'Slava, I know you're the soloist, but please let me go down first. If you go first you'll have to wait ten minutes for me to get there. Wait here until I get to the fifth last step, and then start down. That way you'll still be the first to reach the podium."


Die Tageszeitung, 06.04.2006

Arno Münster, who teaches philosophy in Amiens, describes the current political and social crisis in France as the consequence of "there never having been anything that could be termed political dialogue in this country." In his view, it is therefore uncertain how the current conflict will end. "One thing is sure: the clash between the government and the students has drastically shaken the conservative government.... Aside from the direct political consequences, the entire system of parliamentary democracy has now come under unprecedented pressure to legitimise itself. There is a giant rift between the established up above and the 'excluded' down below, between the sclerotic caste of over-privileged ruling professional politicians and the swathes of 'simple people', the workers, students and school kids."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 06.04.2006


Iranian author Amir Hassan Cheheltan complains bitterly about the West's unfriendly treatment of Islamic societies. "The secular world is convinced it is impartial. But it has developed a uniform language and expects all societies to use it too." For Muslims this clash between religion and modernity leads to a "multilateral blurring of borders", for which Cheheltan cites the following story as an example: "Recently members of a gang were arrested who had raped and robbed over twenty young women. Asked if none of the women had inspired pity in him, their leader answered: 'No, in my opinion they got the punishment they deserved. None of them was veiled in accordance with regulations.' But when asked about the cause for his actions he named 'poverty, misery and hopelessness.' And when asked what he was aiming to achieve: 'When I was in the army two men kidnapped and raped my sister. I couldn't track them down and after that, I decided to take my revenge on society." Why this bafflement confusion should be the fault of the West, Cheheltan doesn't say.

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