On the Death of Siegfried Lenz ? ?You have to justify your life?

Siegfried Lenz, one of the great writers of German post-war literature is dead. He died on 7 October 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 88 years old.... more more

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21/02/2005

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, 19.02.2005

Richard Wagner reviews Mihail Sebastian's "Journal 1935-1944". When it was published in Romania in 1996, the book started a "full-scale public debate about the extent to which major 20th century Romanian intellectuals (E. M. Cioran, Mircea Eliade, Constantin Noica) were involved in local fascist movements between the wars." Sebastian's diary, "with its staggering details, confronts post-communist Romania with the painful knowledge that it is not enough to judge communism as kind of 'historical traffic accident'. Instead, the country's history must be viewed in its entirety." The book "outlines an exemplary case of exclusion of East European Jews in the 1930s, despite their immeasurable contribution to cultural and economic development. It documents the progressive marginalisation of one young writer. Opportunies to work and publish as lawyer, journalist and author are barred to him simply because he is Jewish."
Mihail Sebastian's journal was published in English in 2000 by Ivan R. Dee.


Berliner Zeitung, 19.02.2005

Vladimir Malakhov, newly appointed director of the Berlin Staatsballet, is a ballet idol of international standing. But the Berliners do not seem to have noticed. Michaela Schlagenwerth interviews the star, who seems unruffled by the lack of public enthusiasm. "No it does not worry me. Cities like Vienna and New York have long-standing ballet traditions, and it's normal to have fans waiting for autographs at the stage door. That's always nice, but I don't need it. There is so much to be done here, so much to accomplish. That's a challenge, but sometimes it's difficult too."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 19.02.2005


Hans Holzhaider comments on a recent case where the Frankfurt police threatened to torture young law student, Wolfgang Gäfgen, to get him to reveal the location of his murder victim. "If we take Kant's ethical thesis seriously that human dignity is always violated when people are 'devalued' to the level of mere objects, it is clear that current events make a mockery of the statement that human dignity is the highest good of our political system." For Holzhaider, "This whole Dascher affair teaches us that the concept of 'the end justifying the means' does not always imply abject opportunism. Some ends justify some means."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
, 19.02.2005

The Berlinale film festival ended on Saturday, and the first resumes are emerging. Verena Lueken admits that while this may not have been festival director Dieter Kosslick's strongest year, the criticism aimed at him is excessive. "Once the festival is over, none of the films shown there, in particular the numerous harrowing, remarkable, instructive and engaging documentaries will be shown in any German cinemas. This goes too for the smaller productions from China, Mongolia, the Ukraine, Croatia and Korea, and for the short films which so often outdo the feature films in humour and technical finesse. In short, the ten days of Berlinale are the only time in the year when cinema can stand tall in Germany and take its rightful place as an important popular art form. The festival has a right to be proud of itself. But the situation is a disgrace for the country as a whole."


Die Tageszeitung, 19.02.2005

The taz weekend magazine published the second part of a discussion on "our family legacy" between Aleida Assmann (more here) and Harald Welzer (more here), who research the human memory. Asked why the Nazi era seems to capture perennial interest, Welzer replied: "National Socialism is steeped in fantasy. It was a historical project with a high utopian quota. Today's negative assessment of this utopia does nothing to alter this. The fascination lives on. The war generation experienced more than any other, the 68ers included. And the fascination is fuelled in part by an element of self pity at not being able to share this experience. Nevertheless, there is still much we do not understand." (The first part of the discussion can be found here.)


Berliner Zeitung, 21.02.2005

Anke Westphal comments on the hangover effect at the end of the Berlinale film festival: "There has been a lot of griping about the weather, B celebrities and the mediocre official competition. In fact this is more an expression of general lassitude with festival director Dieter Kosslick. But Kosslick has returned the punch, calling this year's edition the most modern and best-organised festival yet. This is a jab at those who have forgotten the terrible competitions in Cannes in 2003 and Vienna in 2004, or who are not impressed by stars like Anjelica Houston or Cate Blanchette. Of course, Dieter Kosslick cannot change the Berlin weather, nor can he change the fact that the date for the Oscars was brought forward and is now too close to the Berlin festival." Holding the Berlinale earlier too would not solve the problem, says Westphal. "It would be smarter to keep to the current date and the current festival profile, even if that means not pleasing all the people all the time."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 21.02.2005


Art historian Beat Wyss remembers Swiss curator and "intellectual gastarbeiter" Harald Szeemann who died yesterday. He will be remembered most for the documenta 5, the 5th of the international art exibitions held every four years in Kassel. Wyss's exhibition title "Individual Mythologies", has become buzzword of art historical vocabulary. "The exhibition catalogue, or more accurately the bulky file with its greasy orange plastic envelopes overflowing with loose pieces of paper, is unreadable but indispensable. It was reserved for the Swiss to transform the German documenta institution from a model plant of modern post war re-education into a buoyant postmodernist chaos. Curators Chris Dercon and Hans Ulrich Obrist, art historian Bazon Brock and artist Thomas Hirschhorn have also contributed articles on Szeeman's legacy.


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
, 21.02.2005

Frank Schirrmacher
, author of the successful "Methusala Conspiracy" on the problems of an ageing society, accuses politicians of failing to understand the contemporary demographic problems. Schirrmacher argues that there will be fewer Germans in the future, and even these will not speak the language properly: "The parents of today's 40-year-olds were mostly born between 1930 and 1933. The generation that should have given birth to today's children was never born. Of 339 children at the Eberhard-Klein Secondary School in Berlin 334 are not German. When they reach maturity in five to eight years, a daunting number of them will neither speak good German nor be properly educated. In the worst case, these few, poorly-educated adults will then become a burden on the German taxpayer." (One wonders if the responsibility here is not with the 16 years of minimalist integration policies of the Helmut Kohl era so admired by this paper). Schirrmacher's article launches a series starting tomorrow on "basic demography" by Herwig Birg.

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