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10/04/2006

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.

Monday 10 April, 2006

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 10.04.2006

Author Najem Wali takes a depressed look at the daily killing and tortures in Iraq: "Paradoxically, three years after all the fantastic promises of democracy, everything now revolves around the question: has Iraq already slid into an all-engulfing civil war that will sweep its neighbours along with it? Or is the country still on the verge of disaster, still able to be rescued from a further spread of killing and destruction? But no one is discussing the essential question of how far democracy has developed. What kind of democracy can that be, to have imposed lies and deception on the Iraqis for three years? It's all just a (very ugly) sham!"


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 10.04.2006


Bettina David sees in the Indonesian law against pornography, which forbids supposedly provocative clothing and which women's organisations are opposing, a worrying Islamification of the multi-ethnic state. "The obsessive pre-occupation with the topic of pornography suggests a deep alienation from the local cultural tradition. An ever-growing number of Indonesians orient themselves in their everyday lives to a globalised neo-orthodox understanding of Islam. As this draft bill shows, this orientation towards Sharia-defined Islam is not only a step away from the West but also away from the local, historically rooted cultural tradition."


T
ristan triumphs in Berlin

Eleonore Büning of the FAZ is satisfied with the musical interpretaion of "Tristan" in Berlin's Staatsoper. "Daniel Barenboim and his famous Staatskapelle... bring the fire of love, desperation and jealousy to a dramatic blaze." But the staging by Stefan Bachmann was less convincing. "This is Bachmann's third opera after 'The Magic Flute' in Basel and a 'Cosi' in Lyon. One of the basic rules that he has definitely mastered is that singers don't like to have to move too much when they sing. They all enter with the pace of a procession and then take a turn to the left or to the right. Once they've arrived at stage centre, they stand around, decoratively."

Writing in Die Welt, Kai Luehrs-Kaiser celebrates the debut of the architects turned stage designers Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. "When the curtain rises, we are looking down a white, cut-open half pipe, cinemascopically extended. In it, fragments of the off-stage press against each other, like vegetables under cellophane. Portals, ropes, excrescences." Luehrs-Kaiser rates Peter Seiffert the best Wagner hero of the world. He "sings his first Tristan with a perfect, hardened tenor. His voice bursting with good health, refusing to die, he, in his agony, still sends lively zombie looks to the ceiling."



Saturday 8 April, 2006


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 08.04.2006

The literature and arts supplement honours Samuel Beckett, born 100 years ago. Stage and film director Werner Düggelin attended the rehearsals for the world premiere of "Waiting for Godot", at the Theatre Babylone, a small theatre on Boulevard Raspail in Paris with about 300 seats. "Roger Blin took a long time to cast the play. He simply couldn't find the actors he was looking for. Then he said he was going to look in the vaudeville theatres, where he found a comedian who could play the hand organ. His name was Lucien Raimbourg, and he became a star playing Vladimir. The others were Jean Martin, who was a member of Blin's entourage, and Pierre Latour. Blin was an actor too, and he played Pozzo."

Belgian author Jean-Philippe Toussaint tells how he offered Samuel Beckett a game of correspondence chess for his opinion on a play he had had written. "If I won, he would read the play and tell me what he thought. If he won, I would go over the play once more with an eased mind. My letter ended: if you agree, 1. e4. He answered by return mail: black resigns. Send me the play. Cordially, Samuel Beckett."


Die Welt, 08.04.2006

"Denying historical facts and ignoring weighty evidence is not a crime, it's stupidity. This is not the realm of justice, but psychiatry. Stupidity and propaganda cannot be met with censorship, but with all the means of antagonism the public has at its disposal," writes sociologist Wolfgang Sofsky (book info here) in a plea for unlimited freedom of opinion. "The more often a thought is repeated, the more believable it seems. Many convictions aren't based on conceptual clarity, empirical proof or logical reasoning, but on pure habit. Only argument can filter the truth out of diverse contentions. A description can only be recognised as true and a precept can only be seen as correct if there is full freedom for objection and disapproval.
People can only – sometimes – be made smarter through correction. Only the pain of error shows them the way to the truth. The good thing about a mistake is that the next time round you recognise it as such."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 08.04.2006

In France, the no longer so "Nouveaux Philosophes" – primarily Bernard-Henri Levy and Andre Glucksmann – are back in discussion after 30 years. Are they, the old question, simply right wing? Martina Meister believes things are more complex. "It's the expression of a painful vacuum, and sad proof of the end of a myth. It represents the end of the French intellectual, as the world imagined him. Nobody dares to bury this myth for good. Not in France and definitely not in Germany, where we stubbornly cling to the legacies of Zola, Sartre, Foucault and Bourdieu. But it's over: the French intellectual is dead." (see our feature by Andre Glucksmann here)


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 08.04.2006

Thomas Steinfeld visited the author Peter Handke in the little village in France where he lives, and the two went for a walk over the fields. Steinfeld took note of the aphorisms that fell from the poet of worldly and literary wisdom. "'Actually,' said Peter Handke when there was no more cloud ear to pick off the scrubby elder berry bush, 'I've always been concerned about being forgotten.' And to the response that he's writing far too many books and is too visible to be forgotten, he says, 'Yes, but there's something like reverse ambition.'"

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Colombian writer Hector Abad defends Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa against European Latin-America romantics. Wikileaks dissident Daniel Domscheit-Berg criticises the new publication policy of his former employer. The Sprengel Museum has put on a show of child nudes by die Brücke artists. The SZ takes a walk through the Internet woods with FAZ prophet of doom Frank Schirrmacher. The FAZ is troubled by Christian Thielemann's unstable tempo in the Beethoven cycle. And the FR meets China Free Press publisher, Bao Pu.
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Saturday 27 November - Friday 3 December

Danish author Frederik Stjernfelt explains how the Left got its culturist ideas. Slavenka Draculic writes about censoring Angelina Jolie who wanted to make a film in Bosnia. Daniel Cohn-Bendit talks   about his friendship, falling out and reconciliation with Jean-Luc Godard. Wikileaks has caused an embarrassed silence in the Arab world, where not even al-Jazeera reported on the what the sheiks really think. Alan Posener calls for the Hannah Arendt Institute in Dresden to be shut down.
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Saturday 20 - Friday 26 November, 2010

The theatre event of the week came in a twin pack: Roland Schimmelpfennig's new play, a post-colonial "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" opened at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin and the Thalia in Hamburg. The anarchist pamphlet "The Coming Insurrection" has at last been translated into German and has ignited the revolutionary sympathies of at least two leading German broadsheets, the FAZ and the SZ. But the taz, Germany's left-wing daily, says the pamphlet is strongly right-wing. What's left and right anyway? came the reply.
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Saturday 13 - Friday 19 November, 2010

Dieter Schlesak levels grave accusations against his former friend and colleague, Oskar Pastior, who spied on him for the Securitate. Banat-Swabian author and vice chairman of the Oskar Pastior Foundation, Ernest Wichner, turns on Schlesak for spreading malicious rumours. Die Zeit portrays the Berlin rapper Harris, and the moment he knew he was German. Dutch author Cees Nooteboom meditates on the near lust for physical torture in the paintings of Francisco de Zurburan. An exhibition in Mannheim displays the dream house photography of Julius Schulman.
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Saturday 6 - Friday 12 November, 2010

The NZZ asks why banks invest in art. The FAZ gawps at the unnatural stack of stomach muscles in Michelangelo's drawings. The taz witnesses a giant step for the "Yugo palaver". Bernard-Henri Levy describes Sakineh Ashtiani's impending execution as a test for Iran and the west. Journalist Michael Anti talks about the healthy relationship between the net and the Chinese media. Literary academic Helmut Lethen describes how Ernst Jünger stripped the worker of all organic substances.
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Saturday 30 October - Friday 5 November, 2010

Now that German TV has just beatified Pope Pius XII, Rolf Hochmuth tells die Welt where he got the idea for his play "The Deputy". The FR celebrates Elfriede Jelinek's "brilliantly malicious" farce about the collapse of the Cologne City Archive. "Carlos" director Olivier Assayas makes it clear that the revolutionary subject is a figment of the imagination. The SZ returns from the Shanghai Expo with a cloying after-taste of sweet 'n' sour. And historian Wang Hui tells the NZZ that China's intellectuals have plenty of freedom to pose critical questions.
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Saturday 23 - Friday 29 October, 2010

Author Doron Rabinovici protests against the concessions of moderate Austrian politicians to the FPÖ: recently in Vienna, children were sent back to Kosovo at gunpoint. Ian McEwan wonders why major German novelists didn't mention the Wall. The NZZ looks through the Priz Goncourt shortlist and finds plenty of writers with more bite than Houellebecq. The FAZ outs two of Germany's leading journalists who fiercely guarded the German Foreign Ministry's Nazi past. Jens-Martin Eriksen and Frederik Stjernfelt analyse the symptoms of culturalism, left and right. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht demonstratively yawns at German debate.
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Saturday 16 - Friday 22 October, 2010

A new book chronicles the revolt of revolting "third persons" at Suhrkamp publishers in the wild days of 1968. Necla Kelek is appalled by the speech of the very Christian Christian Wulff, the German president, in Turkey. The taz met a new faction of hardcore Palestinians who are fighting for separate sex hairdressing in Gaza. Sinologist Andreas Schlieker reports on the new Chinese willingness to restructure the heart. And the Cologne band Erdmöbel celebrate the famous halo around the frying pan.
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Saturday 9 - Friday 15 October, 2010

The FR laps up the muscular male bodies and bellies at the Michelangelo exhibition in the Viennese Albertina. The same paper is outraged by the cowardice of the Berlin exhibition "Hitler and the Germans". Mario Vargas-Llosa remembers a bad line from Sweden. Theologist Friedrich Wilhelm Graf makes it very clear that Western values are not Judaeo-Christian values. The Achse des Guten is annoyed by the attempts of the mainstream media to dismiss Mario Vargas-Llosa. The NZZ celebrates the tireless self-demolition of Polish writer and satirist Slawomir Mrozek.
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Saturday 2 - Friday 8 October, 2010

Nigerian writer Niyi Osundare explains why his country has become uninhabitable. German Book Prize winner Melinda Nadj Abonji says Switzerland only pretends to be liberal. German author Monika Maron is not sure that Islam really does belong to Germany. Russian writer Oleg Yuriev explains the disastrous effects of postmodernism on the Petersburg Hermitage. Argentinian author Martin Caparros describes how the Kirchners have co-opted the country's revolutionary history. And publisher Damian Tabarovsky explains why 2001 was such an explosively creative year for Argentina.
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Saturday 25 September - Friday 1 October

Three East German theatre directors talk about the trauma of reunification. In the FAZ, Thilo Sarrazin denies accusations that his book propagates eugenics: "I am interested in the interplay of nature and nurture." Polemics are being drowned out by blaring lullabies, author Thea Dorn despairs. Author Iris Radisch is dismayed by the state of the German novel - too much idle chatter, not enough literary clout. Der Spiegel posts its interview with the German WikiLeaks spokesman, Daniel Schmitt. And Vaclav Havel's appeal to award the Nobel prize to Liu Xiabobo has the Chinese authorities pulling out their hair.
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Saturday 18 - Friday 24 September, 2010

Herta Müller's response to the news that poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant was one of overwhelming grief: "When he returned home from the gulag he was everybody's game." Theatre director Luk Perceval talks about the veiled depression in his theatre. Cartoonist Molly Norris has disappeared after receiving death threats for her "Everybody Draw Mohammed" campaign. The Berliner Zeitung approves of the mellowing in Pierre Boulez' music. And Chinese writer Liao Yiwu, allowed to leave China for the first time, explains why schnapps is his most important writing tool.
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Saturday 10 - Friday 17 September, 2010

The poet Oskar Pastior was a Securitate informant, the historian Stefan Sienerth has discovered. Biologist Veronika Lipphardt dismisses Thilo Sarrazin's incendiary intelligence theories as a load of codswallop. A number of prominent Muslim intellectuals in Germany have written an open letter to President Christian Wulff, calling for him to "make a stand for a democratic culture based on mutual respect." And a Shell study has revealed that Germany's youth aspire to be just like their parents.
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Saturday 4 - Friday 10 September, 2010

Thilo Sarrazin has buckled under the stress of the past two weeks and resigned from the board of the Central Bank. His book, "Germany is abolishing itself", however, continues to keep Germany locked in a debate about education and immigration and intelligence. Also this week, Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard has been awarded the M100 prize for defending freedom of opinion. Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech at the award ceremony: "The secret of freedom is courage". The FAZ interviewed Westergaard, who expressed his disappointment that the only people who had shown him no support were those of his own class.
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