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19/04/2006

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.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 19.04.2006

Gerhard Gnauck detects fresh unease with capitalism and the market economy in Polish literature, pointing to recent novels by Dawid Bienkowski and Slawomir Shuty: "For today's twenty-somethings in Poland, labels like 'nothing generation' are going around. The Poland these young people are experiencing has both the highest unemployment rate and the longest working week in the EU. The bedraggled post-socialist society is dominated by shopping malls and supermarkets, where teachers work as cashiers to supplement their monthly salaries of around 300 euros. This new world is not suited to Romantic literary transfiguration, but to grotesque distortion: a warning of impending disaster."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 19.04.2006


The festival "Union des Theatres de l'Europe" starts in Frankfurt on Friday, with theatre performances from Riga, Barcelona, Rome, London, Budapest, Porto and Frankfurt. Brigitte Fürle, dramaturg at the Schauspiel in Frankfurt, reflects in an interview on what's missing from German theatre: Above all, it's the "soft, poetic touch," she says. "Just off the top of my head I can't name you any theatres that offer such poetry, the way the Canadian Robert Lepage or the Latvian Alvis Hermanis do. Those are real storytellers. Perhaps that's a German complex: we no longer dare to tell stories, and when we do we start worrying about succumbing to emotional fascism."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 19.04.2006

Melanie Mühl reports on research by Reporters Without Borders indicting Yahoo of providing the Chinese authorities with data on human rights activists, some of whom have received stiff prison sentences. The organisation showed a video in front of the Yahoo headquarters in Sunnyvale in California. "In it, a young man tells the camera that Yahoo is to blame for the arrest of his brother Li Zhi (article), a human rights activist and government critic. Yahoo had forwarded personal data and mails sent by Li Zhi to the Chinese authorites. Li Zhi was then arrested in December 2003, and sentenced to eight years in prison for 'inciting a coup d'etat': 'Our family is bankrupt. I'm convinced he's not guilty. And Yahoo is to blame for all this'." (a documentary on the topic will be broadcast tonight by Arte, more here).

Jörg Thomann observes an explosion in guides for young parents on the German book market and explains it thus: "Many of those who are having their first child in their mid-thirties – as is common these days – have never changed a single diaper and never made pablum because they have no siblings, nieces or nephews on whom to practice. (...) Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who many resent for her ever-fresh and happy appearance despite her seven children, recently said something quite extraordinary. In other countries, young people finish studying by 23, an age when one is still 'willing to take risks, somewhat naive' and therefore 'more willing to have children.' While many 30 year olds are still doubting that they are mature enough to have children, von der Leyen demands naivete."


Die Welt, 19.04.2006

Sociologist Wolf Lepenies reports that a heated debate has broken out among French historians over the First World War, which remains La Grande Guerre for the French, the subject of far greater public interest than World War II. "At the centre of the debate are the 'poilus' – those who, as one French historian put it, 'were stuck in the shit.' What motivated them to continue fighting under such inhumane conditions? While one group of historians speaks of the 'culture of war' in which patriotism, hatred for the enemy and a crusade mentality made the overwhelming majority of soldiers believe the war propaganda, another group claims that most soldiers fought in the 'Great War' against their will, with courage forced upon them. The German soldiers would have wished for the 'bonne blessure', the helpful injury that could get them off the front."


Die Tageszeitung, 19.04.2006


Tobias Rapp is dreading Neil Young's next anti-Bush CD, soon to hit record stores. "Apparently Young, who turned 60 last year, sings with a 100-man choir, a rock trio and a trumpet, 'Impeach the President, he's lying.' There will also be anti-Bush raps accompanied by a choir humming 'flip-flop' – the insult that the Republics used against the 'opportunist' John Kerry in the last election campaign. The recording session was a spiritual experience, said one singer in her blog; the message reached the wires and no eye was left dry."

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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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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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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

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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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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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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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