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

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24/03/2005

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.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24.03.2005

Karol Sauerland reports on a media war between Poland and Russia. The left-leaning Catholic newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny has been reporting sympathetically on the revolution in the Ukraine. Now in the Russian Internet (here, for example) falsified articles from the paper are being circulated, expressing sympathy for Poland's "eastward drive". In addition, the newspaper's servers are being flooded with viruses. "You have to know that in official Russia, Poland has always been seen as interested in weakening its neighbour. The statement of the Polish foreign minister that the killing of Aslan Maskhadov was a political mistake by Moscow, Poland's support of the two Baltic republics' refusal to send representatives to the victory celebrations on May 9 in Moscow, and the domestic debate in Poland over whether President Kwasniewski should refer on this day to the fact that the liberation from the Germans led to a Soviet occupation, are all enraging certain circles in Moscow..." Sauerland reports that the journalists at Tygodnik Powszechny are hoping for solidarity from their colleagues in Poland and abroad.

The debate surrounding the case of Terri Schiavos in the USA has sparked a discussion in Germany on medically assisted death. Pressure for more precise legislation on the validity of living wills has been renewed. Three editors from the FAZ have addressed the debate. Heinrich Wefing writes, "As though with several huge exclamation points, the case of Schiavos confirms a view which has long since been recognised but often repressed: gone are the times when one died after a heart attack, or better, when one 'simply' died. Death – as the fate of Terri Schiavos forces us to recognise – has lost its naturalness, it has developed from something determined by destiny, something inevitable, into a conscious decision." Concerning the status of a living will, Patrick Bahners asks, "What is actually intended by this statement? Who is the subject? The person who wrote years ago that they didn't want to be fed through a tube? Or the person from whom the stomach tube is to be removed? Is it truly self-evident that the former willing subject and the present will-less subject, on whom the long-since drafted protocol is to be executed, are one and the same?" And considering the larger context in which the discussions take place, Christian Geyer comments, "While in the secular European framework, ethical debates tend to be watered down, in the public religious culture of America, they are discussed with political absoluteness, a kind of imperative that in Germany one would only expect to find in the ethical sphere."


Die Welt, 24.03.2005

A day before Good Friday, Franz Walter, professor of political science at Göttingen University, draws a portrait of the Church in Germany. "The good people are tired," he says. Research on youth shows that today's "experience society" has left many young people perplexed and lacking orientation. Yet despite this, the churches have not gained popularity. "The last 40 years were bitter for both official churches in Germany. Since the late 60s, millions of people have turned their backs on the church, often in anger. Nowhere in Europe have the majority of citizens distanced themselves from institutionalised Christianity so resoundingly as in Germany. Nowhere has acceptance of the Church's authority shrunk so massively as here in the last third of the 20th century." For Walter, this has altered the Church's role in society, which now operates much like any other large humanitarian organisation. "The churches have lost their original message, their self-image, their ideas for the future. That has robbed them of their ethos, and their driving force. They appear exhausted and burned out, no longer sure of themselves, weak-spirited and disheartened. This is what Cardinal Karl Lehmann calls the 'fatigue of the good'."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 24.03.2005

What does it matter that much of what Jules Verne fantasises about in his novels is long since reality? Do they somehow bring us back to ourselves anyway? This is the question raised by the Austrian writer Franzobel on the hundredth anniversary of Vernes' death (here the official memorial website). "In the fitness studio, bodies are being deformed to the point that they look like Alessi milk foamers. In restaurants one savours delicacies such as Nile water snake embryos poached in steamed gold while sipping panda bear milk drinks on crushed millennia-old ice, carved out of one of the Poles. In travel agencies, one can book the best tours: bungee jumping out of (or in?) passenger aeroplanes, deep sea diving through the uranium core of Chernobyl, and soon flights through outer space. In order to self-assure themselves, people, torn from their centre-points, always need something crazier, extremer. But there is one thing we can't yet book: a journey to the middle of the world. And definitely not the one that Verne described almost a century and a half ago."


Der Tagesspiegel, 24.03.2005

Nicola Kuhn visits an exhibition of genre paintings at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, one of Germany's most august art institutions. The show, which was taken over from the Bojmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam, deliberately distances itself from weighty interpretations of the past. These tended to interpret the everyday scenes along moral lines, treating them as a sort of parable of what can happen when one drinks, lies and cheats. Instead, the exhibition seeks to allow the works and artists to speak for themselves. But the approach has raised some eyebrows: "Criticism of the lack of critical stance was not long in coming, especially as the exhibition, with its 77 paintings, among them five Vermeers, has a remarkable advertising campaign. A painting by Adriaen Brouwer showing a charlatan performing a back operation in a tavern has the word 'tattoo' splashed across it. The work 'The Bitter Drink', showing a boy grimacing in disgust, bears the word 'punk', while Vermeer's enchanting letter writer carries the word 'email'. Such superficiality has shaken conservative critics as if it too were bitter medicine. Their accusation that the painting's mofits are being made too light of, is admittedly more serious. This may be a scholarly dispute with no relevance for a larger public, nevertheless a painting's original statement, and what it says– or to be more precise, what its interprets – about us, remains meaningful even centuries later."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24.03.2005

Harald Hordych presents Germany's smallest newspaper: The Ostheimer Zeitung. "Ostheim vor der Rhön. A town with 3,500 inhabitants at the northernmost tip of Baveria.... A town with a closed armaments factory, a closed timber yard, a closed textile factory, and a newspaper that appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – Germany's smallest. But the paper has what few can boast nowadays: a circulation that has remained unchanged for decades." The paper is put out by Volker Gunzenheimer, who is printer, editor, reporter, photographer and advertising manager rolled into one. The bundled responsibility has its quirks. "As printer, he produces invitations for the municipal assembly, which he then receives back from the municipality in his function as editor, with the request that he cover it. A compulsory date! ... And when it comes time to write on local politics, Gunzelheimer the printer has long made it clear to Gunzenheimer the political commentator that contracts from city hall are more important than fiery editorials. Once the mayor said to him: 'You keep out of this, Volker! You don't understand a thing!' Gunzenheimer took that to heart. 'You can't always write everything you'd like to', he says, and heaves a sigh. But not a very deep one."

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