02/06/2006

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.

The battle over Peter Handke and the Heinrich Heine Prize rages on

Austrian author Peter Handke was informed last week that he would receive the Heinrich Heine Prize of the City of Düsseldorf. After an outburst of public indignation and counter-indignation (more here and here), the decision was blocked this week by the Düsseldorf City Council (more here). And the dust has by no means settled …

Writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Sigrid Löffler and Jean-Pierre Lefebvre announce in an open letter that they are resigning from the jury of the Heinrich Heine Prize. "No one can comprehend, let alone want to approve of, Handke's bizarre acts regarding Milosevic," they write. Yet "one of the jury's reasons for giving Handke the prize in the first place was that he is undaunted in his poetic stance by public opinion and its rituals. The witch-hunt now raging against unwittingly demonstrates how clearly Handke really did deserve the Heine Prize."

For Frank Schirrmacher in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the question is no longer whether Peter Handke deserved the Heinrich Heine Prize (this was refuted by Hubert Spiegel recently in this paper) or not. The real question is: "Should Peter Handke be allowed to receive the prize? This is purely a question of power. If he doesn't receive it after the jury's decision has been made clear, then literary prizes in Germany will be exposed as the arbitrary character assassinations that they have always been, from the times of the 'anonimo romano' until today. Honouring someone, regardless of how controversial he may be, and then openly declaring him unworthy of that honour, without anything else having happened, is the ultimate form of social backslide. It turns the literary critic into the henchman of the politician. With the politicians' interference, the critic's objections to Handke now sound like a denunciation to the police."

The Frankfurter Rundschau prints a text written "Because of the circumstances" for Peter Handke by fellow Austrian writer and former Heinrich-Heiner Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek on her homepage. "The poet has to say what he has to say, because it's necessary for him to say it. But it's not that he has to say what is necessary, because that would mean he had nothing more to say, that he only had to get done what needed doing. And that's not enough."

Andrej Ivanji points out in Die Tageszeitung that Peter Handke by no means spoke for all Serbs. "In the mid 90s, Handke visited Serbia and read in Serbian in the Belgrad theatre 'Jugoslovensko dramsko pozoriste.' In so doing he won the hearts of the gathered Serbian intellectual elite. At least, that is, those members of the Serbian Writers' Association and the Academy of Arts and Sciences who put forward the ideology of a Greater Serbia which Slobodan Milosevic used as the basis for his military campaigns."


Die Welt, 02.06.2006

Eckhard Fuhr praises the self-ironic investigation of Germanness in the German National Museum in Nuremberg. "A path of German longing leads from Goethe's Roman Campagna deep into the Blue Grotto in Capri, through the history of German education, the German pop song right through to the Aldi food store chain. The German longing for all things Italian, and the Italianisation of German daily life are an especially gripping chapter in the exhibition. It shows how the history of ideas, migration, tourism and design, the European market and the media all work together in a large cultural and historical laboratory."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 02.06.2006


Istanbul's Roma quarter Sulukule, one of the oldest of its kind, stands to be torn down to make way for a new museum quarter. Günter Seufert suspects motives at work other than purely economic ones. "Still today, alongside all the rubbish collectors and craftsmen, there are a lot of musicians in Sulukule, whose women and daughters have now started performing as dancers in the bars. Until the 90s, Sulukule was a favoured haunt of the well-heeled visitor who could find here what was otherwise rare in the strictly Muslim Istanbul of the day – in some of the huts the girls would let their drapery fall. This business niche has long since been internationalised in Istanbul, but in men's fantasies Sulukule is still what it once was. Stories of the loose morals of the Roma woman flicker through the city."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 02.06.2006


Painter Georg Baselitz explains in an interview why he has painted some of his works a second time. "In recent years I have increasing started working with a photo in my left hand, which is something I never used to do. I take photos of paintings, by Edvard Munch for example. I use quotations. And I do the same thing with my own work. I take photos of my paintings and I paint them again. They recall a situation, a painting, a time, in such a profusely emotional way, that they cannot but address the thing again. Naturally to do it better. This is a protest."

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