05/07/2006

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.

Die Tageszeitung, 05.07.2006

Gabriele Lesser reports on the repercussions which followed the publication of a satirical article last week in die tagezeitung, "Poland's new potatoes. Rogues who want to rule the world" about Polish President Lech Kaczynski. The Polish media suspect that the article was the real reason behind Kaczynski's cancellation of his meeting with Angela Merkel and Jacques Chirac in Weimar. "The presidential chancellery expressed their outrage at the tasteless article and now expect the German side to express 'criticism and sympathy, and to reject in future similar publications about the president of a state which is befriended with Germany'." Lesser, Poland correspondent for the taz, believes she can 'basically pack her bags' after the ministry's new press spokesman let it be known that: 'The Polish Foreign Ministry will never again talk with a journalist from the tageszeitung'." Gazeta Wyborcza, the Polish daily, has magnanimously translated the incriminating article into Polish.

On the opinion page, writer Ilija Trojanow uses the example of the murder of Bulgarian mafia boss Ilija Pavlov to describe the close ties between the mafia and the governments of Russia and Bulgaria. One asks whether Bulgaria is really ready to join the EU on January 1, 2007. "In March this year, the chairman of the Bund der Deutschen Kriminalbeamten, or Federation of the German Criminal Investigation Forces, Klaus Jansen, was in Bulgaria: 'I asked about the number of police officers, their ages and their ranks. This is a way of determining whether there are large numbers of new recruits in the force with modern and democratic training, or whether it still has a lot of people who were active under the socialist system. I was informed that this information was secret. I can only laugh. I was there to carry out an inspection and I was given the same answer time and again: this threatens our national security interests. When the EU hands over secret information to Bulgaria, it lands in the hands of organised crime.' (from an interview with 24 Tschasa) .... As Mr. Jansen so aptly put it: 'Bulgaria's problem will be my problem in 2007.' These problems should not be underestimated. The Bulgarian mafia is not part of the state; the state is part of the mafia." More on Trojanow's latest book here.


Der Tagesspiegel, 05.07.2006

In an interview with Jan Schulz-Ojala, Bosnian film director Jasmila Zbanic tells why her film "Grbavica" (more here) is not being shown in the Bosnian Serb Republic: "There's only one regular cinema in the Bosnian Serb Republic, in the capital Banja Luka. The owner originally wanted to show 'Grbavica.' But at the awards ceremony at the Berlinale film festival I said that the war criminals Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic had to be caught. After that he was afraid that radical groups could destroy his cinema if he programmed my film. The only thing that could stop people from reacting negatively to the film would be if a statement in favour of the film by Milorad Dodik, the prime minister of the Bosnian Serb Republic, was published in all the newspapers. So we contacted the American and British embassies. Even UN High Commissioner Christian Schwarz-Schilling wrote a letter in support of the film, but Dodik didn't react... Meanwhile pirated copies have appeared. In Banja Luka they're selling like crazy. We're losing money, but at least people can see it now."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 05.07.2006

The paper is currently publishing a series of articles on the question "What is a good religion?" Today author and Islamic scholar Navid Kermani writes that religions "are often the opposite of 'good'. They can be intolerant, violent, misogynist, and can be exploited for all imaginable political or economic ends. What really bothers me is that this is especially true today of my religion, Islam. It may be a clever gambit to say in inter-regional dialogue that in former times, and even today, other religions have also excelled in brutality instead of charity. But that shouldn't do anything to appease a believer. In fact it's the most pitiful of arguments to defend your own religion by showing how other religions have also perpetrated evil. This quickly gets us to the less interesting question of which religion is the least bad. As opposed to the question of what makes a good religion, it can be given a sweeping but nevertheless fitting answer: The least bad religions are the ones that have least often exercised political rule."

As opera director Klaus Zehelein nears the end of his 15 years at Stuttgart's Staatsoper, Alfred Zimmerlin writes a very complimentary review of his penultimate production, "Aeneas" by the German composer Joseph Martin Kraus. The opera was written under turbulent circumstances in the court of the Swedish King Gustav III (Gustav was murdered in 1792 at a masked ball and Kraus died soon after from lung disease). "The Stuttgart performance also had to overcome a number of hurdles. The tenor Deon van der Walt, who was to play the leading role as Aeneas, was murdered a few months ago in South Africa. And the director Peter Konwitschny, whose brainchild the performance was, fell ill and had to pull out."


Die Welt, 05.07.2006


Kathrin Passig's winning this year's Ingeborg Bachmann Prize (more here) caused something of a sensation. Passig is a member (or "agent") of the Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur, a virtual "capitalist-socialist joint-venture" that takes on various missions in the world of culture. After Passig won the prize, the agency posted the words "mission accomplished" on its website. Speaking with Wieland Freund, Konrad Becker, who runs the Unesco-backed website World-Information.org, sees the agency as an intelligent reflection of the information economy: "What we saw at the Bachmann Prize was a refreshing contemporary criticism in an otherwise largely humour-free zone... The ZIA is not just an amusing interface for a PR agency with a clever branding as 'intelligence agency.' It's also an astutely chosen public face that refers to relevant social developments. We are increasingly confronted with a plethora of information agencies, which often have astronomical resources at their disposal. These are not only classic state-run information agencies and secret services, but increasingly an intricately convoluted collection of private think tanks, PR agencies, business intelligence units, strategic communication bureaus, risk management firms and private military companies, whose missions and interests remain in the dark."

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