20/07/2006

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, 20.07.2006

The taz publishes – along with a pathos-filled front page photo – an article by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas-Llosa which originally appeared in El Pais. Vargas-Llosa acknowledges he is a friend of Israel's, and especially of Israeli critics of Israel, and himself criticises Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. "The superiority of Israel over its enemies in the Middle East used to be political and moral. Then it became based on cannons, aircraft and a highly modern army. But the extraordinary power that makes countries arrogant is also responsible for their own losses. And that tempts some leading politicians like Ariel Sharon to believe that the solution of the conflict with the Palestinians could consist of a unilateral dictate, imposed by force. That is simple-minded, and it causes suffering and war in the entire region to be prolonged endlessly."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 20.07.2006

For Paris-based Syrian poet Adonis, only Lebanon can "prompt the development of a secular civilian society" in the Middle East. The Arab states "won't stop being 'theocracies', despite superficially conforming to democratic norms, simply because their power is 'naturally' rooted, and also because of how they view non-Muslims. In addition, if Israel's democracy were based on diversity and pluralism, this would contradict the exclusive self-understanding of the Jewish people, which sees itself as the chosen people, without diversity or pluralism. So in both human and cultural terms, a Lebanese democracy in this part of the world would be a radical and enduring transgression of the status quo, simply because it would be more open, richer, more persuasive and more enticing."

The SZ takes a look at two mega summer events: the Salzburg and Bayreuth festivals, which start respectively on July 23 and 25. Reinhard J. Brembeck reports that the subsidies they receive have been the object of criticism, and provides a few figures. "Salzburg takes 24 percent of its 51.4 million euro budget from the public pocket, while 31 percent of Bayreuth's modest budget of 14 million euros comes from public funds. To compare: the subsidised portion of theatre budgets in Germany lies on average around 83 percent." What to do? Raise the price of tickets? The most expensive tickets in Salzburg cost 600 euros, in Bayreuth 208 euros. Brembeck sees only one solution to the problem: both should "feature a few productions that persuade even the biggest classical sourpuss how lovely and rewarding it can be to throw a lot of money out the window for an opera."

Wolfgang Schreiber interviews Tankred Dorst, one of the most popular contemporary German dramatists. On July 26 his staging of Wagner's four-part opera cycle "Ring of the Nibelung" will premiere at the Bayreuth Festival. Dorst locates the ancient saga "in today's world. Strange creatures have settled down here, gods and demigods from another, mystical time. They appear on the margins of our civilisation, in a condemned building, an abandoned school, under a highway bridge. Unnoticed by the people around them, they act out their conflicts, their stories. Just like in real life. We see things and don't notice them. The neighbour was always there, he just didn't catch our eye." Asked if the festival building is something of a holy temple, Dorst responds: "Bayreuth, a sacred place? When I look up at the auditorium ceiling it always amuses me that it shows an airy tent roof. A little circus, a little belle epoque, in any case the decoration has nothing sacred about it at all." (See also our interview with Christian Thielemann, who conducts the music to the cycle, here.)


Die Zeit, 20.07.2006

Claude Chabrol's "Comedy of Power" with Isabelle Huppert hits German screens today (our review here). Katja Nicodemus pays homage to this dream pair. "She has killed her daughter, her parents, her whole family and herself for him. She has lied, deceived, shot and put a lot of poison in the world in seven films. Isabelle Huppert has been going into battle with Claude Chabrol for almost 30 years. She is the partisan of his movies, a Muse, an escort and an ally with changing weapons. Equipped with deadly powers, as in 'Violette Noziere', with a hunting rifle in 'La Ceremonie' or now, as an investigating judge in Chabrol's most recent 'Comedy of Power' with clauses from the French legal code. Sometimes, Chabrol says, he dreams of putting Isabelle Huppert on the screen and letting her mow everything down with a machine gun."

The bomb attacks in Mumbai didn't get much attention in the German press. Christine Grefe, however, has conducted an interview with Suketu Mehta, author of the book "Maximum City," who is deeply impressed by his town. "In other places people run away when a bomb explodes, in Mumbai they ran to the site. Even the inhabitants of the slums, generally considered a threat by the West, were bringing water to the victims of the attack. Car drivers gave lifts to total strangers who no longer knew how to get home."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 20.07.2006

Reinhold Vetter reports that in Poland at the moment, everything is revolving around the country's history. "The media is only interested in historical themes, the national conservative government is planning one historical project after the next. The Sejm is discussing the creation of a national learning institute, a museum for Polish history is being planned, as well as a Solidarity centre and a museum for the history of Polish Jews." But Vetter reports that the government's policy on history has been subject to much criticism. "Referring in particular to the government, historian Daniel Grinberg warns of a nationalist trend in foreign policy that means that other states and nations are viewed singly through the prism of the historic suffering of the Poles. The extreme right education minister Roman Giertych, with his backward-looking understanding of patriotism, has come under particularly harsh criticism. It seems that the minister wants to force a canon of Polish victories, defeats and suffering upon teachers and students, which would make critical historical analysis impossible."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 20.07.2006

Europe is migrating. How will it look in the future? asks Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk. "Will some regions become entirely depopulated, like Eastern Poland and Southern Italy?" Poor people migrate to the rich cities in Western Europe. In the airport in Krakow, Stasiuk saw travellers to Paris and Munich looking distrustfully at a group of young Poles on their way to Dublin. "Perhaps it simply didn't suit them that their fate was in the hands of these lads. That somewhere a mistake had been made and Western civilisation is now for all eternity dependent on the barbarians form the East and the South, because they themselves were powerless. Unless they come up with some humanoid wonder robot. Or import Chinese human clones for slave labour, because sooner or later China will produce something like that and sell it cheap."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 20.07.2006


In Berlin, the privately-financed DDR Museum, a museum about every day life in the former GDR, has opened. Harry Nutt reviews the museum in the context of ongoing debate on how to deal with the GDR past. "One argument put forward is that the authentic sites of GDR dictatorship are being pushed to one side to make way for kitschy reconstructions of everyday life featuring GDR traffic lights and culty Trabis. Unfortunately, this private museum is no exception in its portrayal of everyday GDR culture. The term 'confronting the past' is too programmatic to be used to describe this harmless collection of exhibits. The bugged corner, which is supposed to represent the Stasi's surveillance apparatus, is quaintly reminiscent of the attempts of teenagers in East and West to get recordings of the latest rock songs on tape."

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