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31/07/2006

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.

Monday 31 July, 2006

Frankfurter Rundschau, 31.07.2006

After the "Walkyrie" and "Rheingold", Stefan Schickhaus has now been to see "Siegfried", the third opera of Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle, and sees nothing in accusations that the Bayreuther Festspiele can no longer get top-notch singers. For Schickhaus, only the famous tenors showed signs of weakness. "By contrast, fantastic things can be heard from Adrianne Pieczonka as the young, natural-sounding Sieglinde, as well as from Michelle Breedt as Fricka and Mihoko Fujimura as Erda, the two resolute powers opposing Wotan. He himself, sung by Falk Struckmann, has been extremely present vocally over the first three operas. He declaimed his major monologue in the "Walkyrie" clearly, cleverly and economically, a nonchalant, jovial spear-carrier who mocks the world around him."


Die Tageszeitung, 31.07.2006

Gabriele Goettle gives voice to Antje Simnack of Utopia e.V., a solidarity project for victims of right-wing violence in Frankfurt on the Oder. "On the one hand there are the classic skinheads, but over the past years we've also had these teenagers with a good haircut, a solarium tan and nice clothes, where the attitude is not obvious. They look like totally normal club goers and teens. The police often play down incidents, calling them normal teenage fights with no right-wing background, they were all under the influence of alcohol, and so on. Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said it could just as easily be dark-skinned youths attacking fair-skinned. And overwhelmingly it is the case that a victim's self-defence is equated with aggression. You have to wonder where this leads, if you have to refrain from fighting back, physically or verbally, or risk having your victim status removed?!"


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 31.07.2006

Christian Gasser presents Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Japanese manga author, who set a gloomy counterpoint in post-war Japan with his dramatic gekigas (more here): "Simple employees and workers, jobless or petty criminals - these are Tatsumi's anti-heroes, miserable losers, spurned by their wives, abused by their bosses, humilated by co-workers and even ridiculed by prostitutes. If they don't submit with resignation to their fate, they fight back with a outburst of senseless or murderous violence. 'Heroes?' - Tatsumi, a friendly man of 71, smiles: 'Heroes have never interested me. Heroes always have to win!'"


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 31.07.2006

Even debates between natural scientists can liven up the feuilletons. Dietmar Dath reports on a controversy about string theories, which two American physicists, Peter Woit (more here) and Lee Smolin (more here), have criticised in their books. Sharply dressed down themselves in the blog of Lubos Motl, they take issue with the string theories that seek to harmonise relativity and quantum theory. For Woit and Smolin, string theories "explain less, not more, than their earlier forms years ago. What they've accomplished in terms of simplifying and smoothing out older mathematical constructions is, according to critics, nullified by their own inherent complexity. For Woit, string theories are 'not even wrong,' they're fruitless."


Saturday 29 July, 2006


Die Welt, 29.07.2006

The paper's literature section prints the commentary of French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, whose notes from Israel also appeared a few days ago in Le Monde (here in the original for Francophiles): "Right after my arrival - in fact, right after my first contacts with old friends whom I have not seen so tense or worried since 1967; after my first conversation with Denis Charbit, a committed peacenik who nevertheless trusts in the legitimacy of this war of self-defence to which his land has been forced; right after my first interview with Tzipi Livni, the brilliant young foreign minister who contributed so much to convincing Ariel Sharon to clear out of Gaza and who suddenly seems unusually stunned by a new geopolitical situation that can no longer be described with the old terminology of the "Israeli-Arabic conflict" - after all that, I sense that something new and unprecedented in the history of Israel's wars is happening. As if one no longer can be safe moving about even within Israel's boundaries. As if the international context, the game of hide and seek between visible and invisible actors, the roles that Iran and its armed branch, Hizbullah, are playing, lend the entire situation a new appearance and unusual prospects."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 29.07.2006

Romanian author Richard Wagner analyses the growth in populist currents all over Eastern Europe: "The use of terminology is decisive for populism's success, for example saying you're both anti-capitalist and anti-communist. You can see this in Viktor Orban, the national-conservative leader of the Hungarian opposition, who was influenced by liberalism in his early days, but also in the Kaczynski brothers in Poland and their 'Law and Justice Party.' Both portray their own camp as being under siege. What was earlier threatened by Soviet imperialism is seen as menaced by the pressure of globalisation. A new concept of the enemy has replaced the old." In response, Wagner calls for "stronger networking of civil forces between East and West."

Arian Fariborz describes the hugely popular if heavily religious culture of theatre in Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself opens the "Fadjr" theatre festival, and censorship is everywhere: "Every single play put on in public requires permission from the 'Ministry for Culture and Islamic Guidance.' As a rule, before receiving permission to perform a play, directors' scripts and rehearsals have to go through three checking processes."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 29.07.2006

Joachim Kaiser has sweated out a performance of the "Walkyrie" at the Bayreuther Festspiele. Above all the last act was terrifically well conducted by Christian Thielemann (interview here). The only down side of the evening came from director Tankred Dorst's clever ideas, the likes of which Kaiser recommends stage directors should simply avoid: "When Wagner's tragic transports are successful, they are all you need to engage the audience. What you don't need on top of that is a pair of lovers repairing bicycles, silly modern-day children running about, or Wotan doing an unclear pantomime of impending failure. All in all, it's enough just to evoke a certain spatial timelessness... As the actor Heinz Hilpert once said: 'Clever ideas are the lice of directors.'"


Berliner Zeitung, 29.07.2006

Well worth reading is the Berliner Zeitung's reprint of Andre Müller's epic 1979 conversation with sculptor Arno Breker. Breker's explanation for why he worked with the Nazis: "If I had opposed Hitler, I could not have helped my persecuted friends." An English version of the interview will appear shortly on signandsight.com.

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

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Colombian writer Hector Abad defends Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa against European Latin-America romantics. Wikileaks dissident Daniel Domscheit-Berg criticises the new publication policy of his former employer. The Sprengel Museum has put on a show of child nudes by die Brücke artists. The SZ takes a walk through the Internet woods with FAZ prophet of doom Frank Schirrmacher. The FAZ is troubled by Christian Thielemann's unstable tempo in the Beethoven cycle. And the FR meets China Free Press publisher, Bao Pu.
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Saturday 20 - Friday 26 November, 2010

The theatre event of the week came in a twin pack: Roland Schimmelpfennig's new play, a post-colonial "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" opened at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin and the Thalia in Hamburg. The anarchist pamphlet "The Coming Insurrection" has at last been translated into German and has ignited the revolutionary sympathies of at least two leading German broadsheets, the FAZ and the SZ. But the taz, Germany's left-wing daily, says the pamphlet is strongly right-wing. What's left and right anyway? came the reply.
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Saturday 13 - Friday 19 November, 2010

Dieter Schlesak levels grave accusations against his former friend and colleague, Oskar Pastior, who spied on him for the Securitate. Banat-Swabian author and vice chairman of the Oskar Pastior Foundation, Ernest Wichner, turns on Schlesak for spreading malicious rumours. Die Zeit portrays the Berlin rapper Harris, and the moment he knew he was German. Dutch author Cees Nooteboom meditates on the near lust for physical torture in the paintings of Francisco de Zurburan. An exhibition in Mannheim displays the dream house photography of Julius Schulman.
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Saturday 6 - Friday 12 November, 2010

The NZZ asks why banks invest in art. The FAZ gawps at the unnatural stack of stomach muscles in Michelangelo's drawings. The taz witnesses a giant step for the "Yugo palaver". Bernard-Henri Levy describes Sakineh Ashtiani's impending execution as a test for Iran and the west. Journalist Michael Anti talks about the healthy relationship between the net and the Chinese media. Literary academic Helmut Lethen describes how Ernst Jünger stripped the worker of all organic substances.
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Saturday 30 October - Friday 5 November, 2010

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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Saturday 23 - Friday 29 October, 2010

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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Saturday 16 - Friday 22 October, 2010

A new book chronicles the revolt of revolting "third persons" at Suhrkamp publishers in the wild days of 1968. Necla Kelek is appalled by the speech of the very Christian Christian Wulff, the German president, in Turkey. The taz met a new faction of hardcore Palestinians who are fighting for separate sex hairdressing in Gaza. Sinologist Andreas Schlieker reports on the new Chinese willingness to restructure the heart. And the Cologne band Erdmöbel celebrate the famous halo around the frying pan.
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Saturday 9 - Friday 15 October, 2010

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

Nigerian writer Niyi Osundare explains why his country has become uninhabitable. German Book Prize winner Melinda Nadj Abonji says Switzerland only pretends to be liberal. German author Monika Maron is not sure that Islam really does belong to Germany. Russian writer Oleg Yuriev explains the disastrous effects of postmodernism on the Petersburg Hermitage. Argentinian author Martin Caparros describes how the Kirchners have co-opted the country's revolutionary history. And publisher Damian Tabarovsky explains why 2001 was such an explosively creative year for Argentina.
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Saturday 25 September - Friday 1 October

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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Saturday 18 - Friday 24 September, 2010

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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Saturday 10 - Friday 17 September, 2010

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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Saturday 4 - Friday 10 September, 2010

Thilo Sarrazin has buckled under the stress of the past two weeks and resigned from the board of the Central Bank. His book, "Germany is abolishing itself", however, continues to keep Germany locked in a debate about education and immigration and intelligence. Also this week, Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard has been awarded the M100 prize for defending freedom of opinion. Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech at the award ceremony: "The secret of freedom is courage". The FAZ interviewed Westergaard, who expressed his disappointment that the only people who had shown him no support were those of his own class.
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