11/08/2006

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.

Frankfurter Rundschau, 11.08.2006

Seventy international intellectuals have issued an appeal calling for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon. "We, Jews and Muslims, artists, intellectuals and citizens of the world, abhor violence, militarization and the bloodshed of innocent people taking place now between Israel and its Arab and Muslim neighbors...."

One of the signatories, Navid Kermani, explained his motivation to Harry Nutt. "What perhaps makes this appeal different is that it does not start out with a condemnation of the other - the aggressors, the Israelis, the Hizbullah - but says instead: We find it terrible and don't accept what is being done in the name of our own traditions. At the same time, we defend our traditions and do not want to hand them over to either fundamentalists or to those who would love to tear down our cultures. One need not be religious to express criticism that is based on a loyalty to one's own world. The point is to be conscious of the effects of one's own past, one's own memory and its enduring influence, whether one believes in it in a theological sense or not."


Opinions on the "Erzwungene Wege" (Forced Departures) exhibition at the Berlin Kronprinzenpalais.

The show (German site here) which was organized by the controversial CDU politician and advocate for expellees, Erika Steinbach, is meant to give a taste of things to come at the "Centre Against Expulsion."


According to Sonja Zekri in the SZ, "the exhibition's curators have succeeded in recalling chapters in European history of which until now only experts were aware. (...) And yet, the undeniably European approach documents a new, more supple strategy on behalf of the centre, but no fundamental change in attitude. This is evidenced in the details, in the lack of references, the little gaps. There's no lack of descriptions of German crimes. The Hitler-Stalin Pact, the devastations in the General Government, the extermination of Polish intellectuals, all this is presented with the clarity one would hope for – it just seems to have nothing to do with the expulsion of the Germans."

Stephan Speicher of the Berliner Zeitung agrees. "The exhibition is not exactly revisionist," he writes, but "that the expulsion of the Germans was a response to German crimes is not really made clear enough. This controlled dogmatism infuses the whole exhibition and suffocates one's sympathy."

In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Regina Mönch can unearth no evidence of historical misrepresentation in the exhibiton. "If you take the time to time-travel through the terrible 20th century in the exhibit's 'Europe room' you will convinced of the opposite. From the massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire through the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in the 1990s, nine cases are chosen to represent the expulsion of millions of people in Europe. The historical context is complicated, but not as one-dimensional as has always been ascribed to the foundation by critics who stubbornly ignored the concept."


Responses to Jostein Gaarder's essay condemning Israeli attacks on Lebanon

In the Spiegel Online writer Ralph Giordano (bio in German) tells Anna Reimann he has little patience for the Norwegian writer and author of the bestseller "Sophie's World," who declared in an essay (here in English, following a critique) that Israel, with its attacks on Lebanon, has lost its right to exist. "I find it hard to not to think that anyone who agrees with Gaarder's original text is an anti-Semite. Gaarder's words are far too unequivocal." But those responsible for all the violence are, in end effect, those who initiated it, Giordano says. "It is awful, what is happening in Lebanon, but I am incapable of absolving the Hizbullah and their backers in Syria and Iran from responsibility."

In the Tageszeitung Michael Zimmermann is similarly appalled. "Why does Gaarder, a Christian, completely ignore the fact that Israel is also a victim? Gaarder cements his point of view with Bible quotes and rabbinic citations. But what do they have to do with the reality of a political conflict over the recognition of national boundaries? ... This philosopher must have known that his views would justifiably be evaluated differently when expressed outside his ivory tower, exposed to a realistic political context."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11.08.2006

"Germany is not changing; the world is changing. Germany does not have the lowest birth rate (1.32 per woman); rather, countries like Ukraine (1.17), Slovakia, Slovenia and South Korea (all 1.2), followed by Italy (1.29) and Spain (1.3) compete for that distinction," writes sociologist Ulrich Beck, warning against a predominant "navel-gazing demography" in the German debate. Only one thing is certain: "The white European heritage is shrinking to a fifth of the world's population and less." But instead of setting up rules of selection for non-white immigrants, we should try to "define the connection between population shrinkage, aging society, urgent reform of social security systems and clear immigration policy as a European problem."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 11.08.2006


Marc Zitzmann visits an exhibition in the Paris Musee de la mode, where 150 creations of the couturier Cristobal Balenciaga are on show. He was particularly fascinated by "Balenciaga's enormous imagination in creating volume. The names alone - 'robe sac', 'robe tonneau' (tonne dress) or 'robe chenille' (larval dress) - indicate that the couturier is not interested in simply following the natural lines of the body, but seeks out quasi sculptural forms. These forms point to historical precedent, like the 'manches lampion' from 1951, reminiscent of those puffy sleeves which compress into a bell-shape after slipping down to the elbow. Balenciaga's inspiration from Goya, Velazquez and Zurbaran has been emphasised often enough."



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