15/08/2006

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.

More reactions to Günter Grass' revelation of his membership in the Waffen-SS

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 15.08.2006

We hear from writer Erich Loest, who, like the entire FAZ, is very preoccupied with the theme: "I've been very agitated for days, and can't think about anything else." Loest is mystified by the belated confession, but nevertheless insists: "I still count myself among his friends, among those who say he waited too long, but in the end he told the truth." A report reveals that writer Robert Schindel knew about Grass' membership in the Waffen-SS because Grass had discussed it privately. Schindel takes Grass under his wing: "For the most part, the bearers of moral standards emerging now are laughable." Printed side by side are excerpts from Helmut Kohl's memoirs, particularly regarding the 1985 controversy over Bitburg and the Waffen-SS, and Grass' criticism of Kohl from that year.


Die Welt, 15.08.2006

Tilman Krause may not be able to review the book yet because of the embargo imposed by the Steidl-Verlag publishing company, but he's already read the wartime chapter from Grass' memoirs, and is taken by it. He writes: "One forest scene, in which he - as soldierly simplex, separated from the troops - sings children's songs in order to determine whether the person whose noises he has heard, but whom he cannot see in the darkness, is a friend or foe, presents a moving homage to the storytelling role model of Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen. He sings 'Little Hansi went alone...' until he hears the hoarsely sung, but infinitely comforting tune, echoing back: 'Into the wide world yonder... ' With such impressive condensations, one is only too glad to forget this thing with the Waffen-SS."

Also cited in a somewhat complex on-line dossier, which presents articles from yesterday and today, as wells as a dpa interview with Grass: "They want to turn me into a non-person."

Journalist Wolf Lotter is downright furious about the role Grass played in former West Germany. He rages: "The national poet became a moral compass for the nation like none other of his generation, a good German, one who seemed capable of change because had lived through himself. This 'I was changing myself' was much more acceptable to most Germans than was open opposition to National Socialism. The counterpart, or perhaps, the opportunist, was much more compatible to the actual constitution of the Federal Republic than the original, whom one found less trustworthy. The little 'Flakhelfer' was the ideal candidate to represent the moral air-superiority of a 'better Germany.' In keeping with this, Grass primarily wrote autobiographically."


Berliner Zeitung, 15.08.2006


In his reflections on the case of Grass, Arno Widmann finds a downright Brechtian motto: "Signposts are not role models." "The signpost does not move. And neither did Günter Grass. He did not want to tread this path. He drew conclusions from the downfall of the Third Reich, he analysed the situation but not himself. Like many others - and Franz Fühmann is a fantastic, laudable exception - he only managed the leap into the new democratic society by separating from himself. He shed his old skin in the hopes of escaping it. I don't know if I should say he succeeded - or not?"


Also in today's Feuilletons:


Die Tageszeitung, 15.08.2006

Commenting on the war in Lebanon, Katharina Rutschky criticises the "fundamentalist humanism" of the West. "Violence is evil, military solutions are not the solution but rather the problem to do away with." Fundamentalist humanism "practically infantilises the Hizbullah, the Palestinians, the Arab world... Are not the Hizbullah, the statements of their boss Nasrallah and the acts of his followers treated in the humanistic press as though Israel was fighting against a group of kids playing pranks and not aspiring to the annihilation of Israel? If the Israelis were to be reasonable, as we expect them (and only them) to be, then they would have to be able to deal differently with the Hizbullah or Hamas than by reacting with 'disproportionate' violence to the childish provocations."


Die Welt, 15.08.2006


Hanns-Georg Rodek presents German director Angelina Maccarone, whose film "Hounded" won the Golden Leopard in the newly created category "Filmmakers of the Present" at the festival in Locarno (more info on prize-winners here). Like Fatih Akin, winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2004), Maccarone has made "the no man's land between two cultures her creative source. As the child of guest workers in Pulheim, a little nest near Cologne, she always felt different, even though she was born there. She was always having to explain her name, as well as her perfect German and her lesbianism. She lived in the 'outsiders hood' relegated to Turks and Italians and walked half an hour to school every day, in a posh neighbourhood of bungalows." In "Hounded", "Maren Kroymann plays a 50-year-old probation officer who risks an S&M affair with a minor offender. Again, a story of being different, of the discovery of completely new aspects in an otherwise canalised life."

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