23/08/2006

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.

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23.08.2006

Thomas Urban reports from Poland, where the conservative weekly magazine Wprost has published information incriminating Zbigniew Herbert, one of the major Polish poets of the 20th century, of supplying the secret police with information on Polish intellectuals living in exile in the late 60s, in exchange for travel permits and high book runs. Urban explains that the liberal newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza then played down the poet's involvement, maintaining that "Herbert played a clever, even satyr-like game with the SB. He apparently prepared himself meticulously for each meeting, so as to divulge to the SB only what they already knew about the emigrants in Paris, West Berlin and Munich. Presumably he even conspired with some of the most prominent targets. The files contain for example a piece of literary exegesis that Herbert delivered to the astonished and no doubt intellectually overtaxed SB officers in which he interpreted several poems by the exiled Czeslaw Milosz." In its current edition, "Wprost regrets that it 'overinterpreted' the files, and apologises to Herbert's wife and admirers for unjustifiably tarnishing his reputation."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 23.08.2006

Rumours have long been in circulation, but now Felix Philipp Ingold is convinced that the Russian author Mikhail Sholokhov, who received the 1965 Nobel Prize for literature, was an imposter. Large chunks of "Tales from the Don," the novel for which he is best known, were copied from an unpublished manuscript by the Cossack military writer Fyodor Kryukov. "Obviously Mikhail Sholokhov, despite being publicly glorified as the 'proletariat Tolstoy', was nothing but a poorly read and utterly inexperienced writer who was recruited by the Soviet secret service GPU and prepared for the role of the great writer and party man of letters. The GPU (in other words not Sholokhov himself) not only intended systematically to exhaust Kryukov's quantitatively and qualitatively fertile manuscript, they also combined it with other texts to create a coherent lifework that would be considered exemplary in Soviet literature as a whole. That bits of texts by Mikhail Bulgakov and Andrey Platonov were added to the aggregate, writers who had long been considered non-persons in the USSR, only adds more spice to the enterprise."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 23.08.2006

Hans-Jürgen Heinrichs is deeply impressed by Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt's new book "Freud wartet auf das Wort" (Freud waits for the word), which follows up on his study "Als Freud das Meer sah" (When Freud saw the sea) published seven years ago. Both books "deal with a highly unusual paradox: Something of the essence remains unchanged in translations of Freud, although it is generally given very different names in the various languages. The central concepts of psychoanalysis can only be approximately carried over from German into another tongue. Every language, in Goldschmidt's conviction, is only a distorted, 'diverted' Grundsprache, or 'basic language.' In both books he turns his attention to the procedures of distortion and displacement, to those things that in talking and writing are left unsaid, or as he so often describes it, that do not 'come through'.... And he also continually returns to the political dimension and what he terms the historical manifestation of the 'unheimlich' (uncanny) in National Socialism experienced in his own body."

Die Welt, 23.08.2006

Peter Zander has seen "Der freie Wille" (The Free Will), which will hit the screens in Germany tomorrow. Jürgen Vogel received the Silver Bear for best actor at this year's Berlin Film Festival (more here) for the film, which starts with a brutal rape scene. Vogel, the rapist, does nine years, and when he gets out he is confronted by today's blithe, omnipresent eroticism. "But then this man, who basically wants to avoid women and have nothing more to do with them, meets of all people this woman (Sabine Timoteo), who avoids men and wants to have nothing to do with them. Yet somehow they get to know each other and discover common ground in their very denial. It's at a karate class, practising self-defence, that they touch for the first time. An impossible love story, an amour fou between two stranded, isolated people that can have no happy end. And yet this film manages to impart in the audience a hope that the man will get his act together, and that he'll get the girl on top of that."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23.08.2006

Fritz Göttler is fascinated by Michael Mann's "Miami Vice". "It is a new dark Miami which is brought to our eyes in this film, the Miami after the great pollution, the air, water and genre pollution in American cinema. The transparency that made a cult of the series has vanished, the flamingo pink, the turquoise sea, the incredible easiness of the girls – replaced by the brutal and joyless laws of the girl traffickers. And where once coolness reigned, now there are only lots of people desperately trying to be cool – but even the moustaches of the two heroes betray them as rednecks. Michael Mann films this difference unrelentingly. His film goes under the guise of a blockbuster but all the rules are ignored. If the series was Antonioni, the film is Visconti."

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