31/08/2006

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.

Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz has died

The Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz has died in Cairo aged 94. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988, Mahfouz was the founder of modern Arab prose.

"In his own words, Mahfouz led his biggest fight against the Arabic language," writes Hans Thill in the Frankfurter Rundschau. "Mahfouz started with historical novels at a time when Egyptian writers seemed to have agreed it was time to confront the nation and its grandiose history. After that, as he himself says, he was 'no longer interested in the grand avenues and boulevards.' He turned his attention to the small alleyways, in a reaction to both the philosophical, idealistic novels of his models and contemporaries, and the historical tableaux and their romanticising nationalism. Mahfouz' turn to a 'literature of life' was the step to an Arabic view of modernity, an accomplishment that as a European reader, one cannot praise highly enough."

Writing in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Hartmut Fähndrich reminds readers how long it took for Mahfouz to become known in Europe. "The 'Cairo Trilogy' established him once and for all as the contemporary Arab prose author. That was towards the end of the 1950s. But it was only thrity years later that the non-Arab world took notice of him, when he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988. At that time, Western cultural journalists often hid their ignorance behind smug mockery. Nowadays, however, people have discovered Mahfouz the writer, but also Mahfouz the moral voice, in a time when such a voice is becoming increasingly necessary in light of the pressure mounting against the written word."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 31.08.2006


"In the future, the ascent from the big city to the world city will not be possible without forward-looking and broadly conceived policies of cultural investment and courageous projects," writes Andrian Kreye. Kreye recommends that local politicians take a trip to New York, which will be investing 865 million dollars in cultural projects. "Even the business world recognises the value of high culture... For the first time in ages, major architects and visionaries are helping to design the world's most famous skyline – Santiago Calatrava, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano and Frank Gehry are in the process of planning massive projects in Manhattan and Brooklyn. All of out pure self-interest. "New York's city fathers know that the competition is not sleeping. Metropolises like London, Shanghai, Toronto, Chicago and Los Angeles are investing aggressively in culture. In part because they wouldn't mind robbing New York of its status as attractive location for 'creative capital.' Do the city fathers of Berlin realise that?


Perlentaucher, 31.08.2006


What does the public understand of the power wars on the Net? Who wants to know what a nofollow-tag is? Christoph Mayerl explains the feature that German Wikipedia applies to all its external links, rendering them useless to Google. Why does Wikipedia do that? "Might it be that Wikipedianers think they've created the ultimate version of the WWW with their tidy and democratic island in the expanse of the Internet, a real Utopia that no longer needs, in fact distances itself completely from, the external, deficient and chaotic net? Are connections to the outside world considered untrustworthy, because there, the Wikipedian regime has no influence, can't determine the degree of order, truth, clarity, in other words, the cleanliness?"


Die Zeit, 31.08.2006

Petra Reski sees Venice to blame for the fact that its film festival will soon be having to compete with Rome. "The Venetian city administration is interested in mega projects, contracts in the millions to invariably the same companies, the business of 20 million tourists a year – but not in a sustainable cultural life in Venice. In the city of the world's oldest film festival, there is only one repertory cinema the size of a community hall.... Culture? Yes, if you define that as water glass music from Novosibirsk, carnival masks and Disney film productions."

Hanno Rauterberg has risked a look into the future of humanity at the "Entry" exhibition in Essen's Zeche Zollverein, and reports enthusiastically of the exhibition's coral houses, news robots and human BANG design. "This is the domain of the tiny B-its, A-toms, N-eurons and G-enes, the building blocks for creators of the future. They aren't interested in designing pretty casings, but in tinkering around with essentials – because the really pressing problems will only be solved by people who can come up with a new programme for the world." Click here for images of jellyfish houses, organic pavilions and electronic robot skin.

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