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04/09/2006

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 4 September, 2006

Die Zeit, 04.09.2006


In his blog, Jörg Lau looks into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the release of Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo. After four months in the notorious Evin Prison, the opposition figure made an odd avowal in an interview: "In this interview, Jahanbegloo said that secret service agents of antagonistic states had taken part in seminars he'd given abroad, with the intention of using him and his expertise on Iran for hostile purposes. He said that a study comparing civil society in Eastern Europe and Iran that he'd been working on for the transatlantic German Marshall Fund think-tank was meant to be used to plan the overthrow of the regime in Iran." Lau's assessment: "The transcript of Ramin Jahanbegloo's 'avowal' leaves no doubt that we are witness to the public (self-) destruction of an outstanding intellectual."


Die Welt, 04.09.2006


Mariam Lau portrays the lawyer and feminist Seyran Ates, who has closed her law practice in Berlin after being attacked by the husband of one of her clients. Ates sees violence against women in the Turkish community as a consequence of the social stigmatisation of Turkish immigrants. "'My brothers didn't beat me in Turkey,' she remembers. "We knew poverty, but not violence. My father was raised with the idea that you don't hit women or children, and he passed that on to us. In a situation where he himself was humiliated as a Gastarbeiter, he was all the more keen to protect his family in evil Germany. In Turkey the problem of domestic violence is often discussed.' Young women are more successful in Germany, and so people take revenge on them." (Here an article by Seyran Ates on the double standard by which women's rights are measured for Muslims.)


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 04.09.2006


A bewildered Barbara Villiger watched the carryings-on in Berlin's Schaubühne where the Thomas Ostermeier and Constanza Macras co-production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was being staged. More than anything she was confused by the sober state of her fellow critics. "The German critics who attended the premiere of the "Midsummer Night's Dream" mash-up in Piraus at the end of June (see our feature "The animal in you") must have been well and truly sozzled on ouzo. Otherwise it's hard to explain why hopping from superlative to superlative in an ecstasy of writing they hoisted to Olympic heights a production which on sober observation is more conducive to speechless jaw-dropping. A familiar phenomenon: the key to enjoying a party is to get drunk with everyone else."


Saturday 2 September, 2006


Die Welt, 02.09.2006

Elmar Krekeler assesses the state of literature since September 11, and concludes that it has "reclaimed its status as a medium for world analysis." "History is being made and experienced again in the German novel. Sometimes like in the news tickers on Bloomberg TV, little bites of real history run through the prose pieces. People experience themselves in them as historical beings. And social ones. Writers like Thomas Hettche and Katharina Hacker go boldly and coolly into the core of society and their generation. And they show, with no trace of western self-hatred or fashionable capitalist-bashing, how hollow it has become in recent decades, and that it is high time to fill this centre before society implodes of its own accord, without the help of bombs being thrown in from outside." (See our feature by Thomas Hettche "A St. Moritz pilgrimage.")

Director Tom Tykwer talks with Hanns-Georg Rodek about why it was a cathartic experience for him to make the film adaptation of Patrick Süskind's "Perfume", which will come out in Germany in mid-September, and what fascinated him about the murderer Grenouille: "For me the central theme is man's 'Geworfenheit' or state of being 'thrown' into this Moloch of a world. Unimaginably much is demanded of us, and our – for the most part somewhat twisted – egos are easily overstrained. This is the story of someone who tries to rise to the occasion, but who has precious little experience of how to deal with his situation. Grenouille resorts to strategies of masquerade and seduction that we're all familiar with; he just chooses the wrong weapons. But his desire to be noticed, to be loved, is completely understandable.... Every morning we go out into the world, we look into the mirror and think: I'm not attractive enough, not interesting enough, not intelligent enough. How can I prevent people from seeing this right away?"


Berliner Zeitung, 02.09.2006


Four years after his article "The obligation to love Israel," Italian journalist and former left-wing radical Adriano Sofri calls for Israel to forgo atomic weapons – for peace's sake. "People talk of times when the Israeli government debated whether it might be an opportune moment to use nuclear force – in Golda Meir's kitchen in 1973 for example. The Cuban Crisis aside, this was the moment when we were closest to nuclear war. Perhaps it was the balance of horrors that prevented a third world war. Perhaps Israel's nuclear arsenal stopped the country's sworn enemies, the rows of tyrants and bandits for whom the destruction of the Zionist state is top of the agenda. Perhaps. But what protection can atomic bombs offer today, when their deployment would mean nothing less than Israel's suicide and collapse under the responsibility for nuclear apocalypse? What protection can they offer when the neighbouring Iranian apocalypse-monger is engaged in filling his own nuclear arsenal – and opening the way for a proliferation of atomic weapons from which no Arab nation wants to be excluded?"


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 02.09.2006


At the Venice Film Festival, Susan Vahabzadeh watched director Paul Verhoeven's hotly anticipated film "Black Book" and was suitably gobsmacked. "Paul Verhoeven has sought out for this film a story from Nazi-occupied Holland. And he tells it basically like 'Showgirls'. His fans will forgive him. 'Black Book' bears an uncanny resemblance to a seventies B-catastrophe movie, and as such is a melodrama more than anything else. It's crazy to talk about the Third Reich like this. But it's not heartless. A sadness that can be conveyed, or a moment of exuberance in a dead-end situation which one truly understands – that is still the most real thing that cinema can offer."

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

A clutch of German newspapers launch an appeal against the criminalisation of Wikileaks. Vera Lengsfeld remembers GDR dissident Jürgen Fuchs and how he met death in his cell. All the papers were bowled over Xavier Beauvois' film "Of Gods and Men." The FR enjoys a joke but not a picnic at a staging of Stravinsky's "Rake's Progress" in Berlin. Gustav Seibt provides a lurid description of Napoleonic soap in the SZ. German-Turkish Dogan Akhanli author explains what it feels like to be Josef K.
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Saturday 4 - Friday 10 December

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 27 November - Friday 3 December

Danish author Frederik Stjernfelt explains how the Left got its culturist ideas. Slavenka Draculic writes about censoring Angelina Jolie who wanted to make a film in Bosnia. Daniel Cohn-Bendit talks   about his friendship, falling out and reconciliation with Jean-Luc Godard. Wikileaks has caused an embarrassed silence in the Arab world, where not even al-Jazeera reported on the what the sheiks really think. Alan Posener calls for the Hannah Arendt Institute in Dresden to be shut down.
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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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