18/09/2006

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.

Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech

Pope Benedict XVI unleashed a commotion with the speech he delivered on September 12 in Regensburg, when he quoted Byzantine Emperor emperor Manuel II Paleologus, who compared the images of God in the Bible and the Koran (text of the speech here) saying that early Islam was "evil and inhuman".

In today's Süddeutsche Zeitung, Alexander Kissler examines Pope Benedict XVI's approach to inter-religious dialogue, in contrast to that of his predecessor. "Benedict's preferred mode of religious discussion is not acclamation, not talk of the common territory in Abrahamic religions. The theologian on the papal throne demands that we have the courage to argue. It was precisely this sort of dissent-based dialogue that Emperor Manuel II had with the unnamed Persian whom Benedict so prominently quoted in Regensburg. The 1986 World Day of Prayer in Assisi is legendary, when John Paul II invited 200 religious leaders to meet. Shamen, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians all prayed to their respective God, and African Animists to 'Crashing Thunder'. Together they prayed for world peace. But Ratzinger explained later that Assisi was no model for the future. It was not so easy to sidestep the question of truth by glossing things over in universal brotherliness."

"Islam wants world domination" is the headline brandished in Saturday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Feuilleton, complete with photo of Anthony Quinn as Muhammed's sword swinging Uncle Hamza in "The Message" (1976). Ancient historian Egon Flaig sees the Pope's speech in Regensburg as a justified reference to the martial-imperialist strains in Islam and gives historical precedent for his argument. "Since the beginning of the classical world between the ninth and the eleventh centuries Islamic jurists have divided the world into the "House of Islam" and the "House of War". This division is not dependent on where large numbers of Muslims live, or even represent the majority, but is made according to where Islam rules, in the form of Sharia, and where it does not rule. This dichotomy is therefore not religious but political. And war will reign between these two parts of the world until the House of War no longer exists and Islam rules over the world. (Verse 8, 39 and 9, 41)."

In Saturday's Frankfurter Rundschau, Stephan Hebel has no time for Muslim criticism of the Pope's speech. "Perhaps it has to be made clear that the head of the Catholic Church is not a Muslim. Wherever he speaks, Pope Benedict XVI does so as the highest protector and representative of his faith. Whether you're a Christian or not, you've got to grant him that right." Certainly, Hebel writes, the Pope's quote of the Byzantine Emperor can be read as a critique of Islam. "However his Regensburg speech gives no rational ground for the excitement now being stirred up from Pakistan to Europe. With a minimum of understanding, the call for reason in faith can be simply understood as an across-the-board refusal of violent proselytizing, and so also of the previous behaviour of the Catholic Church."


Monday 18 September, 2006

Die Tageszeitung, 18.09.2006

India is guest of honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, which kicks off next month. The paper interviews Indian writer Vikram Chandra (author of "Sacred Games") about the most influential literary language in India (English), the Mafia and corruption. "Corruption exists everywhere in the world. But it possibly plays a bigger role in everyday life in India and countries like it than elsewhere. Paradoxically, that is also a heritage of the Indian ideal of establishing a centralised, socialist economic structure. The result was a gigantic bureaucracy and a jungle of rules and regulations in which you need thirty signatures to get anything done at all. And that gives thirty people the chance to earn something from the transaction."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 18.09.2006

Sonja Zekri has talked with the Moscow gallerist Marat Guelman, whose gallery represents the most critical painters while at the same time doing black propaganda in the interests of the Kremlin: "He tells an enlightening anecdote: one of the plaintiffs against (the exhibition) 'Russia 2' (more here) was Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the nationalist 'Motherland' party, which Guelman invented to siphon votes away from the communists. 'I told him: if you start getting involved in art, I'll do the same in politics. Seven months later he backed out,' says Guelman triumphantly. Suddenly the most disparate fields of activity come together in an intellectual landscape where aesthetics and politics interpenetrate, making survival in both areas a question of skilful manipulation. And no one manipulates as well as Guelman."


Saturday 16 September, 2006


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 16.09.2006

Franziska Augstein talks with Hungarian Nobel Prize laureate Imre Kertesz about his new book "Dossier K." and the difficulty of transforming his autobiography as a Holocaust survivor into fiction: "The author fails because he can no longer imagine his life in the concentration camp. I can no longer imagine how I managed to survive from one day to the next. I can no longer imagine how it was to stuff myself with potato peels, or how it was not to be able to go to the toilet when I was working. If I wanted to write that, it would make bad literature... Literature is literature. It is born in language, and language has rules that cannot be contravened. In a novel I can only act as the rules of language permit. That's possible – ironically. But there's a trick to it. The novel is a trick, not life. You have to forgo trying to come to terms with your own experience, and describe something else." See our interview with Imre Kerzesz, "The freedom of Bedlam."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 16.09.2006

"Berlin can be so lovely." Franz Anton Cramer was impressed by the artistic boundary crossings in choreographer Sasha Waltz' latest collaboaration project "Dialoge 06" which has taken over the entire building in the newly opened Radialsystem V. "On the top floor, the black glossy poured concrete floor of the spacious rehearsal studios is covered with a warmly smiling wooden dance floor, which is divided into a series of flat enclosures just large enough for the dancers to loll about in. One of these boxes is filled with a reddish-brown pigment and water is dripping into it from above. The dancers in this compartment gradually become more and more covered in colour as they move about until they are eventually wrapped up in paper and carried off to the shower room."

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