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25/09/2006

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 25 September, 2006

Die Welt, 25.09.2006

Reinhard Wengierek likes his plays bloody, and he finds Michael Thalheimer's version of Aeschylus' "Oresteia" (summary) in Berlin's Deutsches Theater sufficiently sanguinary. "In a gory gesture, Constanze Becker dumps a canister of blood over her head. It is the blood of her daughter Iphigenia, who was sacrificed ten years ago by her father Agamemnon in a ceremony of prayer for good weather as he set off to wage war against Troy. Consumed by a mother's pangs, Clytemnestra smokes a cigarette and cools her mind with a can of beer. Then she receives the victorious warrior (Henning Vogt) with false joy as he returns with his trophy, the seer Cassandra (played by an unforgettable Katharina Schmalenberg, whose mute despair is just as shrill as her screeching)."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 25.09.2006

Richard Kämmerlings has wandered through the Berlin Popkomm music trade fair, which ended on Friday (see our feature "Faith, pop and charity") and sees in it a perfect example of Chris Anderson's theory of the "long tail" economy. "Bestsellers, blockbusters and mega-hits are losing their significance, while the new, unlimited offer is met with an equally unlimited demand. That is the 'long tail' of the sales curve. Of the roughly one million songs available on Apple's I-tunes, 98 percent are in fact downloaded at least once by someone somewhere. Popkomm was an impressive illustration of this thesis: there were hardly any stars, but a good two thousand artists all found their own – albeit often tiny – audience."


Die Tageszeitung, 25.09.2006

In a conversation with Jörg Magenau, sociologist Wolf Lepenies (more) grants intellectuals in Eastern Europe no more than a political half-life. "The fact that the 'moralists', with a few exceptions, disappeared so quickly from the political stage on which they had played the main role has to do with what Max Weber called the 'routinisation of charisma' (more). As a rule, the intellectual heroes only lasted in politics for one legislative period. Then routine set in. With 'normality', the communists – sometimes disguised behind new party names – returned to power. Pragmatism was called for. The 'heroes' became traders. And the time of the moralists was up."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 25.09.2006


Fakhri Saleh reports on a major conflict in Egypt over the admissibility of a Koranic interpretation. The Islamic scholar Hassan Hanafi demanded at a symposium of religious leaders, "not to limit your reading of the Koran to its literal meaning." According to Saleh, this suggestion "landed on deaf ears. Instead, attention was paid to Abd as-Sabur Shahin, an instructor at Cairo University, who took part in the badgering of the progressive teacher Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid in 1990. He told Egyptian newspapers and television that he hadn't read the text of Hanafi's lecture but what he knew was enough to constitute blasphemy and sowing seeds of doubt in the hearts of the believers. He accused Hanafi of exercising critique of the Koran and arbitrarily tearing divine attributes from the holy texts. In the same vein, Sheikh Yusuf al-Badri, another rival of Abu Zaid's who demands that he be forced to divorce his wife, expressed his regret that this law no longer applied, otherwise it could have been applied to Hanafi."


Saturday 23 September, 2006

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 23.09.2006


At the end of April, the Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo was arrested. Bahman Nirumand describes how Jahanbegloo gave an interview to the news service ISNA shortly after his release in which he accused himself, "of having fallen into the grips of the American and Zionistic secret services and being used for their goals and against the national interests of Iran. Jahanbegloo told how he had been invited to many congresses and conferences, granted scholarships for his academic projects and commissioned with a comparative study of intellectuals in Eastern Europe and Iran. He was supposed, he said, to research whether Iranian intellectuals would be in a position to initiate a 'gentle revolution' similar to those of the Eastern European states." It's possible that nobody believes in the authenticity of these statements, but the message for Nirumand is clear: "Behind every foreign offer to write an article, to participate in a conference, to give an interview, to accept funding for an academic project, there hides a secret service trap, and as a result, all foreign contacts are a betrayal of national interests."


Die Welt, 23.09.2006


Mariam Lau highly recommends Ayaan Hirsi Ali's latest book "Mein Leben, Meine Freiheit" (My life, my freedom): "Every immigration politician should read her book. It's all here: how Somali refugees took social assistance from the Netherlands, a country for which they had only contempt; how feminists ducked when it came to the conflict between women's and immigrant's rights; how politicians, claiming 'pragmatism', wanted to avoid debating values, and rather saw immigration as an endless socio-economic problem."


Die Tageszeitung, 23.09.2006

Ralph Bollmann reports from the 46th German Historians' Conference in Konstanz, where one name was on everybody's lips: Guido Knopp, who for most historians is "evil incarnate." Knopp is producer of a historical series on ZDF television, and historians tend to look askance at his productions, many of which have dealt with Hitler and World War II. A session at the conference was dedicated to Knopp's method, which one professional termend "historical pornography." "For three days everyone was talking about 'Herr K.' – and they weren't referring to Bertolt Brecht, who wrote 'The Stories of Mr. Keuner.' Rather, it was a reference to the historian Golo Mann, in whose 'German History' Adolf Hitler is always just called 'H.' This branded Knopp in two ways. First, as author of television's biggest conceivable breach of civilisation, and secondly for his almost manic fixation on the Nazi era."

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Saturday 11 - 17 December, 2010

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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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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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