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05/10/2006

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.

Die Zeit 05.10.2006

"They are old before their time, they are overly mature, they're everything that you find in the dictionary under precocious. They are the latest discovery in American literature: American geeks," concludes Georg Diez, writing about the new generation of American writers, among them Jonathan Safran Foer, Marisha Pessl (more) and Benjamin Kunkel (more). "He sits in his New York apartment in Chelsea, behind him on the wall hangs a blue butterfly in a glass box, on the floor there are books, of course one by Nietzsche. 'My next book will be different,' he says. 'More serious.' 'Are they not serious enough already?' he laughs and his eyes narrow, as though he detects criticism. 'Nietzsche once said that Jesus, if he had aged, would have gotten funnier. Hesse refers to that as well, as a matter of interest. So there is a hope that I'll relax more, open up.'"


Neue Zürcher Zeitung
05.10.2006

The Lenbachhaus in Munich had its rooms re-designed for the Blauen Reiter exhibition showing works by Franz Ackermann, Thomas Demand, Olafur Eliasson and Katharina Große. Birgit Sonna enthuses: "The most elementary is Olafur Eliasson's engagement with the discourse of the White Cube. Instead of the standard titan white, he uses what used to be the most common whitewash for walls, in a greyish chamois. There was no titan white before World War Two; it only became standard due to the economic dictates of the American paint maker Dupont Chemicals, which made it number null on the colour scale. For that reason, among others, exhibition rooms the world over look the same. But the trick of Eliasson's purist space is the control point on a milk glass ceiling which, via the Internet, generates light from specific geographic locations at different times of day. Thus Eliasson responds to Kandinsky's demand that the artist should view the pictures in his studio at different times of the day and at twilight."

Writer Alena Wagnerova (more) honours the seventieth birthday of Vaclav Havel. "In his life, Vaclav Havel, a man of the theatre, was constantly confronted with new roles. The child of an upper-class Prague family, he was at various times and sometimes synchronously: son, brother, chemical lab assistant, friend, soldier, illuminator, director's assistant, dramatist, student, poet, critic, lover, husband, essayist, playwright, high-flyer, dissident, helper, speaker for Charter 77, prisoner, moral authority, citizen and president. But above all, he remained a decent person."


Die Tageszeitung
05.10.2006

Dirk Knipphals considers something that has rarely been subject to consideration: the "official opening event of the Frankfurt Book Fair." He was struck by the speech made by foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier. "Having praised the country of focus, India, as the largest democracy of the world – as the situation demanded – the foreign minister took up the theme of the importance of culture. And while one has the impression from the previous red-green government that everything that can be labelled culture is great, Steinmeier mentions that culture in Germany can also be used as a means of exclusion. A simple, historically irrefutable thought. And yet, much is changed once articulated. For example, it is then no longer possible to bandy about the terms cultural nation and cultural identity, as was the case under the former cultural minister of state Christina Weiss... The speech can be understood thus: there is no readily identifiable 'German' culture."


Süddeutsche Zeitung 05.10.2006

Are we at it again? Reinhard J. Brembeck describes the decision by a Spanish village to forgo their drastic celebrations to mark the 500th or so anniversary of the Catholic Reconquista. "At village festivals in the Mediterranean province of Valencia they enjoy re-enacting fierce battles between the Christians and the Moors. Take Beneixama, for example, where they usually celebrate the victory by setting off fireworks in the head of a Muhammed dummy. In Bocairent they go so far as to hurl the Muhammed dummy from a tower and then, again, the Prophet's skull is blown up to frenetic cheers from the crowd." The fact that we'll be seeing less and less of these sorts of events in the future isn't so much to do with Islamists, according to Brembeck, or even about betraying tradition. "For a few years now the country has evidently begun bidding farewell to many of its archaic and gruesome festivals."


Der Tagesspiegel 05.10.2006

Feridun Zaimoglu is upbeat in a discussion with Caroline Fetscher and says that "the three tribes", the east Germans, west Germans and foreigners are getting along quite well. Naturally there is cause for concern. "Homegrown white trash is eating away at contemporary society – just think about Clemens Meyer's novel 'Als wir träumten' (whilst we were dreaming) – and so is the ethnoproletariat in the suburbs. For years I've watched how swathes of German-born Turks have drifted into these groups. The face of the social enemy is changing, the 'Muslim' is now ethnicised, he's the violent little surburban criminal. This is an area which I keep an eye on, because I'm interested in places which are severed from society. This phenomenon is all about poverty and I want to slap that on the Christian and Social Democratic politicians' foreheads. There's enough of them who mean well but whip up hysteria about ethnicity, talking heads who think they know about the world but have no idea what they're on about."

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Saturday 13 - Friday 19 November, 2010

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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

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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

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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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