From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Süddeutsche Zeitung 28.12.2007

Gottfried Knapp reports from Nanjing on the traveling exhibition organised by German business and the Goethe Insitute in which Germany presented itself as a land of innovation to China. It is all about ecology. Knapp was particularly taken by the pavilion constructions by the Munich installation artist Markus Heinsdorff which are made of bamboo. "You say time and again again how intrigued the Chinese were by what they considered the almost exoticness of the German constructions made from Chinese bamboo. Indeed one of the top politicians from Nanjing asked at the opening of the Germany Esplanade whether the architects had imported the bamboo from Germany. And one could observe passers by talking shop to one other and explaining the construction of the pavilion while stroking the metal joining sections admiringly."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 28.12.2007

Markus Jakob is concerned about Barcelona's Sagrada Familia, which potentially risked being tunneled under to build an extension of the high-speed AVE. "It might turn out that the seven kilometer stretch between Santa and Sagrera is impenetrable. But what if the tunnel does end up being built and Gaudi's church collapses? No doubt many people would be secretly delighted. When Gaudi died in 1927, the Sadrada Familia had enemies on two fronts. For many people the cathedral was an aesthetic insult, and for the others it was expression of the arrogance of the hated power of the Church. These grieveances are just as strong today."

Die Tageszeitung 27.12.2007

"For better or for worse, Muslims and non-Muslims have come one step closer with the study 'Muslims in Germany'." Eberhard Seidel comments on the German Interior Ministry's study dealing with "integration, barriers to integration, religion and attitudes toward democracy, the rule of law and politically and religiously-motivated violence." Its results show that "considerable similarities exist between the attitude of a minority of Muslims and the authoritarianism, intolerance, xenophobia and extreme right wing mentality among young Germans. The sole difference: in the one case the ideology of inequality is based on religion, in the other on nationalism. This data and the questions raised could open a new chapter in the social sciences."

Asked about the relationship between his two most recent films, David Cronenberg hits his interviewer Cristina Nord with a sober truth: "In a way it's comforting when people think that as a director you can make exactly the film you have in your head. In reality it's so difficult to get a film financed that it's a miracle if you can make anything at all. There were other projects I was almost able to shoot after 'A History of Violence.' If I had, we'd now be talking about a completely different film."

Die Welt

In its cultural pages the paper looks back on 2007. Conductor Daniel Barenboim reflects in a two-page interview on the differences between today's musicians and those of the past: "It's like this. The young people who come and audition for me today – and in my various artistic positions I've been able to acquire a lot of experience in this domain – play a good deal better than 20 years ago. And then you say: number three is well suited to our orchestra. He plays the notes well. But at the same time he lacks the instinct to ask himself what the notes he's playing mean. What's missing today is the ability to think in contexts. In music, and outside it."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Around 1.3 million hectolitres of wine are produced annually in Arab countries, reports Alfred Hackensberger, and a lot of that goes down Muslim throats. While the consumption of alcohol is considered a sin in the Sharia, it is not explicitly forbidden by the Koran: "That's the key argument of all those Muslims who don't want to deny themselves a beer or two after work. Another source is the Persian and Arabian poetic tradition of Islamic tolerance in former times, which held wine drinking in high esteem. Hafis is the best-known representative of this in Persian poetry, while among Arabic writers Abu Nuwas (750-819), also born in Persia, was as famous as he was notorious. He celebrated the objects of his desire with the words: 'For young boys I left the girls behind / And old wine drives the thoughts of clear water from my head.'"

Süddeutsche Zeitung 27.12.2007

Today's debate around climate change raises questions for Swedish author Lars Gustafsson: "Which ethical rules should we go by? The current discussion on the environment seems – certainly as far as global warming goes – to assume that the solutions lie in the sphere of individual activity: riding bicycles, saying no to bottled water. This belief is liberal to the core. What remains in question, however, is whether such changes in lifestyle have even the slightest relevance. And by the same token, the idea that any ethical or unethical attitudes could influence the development of productivity in China or India seems equally escapist. Apparently, liberalism is coming up against its limits."

Die Welt

Author Veit Heinichen, inventor of the Triest-based police commissioner Proteo Laurenti, is delighted at the extension of the Schengen area. But he also has a word of warning: "This Europe is not just one of inclusion. It also excludes. The Schengen line has shifted eastward and southward despite many question marks. But celebrations don't like to be interrupted by doubts. Officials and dignitaries are making history. This is clearly signalled by the fall of a border, but also by the establishment of a new one, and not too distant at that. Because for Triest and the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region as well as for Slovenia, the extension of freedom of travel is a relief. But the optimism of the people – which European politicians also swear by – will only match the new reality if the next extension includes the accession of Croatia."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 22.12.2007

Homer's secret is out," announces the FAZ in the Bilder und Zeiten supplement. Writer and translator Raoul Schrott puts together a fresh and multifaceted image of Homer. Homer, he writes, came from Cilicia, in what is South-Eastern Turkey today. "What makes his epos so unique are the parentheses which contain Greek fables and genealogies, Assyrian legal and contractual practices, prayers and sacrifice rituals, the most diverse realities as well as the names of thousands of people and places. His work is an encyclopaedia of its time. To this end, Homer was also a protohistorian and geographer bent on documentation. And as such, Homer emerges as a representative of that elite profession whose job it was to draft written documents of all kinds: a scribe who did his work within the administrative apparatus set up by the Assyrians in Cilicia."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 22.12.2007

Sieglinde Geisel reports on the plans of the American film director David Lynch for Berlin's Teufelsberg, one of the so-called rubble-mountains built after WWII. "He has apparently bought the Teufelsberg - or Devil's Mountain - not for use as a film location but to build a "University of Invincible Germany" in the name of transcendental meditation. The public presentation of the project in the cinema Urania however ended in uproar. The German 'Raja' Emmanuel Schiffgens appeared in a white robe and golden crown. He asked the audience to repeat "invincible Germany" three times and when he then went on to say that regrettably Hitler had not possessed the techniques of invincibility, David Lynch had to fight to control the audience"

Der Tagesspiegel 22.12.2007

Writer Bora Cosic introduces us to the Serbian art of celebrating festivities, for which every opportunity is seized. "Just like in ancient Rome, every Orthodox household celebrates its own patron saint. Indeed the Orthodox religion has all number of elements which date back to pre-Christian times and Serbs are really heathens in disguise. So as long as there is no crazy war on at that particular time, the Serbs will organise a celebratory feast in honour of their own lares and penates. In the run-up to such days, the household pets are taken over by panic because Serbs will slaughter anything that comes their way, chickens, geese and turkeys, but mostly suckling pigs. Everything in this country is grunting and squeaking at the same time." - let's talk european