From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Die Tageszeitung 29.02.2008

Martin Walser (78), one of Germany's leading novelists has just written a novel about Goethe in love called "Eine Liebende Mann." Dirk Knipphals was at the reading in Weimar where Goethe is buried. "There is often something rather moving about an extravagantly prepared celebration where the only person who doesn't fit the occasion properly is the reason for the entire thing. And so it was on Wednesday in Weimar where, dripping in symbolism, Martin Walser's new novel was presented to the public. Chandeliers, classical columns, the German president – everything was laid on to celebrate the Goethe novel and its writer in style. Even the weather played along, providing a starry spread above the classical city. Only Martin Walser's tie stood out like a sore thumb with its unidentified pattern in a vile shade of blue. Some observers claimed they could identify cars in it. This tie was a little anarchistic moment, a welcome whiff of kiss-my-ass attitude in such halloed literary surroundings. You might say that the tie suited Walser perfectly. It allowed his usual literary subject – the brooding, petit bourgeois, uncomfortable in his own skin, to reach into this sacred space."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

April 1st sees the publication of Peter Rühmkorf's new book of poems "Paradiesvogelgeschiß" (literally 'bird of paradise shit' which translates better in English as 'peacock shit', also in the sense of the stress caused by a vain, strutting person.) In a full page interview with Franziska Augstein the 78-year-old poet talks about the Nazis, his unknown father (a Punch and Judy puppeteer with whom his mother had a brief affair: "His name was Hans, I can go that far. These men are always called Hans, as we know from [writer] Ingeborg Bachmann"), 1968 and how his generation felt after the war. "Was yours a cheerful lost generation?" Augstein asks. "Oh yes! And we thought it was so important not to be dominated by the literary self. No, we were always we. 'Die wir Atem holen....' (we who catch our breaths). My friend [who wrote this] Werner Riegel died very young in 1956. Only after that did I find my own tone. But the thing about finding your own tone is that you don't just have to find it, you have to keep it at an arm's length. Having your own style but – in order to avoid constant repetition – being able to vary it. That is the basic law of art: repetition and variation."

Die Zeit 28.02.2008

Johannes Voswinkel looks at the situation of the media in provincial Russia, where papers like the Ivanovo Press are at the mercy of all-powerful local tyrants. "The last editor-in-chief left after a member of the local parliament slapped him in face in front of the whole office. Then the local newspaper distributors and the post office stopped delivering the paper. Local businesses and kiosk owners who continued to sell the Ivanovo Press were threatened with losing their licences. Since then sympathisers only sell the newspaper privately. Then the printers stopped printing the paper. Now the Ivanovo Press can only be printed in the neighbouring area of Kostroma, 150 kilometres away. 'We are like a tiger in a cage which growls every now and then,' says the new editor-in-chief Valeri Smetanin. 'And then someone jabs it in the side with a stick.'"

Art historian Wolfgang Ullrich challenges his colleagues to be more critical of contemporary art. "One of the greatest failures of art history is that it has failed to shake off its naively starry-eyed devotional relationship to art. Which is why many of its practitioners find critical discussion near on impossible. And why they feel it is inappropriate to draw the line, and - paradoxically - both utterly reactionary and shamelessly heretical to start to differentiate, or to accuse individual artists of ideology, or to place a question mark behind a big name like Beckmann."

Die Welt 27.02.2008

Ulli Kulke has become an avid reader of where Briton Bill Lamin posts the letters written by his grandfather Harry during the First World War, putting them online 90 years to the day after they were written. "No book could achieve such a thing. It needs the temporal dimension of the internet blog. None of the nealy half a million 'receivers' of Harry's letters from the field, the blog readers, knows when the next letter will arrive. It might will be tomorrow, it might be in several weeks. If it comes at all. And what if the telegram with the terrible news comes instead. Bill Lamin will certainly not spare us this. So much is sure."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 26.02.2008

Jörg Magenau talks to writer Sherko Fatah (son of an Iraqi Kurdish father and a German mother who spent his early childhood in the GDR) about his book "Das dunkle Schiff" (the dark ship) which is set in Kurdish Northern Iraq an area which apparently looks a bit like the GDR. "Here they were again, the trucks, the munitions, even the houses were like GDR buildings. Later I realised that the Stasi were involved in setting up the bureaucracy in Iraq in the 1970s. I was amazed to rediscover in Bagdad things from my childhood in East Berlin. Today this would be called globalisation."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Christiane Hoffmann desrcribes Iran as a veiled society which draws mystery across Western transparency. This even applies to reformers. "They are engaged at a deeply intellectually level with ideas of modernity and yet they tremble at the thought of the consequences of their ideas. They fear to speak openly about things that many of them have vouched for behind closed doors: that in order to be successful, the reforms must lead towards a secular system. This idea has to remain hidden because it means they could be accused of betraying the revolution, but also because they would fear the loss of their own identity which by definition has to be non-western."

In an interview Ray Kurzweil, the sixty-year-old pioneer of artificial intelligence and a dyed-in the wool westerner, fearlessly homes in on the consequences of our future knowledge. "Even if we don't have the necessary means to hand, we still have the knowledge of how to live on to the time in the future when it will be available. With today's knowledge, even people of my generation can still be in good shape in fifteen years time. By then it will be possible to modify our biological programme through biotechnology, which will allow us to live on until nanotechnology allows us to live forever." - let's talk european