From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Die Welt 11.04.2008

For the first time ever, an (untranslated) German book, Charlotte Roche's "Feuchtegebiete" or "moist spots", has topped Amazon's global bestseller list. (more here) Although Hendrik Werner can't stop turning the pages, he is annoyed just the same. "Haven't we seen all this before? Pushing the limits of disgust, the limits of pain ad nauseam? Hasn't this been the standard fare of contemporary European literature for quite some time now? This supposedly no-holes-barred taboo breaking whose showy shamelessness turns out, on closer inspection, to be little more that calculated provocation?"

Berliner Zeitung 11.04.2008

Political scientist Behrouz Khosrozadeh portrays Iranian thinker Abdolkarim Soroush whose book, "Expansion of Prophetic Experience", which is due out in English this year questions the Koran and has brought him parallels with Salman Rushdie. "It is impossible to overestimate the radicalness of what he is saying. Even the most courageous Muslim reformist thinkers such as Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid and Mohammad Arkoun have never demanded more than historically-oriented reading of the Koran. Soroush has now broken the greatest taboo of Islamic exegesis. 'The Koran,' he says, 'is man's creation and potentially fallible.'"

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 10.04.2008

"Lust for power can become a plague," writes Chenjerai Hove, Zimbabwean author living in exile in America, on the elections in his country which President Mugabe is refusing to recognise. "Intoxicated by wealth and omnipotence, Robert Mugabe has decided to grant his country an election farce which he doesn't even believe in himself. The people have expressed their demands for a new vision, but President Mugabe continues to prefer the path of political and economic downfall. After 28 years in – increasingly crumbling – power, Mugabe obviously wants to see still more corpses on our streets. His youth militia are sharpening their machetes, like vultures circling around fresh carrion. I have to think of the lines of the late Ugandan poet Okot p'Bitek: And while the pythons of sickness / Swallow the children / And the buffalos of poverty / Knock the people down / And ignorance stands there / Like an elephant..."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 09.04.2008

Ulrich M. Schmid gives the background to the recent Russian Duma resolution which stated that the famine in Ukraine in 1932 should not be considered genocide. "During the enforced collectivisation, Stalin wanted to drive the farmers into kolhozes or collective farms as quickly as possible. So relentless were the grain requisitions that commissars even seized seed from the farmers. Since Ukraine was the empire's grain vault, the famine hit the areas in Russia's south particularly hard. And it was hardly inconvenient to Stalin that the brutal agricultural reorganisation dealt a blow to Ukrainian nationalism. It is also unlikely we will see a clear substantiation of the genocide thesis in the future. But there is no question that the diehard communists were in the wrong when they refused to vote for the Duma resolution on the basis that the famine was caused by a failed harvest."

Frankfurter Rundschau 08.04.2008

In interview with Aureliana Sorrento, Italy's most popular anti-politician Beppe Grillo explains why Italians should not vote for corpses, how the next "kiss-my-ass-day" will rouse the country from its coma, and the next citizen-inspired ballot he wants to push through: such as bringing an end to subsidies for book publishers. "Secondly we want to end the journalism order. This is something that only exists in Italy, a legacy of Mussolini's. Is it acceptable that you have to be a member of an order, that you have to pass a test to join the order, or rather buy the rights, to be able to publish? Everybody should write and be able to express their opinion."

From the blogs 08.04.2008

In his thoughts on the German blogger congress Re:publika, Don Alphonso diagnoses a strange fixation of the alpha bloggers with the traditional media, for whom they are bent on becoming a coffin nail. But what have German bloggers done that is so relevant? "Which well-known German blogger who showed up at the congress has really got anything to say about the global finance crisis? The minimum wage? In-depth analysis of the the middle-class impoverishment? How many book reviews did they write last year? Where are the texts brimming with articulate usage of the conditional and the subjunctive, and where are the real efforts to enrich and influence debate?"

Süddeutsche Zeitung 08.04.2008

The "Train of Commemoration" sp/tost report, will not be pulling in at Berlin's Haupbahnhof. It was due to sit there for ten days with its exhibition in the wagons to remind people that the Reichsbahn was one of the key contributors to the mass murder of the European Jews. This is not to be: the Deutsche Bahn is refusing to let the train enter the Hauptbahnhof - on technical grounds. To accommodate the train's steam engine, apparently, it would be necessary to deactive the smoke alarms which would present a threat to public safety. And there are not enough platforms and tracks. Having the train sit in the station would necessitate the technical impossibility of redirecting thirty trains a day."

Frankfurter Rundschau 07.04.2008

Forced resettlement, imprisoned journalists, banned athletes. The FR documents the open letter by Chinese human rights activists Hu Jia (who has recently been thrown in prison) and Teng Biao about human rights violations in conjunction with the Olympics. One of them "Fang Zheng, an excellent athlete who holds two national records for the discus throw at China's Special Sport Games, has been deprived of the opportunity to participate in the 2008 Paralympics because he has become a living testimony to the June 4, 1989 massacre. That morning, in Tiananmen Square, his legs were crushed by a tank while he was rescuing a fellow student."

Berliner Zeitung

On what would have been the hundredth birthday of the conductor Herbert von Karajan, Peter Uehling writes that there was more to him than his much-deplored smooth aesthetics. "Karajan loved to talk about enjoyment. People should not understanding, they should enjoy, he once said. This sounds like a license to close your ears but Karajan certainly didn't see himself as an entertainer. His pursuit of beauty in a physical sense was highly anachronistic, not for nothing did he focus on rhythm and sound, music's most direct qualities. Form was transformed into vast rhythms, melodies into rivers of sound. This had nothing to do with complacency; it was part of his quest to literally physically internalise music." - let's talk european