From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Frankfurter Rundschau 16.05.2008

For Austrian writer Franzobel, Josef Frizl is not an un-typical Austrian ("even the threats about gassing his victims if they tried to escape don't come from just anywhere") and warns about demonising him. "The more perverse and bestial Fritzl is made out to be, the more normal he appears. He did the shopping, took the rubbish out, bought clothes, paid the electricity bills. He kept his second family like pets, cared for them and even loved them in his way. The more inhuman he is made to look (he has a bit of Saddam Hussein about him) the more ordinary, quotidian his obsessions about control and security seem – which only makes the whole thing more terrifying."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 16.05.2008

Will there come a day when one alphabet is used by the whole world? And if so, will it be the Roman, the Chinese or the Arabic? Anything is possible believes Swiss Japanologist - and "ß" critic - Florian Coulmas. Through the internet, for a while it looked as if the Roman alphabet (in the form of English) had triumphed but: "no one believes this any more. With the steady growth of the community of internet users, the percentage of Cyberspace communication using English and the Roman alphabet is shrinking rapidly. Between 1996 and 2007, English usage dropped from 80 to 31 percent. And there is a huge rise in the use of languages with ancient alphabets, particularly Arabic and Chinese. Japan, South Korea, China and India are among the ten countries which are setting up the most new internet sites."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

In his "doubtful interjection", Italian writer Sebastiano Vassalli compares Veltroni and Berlusconi and admits to his own "absolute indifference" at Berlusconi's re-election. "I have no enthusiasm for Mr. B. but even less for Walter Veltroni, who is the embodiment of the Italian 'Catho-communist' soul and culturally speaking, he even more deceitful that his victorious opponent. Businesses pass, the churches remain and right now the Catholic Church is winning Italy back, a hundred and forty years after the end of Papal world power."

Kölner Stadtanzeiger 15.05.2008

Arab leaders fear peace with Israel, believes the Berlin-based Iraqi writer Najem Wali: "There can be no peace without talking directly with the other side and learning about their way of life. Why do our leaders fear this truth? They are scared that their countrymen would recognise that the only link between the standstill and devastation of Arab societies and the Arab-Israeli conflict is this: peace with Israel would bring an end to the opium trance which allows Arab leaders to hold their peoples in a state of inertia. This is the cause of the problems for which Israel is being blamed."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.05.2008

In an interview, writer Marcel Beyer (more here in Books this Season) talks about his work at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, where he is researching the connection between Proust and bees. And he points to some differences between writers and scientists. "I am fascinated by the incredible knowledge about the world which zoologists I have met possess. You meet a spider researcher who is researching a species which lives on the leaves of a particular plant in Costa Rica. You think: 'Oh this is just a specialist and everything thing he knows ends at the horizon of this leaf.' And then you realise how wrong you are, because he knows just as much about others species of animals, about memory, genetics and so on. In my own branch of culture, literature, I meet lots of people who are thoroughly unambitious in what they want to know."

Die Welt 14.05.2008

Two major exhibitions of German art are on show at the national museum in Bejing – one of landscape painting and the other, a Gerhard Richter retrospective. Richter, as Johnny Erling discovers, has been hugely influential on Chinese contemporary art. "The Bejing art critic, Zhu Qi, who translated Richter's thoughts about painting from 1962 to 1993 from English, dates Richter's influence on China back to the end of the nineties. His 'photorealism and blurred focus' fascinated a generation of young painters, many of whom are big names today. 'Good artists are not so much interested in Richter's style any more, but in the thinking behind it.'"

Frankfurter Rundschau 14.05.2008

His Hamlet at the ongoing Theatertreffen theatre festival in Berlin is magnificent, but says a fanatic Peter Michalzik, actor Joachim Meyerhoff is best described as a theatrical gesamtkunstwerk. "Meyerhoff's ability to be agreeable to people is so strong that even those who hate his type of acting tend to love him. He is a protagonist of the new theatre, of the boisterous, the unconditioned and the crass, but even those who want empathy and beautiful souls from their actors love him. Wherever Meyerhoff goes, theatre goes with him, and it's irresistible. Another great actor, Sepp Bierbichler, said a few years back that the renewal of the theatre would probably need to be actor-driven. He must have had Meyerhoff in mind."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Writer and editor of the Al-Mustaqbal newspaper whose building was recently set on fire, Hassan Dawud expresses his exasperation at the situation in Lebanon: "When I look back over the thirty-three years which have passed since the start of the civil war in Lebanon, I have the impression that I have seen more war action than any Bedouin in Ibn Mansur's time. It was a life that consisted either of being at war or waiting for war to return."

Die Welt 10.05.2008

Ernst Cramer remembers the burning of the books 75 years ago. This was not intitiated by the Nazis, but by Germany's intellectual upper class, "fomented by German student body (Dst) and zealously supported by the National Socialist German Student Association (NSDStB). So it was students who prepared the way for books to be burned. Professors, too, were not only active in the 'struggle committees' which hand-picked books for eradication, but often attended the actual burnings – often in full academic dress. (...) And 'fire oaths' were coined for chanting at the burnings. For example, 'Against decadence and moral decay ... I give to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Glaeser and Erich Kästner.' Another slogan – protesting against Theodor Wolff and Georg Bernhard went: 'Against elitist and anti-national journalism'. Another, aimed at Erich Maria Remarque: 'Against literary betrayal of the soldiers of the World War'. The writers earmarked for censorship included Walter Benjamin, Bertold Brecht, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka, Heinrich Mann, Nelly Sachs, Anna Seghers and Arnold and Stefan Zweig."

Die Welt 10.05.2008

60 years after the founding of their state, Israelis have abandoned all hope of peace, historian Benny Morris believes. The turning point for him came in 2000 when Arafat rejected the two-state solution, thereby signalling that the Arabs would never accept Israel's existence. "The majority of Israelis looked around and saw an Islamic-Arab which was digging in its heels and radicalising throughout the region, it was brutal and closed to any form of compromise and change, and it was resistant to the West and its messages of democracy, liberalisation, secularism and individualism. And the refusal of the Palestinian Arabs to recognise Israel in recent decades has only fortified the radicalisation process in the Islamic-Arab world."

By contrast, Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh, president of the Al-Qud University in Jerusalem, is convinced that peace is possible this year. "If you conducted a public opinion poll today, you would see that the majority of Palestinians would not hesitate to vote for a two-state solution." - let's talk european