From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty

From the blogs 14.06.2008

Writer Richard Wagner comments on the Irish "no" in his blog Achse des Guten. "The Irish, who have now rejected the Lisbon Treaty, are the useful idiots of European extremism. But they have also delivered the highly superfluous proof that there is no direct connection between social issues and poll behaviour. Ultimately, they voted against the foundation of a contract that would subsidise their own existence."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Jürgen Habermas, by contrast, congratulates the Irish on their "no" vote, which has made one thing crystal clear: "The divide between the political decision making which has been outsourced to Brussels and Strasbourg, and what remains of the opportunities to participate democratically in national states, has widened too far." Habermas points to a way forward: "The convoy in which the slowest set the pace, has served Europe well. But it is no longer the way forward. Even the suggestion by German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, that a Union president should be chosen by direct election, is way beyond the ambit of the sluggish Lisbon Treaty. The European Council of Ministers should bite the bullet and connect the next European elections to a referendum. The questions will have to be sufficiently clear to allow for a decision on direction. And all citizens will have to vote on the same day, in the same process, on the same issues. One problem of previous referenda is that opinion formation remained trapped in national contexts. With engagement and a bit of luck, this could give rise to a two-speed Union."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 19.06.2008

Irish writer John Banville is bitterly disappointed by his country's rejection of the EU Reform Treaty – which he puts down to an unsavoury collection of bedfellows. "The 'no' campaign was kindled by a dubious coalition, which crosses the spectrum from extreme right to extreme left – Nationalists, fundamentalist Christians, questionable capitalists, clueless Greens, die-hard socialists. Like the rabbit caught in the headlights of the oncoming train, we should recall Yeats and the line from his wonderful poem "The Second Coming", which was written in another crisis in the life of our small nation. 'The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.'"

The week's other stories

Die Welt

A French school teacher, Valentine Temkine, has succeeded, as Matthias Heine reports, in historically and geographically locating Samuel Beckett's absurdist play "Waiting for Godot", which supposedly took place in no-man's land. "Godot, whom Vladimir and Estragon are waiting for, is a Resistance smuggler, who is supposed to smuggle them out of occupied France into the Italian zone. The two of them are Jews on the run who come from Paris' 11 arrondissement. They are probably waiting to be rescued in the spring of 1943 on the dry, limestone heights of the Southern Alps, somewhere like the Plateau de Valensole. All of this is clearly indicated in the play – at least in the original French text." (Here Temkine's full explanation in French.)

Süddeutsche Zeitung 18.06.2008

Iranian writer Amir Hassan Cheheltan describes the piteous economic situation in his country: "Prices are rising in batches. First rice and washing powder suddenly cost several times what they used to, and now it's the turn of tea, which in all its varieties has shot up 300 to 700 percent in just a few days. This rise coincided with the FAO conference in Rome, where the Iranian president put forward eight guidelines for improving the global supply situation. The authorities at home had more practical advice for their fellow citizens: Don't drink any tea until it's cheaper!"

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.06.2008

Austrian writer Josef Winkler has won this year's Georg Büchner Prize, Germany's top literary award. Hubert Spiegel is deeply sceptical: "His songs of lamentation, meditations and litanies are punchy high-precision protocols of an observer who stands with one foot in the baroque and the other in the seventies, with Genet, Pasolini, Xaver Kroetz, Speer and Fassbinder. This is not fashionable now. But not everything that's not fashionable now is great."

Die Welt

Berliners are battling it out over the renovations of the Berliner Staatsoper. The building was destroyed in the Second World War and rebuilt in the fifties by the architect Richard Paulick, who lowered the roof by four meters. As a result the accoustics were severely impaired, both for singers and audience, and 300 seats afford a poor view of the stage. The initial plan was to convert the classicistic interior but now the architect, Klaus Roth, wants to put in a state-of-the-art modern design which maximises acoustics and viewing. Manuel Brug took the opportunity to tour Europe's opera houses and found almost none of them unmodernised. "In 1993, Jean Nouvel completely gutted the Opera de Lyon, saving only the main foyer, and replaced it with plastic, aluminium and a black cave for the audience. He also covered the house with a black steel barrel which glows red at night. By now almost 40 percent of the audience is under 30."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Croatian publisher Nenad Popovic explains in an interview why new Croatian literature is so extreme. "The country is being sold out to war mafiosi, to Europe's shadier characters, to banks who want to buy up the coast and plaster it with Spanish concrete blocks, where we can then work as waiters. Capitalism is coming at us in the guise of culture, and it is violent. There's no denying that realism is a step backwards. Yugoslavian literature was famous for refusing socialist realism. But circumstances have thrown Croatian literature back to realism. But is a civilising step backwards."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 16.06.2008

Kathrin Lauer reports from Hungary, where the sound recordings of the trial of former Hungarian Uprising leader Imre Nagy were played to the public. "Now, fifty years later, in the Budapest Open Society Archive, this unbelievable recording was aired for the first time. It covers 52 hours of the seven-day trial, in real time. The only breaks are when the judge's voice tape calls for them on tape. Surprisingly though, only fifty or so people made this staggering trip back in time. But there is an explanation for this lack of interest. Imre Nagy, who is hailed in the Western world as the last great Hungarian freedom fighter, is 'unsuited' to being an icon in his own land, according to historian Peter Kende. Hungary's Left had complexes about the issue, because most of them lived on the ideological legacy of Janos Kadar who became a 'Gulash communist' and who was put in power by the Soviets after Nagy's fall. The Right, on the other hand, had a problem with Nagy because he was an avowed communist."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 14.06.2008

In an NZZ forum on "Bread and Games" Peter Sloterdijk gave an impromtu lecture about the physical and metaphysical roots of sport", from which we have extracted the following thoughts: "People of today have to play with whatever plays with them, and the biggest ball which plays with us is the Earth itself. This is the deeper meaning of globalisation. Modernity is intrinsically globus time." - let's talk european