From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Die Welt 04.07.2008

Wieland Freund has a charming conversation with Jonathan Franzen, who seems to be lingering in Berlin for the opening of the American Embassy, and speaks about the advantages of the German language and literature, and about Berlin: "It is magnificent to come to a city which has the structure and the ambition of a true world-class city, but which is damaged in a certain way. Berlin is a shadow of its former self. It's very moving."

Die Tageszeitung 04.07.2008

The Pergamon Museum launches a new exhibition which aims to find out the whole truth about Babylon. According to Catherine Framm and Brigitte Werneburg, it is encyclopaedic in an "unparalleled" way, but far from comprehensive. "Where are the women?" There's not a word about their gradual repression by the men. "In this respect, the Code of Hammurabi has had an enduring influence. Through the codification of abortion and birth control, it placed female sexuality under state control. Even women of standing were not exempted from being sold to their husbands. In 1250 BC, the Middle Assyrian law eventually gave the state the right to supervise women being veiled in public."

Der Tagesspiegel

Serbian writer Bora Cosic, who lives in Berlin, mourns the end of the Croatian satirical newspaper, the Feral Tribune: "I hope that the news of the Feral's closure will have alarmed and shocked free thinkers in Germany. Because this sort of thing happens in every country where people accused of war crimes are inflated to heroes, where in the main square of the state you can hear the concert of the popular singer Thompson who complains that concentration camps were not more effective."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

In tie with Independence Day, Jens Bisky wanted to write something friendly about the United States, but one look at the new embassy on Pariser Platz left him non-plussed: "Pleasant proportions and rhythmical accents are entirely absent. The entrance rotunda and the fitted lanterns jar with the rest. The windows have all the clunkiness of an Eastern European primary school. The metal grates in front of them look ready to barbecue giant burgers. The protruding sunshades might be ecologically admirable but they are neither elegant nor pleasant on the eye... What sort of superpower is this, that would house itself in such an insignificant building, presenting itself as almost scared." (A few pictures here.)

Die Presse 03.07.2008

In the United Nations Human Rights Council which is dominated by African and Asian countries, protection against the defamation of religion has priority over freedom of expression and thought, reports Anne-Catherine Simon in yesterday's Presse: "Its zealous guardian is the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the consortium of 57 states which claims to represent the Islamic world. In March, it successfully petitioned for the Human Rights Council to report in future on 'abuses of the freedom of expression and thought' where 'racist or religious discrimination' is involved". For more on this subject, see our feature where Pascal Bruckner calls to "Boycott Durban 2".

Frankfurter Rundschau 03.07.2008

On Franz Kafka's 125th Birthday, Manfred Schneider heaps praise on the second volume of Reiner Stach's huge Kafka biography: "Stach's masterly portrait brings us so close to Kafka that we think we are leisurely floating through all the twists and turns and labyrinths of this mysterious writer's thoughts. Stach has brought together virtually all accessible sources and interwoven them together with ease and artistry."

Die Zeit

Berlin writer Mely Kiyak scoffs at the debate surrounding the so-called new feminism, decrying the insular "white, Christian, middle-class as self-serving and smug". "It's been like that through the whole winter and spring. Privileged women publish their opinions and then pat themselves on the back for their courage. Can you criticize them for it? No. But what you can reproach them for, is that not one of them comes along and says: I've got it hard as a woman but for the sake of equality I want to say that your average female Turkish graduate has it harder, because she is highly unlikely to end up in my position. It wasn't easy for me either. But I had it a lot better than the immigrant girl who's father thinks that a high-school education will suffice because she's only going to get married anyway. Or the girl whose high-school certificate won't even get her a job training position."

Die Welt 02.07.2008

Johannes Wetzel presents the "Livre noir de la Revolution francaise" which has just come out in France, in which, inter alia, the mass murders in the Vendee during the Terror are again denounced, but this time the revolutionaries are also classified as precursors to the fascists: "On this point, established historical researchers rightly feel the affront: 'No, Danton is not Hitler!' exclaims historian Mona Ozouf, who co-edited 'A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution' with Francois Furet. For her, the 'Black Book of the French Revolution' is merely an attempt, after countless other apologies for the nation - for the slave trade or colonisation – now, too, to exact 'penitence for the French Revolution'."

Frankfurter Rundschau

Florian Hassel reports on the absurd prosecution of the curator of the Moscow Tretyakov Gallery, Andrei Erofeyev, and the director of the Andrei Sakharov Museum, Yurii Samodurov, who are alleged to have instigated a "national dispute" by insulting the Russian Orthodox religion with their "Forbidden Art 2006" exhibition: "The exhibition has 'had a psychologically and morally negative effect on the visitors' and 'threatened the integrity of visitors' personalities and destroyed their existing world views' due to the 'extreme force of the psychologically traumatic influence' according to the prosecution. If convicted, the curators could face a fine, an extended suspension from work or up to five years in a prison camp."

Die Tageszeitung 01.07.2008

Stefan Reinecke and Christian Semler speak with the director Harun Farocki about the Westerbork concentration camp and his documentary film essay "Respite" which is cut together from interviews with a former prisoner. At one stage they discuss a scene in which a prisoner on the way to Auschwitz helps shut the train door from the inside: "The door gets stuck, the prisoner helps close it. The cameraman seems to have documented this gesture obliviously. It is a gesture which centralises the drama of the camp, namely the cooperation of the victims in their own destruction. Historian Raul Hilberg pointed out that their was no budget for the destruction of the Jews. They were robbed to pay for their own murder and helped organize it themselves."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Prospect magazine has just published the result of its poll on the world's 100 leading public intellectuals. In first place, thanks to effective lobbying in Turkey, came the Sufi-influenced Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who has been known to break into tears when speaking. Burkhard Müller is delighted that it's not just another anaemic westerner! "No intellectual here would dare to speak as he does, nevermind risking the indignity of tears. Other more powerful traditions are being brought to bear here, in place of the comparably wishy-washy traditions of the western intellect with its stoicism, coldness and abstinence. This man is a highly esteemed teacher, loved as a leader, sought after as a preacher. Everyone can respond to this authority. The intellectual, as we know him presents, if anything, one type of thinking and it is possibly no longer globally applicable. The winner of this frivolous ranking, represents a return of an other, older type, prepared to lead the way for humanity, who, perhaps, urgently need his advice." - let's talk european