From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Süddeutsche Zeitung 11.08.2008

Fritz Göttler watched Michel Houellebecq's directorial debut of "The Possibility of an Island" at the film festival in Locarno and was rather taken by it. "Benoit Magimel plays a young man who's time as an assistant to the teacher of a UFO sect allows him to profit from the techniques of eternal life. Women become unnecessary, and you don't even need a mother. Human beings clone themselves from generation to generation, becoming more doughy and formless over time, and every now and then Magimel morphs into his creator Houellebecq. After the great catastrophe the world becomes just as contourless as the protagonists who people it. This film packs no scandal, gone is Houellebecq's familiar we-are-all-assholes attitude. It's been watered down – the familiar lament when books are filmed. But Houellebecq has never hidden the fact that he's writing in the world of technical reproduction, that he loves surfaces and that superficiality for him is no dirty word."

Die Tageszeitung 12.08.2008

Maxi Obexer reports on the uproar which followed the opening of the new Museum for Contemporary Art in the South Tirolean city of Bozen, where Martin Kippenberger's bright green frog on a crucifix is on show. Of course it offends religious sensibilities. "Any one who thought that the collection of religious maniacs in their penitential robes, who have gathered in front of the Museion every day since the opening, would eventually calm down, are mistaken. They might represent a minority, but it is in the nature of the religiously insulted to strike out powerfully in the name of the larger majority. And the schützenverein members (highly traditional shooting association) have taken to protest marching in their lederhosen, demanding that the frog be removed."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

The mix of soundbites available on the internet is fatal for classical music, writes music critic Wolfgang Schreiber, because it so often destroys what Walter Benjamin would call the "aura". But Schreiber's journey through YouTube left him breathless, just the same. Glenn Gould for example: "In an early bit of rehearsal footage he is playing the Prelude from Bach's Partita in D minor in a private house, when suddenly the teenage pianist leaps up from the grand piano, paces nervously to the window before continuing where he left off at the keys. Then the camera cuts to his only listener who is sitting on the carpet: Gould's faithful collie. Half of the 20th century's history-making recitals are availalble to the YouTube user in tiny snippets, which he can assemble at whim. The inward-looking Prussian Wilhelm Kempff sings Beethoven's Sonata op. 90, Emil Gilels, the Russian piano tornado braces himself against the Walstein sonata and Paganini variations, Svjatoslav Richter makes Chopin and Ravel explode. A young Martha Argerich in a red dress furiously punches out Chopin's preludes, and the youthful thunderer Kissin executes Listzt's horrendous La Campanella Etude. A young Benedetti Michelangeli, an ancient Horowitz, a dynamic Ivo Pogorelich – all play Scarlatti exquisitely, and only Cziffra lets the Liszt volcano explode. Then Daniel Barenboim attempts to teach the young Lang Lang how to play Beethoven's Appassionata on the piano: more line and chord, sound and spirit please! ... Further off the beaten path the intrepid clicker will stumble into ghostly hinterlands, through hot and cold showers of German musical history. Here is Furtwängler at the rehearsal of Schubert's Unfinished, then again at the finale of Beethoven's Ninth in 1942 where Goebbels shakes him warmly by the hand. You can also see the piece conducted by a lonely, uncommunicative Karajan, or an ecstatic Bernstein. The Führer himself makes a brief appearance in Bayreuth in 1937 with Winifred Wagner. Incredulous, you hasten on to the Donauwalzer, with the authentic nostalgia that only conductor Erich Kleiber can lend it, in the run-up to Second World War, in black and white."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 13.08.2008

The publication of a book by Patrick Buisson has left France in "erotic shock", as Cornelius Wüllenkemper reports. "1940-1945 – The Erotic Years" tells of the "France's fascination with German soldiers. The very concept of French manliness was to disappear in the flight from the German invaders. Europe's numerically strongest military power surrendered to the superior fighting prowess of the German troops within just a few weeks, as an estimated eight million French fled south in panic. Buisson claims that the Germans' military superiority left the French in an 'erotic shock': ''The northern body culture completely unhinged the French concept of morality. The Germans stripped to the waist to wash in village fountains or to clean their weapons. The bodies of the German soldiers utterly discombobulated France – these boys were groomed, tall and muscled.'"

The theatre intermission is under threat in Germany from people who argue that it does nothing but batter the fragile work of art with the profanities of food, drink and toilets. Martin Krumbolz is appalled and summons Roland Barthes' 'The Pleasure of the Text' to win over doubters: "'Is not the most erotic portion of the body where the garment gapes?' the author asks. And continues: 'It is the intermittence, as psychoanalysis has so rightly stated, which is erotic: the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing (trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the glove and the sleeve); it is the flash itself which seduces, or rather: the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 15.08.2008

Syrian philosopher Sadik Jalal al-Azm declares a third way for Muslim belief, between radicalism and state Islam: "This is the commercial Islam of the middle classes. It is represented by a huge number of institutions, including the chambers of commerce and industry or the branches of the Islamic banking industry. And since this middle class represents the backbone of civil society in the various countries, this form of Islam could become the Islam of Muslim civil society as a whole. It is a moderate, conservative form of Islam, which doesn't interfere with the pace of business. It wants as little to do with leftist world improvers as it does with radical Islamic zealots."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.08.2008

French composer Olivier Messiaen would have turned 100 this year. Two of his most prominent students, Pierre Boulez and George Benjamin, this season's composer in residence at the Lucerne Festival, talk to Max Nyffeler about their great teacher.
Benjamin: "One topic to which he was forever returning was irreversible rhythm which reads identically backwards or forwards. This way of structuring time characterised his entire thinking. His music did not develop towards an ending as is the case in most Western music. He gave you the impression that time was rotating."
Boulez: "Infinite time as a segment of eternity was a fundamental concept of his music. He did not regard the necessary end of a piece as an end of reflection. He never talked about religion to me because he knew how sceptical I was about it. Once he did say to me, with a mixture of sadness and humour: 'The three most important things in my life are religion, organs and birds. But none of my students seem interested in them.'"


Berliner Zeitung 14.08.2008

Director and author Nino Haratichvili witnessed the war in Georgia. She describes what she saw and concludes: "The last days here were pure agony, a death struggle, and I hope we will all be able to reawaken from this struggle with our health in tact. But we will need help. We need clear words. The world has to say that the 21st century will not tolerate the use of this sort of brutal violence in a democracy, where people die, where an entire country is occupied by another. Bombs are falling across Georgia as we speak: on university buildings, on hospitals, on factories and bridges. While the whole of Tiflis is demonstrating, the Russian government is talking about 'aims achieved' about 'the end of Georgian aggression and the protection of its citizens.' There was no mention of Chechnya. Anyone who brought it up is now dead. We can no longer stay silent about Georgia."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Georgian media studies expert Devi Dumbadze believes that Georgia has to free itself from its irrational nationalism if it is to successfully stand up to Russia. "This militant nationalism which is on the verge of losing all grip on reality may well have fed off the grievances about conflicts lost in South Ossetia and Abkhazia fifteen years ago. Georgia is trapped between being inferior to Russia (as the real enemy behind Abkhazia and Ossetia) its dependence on international aid (which won't be coming in military form from Nato) and its own desire to compensate for the painful loss of territorial unity."

Other papers 15.08.2008

What is at stake in Georgia is Europe, which must position itself clearly against Russia, write Andre Glucksmann and Bernard-Henri Levy in a joint article for the French newspaper Liberation. "The general staff in the Kremlin has never believed in the existence of a 'European Union'. It claims that lurking under all the wonderful speeches in Brussels are century-old rivalries and national identities which can be mercilessly manipulated to lay out all sides. Europe, which was built to stand against the Iron Curtain, which celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolutions is on the verge of a coma. 1945-2008." - let's talk european