From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 27.09.2008

In the arts section two major articles address Napoleon and the Congress of Erfurt in 1808. Manfred Koch focusses his attention on Napoleon's enemy, Madame de Stael who, shortly beforehand, had plotted against the Emperor – no wonder, after the anecdote which Koch recounts: "The woman whose looks were often describes as 'unattractive' – she was on the plump side, had unusually dark skin and protruding lips – was a Venus of the word: she only had to utter a few sentences for the men to fall at her feet. Not so Napoleon. At their last meeting in 1801, the story goes that he took one look at her decollete and remarked: "I see you suckled your children yourself."

Berliner Zeitung

Dirk Pilz reports in from Siberia which has been awakened by the kiss of oil money. "Omsk will have a hard time shaking off its provincial reputation. But the town is booming. The arms industry, the oil, the tariff revenues from the border to Kazakhstan all keep the state kitty overflowing. It has over twenty universities and colleges, a 19th century painting gallery - named after the Russian Symbolist Michael Alexandrovitch Vrubel - which has has been immaculately renovated, and the Dostoevsky Museum is not looking too bad either. Dostoevsky was banished to Omsk for four years and it was here that he suffered his first epileptic fit. And Jaromir Jagr is back in town. The Czech ice hockey star returned from the New York Rangers to play for Avantgard Omsk, where seven years ago he captured the hearts of many a fan."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 27.09.2008

With bated breath, Christopher Schmidt watched Andreas Kriegenburg's stage production of Kafka's "Trial" in the Munich Kammerspielen. Schmidt was utterly convinced by Kriegenburg's idea of creating seven doppelgängers for Josef F. "This identity splitting allows him to use theatre's unique formal language to great effect, and create a host of references without needing laborious explanation. The choreography of the movements and processes and the arrangement of the words are of ingenious sophistication and complexity;the imagery is beguilingly weird and poetic. Robert Wilson would turn pale with envy."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 30.09.2008

Seventy years ago on September 29, Germany, England, France and Italy signed the Munich Agreement – which rubber-stamped the dissection of Czechoslovakia and put a smile on Hitler's face. But they all underestimated Hitler: he was never going to stop at Sudentenland. Gustav Seibt dwells on the impossible dilemma of appeasement, with an eye on Georgia. "When we think about the lessons to learn from our mistakes in the 1930s, character assessment should play a key role. The issue now is not so much the moral character of the Russian leadership – you can consider this as black as you like - as its rationality. And this is not just a Kissenger-type psychological problem; we now have to consider the very nature of the Russian regime. "

Die Tageszeitung

Christian Semler is no wiser than Gustav Seibt about what Russia wants. But he also turns his mind to the Munich Agreement and what we can learn from it: "At what point should the appeasers have been able to recognise the real nature of Hitler's foreign policy? Historians still debate this today. (...) I personally believe that by sacrificing Czechoslovakia - the only democratic state left in central Europe – the Munich Agreement crossed the line of compromise. Hitler was hell-bent on war, and this was evident in Munich. With this in mind, it is up to those who criticise the appeasement of Iran and Russia today to prove that the peaceful policies that these states claim to pursue, are only a cover for their bellicose intentions. But today's appeasement critics have failed to provide any such evidence."

Read Ian Buruma's musings on the Munich Agreement in Project Syndicate here.

Süddeutsche Zeitung 01.10.2008

For the media page, Evelyn Roll watched Raphael Enthoven's new philosophy programme on the German-French television channel Arte. Enthoven might have been extolled as a diable de l'amour by his ex-lover Carla Bruni, but he still has time to make decent TV. Roll: "For thirty minutes at a stretch, Ralphael Enthoven strolls through a casually decorated bohemian loft in Paris with only one dialogue partner, mostly a young philosopher from the elite ENS school. Occasionally they might pause in front of an enormous poster to discuss one or other of the great philosophical questions. They take works by the great philosophers off the shelf, read excepts, discuss them for a while and continue on their way. The camera follows them for thirty minutes in a single take, which lends the occasion great concentration, suspense and authenticity."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 02.10.2008

Andreas Breitenstein is deeply critical of Horace Engdahl's dismissive comments about American literature. The secretary of the Nobel Prize Committee told the Associated Press that it was no coincidence that the majority of Literary Nobel Prize laureates are European, because "American writers are too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture" and this "drags down the quality of their work." Breitenstein is appalled by such arrogance: "It may well be the case that Europe breathes more history and culture than America, but the air around this moral throne, from where judgements are passed on the world, is getting thinner by the minute. The old continent - over-aged, over-fed, other-determined , xenophobic, ironic and defeatist – could well suffocate on an excess of history. Horace Engdahl's comments have sullied the reputation of the Nobel Prize for literature."

Die Welt 02.10.2008

In the coming months, Berlin will host 10 exhibitions dealing with the "Cult of the Artist". To mark the occasion, artist, art critic and media theorist Peter Weibel picks apart two sentences penned by art historian Ernst Gombrich, who claimed: "Precisely speaking, art doesn't exist. Only artists exist." Nonsense, Weibel retorts: "The cult of the artist only makes sense when you look at art as a belief system instead of a scientific one. The cult of the artist is an agent of the irrational, the anti-scientific. This is the latent complicity of Gombrich's sentences in the introduction to his 'Story of Art'. Moreover the cult of the artist only makes sense in an art system which believes that art is the art of expression, principally self-expression. But if you want to know where this cult of the ego really leads, you only have to read "Le Culte de Moi' (1888-1981) by the right-wing radical, racist French writer and proto-fascist Maurice Barres (1962- 1923). The cult of the ego is a part of right-wing conservative ideology." - let's talk european