From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 22.11.2008

Putinism has bought citizens' loyalty, by giving them freedom to design their private lives, writes Viktor Erofeev. "We can basically teach our children anything we want to, bring them up as Christians or Buddhists – as we so choose. And if we have the money, we can travel to Italy or even Easter Island. This is what you call authoritarianism with a human face." But Erofeev stills holds out out hope that somehow middle-class values will be able to sneak in through the back door: "Private life is Russia's salvation."

Frankfurter Rundschau

The paper prints David Grossman's acceptance speech for the Scholl Siblings Prize. In it the Israeli writer talks about how he is still profoundly mortified by the Shoah, but also about the way writing helps him to create room to manoeuvre in the face of arbitrariness. "Not that I could ever really understand how a person could eradicate themselves to such an extent that they could become part of an annihilation machine. Not that I believed the military occupation would come to an end if I only I could describe its crimes in enough detail. Yet my inner approach to the irrevocable changed. In the moment when I began to write, I no longer faced arbitrariness in the frozen state that gripped me before starting to write. In situations which had seemed to me eternal, absolute and monolithic, I now saw nuances. I created a certain freedom of movement. Confronted with the irrevocable, which before had frozen me in fear and desperation, I was free. I was no longer a victim."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 25.11.2008

Jörg Königsdorf witnesses a performance by the conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin and the German Symphony orchestra in Berlin. Nezet-Seguin is one of the new generation of conductors: "They have just turned 30 and they are already so good that their older colleagues have to fear for their jobs. ... The new champions of the baton, the Norwegian Eivind Gullberg, the Ossetian Tugan Sokhiev or the Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel (to name but the most famous) couldn't care less about ideologies. They come to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Puccini over the surface of the music, through the most beautiful, the most saturated, and often the loudest sounds. Their interpretations do not speak of agonised artistic navel gazing but of the brilliant self-assurance of the music itself - and of its conductors who, you might say, get the highest possible returns from the score."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 26.11.2008

With the approach of Knut Hamsun's 150th birthday, the Norwegians are starting to shed some of their reservations about their great author and his regrettable Nazi sympathies, as Aldo Keel reports. Next year will finally see the inauguration of long-planned Hamsun Tower designed by the New York architect Steven Holl in Hamaroy, 200 km north of the Arctic circle, where Hamsun grew up as "a child of the poor". "The old ideological misgivings against Hamsun are starting to fade. This August, when a right-wing regional politician called for work on the tower to be stopped, saying it was waste of money in such a remote region, at the same time in Oslo, local left-wing politicians were fighting to have a square named in his honour. In line with the designs of the Social Democrat Helge Winsvold, the piazza near the opera which will be formed as soon as the new Munch Museum and other cultural buildings have been built, should carry Hamsun's name. 'There's no question that Hamsun was a scoundrel" the politician told the paper Aftenposten. "But we want his name because of his work.'"

Die Tageszeitung 27.11.2008

Klaus-Helge Donath talks to Dmitri Muratov, editor-in-chief of the Novaya Gazeta, the paper where the murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya once worked. Her ongoing murder trial is not exactly observing rule of law, but Muratov is impressed by the unusual courage of the jury. "A legal clerk hands the jury a piece of paper to sign. It says that the trial would be conducted in camera at the express wish of the jury, due to fear of reprisals. Although 19 of the 20 jury members refused to sign it, the judge announced that the decision had been passed. One member of the jury then decided to speak out in the name of the other 19 and informed radio Echo Moskvy about the irregularity."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 27.11.2008

Christopher Schmidt explains why the Berlin Volksbühne blood and sperm theatre has died a death but is refusing to give up the ghost, while the rest of Germany's theatre has moved on. "Transgression was the name of the game for many,many years and it involved pushing beyond the boundaries of the stage and destroying anything that was pure aesthetics. But the vapid ego-boosting, the cheap dogmatism which came with it propelled the theatre into a loop, which is why Frank Castorf's productions ultimately became so predictable. Theatre is currently going through a period of self-reflection, which does not mean turning the clocks back, but simply that it is rediscovering pleasure in a long-neglected task: intelligent literary mediation.

Frankfurter Rundschau

The ethnologist Thomas Reinhardt celebrates the 100th birthday of his eminent colleague Claude Levi-Strauss, but he also points to some problems in his thought. "Unlike his great opponent, Sartre, Levi-Strauss attaches little meaning to the role of human beings as active subjects. Which is why he was often accused, and not entirely without justification, of epistemological anti-humanism. To a great extent his main scientific work, the analysis of myth, served to show 'how myths operated in men's minds without their being aware of the fact.' In the end, for Levi-Strauss, man is little more than a location where things happen without him being able to influence them much."

Perlentaucher 28.11.2008

In her acceptance speech (documented by Perlentaucher) for the "Women of Europe Prize", Necla Kelek calls for a more empathetic understanding of freedom in the Islamic world because, until now, "'being free' has meant being defenceless. When it comes to the crunch the women are at the mercy of men's violence, because the men in the family protect the women from the violence of other men. If their own husbands are violent, then it's kismet, fate. In the lives of many Islamic women, the men are their protectors and their guards. The men exist in public and the women in private." - let's talk european