From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 21.02.2009

Hungarian writer Peter Nadas reports back from a wintry journey through the Balkans. In Ljubljana his publisher asked some young people for directions in Croatian, and they told him to go to hell. "For the next few days I use this story as a sort of litmus test, and tell it to everyone I meet. No one asks why I'm being so provocative, everyone listens thoughtfully and starts wondering about it, what a thing. One man reacts by saying how time flies. Seventeen years, he says, are a long time for a language, too. He himself had never noticed that Serbo-Croat no longer worked for talking directions. That's between us, though, he adds. Then he tells me that at science conferences people have been talking English for some time now. Someone else asked whether the youths had seen our number plate. I couldn't rule it out. The young and already famous poet, who toured Slovenia on foot last summer and dropped by to visit us in Gombosszeg with his rucksack and deep suntan, stares at me with wide, soft eyes. But he gives me no answer. I've never encountered such a thing in his homeland before, I say. But Peter, he says quietly, there are bones beneath us here, too."

Die Tageszeitung 23.02.2009

The Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina describes the terrible situation for women in Chechnya. They are increasingly killed for not obeying behavioural codes. Gannushkina quotes President Kadyrov: "A woman must know her place. She is there to love us. She is owned by her husband. If a woman runs riot, she will be killed by her relatives. These are our customs. It can happen that a brother kills his sister, or a husband his wife. As president I cannot tolerate such killings. But women should know better than to walk about in shorts," he said in interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper."

Other papers 24.02.2009

In his hometown of Trieste, the German crime writer Veit Heinichen has fallen victim to a defamation campaign branding him as paedophile. For the past 14 months anonymous letters backed up by fictitious quotes have been sent at fortnightly intervals to bookshops, writer friends, public institutions and to the author himself, who eventually went public with the story in his local paper Il Piccolo on Saturday. His article began: "This is not fiction, this is a true story about an unsolved crime. It is such a convoluted and improbable story that it will no doubt become the craziest of all my 'Triestian' novels. All the ingredients are there: the shadow of a disgusting sex offender, the treacherous denunciation of a crime that never took place, what can only be described as a scientific net of anonymous letters, a systematic campaign aimed at destroying my credibility as person, and a police investigation into the unknown and tenacious perpetrator. The one detail missing is the arrest of the guilty party."

Der Tagesspiegel 25.02.2009

Middle-class culture, skilled craftsmanship, civil society - none of this exists in Bulgaria any more, not even some last scraps to build on after the collapse of Communism, writes Sibylle Levitcharoff in an interview about her novel "Apostoloff": "Bulgaria was hardly damaged by the war. But everything that was beautiful there started to rot after 1945 under the emphatically Stalinist dictatorship and the decay continues today in the rawness of teething capitalism. But it's not just about superficial beauty. The brutal and concrete monstrosities that went up everywhere are also in completely run-down inside, everything is covered in mould, stinking, hygienically catastrophic. Normal tourists and EU observers rarely get to see such things, but I have encountered them everywhere."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Holger Noltze witnessed a memorable performance of Donizettis "Lucrezia Borgia" at the Bavarian Staatsoper. "Christof Loy stages a forever shifting game of illusion and truth. After reeking revenge on the guests at a dinner party, inadvertently killing own son in the process, Lucrezia Borgia enters the stage for the showdown, in black velvet, long white hair, deathly white makeup. A death witch. When her son Gennaro dies, this is a moment of truth and the greatest possible intimacy. She removes her false hair and make up. For the cabaletta she then dons the wig one more time, the choir enters and listens in disgust to the bravour number. But then the display of the greatest artifice is transformed into an expression of truth, sung as a scene of madness. "An abomination!" whispers the choir at the end of this scena ultima, before the curtain falls. When it rises again Edita Gruberova is standing alone on the stage, devoid of any painted-on claim to youth, and for two minutes complete madness breaks out in the National Theater."

Die Welt 27.02.2009

According to political scientist Gerd Langguth, the Pius Brothers are not a pious collective but a thoroughly political formation. And their view are way off to the right. For example the head of the German Pius Brothers, Franz Schmidberger, believes in the legitimacy of a number of regimes that are not democratically elected. "At the same time Schmidberger advocates the sort of voting rights that have little to do with 'one man one vote'. He asks: "Would not the family as a unit of society gain a very different position were the vote essentially given to the head of the family. His thoughts on suffrage do not take women into consideration. And Schmidberger doubts whether 'political parties actually benefit the population or whether they are not simply divisive'."

From the blogs 27.02.2009

Is it possible to write one European history? asks Richard Wagner in, after the latest Polish attack (more here) on Erika Steinbach and her planned Centre for German Expellees. "The never-ending debate about the centre also serves to illustrate the impossibility of writing a shared mainstream European history because such a thing never existed. It is one of the great political misunderstandings that people think we should bring everything into unison. It is very possible to remember the terrors of the German occupation of Poland at the same time as the Germans remember the greatest expulsion in their history, without this endangering the Polish message. Some things just have to be left separate, otherwise we lose definition. Not least of the perpetrators and victims."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Biochemist Gottfried Schatz gives a potted history of cobalt and rounds it off with a philosophical flourish: "I became a biochemist in order to understand the chemical events in myself, but I had no idea that I would end up finding out about my distant ancestors and the breath-taking history of life. This story makes the wars, coronations, and empire building of my school history lessons shrink into insignificance. Can we still justify beginning history books with the appearance of homo sapiens, when the molecular palimpsest of living material has extended our temporal horizon fivefold? Should historians not remove their blinkers and risk looking significantly further back into the past?" Read our feature, "Children of the Sun" by Gottfried Schatz - let's talk european