From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Süddeutsche Zeitung 21.03.2009

German finance minister Peer Steinbrück has outraged the Swiss by accusing their banks of helping German citizens dodge taxes (more here). The minister was then accused of being a Nazi by the Swiss press and one parliamentarian, after he compared the Swiss to Indians scared of the US cavalry. The Swiss writer Alex Capus had the following to say about bank secrecy: "... Switzerland would be well advised to steer clear of Nazi allusions, otherwise the Swiss banks' role in World War II will inevitably be dragged into the bank secrecy debate. And no self-respecting Swiss could deny that Steinbrück is right in what he says. All Swiss people know that bank secrecy, in its current form, serves tax fraud – not only but also. Everyone knows that rich people should not be able to avoid taxes and that the Swiss differentiation between tax evasion and tax fraud is purely academic."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 21.03.2009

In an interview, Albanian writer Ismail Kadare talks about why he joined the Communist Party: Enver Hoxha requested it. "This only seems strange at first. I became a party member long after I had published in the West, in other words at a time when I no longer needed to do so. At the time I even welcomed being denounced as a Western writer – at least it separated me from Socialist Realism. It was because of my success in the West that I joined the party. It was the paradox I mentioned earlier: on the one hand he is liked by the 'bourgeoisie' and on the other he's supposed to be one of us? Not surprisingly the Communist hard liners had their problems with this. One day the party secretary of the writers' association approached me and tol me that I should apply to join the Party. He advised me not to say anything – the request had come from Enver Hoxha himself. ... What was I to do? Say no? It would have meant the end for me, a pointless sacrifice. Sooner or later they would have found a way to condemn me as a French agent. The people would have applauded. And apart from that you must relativise the importance of my mandate. Anything really important was decided by the Party."


Few books provoked more spleen last year than Götz Aly's farewell bid to the '68 movement, "Unser Kampf" (our struggle), in which the historian draws parallels between the German student movement and their parents, who came to power in 1933. At Perlentaucher, Aly defends himself against his critics. "The comrades descended on my 40 or so readings in small groups, arms linked. Steely grey and humourless they took their seats and launched into cries of: "Renegade! Turncoat! Sellout! And don't expect us to read that sorry bit of writing! Furiously they hurled their insults at me: 'Traitor!' 'Squealer!' yet upholding all the while "the exclusively educational and progressive character of our movement' and their own innocence." Read an interview with Götz Aly and Katarina Rutschky on the subject, "Back to Rudi Dutschke's pram".

Die Welt 24.03.2009

Johnny Ehrling wanders across Tiananmen Square, almost 20 years after the massacre. In the queue for the Mao mausoleum, he meets the young employee Liu Yang from Henan province. "The twenty year anniversary of the June fourth massacre has no meaning for youngsters like Liu Yang. They neither learned in school nor the censored media about how, in the middle of the night, China's army shot its way through the city to Tiananmen Square, how they surrounded it and forced the students, who had been camping there for weeks, to retreat via the south exit. Just where Liu Yang is standing to visit Mao. 523 citizens are believed to have died during the night as the army marched towards the square, as well as 45 police and soldiers who shot at each other in the chaos. These are the figures listed in an apparently authentic document from the Chinese authorities that was smuggled out of the country. Exact numbers are one of China's best kept state secrets." (The figures vary drastically: a recent book on the massacre cites a NATO report that puts the death count at 7,000; a Chinese Red Cross report that was later denied said that 2,600 had officially died by the morning of June 4; Amnesty International puts the figure at 1,000; and according to the official Chinese version 241 died and 7,000 were wounded.)

The SZ notes on 26.03.2009 a Google search of 'Tianamen Square' in China today provides no reference to the 1989 protest at all.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Paul Jandl writes a feature on Serb architect Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has built over twenty memorials against war and fascism in various parts of the former Yugoslavia. The Museum of Austrian Architecture is hosting an exhibition on his work. "Bogdan Bogdanovic is a nonconformist," writes Jandl, "who always felt more comfortable with syncretism than dogma. The architect, who came from a middle class, francophile home, became a deistic Trotzkyite, and he remains a Jacobin mystic. In his work, he felt no less indebted to the mathematical principles of Pythagorus than to the old Balkan traditions of building. For his first large project, the architect became well-versed in Jewish mysticism and the Kabbala. For the Belgrade memorial for the Jewish victims of fascism, he placed a portal made of coarse stones at the end of a cemetery alley. This architecture of transition is meant to be 'antiperspectival'. A portal that opens, rather than closes, into its vanishing lines."

Perlentaucher 25.03.2009

The literature professor Roland Reuß has been blasting "Open Access" for weeks (story in German) and has launched a "Heidelberg Appeal" for improved IP rights that has been signed by a long list of prominent academics, journalists, writers and publishers. In Perlentaucher, Matthias Spielkamp explains why Open Access represents an alternative to the commercial trade journals that charge libraries exorbitant subscription rates. "In order to get published in such journals, academics often have to grant the publisher exclusive rights of use for their articles. This means that they are no longer permitted to publish their contributions in another forum - neither on their own web site, nor on that of their university. They don't receive an honorarium; on the contrary, academics do peer review 'pro bono', i.e., at the expense of their employer, which is to say - if they work at publicly supported institutions such as universities - at the expense of the taxpayer. The taxpayer pays, and the corporation rings the profits: Just who is dispossessing whom, here?"

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 26.03.2009

Spanish theater group La Fura dels Baus has staged György Ligeti's "Le grand macabre" in Brussels. According to Martin Zähringer, it begins like this: "The overture, replete with car horns, is accompanied by a Franc Aleu video that introduces us to Claudia. This somewhat solid singer from the chorus of Barcelona's opera house collapses on the remains of a sumptuous meal, grabbing her chest in mortal fear. Her cry becomes frozen in a tableau that is immediately tranformed into a larger than life sculpture that Alfons Flores balances on the stage. A mountain of a woman, peculiarly fallen to her knees, stares at us with vacant eyes that occasionally become full again; with an open mouth, from which an enormous tongue occasionally darts, and with two nipples serving as garden doors."

Frankfurter Rundschau

Harry Nutt commemorates the hundredth birthday of Golo Mann and describes the ideological resistance the historian and writer encountered - even from the left: "The pain of the emigrant's return is captured in an episode related to Mann's appointment to a position at Frankfurt University. It was thwarted by no less than Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer. They feared, probably with good reason, Golo Mann's intellectual influence on a liberal Germany and, according to contemporaries, intervened, with references to Mann's homosexuality and his mental illnesses. Later, there was even talk of 'covert anti-Semitism.' Golo Mann tried to defend himself by threatening to make public an article of Adorno's in which he blatantly tendered his musico-sociological reflections in the service of National Socialist convictions." - let's talk european