From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 02.05.2009

Barbara Villiger-Heilig talks to director Peter Stein, who is to receive the Zurich Festspiel Prize next month. In the course of the conversation he utters the following bleak words. "No one is interested in my work in Germany. It is considered too conventional. Of course this is absolute nonsense. Because unconventionality is the new conventionality, which is about the worst state of affairs as far as young people are concerned, because of course they want to be unconventional. It is a trap they can't escape."

Die Welt 04.05.2009

Jonathan Franzen, who is currently working on his new novel in Brandenburg near to the border to Poland, tells Wieland Freund why he is both writer and ornithologist: "The secret connection, I think, is that I sometimes feel like an endangered little bird – a species whose days on this earth are numbered. I like quiet, old-fashioned places. In Poland the farming industry is much less developed, and because it's poor, the landscape is full of birds. Flannery O'Connor once said that writers are unfortunately cheered by the fact that poverty will always exist because it means their kind won't die out. You don't get poorer than birds. Birds are so poor, they eat beetles."

Die Welt 05.05.2009

The head of the Deutsches Sinfonie Orchester, Ingo Metzmacher, sent out shock waves five weeks ago, when he announced that he would not be renewing his contract for 2010. Since then another conductor, Lothar Zagrosek of the Berliner Konzerthaus Orchester, has also handed in his resignation. Metzmacher now explains his reasons: unannounced jobs cuts. "There are seven soloist positions which we have not been allowed to fill for over a year now and it just can't go on like this. This is not some luxury ailment of an other-worldly ensemble, this is undermining the foundations. An orchestra is a highly sensitive organism that grows over decades. And like a football team, it doesn't just need new shirts every now and then, it needs a full team."

From the blogs 06.05.2009

In a well documented background article on the plans of the German government to block child pornography websites (more here ), Lutz Donnerhacke of looked into the criminal statistics, and found no indication whatsoever of the much-touted rise in online child pornography: "Serious abuse cases covered by paragraph 176a appear under code 1316 to 1318. These cases remained at a constant level of 1,200 per year between 1999 and 2007. The statistics for 2007 were examined repeatedly and in detail by Christian Bahl of the association for victims of abuse against Internet censorship, and they show that over 99 percent of the actual cases of abuse have nothing to do with producing pornographic images. The majority of these cases involve early sexual relations between teenagers. The cases of the child abuse that result in child pornography, and which form the basis of the government's argument, amount to around 100 suspected cases per year and the number is dropping."

Open competition for a Germany Unity memorial in Berlin

All hell broke lose at the opening of an exhibition in Berlin, which showcased the entries of a competition to design a German Unity memorial, when it emerged that the jury had rejected all 532 proposals. In die Welt on 06.05.2009, Sven Kellerhoff writes that a quarter of the entires were complete trash and the rest were unusable. "Like the obvious parody in the form of a cluster of blue and white smurfs standing on a stone platform; or the idea to build a "Cafe Deutschland" opposite the City Palace (when it is rebuilt) which offers free cake on German Unity Day."

Writing in the Tagesspiegel two days later, however, the author Thomas Brussig laid the blame with the jury, not the artists. The specifications for what the memorial should symbolise were too cumbersome: "The German pursuit of freedom and unity since the battle of Teutoburg forest, not forgetting all the European components, in contemporary yet timeless expression – this was basically what they were after."

Frankfurter Rundschau

Composer Wolfgang Rihm has just set Goethe's "Proserpina" to music. At the premiere, Joachim Lange was impressed to discover that "Rihm's composition so vehemently sides with the woman. Not only that the arcs of his arias, his dramatic coloraturas, even the cheeky reference to the queen of the night are essentially tailored to fit the young throat of the brilliant Mojca Erdmann. Also because he shows Persephone as a woman under immense strain, who rebels, who not only yearns to turn back time, but who fiercely insists on her right to her body and self-determination. But the vulnerability and despondency with which she accepts her destiny are also audible. 'Do not call it love! Hurl me with these arms into the fearful torments!" are her last words as the music fades."

Der Freitag

Former East-German author Christoph Hein writes a seething open letter of complaint to Chancellor Merkel about the official exhibition "60 Years – 60 Works" which does not feature a single work made in the GDR. The curators, he says are like the art judges under the Nazis or Communists: "The desire and the aims are identical: eliminate, eradicate, evaporate." He continues: "There is nothing pleasant about being marginalised, but it is conducive to forming backbone and making art. And I am used to it because I was marginalised before I even went to school. And this was always the case and it looks unlikely to change."

Die Zeit

How low can a country fall, Christian Schmidt-Häuer asks, stilll in shock after his visit to Hungary, which he found not just financially but also politically and morally bankrupt. No one is resisting the far Right which is hounding Roma and Jews alike, the philosopher Gaspar Miklos Tamas, for instance: "Budapest's radical cohorts regard him as one of the 'foreign hearted' who are 'sullying' the racial corpus. His photo has been posted on the homepage 'Kuruz Info' website, framed by a grave cross. The site lists Jews and other 'enemies': their names, addresses, telephone numbers, weekend houses, aquaintainces."

Die Welt 07.05.2009

Is the iconic bust of Nefertiti, which is due to be rehoused in Berlin's newly rennovated Neues Museum, actually a fake? Two books have cast serious doubts on the sculpture's 3,400 years, and Ulli Kulke finds their arguments thoroughly plausible: that Ludwig Borchardt had the bust made to test pigment colouration and then fell victim to its charms. "When the Prussian prince Johann Georg travelled to Egypt to inspect the archaeological site on behalf of the sponsors, he immediately took it for genuine and had himself photographed beside it. Borchardt, writes Henri Stierlin (in his book 'Le Buste de Nefertiti – une Imposture de l'Egyptologie?'), was unable to muster the courage to make his guest look risible.'" - let's talk european