From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Frankfurter Rundschau 14.11.2009

Peter Michalzik seems to be the only critic with anything positive to say about Frank Castorf's new play, Friedrich von Gagern's "Ozean", which has just opened a new season at the Volksbühne in Berlin, after months of renovation. "Once you get settled into it, there is plenty of enjoyment amidst four and a half hours of hard work. Next to the tarpaulins, a few pallets, boxes and pillows (from Bert Neumann): we're in a vast steerage area in the belly of a ship - our metaphorical home - no light, no air, eventually nothing to eat and no water – but endless amounts of time. Naturally the situation breeds dreams of Utopia and revolution. The play is about exactly that: an incredibly eccentric but not unappealing collection of journalists, writers, revolutionaries, intellectuals, Silesian weavers, all holed up in steerage, heading for the new world."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 14.11.2009

Kia Vahland was not impressed by Arno Widmann's article in the Frankfurter Rundschau last week, that cast Sandro Botticelli's paintings of women (in an exhibition in Frankfurt's Städel Museum) as modern-day "pin-ups". Quite apart from the fact that it is Botticelli's paintings of men that are far more interesting. "You could say that Botticelli did more for the male eros than he did for the female. He gave men the gift of vulnerability, as we see in the London painting - sadly not included in this exhibition – of Venus and Mars, where the two gods are depicted lying in the grass: she, immaculately styled, dressed to go, looking watchfully in the direction of her lover, very much in control of the situation even directly after sex. The warrior on the other hand is naked, fast asleep, completely lost to the world; powerless against the child satyrs who are making a mockery of his weapon."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 16.11.2009

Angela Schader talks to the writer Alaa al-Aswany, whose book of short stories, "Friendly Fire", has just been published in Germany, about the tight corner in which Egyptian intellectuals find themselves, between political suppression, religious pressure and social poverty. "This is why I write a weekly column in an Egyptian newspaper, that always ends with the sentence: 'Democracy is the solution.' We have countless problems in Egypt and all of them are symptoms of one disease. Doctors know that it makes no sense at all to treat the symptoms, if you are not trying to get to the root of the disease – and our disease is dictatorship. The primary duty of writers and intellectuals is to free this country of the dictatorship."

Die Welt 17.11.2009

Imre Kertesz's sharp sharp criticism of Hungary in Die Welt last week stirred up a hornet's nest. "The old vices of the Hungarians, their dishonesty and their tendency to live in denial, are flourishing as ever," the Nobel laureate said in an interview. Now the Right in Hungary is seething, as Paul Lendvai reports. "This week the Magyar Demokrata (Hungarian Democrat) newspaper called for the "formation of a cultural police force", consisting of three to four special commandos. These would be assigned to remove the works of "left-wing liberal traitors" (György Spiro, György Konrad, Peter Esterhazy and Peter Nadas) from the libraries, and failing this, to at least tear them them or spray them with paint. "We should have no qualms. These people are murderers, we must purge their poison from our organism,' the editor of the paper wrote, and issued a "call to arms, to holy war'. When faced with the furious reaction that this tirade provoked in and outside Hungary, the editor-in-chief tried to play down his attack on the – with the exception of Esterhazy - Jewish authors, as a 'humorous observation'. This is just the tip of the iceberg. In the words of Gyögy Konrad. "Freedom appears to be the freedom of neo-fascism.' Jews in Hungary live in fear (again)."

Die Zeit 19.11.2009

The writer Jonathan Littell reports back from a trip to Chechnya, where there has been a terrifying resurgence of violence, and where Memorial journalist Natalia Estemirova was murdered in July: "When Alexander Cherkassov told me in June: 'It's cosy in Hell now, but it's still Hell', or when Oleg Orlov assured me: 'This endless war, the appalling levels of blood and violence, is causing a totalitarian system to form down there', I thought to myself: yes, maybe, but they're probably exaggerating a little, they've been wrapped up in it too long, they can't see things objectively. Of course everyone is trapped in their own ideas, I know this very well. But my mistake was to think that my own view was closer to the truth than theirs. And who knows what reality is? Reality is two bullets in the head."

Die Welt 20.11.2009

British and American theatre is riddled with plays about problematic German biographies – from Wilhelm Furtwängler, Hanna Arendt and Heidegger to Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. Why do we never see this in German theatres? asks Matthias Heine: "German-language theatre is biography-shy. Most contemporary playwrights are repelled by the lives of others, at least if they are famous. Either they don't feel up to the job of tackling the stuff that famous people are made of, or they think it below them. But why? For historical reasons mainly. On the stage, biography always stands suspiciously close to propaganda."

Spiegel Online 20.11.2009

The director Claude Lanzmann told Der Spiegel that he was "shocked" to hear that a violent left-wing mob had intervened to stop his film "Why Israel" from being shown in a Hamburg cinema on 25 October. Cinema-goers were prevented from entering the building, some were even beaten and spat at, amid shouts of "Jewish pigs". The cinema was eventually forced to cancel the screening. "Claude Lanzmann is amazed that the scandal was not picked up by the media: 'How can it be that the Germans essentially ignored a thing like this?" - let's talk european