From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 27.02.2010

Why did Chopin play so quietly? Was it his small hands? And how should one play a Chopin attack today? The pianist Krystian Zimerman speaks his mind in the NZZ art and literature supplement: "We have to establish a clear line between volume and dynamism. The two terms are always being confused. These days dynamism is always equated with volume, which is criminal. Chopin played quietly but with incredible dynamism. I miss dynamism today, volume is all there is. Chopin's instruments were completely different. It all starts with the dampers. These days on a grand, when you take your finger off a key, the damper goes 'tack' and the sound is gone."

In Berlin 78 percent of working artists live below the poverty line, reports the art historian Christian Saehrendt. Time for a wake up call? The artist and art teacher Willi Kemper, whom he quotes, seems to think so. "It is clear that the majority of these 'starving artists' simply accept their fate and regard it as a given. As far as I can see, they are almost completely lacking the analytical skills to assess their situation. This is a rapidly changing world and they are essentially living a 19th century dream. At the age of 50 or even 60, it is embarrassing and undignified to still be clinging to the belief that your breakthrough to stardom is just around the corner."

From the blogs 02.03.2010

"We let Zapata die," writes Renaud Revel in his media blog Express. The case of the Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata, who died after 85 days of hunger strike, interested no one in Germany. He belonged to a large group of dissidents, who were thrown into prison by the caudillo of the tropical dictatorship. In prison Zapato's term was extended to 36 years without trial. "Zapata's hunger strike attracted almost no attention. Of course we knew not to expect anything from Chavez. But other Latin American leaders, who are familiar with the insdide of a prison cell, could have intervened. But no. The popular Lula refused to meet political prisoners on his visit to Cuba. Shame on him."

Die Welt 02.03.2010

Amidst of the Polish debate about Ryszard Kapuscinski, which followed the publication of Artur Domoslawski's biography, Gerhard Gnauk states that Kapuscinski had a problem with the truth but not with belief. "Kapuscinski did not believe in 'objective' journalism, he was biassed, he stood on the side of the Marxist 'liberation movements' and abhorred the ugly face of capitalism as he experienced it in the Third World. And as a partisan observer, he also saw it as his duty 'to be [his] own censor' - in 1975, for example, when, as the world's only journalist to find out about the presence of Cuban mercenaries in the Angolan bush, he kept the news to himself. He did not want to provoke an intervention by the Western powers who sympathised with the Portuguese."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

The author and translator Martin Pollack announces that he will not be translating the Ryszard Kapuscinski biography into German. He does not like its tone: "It is not the perhaps embarrassing revelations which bother me, the social-realist poems, the ties with Polish Stalinism, the personal weaknesses, which Domoslawksi illuminates. I think it's a good thing that we now know about the previously unknown sides of a great writer, and perhaps it will lead to a discussion about how to deal with the past. But we must proceed calmly, avoiding maliciousness and speculation and assuming the worst – but this is precisely what Domoslawski has done."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

First it was the Flick Collection in Berlin, and now the New Museum in New York has handed over its rooms over to the Greek-Cypriot industrialist Dakis Joannou to showcase his wares. Niklas Maak is deeply worried that the art world is falling into the hands of private collectors, which means that influence, fame and importance will increasingly be up for sale. "Who has the say in the art system? Who decides what will be shown, and what is considered important? Until now the answer has mostly been the state exhibition halls, museums, perhaps the biennials – and to a much lesser extent – the private collectors... But lately we have been watching a new breed of heavily loaded art collector, who not only buys art but snaps up the entire system and its inhabitants (curators, museum directors etc) into the bargain."

Die Tageszeitung 03.03.2010

On his way to Cologne literature festival on Tuesday the Chinese writer Liao Yiwu was escorted off the plane by the Chinese authorities and handed over to the police for interrogation. Now Liao Yiwu has sent an open letter (here in English) to his readers in Germany, thanking them for their sympathy and sending them a song. It is meant to be played on the dongxiao, a vertical flute which a monk taught him to play in prison: "To my dear readers in Germany whom I have never met, (...) I have the responsibility to make you understand that the life of the Chinese spirit is longer than the totalitarian government. Below I entrust my fellow writer in Germany Miss Liao Tianqi to read my piece, 'Chuigushou jian hao-sang zhe Li Changgeng.' The main character of this piece plays the suona, a Chinese musical instrument made of copper. The pitch is high, intense, and sharp like a knife. It contrasts distinctly with the dongxiao that my master taught, but the spirits of the instruments are the same.These two instruments, with the addition of wailing mourners, are also used to remember the dead and to console the living. In this China which is free for neither the living nor the dead, my readers, your attentive listening to this story will also comfort me at the edge of the grave."

Frankfurter Rundschau

The FR correspondent Bernhard Bartsch met the writer Liao Yiwu in Chengdu shortly before he was due to fly to Cologne. Yiwu told him how prison turned him from a propaganda poet into a reportage writer: "The inmates recounted their stories to one another in an endless loop. One had kidnapped a girl and sold her into prostitution. Another had killed his wife and served her up to his unsuspecting family, until one day his mother found a fingernail in her soup... After Yiwu's release he sold clothes under a bridge and in his spare time, he began writing down the stories his cell mates had told. This process of soul-searching led to a fresh literary start."

Die Zeit 04.03.2010

Günter Grass has opened his Stasi files. The informer protocol extends over 2,000 pages and is to be published in book form soon. Die Zeit prints an excerpt in advance. In an interview with Christof Siemes, Grass talks about secret informers and state functionaries and explains why he never really set out to protect himself or others: "If someone chooses the profession of writer then he should use it. There are enough people who tread softly, in both East and West and the literary business as well." - let's talk european