From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Child abuse by the Catholic Church

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.03.2010 dedicates its entire feuilleton section to child abuse in Catholic boarding schools, churches and choirs. Eleonore Büning looks at the connection between music and violence. "The sweet, androgynous fusion of boys voices has always has a sexual component as poets and composers from Bach to Goethe, Benjamin Britten to Thomas Mann were all too aware. Thousands of children were subjected to violence in the name of music, so that a few of them could raise their angelic voices in praise of God. Yes, it used to be acceptable to castrate boys, just like only a few decades ago, it was considered normal and acceptable to box the ears of young choir boys."

In Die Welt 16.03.2010, Gerhard Amendt expresses his outrage at Josef Haslinger's recollections (see our feature "Don't let it turn into a witch hunt") of his encounters with tender paedophile priests, discrediting entirely his ability to assess the events. "He is stuck in a state of childlike impotence with regards to the past. His arguments are a clear indication of the immense cruelty of the institution and the mental shackles that were placed on its wards. This did not just ensure that the victims held their tongues and fell into a conflict of loyalty, it also left them so confused that they could no longer distinguish clearly between right and wrong, between the childish need for tenderness and the sexual desires of adults, particularly the perverse ones."

"Men abused boys, men covered it up," writes Susanne Mayer in Die Zeit 18.03.2010. "The question remains as to why a society that has so successfully sustained its patriarchal status, with closed circles of men in all positions of power, seems to be so helpless in this matter, in protecting the male child of all things, from paedophile aggressors. Perhaps it can only be understood as the defence of a homophile element, which can be found in any group of men, flocking together according to the narcissistic principle of similarity, as any board-meeting photograph blantantly flaunts."

The plagiarism/intertexuality debate over 17-year-old Helene Hegemann and her novel 'Axolotl Roadkill' has flared up again. On the eve of the award ceremony for the Leipzig Book Prize, the German Writers Union issued a "Leipzig Statement for the Protection of Intellectual Property"

In the Tagesspiegel 16.03.2010, Gerrit Bartels quotes from the statement which, he says was presumably written to ensure that Helene Hegemann would not take home the prize: "If plagiarism is deemed worthy of prestige, if intellectual theft and forgery are accepted as art, it is a clear demonstration that the established literary business has adopted an attitude of negligent acceptance towards the violation of rights." Among the signatories were Günter Grass, Günter Kunert, Christa Wolf and Sybille Lewitscharoff. (Read the full statement in German here)

In his article from Die Welt 17.03.2010, Uwe Wittstock points out that the first sentence of Christa Wolf's book "Patterns of Childhood" was copied from William Faulkner – without crediting or using quotation marks: "Was Christa Wolf a pioneer of the copy-paste aesthetic?" His answer: "Contrary to what the 'Leipzig Statement' suggests, the issue is not whether a writer picks from others' pots and copies without permission or without naming her sources, but whether she actually thinks through those ideas or sentences, developing them, thereby turning them into something new that is her own."

In Die Welt 18.03.2010, Brigitte Preissler talks to Julia Kristeva, the poststructuralist who coined the term 'intertextuality' to describe the dialogic nature of literature. It turns out that she has some unexpected arguments against digitalisation and the internet: "It is so easy to copy and plagiarise and pass the result off as your own – by simple copy-pasting. I regard this as one of the weakest aspects of modern culture and it throws our understanding of creativity into a huge crisis. The concept of the subject and the creative individual, this personal constructed unit, which we inherited from Judaism and Christianity, is collapsing."

The "Leipzig Statement" is all about exploitation rights and not about art at all, writes Felix Neumann in the blog Carta 19.03.2010. "It seems that conventional and real art feel threatened by the new technology and the new mentality. The statement makes no mention that art might have a duty to react to such things. ... Nor does it mention that 'the internet' not only has economic but also cultural consequences. ... Nor does it mention that the problem might lie less with the understanding of art and new forms of artistic expression than with copyright. We should be familiar by now with the different reactions to changes in society: some people write historical romances and pastoral verse; others write 'Berlin Alexanderplatz'."

As it was, Georg Klein won the Leipzig Book Prize for his book "Roman Unsere Kindheit" (novel about our childhood). Read a selection of Georg Klein's articles and short stories here.

Other stories:

Die Presse 18.03.2010

Germany's most famous interviewer Andre Müller tells Christian Ultsch why growing up without a father was good for his profession: "It means you have no Super-ego. You have no limits, no moral directives. And I have always connected this with my talent for interviewing people. I never come at people with opinions, I am like a hole into which they can pour themselves, until they no longer even notice how they are whirling about in there. Because I am a moral and ideological void." Read two of Müller's interviews here.

Süddeutsche Zeitung 19.03.2010

Sonja Zekri portrays the Chechen writer Kanta Ibragimov, who is convinced that he has been listed for the Nobel Prize. Writers, says Zekri, do not have it easy in a country which has "a lot more Kalashnikovs than books" and whose ideological reorientation is bordering on the "grotesque". Ibragimov's lastest book "The Problem House" has just been published in an edition of 1,000 "and this, Ibragimov says, was only because he sent a copy on his USB stick to a businessman in prison who sponsored the printing." - let's talk european