From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Die Welt 20.03.2010

In Hong Kong, the writer Marko Martin met Chinese poet Bei Dao, who started off by telling him how much he misses Berlin. "I think it's normal. After 1989, after my time in West Berlin and during the long years in the USA, I was publishing one volume of poems after the next and my friend Wolfgang Kubin translated many of them into German. And now? My poems are available again in China (note that Bei Dao refers to the mainland as opposed to the motherland). Private publishers are able to circumvent the censors and get them onto the chaotic market in their tens of thousands, for which they pay the state a fine, but they don't pay me, and the state.... Well, after a number of brief, strictly monitored visits between 2010 and 2004, it was decided that I should not be allowed to return."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 20.03.2010

Jürgen Kuri assistant editor-in-chief of c't, explains why web filters are so important, and why only social networks have the power to counteract the Google algorithm: "Algorithms are not moral and not intelligent. Algorithmic filters lead to mainstreaming, which smacks of the Matthew effect: "To all those who have, more will be given". Things that are known are strengthened by repetition and more versions of the same; the unknown things and things that don't conform are blended out. But user behaviour on social networks demonstrates that filters can work differently. The network of relations between circles of friends on Facebook and groups of followers on Twitter, creates a social filter of tips, links, retweets, statements and comments."

Die Welt 23.03.2010

The theatre director Christoph Schlingensief looks back on his wonderful time in Bayreuth with Wolfgang Wagner (Richard's grandson) who died aged 90 on March 22. "In the first two years, I met Pierre Boulez and had the opportunity to learn from him, and then witness the new Parsifal singer coming to life, suddenly becoming a real person. In my third year, I saw how some of the singers, who had critcised the opera house, were suddenly no longer included in talks about contract extensions and were subsequently replaced – those were magic moments in my musical education!"

Die Welt 25.03.2010

Thomas von der Osten-Sacken cannot understand the lack of public and political support in the West for the "green movement" in Iran. After all, a show of solidarity with the protesters and sanctions on the regime would benefit the entire region. "Without the big brother in Tehran, the Hisbollah in Lebanon would be forced to become a normal party, the Assads in Damascus would have to pack their luxury bags and Hamas might just have to allow a little pluralism into its world view. What is at stake here is nothing less that the future of the Middle East, and a key building block for peace in the region. Not to mention the Iranian nuclear programme."

Die Zeit 25.03.2010

In 1999, the Frankfurter Rundschau ran a story about the routine sex abuse of pupils at the Odenwaldschule, a secular and progressive educational boarding school in Hessen. In a dossier entitled "silence of the men", Die Zeit asks why everybody kept quiet: upper-class parents, teachers, the children, too, for a long time, the public prosecution department and the media. Neither Bild, Süddeutsche, FAZ, Welt , Spiegel nor Zeit decided to report on the sexual misconduct of former headmaster Gerold Becker. "Suspicions have also been raised in progressive educationalist circles that someone was preventing information from reaching 'higher levels of the press'. The headmaster Gerold Becker and his partner, Hartmut von Hentig, had influential contacts in the newspaper world, Die Zeit among them. The late Countess Dönhoff, who published Die Zeit for many years, was a friend of Hentig's."

"What's it got to do with me?" came the reply from Hartmut von Hentig, Germany's most prominent educator of the post-war era whose partner, the now terminally ill Gerold Becker, sexually abused children at the Odenwaldshule during his time as headmaster (1972 -1985). Hentig denies all knowledge of the abuse. He also wonders why the victims didn't talk up earlier." I am just a layman in this Freudian territory. In the 19th century when women took their cramps, paralysis and impaired consciousness to the grand master in Vienna, he had a preference and good reason for seeking out the causes in the unlit corners of sexual experiences and desires. This is what I told the Süddeutche Zeitung – and why, now, I am being accused of ridiculing the victims." (Read more of Hentig's reply in German here).

Charlotte Wiedemann writes an excellent essay on the dispute between South Africa and Arab Africa over the influence of Timbuktu (and its fabulous library). "Since it was founded in the 12th century Timbuktu was a Muslim city. (...) Every second African today is a Muslim; a fact which is often overlooked. There is a document in Mali's national museum which contains these remarkable words on the subject: With the creation of an indigenous class of Muslim scholars 'Islam ceased to be the religion of a white foreigner and became an African religion."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

"The intellect is transient," writes Michael Hutter, the director of the exotic-sounding Cultural Sources of Newness department at the Social Science Research Center, Berlin, in an appeal to close the chapter on the "Gothic tale about intellectual theft". "The intellect cannot be stolen, at worst it is misappropriated – as when you sneak into a concert without having paid... Intellectual content – stories, songs, images in all possible combinations – do not disappear when misappropriated." - let's talk european