From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Oskar Pastior's Securitate past

After it emerged that the Romanian-German poet Oskar Pastior (more here) had been working for the Romanian Securitate under the name "Informant Stein Otto", all his friends hoped that these revelations would not be followed by a slew of incriminating evidence regarding his spying activities. A former friend of Pastior's, the Romanian-German author Dieter Schlesak now buries that hope, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 16.11.2010, after reading the files himself. Pastior, he discovered, was also spying on him and even denounced him as a follower of decadent Western literature. But, Schlesak claims, it did not end there: In a recent conversation with another author, Hans Bergel, he learned that Pastior was jointly responsible for the suicide of the poet Georg Hoprich in 1969. "'Stein Otto' made regular trips to Hermannstadt after Hoprich was released from prison, to meet Hoprich and write reports. He was only one of many agents and officers who were watching Hoprich around the clock. The experience utterly traumatised Hoprich and he was so terrified of being thrown back in prison that, in 1969, he took his own life."

In the FAZ of 18.11.2010, Banat-Swabian author and vice chairman of the Oskar Pastior Foundation, Ernest Wichner is fiercely critical what he describes as Dieter Schlesak's unfounded accusations that Pastior was jointly responsible for the suicide of Georg Hoprich: "If this story were true, in other words, if it could be proved in the "Informant Stein Otto" files, then there would be nothing left to say about the case of Oskar Pastior... But if you want to push something like this into realm of the imaginable you must have evidence, not only rumours, which can be tested for its truth content."

Nobel prize laureate Herta Müller, whose book "Everything I Own I Carry With Me" (excerpt) was based on Oscar Pastior's experience in a labour camp, was deeply shocked by the news that he had written substantial reports as a Securitate informant. In the FAZ of 19.11.2010, Felicitas von Lovenberg cites her reaction: "There are two Oscar Pastiors. I am only now getting to know the second one. And that makes me bitter."

Other stories of the week:

From the blogs 12.11.2010

We missed this last week, but over at her blog lovegermanbooks, translator Katy Derbyshire reviews "Falcons without Falconers", Melinda Nadj Abonji's novel that won her this year's prize of the German Book Trade (excerpt in English here): "Its language is lilting and musical, highly characteristic not just because of her Swiss-German linguistic background, I would say. Nadj Abonji's sentences are often long and beautifully rhythmic, and she often addresses differences between Hungarian and German. Towards the end, Ildiko has a truncated relationship with a refugee – he speaks Serbian, she speaks Hungarian, and they communicate in English. And yes, 'Tauben fliegen auf' is very political. Extremely, unapologetically so. We learn about historical developments in Yugoslavia – in one very moving section, the girls' grandmother tells them the story of how their grandfather was arrested by the Communists, having resisted advances from the Nazis, and the family farm was collectivized. Later we watch relations sour between the Bosnian Serb Dragana and the Croatian Glorija as they work in the family's cafe. But above all, Ildiko has a watchful eye for racism in Swiss society."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 13.11.2010

The writer Cees Nooteboom has always been fascinated by the work of the Spanish painter and mystic Franciso de Zurburan (images) which he expriences in London's National Gallery: "The depiction of suffering and wounds does not seem perverse here, instead it is the product of a mentality that is deeply foreign to us now, what can almost be described as lust for showing the killing or physical torture of ascetics in order to demonstrate clearly that these are victims who have sacrificed themselves, who have been sacrificed for us. Bloody welts on a naked back, a woman with parted lips and dark eyes that stare at something we cannot see, amber-coloured tears in her eyes. Four tears, that should be rolling down her cheeks, but do not roll, just as the saints never lose their expression of ecstasy. I find myself inside a panopticum of sustained meditation and incessant suffering."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 15.11.2010

Andrea Eschbach was swept away by Julius Shulman's architectural photographs which are currently on show at the Zephyr Raum für Fotografie in Mannheim: "'God,' Julius Shulman once said, ' created a beautiful world, and architects also build wonderful things – but I make everything that much more beautiful.' He was right: Modernism never looked more seductive and glamorous than in Shulman's photographs. He not only photographed a house, he photographed the dream of a house."

Die Zeit 18.11.2010

Khue Pham portrays the black Berlin rapper Harris, the son of a German mother and an American GI. When he was 14 he flew to meet his father for the first time, who had returned to Alabama after serving his sentence for armed robbery in a Berlin prison. "At the airport however, Harris was not met by a gangster but a born-again priest. He drove his son to a place full of black people. Harris was made to go to Sunday School. The other children teased him because he wore red and blue striped socks. When they found out that his mother was white they shouted: 'You Nazi!' Harris was surrounded by people who looked like him but who did not accept him because he came from somehere else. He got into fights, he wrote to his mother and wept when she sent him a photo of herself. After 3 months he fell out with his father and flew back to Berlin. He was relieved to be home and was confident that he never wanted to live in the States again, he was not American. He knew this now. He was German."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 18.11.2010

In a series on "Art Schools" Kia Vahland travelled to Tirana to meet the painter Edi Hila, the former teacher of the Albanian artist Anri Sala. Hila himself was removed from the art world under the art-hostile regime of Enver Hoxha. "Edi Hila is no rebel. He never wanted to paint like Picasso. 'Things were going well for me and I was over the moon because I'd just met my wife Joanna.' Which is why, for the party commission he received in 1972, he painted a particularly friendly picture of young people planting trees. With so much joy and dynamism that some sky blue landed in the tree tops and made the branches sway. The party hacks decided that this must be what was meant by Expressionism and as punishment, Edi Hila landed an unlimited sentence to forced labour in a chicken factory." - let's talk european