From the Feuilletons


Monday 26 March, 2007

Süddeutsche Zeitung 26.03.2007

The paper publishes an abridged version of an interview given by author Günter Grass to Dominik Wichmann, in which Grass criticises German press reactions to his recent autobiography "Beim häuten der Zweibel" (peeling the onion - press reactions here), and the role of "moral authority" often attributed to him: "I never liked the term 'moral authority.' I've lived with it for years now, and others like 'conscience of the nation.' Heinrich Böll also suffered from that. These terms are useless. What we need is committed, dedicated citizens. Everything I did outside my literary activity I did as a political citizen, as a citoyen." Grass retracts an earlier description of the press as "degenerate", but goes on: "You can't fail to see that German press campaigns are like summary courts, that tear you apart and judge you before you can say 'Jack Robinson'... The German press was once exemplary, but today it's characterised by its low quality and uniformity, especially in such campaigns. You journalists are incapable of self-criticism. You sit in your warm editorial rooms all snug behind your huge circulation figures. But there are voices of dissent, and you can count on mine!"

Die Welt 26.03.2007

In an interview with Manuel Brug, conductor Ingo Metzmacher outlines his plans for the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester: "I'm very interested by the German element in music, primarily in the 20th century... And especially in Berlin, where someone like Hans Pfitzner lived and worked alongside someone like Hanns Eisler. Those two attitudes to music still cry out for attention and discussion. On the other hand, something that doesn't interest me at all is the ominous discussion about the 'German orchestra sound' (here for instance) or the eternal mucking around in the German tradition of the 19th century. The disrupted German soul only really arises later: Hartmann, Stockhausen, Bernd Alois Zimmermann, Rudi Stephan, for me those are the names that reflect German history, and that really belong to this contradictory place called Berlin."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

The German immigration authorities have refused to grant asylum in Germany to Chechen poet Apti Bisultanow on the grounds of his involvement in war crimes, an accusation Sonja Zekri calls "absurd". "As social minister for the inter-war President Achmed Maschadow and as head of a 35-man task force during the battles for Grosny in the winter of 1999/2000, he should be held responsible for the human rights violations of his subordinates. Indeed Bisultanov recently told a court about his involvement. And yet the explanation still seems absurd. Not only because he has condemned violence against civilians, the hostage taking in Beslan for example, on a number of occasions in this newspaper. The decision of the German federal office is based on reports from human rights groups concerning the abuse and execution of Russian prisoners at the hands of Chechens, and the deployment of Chechen refugees as human shields. As applicable as these accusations may be, the office still has no proof whatsoever of Bisultanov's individual guilt."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 26.03.2007

Petra Tabeling met the graphic novellist and creator of "Persepolis" Marjane Satrapi in Paris, and talked to her about her art. "Satrapi is determined to combat European prejudices – the West only sees a chador and knows nothing about the 'proud culture of Iran'. And so it's no coincidence that she has called her book 'Persepolis' – the name of the magnificent palace built by the Persian king Darius I which was burned down by Alexander the Great in 332. The title also points to the deep rift between Orient and Occident, whose existence Satrapi questions. The Islamic and the Western World have more in common than dividing them, says the avowed pacifict. 'There is no West and East, the world is round and not divided into two."

Saturday 24 March, 2007

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 24.03.2007

The Literature and Art supplement looks at the digital revolution from all imaginable perspectives. Polish author Adam Zagajewski writes that despite their iBooks, he and his colleagues are still the same old people. But what he really misses is the din: "The clatter of the typewriter proclaimed to the surroundings that something important was happening here: the energy of our internal worlds was being liberated and set down on the white paper. The cannonades of letters cascading onto the paper were triumphant salvoes. The birth of a new sentence was accompanied by explosions, fireworks almost (I often composed right at the typewriter, even poems - and just jotted down the first preliminary version by hand). Even now I still work like that on my computer: I jot down the first draft of a poem in a notebook or on a scrap of paper, and only later do I recopy it onto the screen. But with its customary discretion the computer is almost silent. You do hear the soft, tender taping of the keys, but mostly only when other people are typing."

Die Welt 24.03.2007

Physicist and writer Ulrich Woelk explains that his colleagues at the Large Hadron Collider, the new exorbitantly expensive particle accelerator at Cern, are expecting it to solve the "greatest puzzle of theoretical physics": why particles have a weight. It is still uncertain whether Nature "will be so obliging as to reward the huge experimental efforts at the base of the Alps with this new knowledge. Most hypotheses posit that it is the Higgs Boson particle which determines mass. And the hope is that the LHC will be able to catch it, but in case things don't go to plan (there has to be an element of realism among all this idealism) there is a theoretical plan B, which is to locate the existence of the tiny particle in yet higher energy dimensions where it will be impossible to locate. Unless humanity decides to mount a supranational effort to build an even bigger particle accelerator – which looks more than unlikely as things stand."

Berliner Zeitung

Anita Wünschmann introduces "the enfant terrible of the new generation of art collectors in Berlin, Ivo Wessel, a writer of books on software. "Ivo Wessel is an attractive man with dark designer horn-rimmed glasses. Collecting, he says, is 'a form of egotism'. It has something to do with not wanting to share works with other people. He talks, won't talk, posits theories, and discards them, names names from across the board of Germany's collector world, the great, the silent, the vain, those with the 'big money'. His tirade against the loss of tradition in an increasingly hectic art market, its rituals which often value superficialities over discourse, is carefully enveloped in beautiful language. And his talk of the 'true trouvailles' which he has to track down sounds somewhat capricious. Time is of the essence. He aspires to the ideal of slowness, after all, 'It would be impolite to last week's art work to need a new one so soon.'" - let's talk european