From the Feuilletons


In an earlier version of our newsletter, a half-asleep editor located Sofia in Romania. Thank you to readers for drawing our attention to this.

Monday 30 April, 2007

Die Tageszeitung

The East Europe Institute of Berlin's Free University had to withdraw from a conference in Sofia, reports cultural anthropologist Ivaylo Ditchev. The topic of the conference was to be the legendary 1876 massacre of Batak at which Ottoman troops killed some 30,000 people there while suppressing an uprising. "Television and newspapers (particularly the country's largest broadcaster, which is in the hands of Rupert Murdoch, and the largest newspaper, which belongs to the German WAZ group), nationalist historians and high state officials on the side of the state have gathered together and suggested that the project negates the victims. The Academy of Sciences was prohibited from hosting the conference. Militant members of the nationalist party and residents of Batak openly threatened to beat up attendees at the conference, if it takes place."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Estonian artist Hanno Soans tells Matthias Kolb about the emotional signficance of the soldiers' memorial in Tallinn, whose destruction led to deadly riots among the Soviet minority (more here). He recalls how his performance in 1998 got an unexpected response. "I posed behind the memorial so it would look like a mirror image. My naked body was painted pink, and in front of me was a pile of bananas – a representation of the eternal light that blazed there during the Soviet period. I called the event 'Another unknown soldier,' because back then hardly anyone talked about the graves under the memorial. Some passers-by appreciated it, others cursed it. After ten minutes I drove away, and a friend filmed the whole thing. Then something totally unexpected happened: The people scrambled for the bananas that I'd left as an offering."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 30.04.2007

On the weekend, the FAZ reported that Stanford University was considering buying into the publishing house Suhrkamp; within hours, the Südeutsche Zeitung had repudiated the rumour. "An American university as an investor in a German publisher of fiction? - No wonder the story sounds so improbable. It's simply wrong." The FAZ now justifies its report with a quote from Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Stanford professor (and one-time doctoral supervisor of Frank Schirrmachereditor in chief of the FAZ) who said, "Of course there was talk of a financial relationship."

Die Welt 30.04.2007

Is Great Britain becoming less Great Britain? Are the Scots preparing to take leave of England? Gina Thomas considers the fact that the three hundredth anniversary of the Scottish-English union and the Scottish elections, which the separatists have a good chance of winning, both fall on Thursday. "In the last forty years, there have been dramatic developments on both sides of the Tweed, which have been most evident at sports events. At the soccer championships of 1966, the English team wore the 'Union Jack' – born of the merged emblems of the patron saints of England, Scotland, and Ireland. At today's games in England, the only flag to be seen is the red cross of St.George, while the Scots take the field with their white St. Andrew's cross on the blue background. Nothing could be more symbolic than that – the increasing fragmentation of the national consciousness as played out in the demolition of the symbol of unity."

Saturday 28 April, 2007

Die Tageszeitung

Judith Luig sees the art scene in Damascus vascillating between self-censorship and modernity. "'There's no such thing as Syrian art,' asserts Mahmoud Shahin. 'Or at least not yet. Maybe in 50 or 100 years we'll have found the character of Arab art but not yet.' Referring to the work of his students, the sculpture professor says, "We're somewhere in the experimental phase.' The exhibition that opened the previous day at the Goethe Institute in the prosperous Malki district of Damascus seems to prove his thesis. On the platform, semi-abstract ceramic doves entwine gracefully, a plaster of Paris maiden hovers in the corner, and surrealism hangs next to realism on the walls."

Berliner Zeitung 28.04.2007

In an amusing weekend interview with Ulrich Seidler, the director of the Berliner Ensemble, Claus Peymann, advises against going to the completely sold out Theatertreffen to which he was not invited. "The Theatertreffen has become a ideological, fringey program of a particular clique of critics who are fed up with theater and who invite the same groups every year, always hungry for the allure of something new – as young as possible, and hopefully female. These tedious puppets have already ejected Christoph Marthaler and Frank Castorf. But I don't want to complain. The Theatertreffen is our stock exchange, and maybe the theatre is really as poor as the Theatertreffen makes it seem."

Spiegel Online 27.04.2007

It didn't take long for Necla Kelek to respond in a guest commentary to the slanderous remarks of Feridun Zaimoglu, who accused Islam critics like Kelek of defaming religious Muslims. Kelek hopes that his position may enable a neo-Muslim woman to take part in the second Islam Conference which will take place on Wednesday. "It seems he has missed the point, that participants in the Islam Conference are involved in a constructive, critical discourse. The Islam Conference is the first institution in which dialogue actually takes place between Muslims and with governmental institutions. It is pretty revolutionary to find conservative and secular Muslims, Sunnis, Alevites and Shiites talking together so intensively and for such a long time. This forum for open debate is fitting for our democratic society and is also new for representatives of Islamic associations.... The fact that Zaimoglu is attempting to denounce it is shameful and shows that this writer has no interest in democratic process and discourses. That is why it makes sense for him to leave the conference. Muslim women will have to fight for their own progress and freedom. I am with them." (features by Kelek and Zaimoglu here and here)

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Ezhar Cezairli, representing secular Muslims at the second Islam Conference opening this Wednesday, tells Karen Krüger she mistrusts the legitimacy of the newly founded Coordinating Council of Muslims (more): "If the federal government recognizes this umbrella organization as a representative of all Muslims, it will be making a grave error and throwing the entire Islam Conference into question." Cezairli prefers to understand the Islam Conference by its original purpose: 'to initiate dialogue between Muslims and representatives of the state. It has succeeded in that. And in addition, secular Muslims talk to Muslims whose religious world view is conservative, even fundamentalist. This discussion is important because there is a strong tendency to reformulate social problems in religious terms, and thus to ascribe them to religious associations. But that is false advertising, and we must object to it." - let's talk european