From the Feuilletons


Monday 30 July, 2007

Die Welt

Thomas Bernhard
(more) wrote his first full-length play "Ein Fest für Boris" ( A party for Boris) in 1966 for the Salzburg Festival, however the then president considered the grotesque drama about legless cripples "too dreary": "We must take the nerves of our more sensitive guests into consideration." Consequently the play was never performed there. Ulrich Weinzierl finds it fitting that it is opening the festival – which has proven capable of "swallowing much heavier fare" - this year, but is not entirely convinced of the approach of the young Berlin director Christiane Pohle. "In an attempt to do everything differently, she does a lot of damage. Pohle halves the number of cripples; the six of them loll about in lounge chairs, a combo plays in the background. The scene in which 'Good' gives the amputated Boris riding boots is eliminated, not replaced. And Boris doesn't drum himself into death; he practices weebles until he dies, with Johannes' help. It's no wonder that 'Good' doesn't 'break out in horrible laughter' – as Bernhard wanted it – but in fact is fighting back tears. And the sobbing finale is a massive belittlement, borderline kitsch."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 30.07.2007

Peter Hagmann was at the opening performance of Joseph Haydn's opera "Armida" at the Salzburg festival (more on the opera here), and is delighted that festival director Jürgen Flimm's gamble in putting on the little-known work has paid off: "And now the surprise. A story from the time of the Crusades, the musical form of the opera seria which was considered outmoded even in the mid-18th century, and an evening in Salzburg's Felsenreitschule theatre that simply buzzes with modernity. Armida and Rinaldo love each other, she a young Muslim from Damascus, which is occupied by the Crusaders, he an officer of the European occupiers. There is a definite element of today's world to it, which is underlined by the fact that Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, comprised of young Palestinian and Israeli musicians, is a guest at the festival this year. But there's even more to it than that. The performance deals with archetypal situations that are firmly brought home to us through the musical and scenic interpretation."

Die Tageszeitung 30.07.2007

Gabriele Goettle visits the writer and one of the first conservationists in the GDR, Hannelore Gilsenbach, who describes the East German response to her activism. "There were a lot of bureaucrats in the audience, asking provocative questions that all intimated that we were influenced by the West and our critique was aimed at socialism, and the 'leading role of the SED (the party of East Germany-ed) and its environmental policy. And what enraged them: that we showed pictures – of the dead Erzgebirge, the foam-covered Mulde River near Dessau, etc. It was absolutely prohibited to take such pictures in the GDR, let alone to show them in public. The term 'dying forest' could not be used, it was to be called forest transition; for the same reason that we refer euphemistically to climate change today."

Saturday 28 July, 2007

Die Tageszeitung 28.07.2007

Ulrike Herrmann talks with the 77-year old German philosopher Ernst Tugendhat, who looks back over his life and discusses death and departure: "I wrote my first piece on death when I was 64. I was in Chile at the time, alone, and I had the feeling that all that awaited me was death. But perhaps I was already open for the topic, because I'd studied with Heidegger, in whose thinking death plays a key role. When I imagine that I only have a short time to live, I'm horrified. Not because I absolutely want to go on living, but because I feel I've frittered away my time and should actually have lived entirely differently." See our feature "Whom to thank?" by Ernst Tugendhat.

Die Welt 28.07.2007

In the literature section, Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom presents a classic of modern Dutch prose, Ferdinand Bordewijk's novel of a father-son relationship "Character": "In the history of Dutch letters, the novel 'Character' is considered 'New Objective' prose, a current from the first half of the last century, which was a reaction to the lyrical and symbolist prose of the preceding epoch. Now, having reread it after so many years, what touches me most is the book's emotional, dramatic undertone. This is intensified through the style, which you could call notarial, as if the book had been etched into the paper. This opposition between juristic-style prose and dramatic events produces a unique effect. Perhaps the best comparison would be cold fire."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 28.07.2007

Serbian writer Bora Cosic reviews some sombre and some not-so-sombre moments in the lop-sided alliance between Serbs and Russians: "There were also good times in those long decades after the war. I made friends with some of the young Russian poets, I knew a few famous singers and chess players. I too saw Sviatoslav Richter in Belgrade's Music Hall, and had the feeling he was going to smash our barely tuned piano to bits with his steel fingers. A long time ago, Michail Tal, then world chess champion, came to Belgrade and stayed in the house of close friends of mine. There he found a copy of Pasternak's 'Doctor Zhivago,' printed in Russian by an Italian publisher. People say he devoured it in one night, and then dictated the forbidden book thanks to his formidable chess memory when he returned to Moscow. But even this myth I no longer believe any more." See our feature "Journey to the Alaska of my past" by Bora Cosic. - let's talk european