From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 30.11.2007

Every now and then an Islamist is thrown into jail in Austria but the country has not been seized by hysteria, Paul Jandl reports. After all this former monarchy looks back on a long history being a multiracial state, which has lived with Islam since the occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1879. Jandl sums up the situation in the country: "Whereas in 2001, 14 percent of the population had a background of migration, in 2007 this figure has risen to 16 percent. The majority of immigrants live in Vienna, a city where up to a third population is not Austria-born. But there is no need for any reflex fears about the balkanisation of the country. The majority of the new citizens no longer originate from classical gastarbeiter countries, but from the EU. The largest group of immigrants are Germans. Can it be that in Austria the clash of cultures is less extreme than elsewhere? Even the headscarf has not turned into a contentious issue. On the contrary, when the city of Vienna recently presented its new official working uniforms for cleaning staff, a headscarf for Muslim women was included."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 29.11.2007

Romanian author Mircea Cartarescu points out that it was the Romanians themselves who forced the Roma into poverty and delinquency – through slavery. "Over the course of centuries the Roma could be bought and sold, families were torn apart, children separated from their mothers, women from their menfolk, young women were regularly raped by their owners, and the so-called 'crow-scum' was the target of widespread contempt and discrimination. There was one voivode who would have the Roma climb trees and shoot them down with arrows. Hunting crows, he called it. Tied to localites and kept like animals, the gypsies in the Romanian principalities multiplied faster than anywhere else in Europe. So we created the gypsy problem ourselves. This is our historical responsibility." (Read our feature on Cartarescu, 'Bucharest in a trance')

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Muhabbet, the popular Muslim rapper and poster boy for successful immigration, has graced many a headline of late. After recording a rap song with the German and French foreign ministers he also turned up at the award ceremony of the Prix Europa where Esther Schapira won the current affairs prize for her film about the killing of Theo van Gogh. According to Schapira, Muhabbet told her that van Gogh was lucky to have died so quickly as he personally would have tortured the man before killing him and furthermore, Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserved a similar death. The singer has since denied the allegations. But Esther Schapira knows what she heard and cannot understand there has not been more public outrage. "I am increasingly lacking in the composure that the foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier alludes to when he says that people 'should not overreact' to the fact that his singing partner Muhabbet endorsed the brutal murder of the Dutch filmmaker. It makes me very angry. I just cannot get the images of this malicious killing out of my head. Theo van Gogh was massacred in broad daylight in a public place." And she has this to say to Steinmeier: "Politicians must face reality, not deny it."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 29.11.2007

One important reason for the failure of French integration policy is the "unabated ghettoisation" that the country has pracised for the last two decades, explains the French migration researcher Catherine Withol de Wenden (more here), in an interview about the fresh outbreak of unrest in the banlieues. "Our research has shown that immigrants from areas with good access to public transport have better chances of integrating into society. Social mobility is closely linked to physical mobility these days. Many of the suburbs were built in the seventies when the car was still the principal mode of transport, which meant the public transport was virtually non-existent. And the situation is very similar today."

Frankfurter Rundschau 28.11.2007

Director Leander Haußmann talks in an interview about his new film "Warum Männer nicht zuhören ..." (why men don't listen). He explains why he didn't want to continue working in the theatre forever. "All theatre directors who have careers that span more than 20 years and who want to maintain their quality of living have to direct at least two plays a year. You cannot prepare yourself for this in the long-term. First of all you work through everything you know or that you've read. Then you have to re-orientate. This is something Stefan Bachmann has managed very well. Despite being the leading director in Basel, he has taken time off to travel round the world. What does Thomas Ostermeier know of the world? He's hasn't left his theatre for years. Where is he getting this world that he talks about?"

Die Welt 27.11.2007

"I'm going to miss them," writes Andrzej Stasiuk, maintaining that the fun will go out of Polish politics now that Donald Tusk is taking over from Jaroslaw Kaczynski as prime minister. "The Kaczynski brothers at the helm were theatrical beings. Each of their gestures, each word, each appearance had an element of drama. They could be as funny as a comedy, but never trite as a soap opera. Within their chubby bodies and beneath the masks of their childish faces seethed emotions that banned the dullness of modern politics to a shameful, hidden existence. The brothers gave a voice to the deepest human emotions. They were so authentically resentful, vengeful, reckless, full of complexes, malicious and petty, that it was painful to see. This is why the simple people loved them."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 27.11.2007

Renate Lachmann presents the Croatian author Miljenko Jergovic, whose novel "Ruta Tannenbaum" has won the literature prize of the Bosnian city Tuzla. Jergovic's prose will no doubt do much to reconcile the former Yugoslavian countries, Lachmann writes. "'Ruta Tanenbaum' deals with a taboo issue in Croatian history, and attracted the wrath of Croatian critics when it came out. In it, Jergovic locates Zagreb at the centre of a creeping, steadily progressing Croatian anti-Semitism. At the same time, the book tells of the city's loss of identity at the end of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, when certain sectors of the popultion started out on careers of power in radical national and patriotic institutions."

Frankfurter Rundschau 27.11.2007

Norman Lebrecht explains why Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter sings Lieder from Theresiennstadt concentration camp on her new album. Her father, a Swedish diplomat, learned of the extent of the Holocaust in August 1942 from SS officer Kurt Gerstein. "After convincing himself of Gerstein's credibility with a look at his papers, von Otten spent the next six to eight hours in the corridor of the train, listening to a detailed report on the modus operandi of the genocide, the gas chambers and the mass graves. Gerstein left nothing out: neither the names of the responsible officers, nor the face of a small girl as she was pushed naked into the death chamber. 'I've seen more than ten thousand people die,' he sobbed."

Frankfurter Rundschau 26.11.2007

Writer, painter and composer Florian Havemann has published "Havemann", a thousand-page so-called "factual novel" about the lives of his grandfather, his father Robert Havemann - a prominent East German dissident - and himself. Yaak Karsunke is severly critical of the work, calling it a product of the East Bloc "tonne ideology," the preference of quantity over quality in planned economies. The more insults, for example, the better: "Wolf Biermann and Robert Havemannn are not the sole hate objects in this monstrously bloated gossip column. Anyone who is even marginally more successful than the author has a good chance of getting dragged through the mud. What Florian Havemann likes best is to wash other people's dirty laundry - and then his own hands in innocence. He himself is free from guilt, he intimates, all he's doing is stating the facts, giving his own view of things in endless self-reflections all meant to show what a sensitive, reflective, creative soul he is. 'Because I'm an artist, as he never stops repeating."

Die Tageszeitung 24.11.2007

Dominic Johnson reports shocking scenes from a hospital in Congo. The war-torn region of Kivu has "the most appalling conditions in the world," Johnson writes: "The things you witness in the ward for raped women in Panzi Hospital in the East Congolese city of Bukavu outstrip the human power of imagination. Women shot in the vagina after being gang raped are not uncommon. One woman was raped while her bound husband was forced to look on. He was then dismembered alive, and she had to eat his sex organs. 'I haven't been able to sleep without sleeping pills for ten years,' says Christine Schuler-Deschryver, in charge of the women's ward in Panzi Hospital on behalf of the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). This isn't a war, it's sexual terror'." Johnson writes of a "genocide by other means" carried out by Hutu militiamen before the eyes of a passive world.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 24.11.2007

The cross-border spread of East Asian pop could give the region a new identity, writes Hoo Nam Seelmann. It all started with "Hallyu" - the Korean wave (read our feature "Yodelling for Asia" on Hallyu). "For the first time in modern history, the 'Hallyu' phenomenon has made it possible to talk about a cross-border East Asian pop culture. The media in all East Asian countries have dealt extensively with the topic, while sociologists, cultural critics and columnists have given detailed analyses of the emergence, interdependence and transformations in mass culture. Discussion is even more intense in the virtual world of the Internet, where chat forums abound and all manner of information is exchanged. At long last, this public discussion is allowing East Asians to take stock of their shared cultural roots." - let's talk european