From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Die Welt 18.01.2008

Manuel Brug delivers – with every respect to his musical achievements – a deeply critical report on Daniel Barenboim's work as music director of the Staatsoper, Berlin: "Barenboim's contract grants him full control of his premieres, the singers mostly come from just two agencies, and they are cast by a newly employed older man who is putty in Barenboim's hands. It's a long time since the house has brought forth any new vocal talent of its own. In the few, mostly conservatively programmed and high-circulation concerts in the Staatskapelle, it is mostly Barenboim's friends who have the reigns."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 18.01.2008

Lothar Müller furiously denounces Frank Schirrmacher's rabble-rousing editorial in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 15 January (see below), in which he openly compares the violence of immigrant youths with Nazism and Stalism. "These sentences are scandalous. They ascribe to the minority of violent immigrant youth in Germany the potential to commit crimes against humanity, equivalent to those committed under Stalinism and Nazism. Suddenly the problem at the heart of this debate has been catapulted into extremes. Not only are we talking about the transformation of the German post-war democracy into a totalitarian system, but the blows suffered by the pensioner in Munich have become the harbingers of civil war and a state of emergency."

Die Zeit

Is Italy on the verge of collapse? In view of the burning mountains of rubbish in Naples, writer Peter Schneider takes a dim view of things, including the fact that a comedian like Beppe Grillo can mobilise 50,000 people on the spur of the moment to demonstrate against the political caste with their middle fingers raised: "What's new in these outbreaks of anger and exasperation is the lack of a clear addressee. Or, as commentator Ilvo Diamanti says: this isn't a constructive, but a destructive vote of no-confidence. This lack of confidence is without hope, without future, without a positive, passionate side. The word 'anger' could just as well replace 'no-confidence'. The regions of Italy, a country that no doubt has done more to further global culture than any other, are already demonstrating the face of a 'failing state'."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

The major danger for Turkish writers and artists isn't Islamism, writes Istanbul-based sociologist Günter Seufert, but rather the "continual invocation of national unity." Conformity has become the "deepest principle of faith of Turkish society": "Many of the country's mayors have had signs put on municipal billboards bearing the words: 'We are all Turks.' In the holiday resort Cesme, this slogan has been replaced by: 'We are all soldiers,' while 'We are all Muslims' is the motto of the religious authorities. When national unity is perceived as being continually under threat without this decreed sameness, it's no wonder that any form of otherness is seen as a security risk. And when the secret services, the military and the police see Christian missionaries, for example, as a danger to the state, it's of little help when the president warns of the dangers of 'religious nationalism'."

Perlentaucher 16.01.2008

Felix Philipp Ingold paints a bleak picture of Putin's media policies. The latest coup: "President Putin recently initiated a super agency for media and Internet surveillance, and has already signed a directive which would transfer the former authorities for communication surveillance and cultural maintenance to a 'federative service for the surveillance of mass communication and information media and for the protection of the cultural heritage.' At least in part, this new service could certainly fulfil the function of a censorship authority, since its jurisdiction is to include the allocation of operating licenses as well as controling the content of print and electronic media."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross has met with hefty criticism in Poland for his most recent book "Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz." In it, Karol Sauerland writes, Gross describes the "anti-Semitic atmosphere in the country immediately after the Holocaust, the pogrom-like events in various parts of the country, and the pogrom in Kielce on July 4, 1946." While none of that was entirely unknown, Sauerland explains, the book has nevertheless caused a major commotion: "What had to happen happened: the new book by Jan Tomasz Gross … has set off a wave of outrage. Even serious newspapers reported before the book came out last Friday that it was full of false representations, that it was the work of a sociologist posing as historian and that it was a swipe broadside at Poland as a whole. And the last thing it would do would be to aid Polish – Jewish reconciliation, the papers maintained."

Frankfurter Rundschau 16.01.2008

Literary academic Barbara Vinken examines Nicolas Sarkozy's "eroticizing of his body politic for the media" and gives him poor marks for style, and for trangressing the bounds of decency. "This is less a behavioural problem – although it is this as well – and more a directorial one. The plot is obviously dreadful and desperately needs rewriting. And the almost identical rings which Sarkozy has given his second and now third wife – diamond-studded hearts are hardly original – are nothing but signs of the utter replaceableness of the characters in this melodrama, who have been reduced to transfer images."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.01.2008

Following the death of a German pensioner at the hands of a young Turk and a young Greek in the underground, Germany has been embroiled in a debate about youth crime. FAZ publisher Frank Schirrmacher urges that "the mix of youth criminality and Muslim fundamentalism" be correctly named, as "the closest thing to the deadly ideology of the 20th century." Schirrmacher argues: "Recently, Germans have been called 'pig-eaters' during unfounded attacks, which already moves the conflict into the sphere of a cultural war. You can't take such comments lightly because they are developing as an evolutionary stage in the parallel worlds of our society. The second and third generation of disenfranchised immigrants has turned parts of Berlin into ungovernable zones, according to their mayors. ... The failure to integrate immigrants, which is our own fault, is now making itself felt among those born here: the majority is falling apart, through the selective slaughter of a few.

Die Welt 15.01.2008

In Spain a new law stipulates that next of kin must be aided in exhuming victims of the Spanish Civil War. The law has kindled new debates about the past, reports Barbara Baumgartner. "The grave openings set off a wave of publishing revisionism, and books arguing that Franco saved Spain from chaos and revolution made it onto the bestseller lists. The reaction to that is the transfiguration of the Republic. In the literature and films about the War, the leftists are almost exclusively portrayed as heroic fighters. Even historians – after 40 years of nothing but glorification of the victors – have now partly gone too far in the other direction."

Die Tageszeitung 14.01.2008

No sooner was Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses" published in Romania than the translation was condemned by the Romanian Orthodox Church, reports William Totok. "The behaviour of the Romanian Orthodox Church came as no surprise. Since the fall of communism in 1989 it has been trying to establish itself as a spiritual power in Romania and to increase its religious dominance, using the popularity and trust within the Orthodox majority of the population. At the same time the Church, which in communist times fell into disrepute because of its loyalty to the state, is staking out its claim as the sole institution with the right to govern national traditions and values in the manner in which they were conceived."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 12.01.2008

Chechnyan human rights activist Zainap Gashaeva writes of the leaden peace hung with Putin portraits that has returned to Grosny – and of the unhealed wounds: "How many women unlock their doors at night in the hopes that their abducted husbands, their sons, their daughters and brothers might come back, or that they might miraculously hold a lifeless shred of their loved ones in their hands. Then at least they could be certain, which is akin to happiness here. But the abducted don't return, and no news comes of their death. Today those condemned to wait are forgotten, left alone to their eternal suffering."

Die Welt 12.01.2008

The literature section features a small homage by Andre Glucksmann to Pascal Bruckner, in which he also refers to the Bruckner-Buruma debate at Unlike Timothy Garton Ash and Ian Buruma, he agrees with Bruckner on the merits of the laicist model nurtured by the French. "A recent poll carried out by the PEW research institute on 'Muslims' living in the west revealed the following results: Firstly, Muslims living in France are the most convinced that the western lifestyle does not conflict with their beliefs (74 percent), secondly, they are the most happy about the separation of Church and state (73 percent) and thirdly, they have the most positive opinion regarding their relationship with their Christian (92 percent) and Jewish (71 percent) neighbours. The latter statistics would be hard to beat anywhere in the world." - let's talk european