From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Die Tageszeitung 10.01.2009

Susanne Knaul talks to Israeli writer Nir Baram about the failure of the liberal-left in the war in Gaza and the failure of culture to influence politics. "There is far more pluralism in culture, in literature and in film, than there is in politics. There is always plenty of public debate about films like 'Waltz with Bashir'. Culture enjoys a certain autonomy, but it has almost no influence over political discussion. Israeli films and books have always been critical. Perhaps this is why the Europeans seem to think that major rethink is taking place in Israel. But this is just not the case. Israeli culture does not have sufficient influence to sway public opinion."

Frankfurter Rundschau 10.01.2009

Ina Harwig greatly enjoyed Thomas Bernhard's posthumously published volume "Meine Preise" (my prizes). For all the defiance and malice of his acceptance speeches - and this includes his unmissable explanation for cancelling his membership of the Darmstadt Academy for Language and Poetry – his collected writings about his prizes can also be sumptuous, mournful, and overwhelming. This is pure literature in the sense that the circumstances of the various prize ceremonies serve solely as a backdrop for a cornucopia of Bernardesque motifs, emotions and anecdotes."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

"Hot air, mostly serious, seldom witty". German writer Sibylle Lewitscharoff remembers the 68ers and her own days in training for the "Spartacus Bolschewiki-Leninisten". "As with other small communist groups, it was always weird men that did all the talking. The kaders had come over from Frankfurt to prepare us students for revolution. One of them looked as if he'd leapt right out of an anarchist circle in Dostoevsky's day and hadn't washed since. A pudgy, heavily-bearded little man with rolling eyes that glowed. Next to him sat a leather-coated political husk of a man, a postman by trade, with a head like a licked egg. The licking association forced its way into my mind because before speaking he would test the air by sticking the tip of his tongue out of the corner of his mouth. And let's not forget those chilly commissars, robotic pen-pushers with knowledge of weapons who were roaming the surrounding Stuttgart provinces on deflowering duty, to generate new material (it was honestly called this) for the movement."

Der Tagesspiegel

Tobias Müller portrays the new mayor of Rotterdam, the Morocco-born Ahmed Aboutaleb. "The Fortuynists once had the majority in the Rotterdam city council, and they are still the second largest faction. Aboutaleb was born the son of an Imam in 1961 in the village of Bni Sidel in the Rif mountains, in a Moroccan poorhouse inhabited by Berbers. His family moved to the Netherlands when he was 15. An assiduous pupil who, initially self-taught, learned first the language and then went on to study electrical engineering and telecommunications. He became a journalist, a press speaker and eventually a politician. The Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) made him their 'foreign face'. In the spring of 2004 he became the alderman of Amsterdam and revolutionised the city. The needy no longer simply receive welfare money, they are called upon to contribute to society, helping out in creches or soup kitchens, they have to learn the language, no one under 27 gets a cent, unannounced visits are paid to welfare recipients, and anyone on the fiddle is reported. The city is making substantial savings."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

In a fascinating article the Palestinan poet Salman Masalha complains about the overblown rhetoric prevalent among his people and their lack of honest self-criticism. "A fundamental problem in Arab-Islamic societies is that there is no tradition of examining one's conscience. In other societies this process is firmly anchored in the culture of thinking and it allows people to keep themselves in check. But Arab societies have no such mechanism in place. It is not stipulated by the religion nor would it be in the interests of the corrupt regime to encourage such a thing. And even Arab intellectuals – with the exception of a few individuals – do not stock this item."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.01.2009

Jürg Altwegg has read "Ramon" the book by French writer Dominique Fernandez about his father, a prominent intellectual Nazi collaborator. "At thirty-four Ramon, a socialist writer employed at a left-wing newspaper, was one of the most talented and educated critics of his generation.... At forty-three he became a fascist and three years later, went on to become a central figure of the collaboration. .. It was his flat where they would all meet: the publisher [Gerhard] Heller, the writer Ernst Jünger. Marguerite Duras lived upstairs, as did Robert Antelme until he was deported. The Resistance was active here. Duras personally informed Fernandez that it would be better if they no longer greeted one another on the street. In the stairwell however they remained friendly and close."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 15.01.2009

Alex Rühle was impressed by Laurent Cantet's Palme d'Or-winning film "The Class" which has much to say about the (not only) French education system. "If language is a house where we all reside, then most of these young people live in wind-torn huts. But how should we establish house rules if the children don't know words like 'Austria'? And then again, how can schools function as a house for all when at the end the pupils that need it the most are thrown out, when the so-called integration-machine is always based on exclusion? The good thing is that 'The Class' doesn't attempt to answer this question but hands it out to the audience as homework."

Jungle World 16.01.2009

The transition from peace demonstration to anti-Semitic rally has become seamless, writes Alex Feuerherdt in response to the protests against Israel's bombardment of Gaza. "In Berlin around 7000 overwhelmingly Palestinian demonstrators marched through the Mitte district. According to eye-witness reports, 100 or so of them at the tail-end of the demonstration were performing the Hitler salute and shouting: 'Die Jews!' During a demonstration in Hanover, in which around 3000 people participated, an Israeli flag was burned to enthusiastic applause and shouts of 'Death! Death to Israel!' as well as 'Juden raus!' (Jews out). And when individual demonstrators performed the Hitler salute, the police saw no reason to intervene." - let's talk european