From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 22.05.2010

Fifty years after its first publication, Laszlo F. Földenyi rereads Elias Canetti's book "Crowds and Power". Canetti's central question is most unpopular these days, Földenyi comments. "What is man? This was the same question that so fired Montaigne and Hobbes, Luis de Vives and Pico della Mirandola, Thomas Browne, Robert Burton, John Donne and many more besides. What they all have in common is that they are all unfashionable today, like the question itself. Not entirely, of course. Because Canetti also had contemporaries who shared his interests, even if they were lone wanderers like himself. Czeslaw Milosz, Borges, Bela Hamvas and Kolakowski, Maria Zambrano, Nicolas Gomez Davila. For all their differences, these writers were all pursuing the same question and none of them was prepared to adapt their their free thinking to fit the academic disciplinary grid."

Joachim Gauk
, the former commissioner of the Stasi archives, talks in a long interview about the differences between East and West German mentalities, about freedom and resistance. He talks from experience gained first-hand as a Lutherian pastor in a pre-fab East German housing estate in Rostock-Evershagen, who then went on to become a resistance leader. "People can do more than they believe. You gain power by distancing yourself from the system. It gives you the feeling of being somebody, if you stay true to your values. You might not get very far in society, but you will be your own person and other people will recognise that you "have something". And they will thank you for this because they also dream about being someone. Young people in particular (...) believe in alternatives, in 'living in the truth' as Vaclav Havel put it. One of the accepted dictates in Western political-philosophical discourse says "there is no right life in the wrong life". But Adorno was mistaken when he wrote this."

Jungle World

The paper prints an excerpt from Thomas Maul's forthcoming book, "Sex, Djihad und Despotie" (sex, jihad and despotism), which looks at violence against women in Islam. Heavy abuse is haram, or strictly forbidden. "A woman with visible signs of abuse compromises the reputation of her husband, because she is proof of his lack of control over her. This also includes beatings which endanger a woman's ability to be penetrated and bear children, or threaten the intactness of the hymen, the living nerve of the biological system of the Umma. Muslim husbands can learn more about emotionally-controlled beatings from the al-Jazeera preacher and chairman of the International Union of Islam Scholars, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in his book "The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam" which enjoys huge popularity in Koran schools, and which calls for measured use of violence. In the case of extreme disobedience, the man should beat his wife 'lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive areas'".

Die Welt

Literary criticism has lost all its teeth, the writer Sibylle Lewitscharoff complains, and it seems oddly reluctant to differentiate between works of great literary importance and those that are 'meaningless, moody, insipid, stale, self-indulgent and transparent": "A friendly face disarms a killer. In the literary business, this means that even the most deadly critical instinct is imperceptibly inhibited, prevented from offloading the full barrage of anger and disappointment about a book, if it has encountered the person who wrote it on one or more occasions. Matters are only made worse by the fact that feeble, lifeless books are often written by very nice people. This is a hindrance."

Der Tagesspiegel

Andres Veiel, the filmmaker behind the documentary Black Box BRD, is making his first feature – about the RAF. Kerstin Decker met him on the set. "It started with a book, Gerd Koenen's brilliant in-depth study 'Vesper, Ensslin, Baader. Urszenen des deutschen Terrorismus' (primal scenes of German terrorism). A journey into the 'still murky fermentation of psyche and intellect'. Read it! an editor friend of Veiel's told him. No thanks! came the reply. And then his fears came true. Suddenly he needed new book shelves, and there was no space to move in his flat for all the photos on the floor. And he felt compelled to conduct endless interviews." Read our feature by Gerd Koenen on the correspondence between Ensslin and Vesper: "The element of madness".

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Hoo Nam Seelmann describes the South Korean approach to financial crisis management which has proved surprisingly successful: In times of emergency, the people feel called upon to demonstrate solidarity and "thoughtful devotion". Instead of shouting out the names of those responsible or protesting against stringency measures, the people launched a gold-collection programme. Koreans queued up to donate their wedding rings and personal items of jewellery to help the state pay off its debts. All number of employees and workers offered to take pay cuts and work longer hours. In schools, pupils donated uniforms to children whose parents had lost their jobs."

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Javier Caceres describes as a catastrophe, the way Spain is tying the hands of its most famous judge Baltasar Garzon: "The country, that not exclusively perhaps but largely due to Garzon, has made an essential contribution to the development of global justice, to the extent of becoming its driving force, with its relentless pursuit of despots and their henchmen, is now putting this very same Garzon, the first judge to attempt to bring accountability to the hundreds of thousands of gruesome deeds committed in the Franco era, in the dock."

Die Tageszeitung

Sven Hansen calculates the "true price" of the Ipad, which went on sale in Germany today. The gadget is produced by Foxconn in a Chinese warehouse where working conditions have driven ten members of the workforce to commit suicide this year alone. Foxconn subsequently introduced a number of anti-suicide precautions but when these failed to "prevent another 30 deaths, the electronics giant then forced employees to sign a contract which the Guangzhou Southern Metropoils Daily printed: 'I promise never to cause grievous bodily harm to myself or others'. The contract also contains a clause which grants their bosses full authority to commit them to a psychiatric clinic "for the protection of themselves or others, should they find themselves in an 'abnormal mental or physical condition.'" - let's talk european