From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 25.09.2010

In no other land, the USA included, is the media in a more permanent state of hyperventilation, avers Berlin correspondent Ulrich Schmid; nowhere else is there a greater divide between the "devastating averageness" of events and the way they are marketed by the media. "It is not the much touted fragmentation, but the factual uniformity of German politics that provokes media hysteria and political cock-fighting. German politicians suffer from a collective profiling neurosis. Their awareness of the minimal differences between themselves and their rivals results in rhetorical overkill. I don't know which is worse: the permanent polemics of the media and the politicians, or the broad factual consensus in the classe politique. Both have dire consequences. The broad political consensus encourages people to repress unpleasant issues and to create intellectual taboo zones."

Die Welt 27.09.2010

Vaclav Havel and the other signatories of the Charta 77 have appealed in the New York Times for Chinese dissident Liu Xioabo to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, and they have been joined by 120 Chinese intellectuals. Johnny Erling outlines the grave concern that this has triggered among the Bejing authorities and Liu's wife, Liu Xia, tells him about the conditions under which Liu has spent his last 11 years in prison: "Liu shares a cell with five criminals. He is treated normally, Liu Xia says, and is allowed outside for an hour's exercise everyday. 'Due to stomach problems he is very thin, but he has a healthy colour in his cheeks.' Liu is exempt from hard labour. The former literature professor is permitted to read and write. Liu Xia recently took him a stack of books' as many as I could carry', among them novels, history books and a Bible published in China. 'I can bring him any book he wants as long as it has been published officially.'"

Spiegel Online 27.09.2010

The German Wikileaks spokesman, Daniel Schmitt (32) has stepped down after falling out with Julian Assange, the founder of the website which publishes classified documents, including the Afghanistan war logs. He talked to der Spiegel.

Spiegel: "Herr Schmitt, neither you nor WikiLeaks have been answering your mail for weeks now. What's going on?"
Schmitt: "We've had technical problems and no one is taking care of them. WikiLeaks has reached a point where it needs to make changes. We have grown so rapidly in recent months and we desperately need more professionalisation and transparency in all areas. There is internal resistance to this development. Even I no longer know how decisions are made and who is shouldering the responsibility. The pressure has been on since the publication of the U.S. Military documents and we have not had time to restructure the organisation. As a result not all the work is being done properly. Things have got out of hand."

Wikileaks tweeted in response: "Spiegel report Schmitt resigned which is misleading. Schmitt was suspended a month ago."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 30.09.2010

Fritz Göttler interviews last year's Palme d'Or winner Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, whose film "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" (trailer) has just opened on German screens. "'Of course Thai filmmakers welcomed the news about its success at Cannes. The situation here is so sinister that people are hungry for every bit of good news. For young filmmakers it came as a ray of light – the hope that is is possible to make a different kind of film in Thailand." Would you describe what is happening as a Thai New Wave? "We don't collaborate on films but we do meet very regularly, and we are united in the desire to make films which more strongly reflect the life and politics of our country – and to fight censorship together."

Die Zeit 30.09.2010

Luther would not have it easy in the Evangelical church today. In Germany, whitewashing is allowed but polemicists are ousted out of their jobs as soon as they raise their voices, the crime writer Thea Dorn notes in despair. "The overwhelming show of support for Thilo Sarrazin, is a rallying cry from those who can no longer bear to listen to any more false sweet-talk. This makes it doubly shocking when our political class demonstrates its inability to react to provocation or divisive ideas by turning up the volume of the lullaby against which the troublemaker is struggling to be heard."

Easy-reading, too, in the world of literature: the author Iris Radisch complains about the lukewarm prattling of the German contemporary novel: "This low-altitude storytelling, however much the new kind-hearted, children's-birthday-party literary critics might sing its praises, has seen off all magic, imagery, linguistic authority and stylisation." This style "might be the expression of our sober times and the epochal exhaustion, but as a result, the overwhelming majority of German novels which are written in this spirit of this disillusion, are devoid of any sustainable aesthetic experience."

Die Welt

Martin Eich talks to three former East German theatre directors about 20 years of German unity. One of them, Sewan Latchinian, has still not got over the trauma: "Reunification trampled on a lot of emancipatory developments, careers were obliterated. This inflicted wounds which have still not healed." Tobias Wellemeyer, on the other hand says: "For a long time I believed that the majority in the GDR were against the system. I no longer believe this. It was a painful realisation." Wolfgang Engel says he had hoped that the GDR would become "a sort of Finland: poor but honest: a buffer between East and West."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Thilo Sarrazin has been relieved of his position on the board the German central bank in the wake of the controversy ignited by his book "Germany is abolishing itself" (more here and here). The FAZ editor-in-chief Frank Schirrmacher takes the opportunity to engage the former finance senator in a long talk about the controversial ideas laid out in his bestseller, his sources, and the potential ramifications for society. The two men are agreed about the demographic development of society, but Sarrazin is quick to deny that he is spreading biologistic or even eugenic ideas: "Biologism means that social factors are reduced to biology or, if you prefer to call it that, genetics. I reject this idea. What interests me is the interplay of nature and nurture." Asked about his allegedly eugenic ideas on immigration control: "The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all have tight controls on immigration. As a result the Pisa results of immigrant children in those countries are higher than those of the local population. People who want to see qualification-based immigration are pushing in this direction. This has nothing to do with eugenics."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 01.10.2010

"The honourable Munich middle class has disgraced itself," reports Peter Fahrenholz after an appearance by Thilo Sarrazin at the Munich Literaturhaus. "There was spitting, booing and loud heckling whenever either of the two other men on the podium, Handelsblatt editor-in-chief Gabor Steingart and Armin Nassehi, a sociology professor at Munich's Ludwig Maximilian-University, dared to criticise Sarrazin. The atmosphere in Munich's Reithalle was reminiscent of the Sportpalast (where Goebbels gave his speeches -ed)." - let's talk european