From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Die Welt 23.10.2010

Ian McEwan was in Berlin to present his latest novel "Solar". In conversation with Wieland Freund and Jacques Schuster, McEwan, who shot to fame in Germany with his Cold War novel "Innocent", explains his great surprise that almost no German author of note has written about the Wall: "If the Wall had run through Manhattan, American writers would hardly have avoided the issue. So why all this silence on the Western side? I believe there are two answers to this question. One is that most German writers were politically left-leaning and had they written about the Wall they would have had to have been against it. But in the divided world of the Cold War, writers did not want to side with the CIA. The other, more aesthetically interesting answer, came from a fellow German writer who, when I asked him why he didn't write about the Wall said: the Wall is for journalists."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 25.10.2010

For Jürgen Ritte, Michel Houllebecq's bestseller "La carte et le territoire" is cold coffee compared with other books on the Prix Goncourt shortlist. Virginie Despentes' "Apocalypse Bebe" for example: "If you read sexuality and pornography as metaphors for the play of power and oppression, for the struggle between integrated and excluded escatologists, for the language of violence and the violent language of the powerless, then you can confidently read Virginie Despentes' novel as a truer and more radical representation of the current state of French culture than any of Houellebecq's game-playing. 'Only the most dishonest Frenchmen could persuade themselves that an understanding can be reached,' one figure in her novel says, a teenage boy from the infamous banlieu, 'there will be no apology and the matter will not be discussed."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 25.10.2010

Nils Minkmar sums up the results of a report by the Independent Commission of Historians¬† on the role of diplomacy and the Foreign Ministry in the Third Reich: "After reading the first part of the commission's report, there is no way to avoid describing the Foreign Ministry under the Nazis as anything but a criminal organisation, whose considerable talents in propaganda and argumentation were left largely in tact after the end of the war and deployed to remove all traces of the crimes.... Until very recently, any historian who sought to describe the guilt of Germany's diplomats had to reckon with fierce journalistic resistance from the likes of Rudolf Augstein (the late founder and co-owner of Der Spiegel) and Countess Dönhoff."

Perlentaucher 27.10.2010

Two Danish writers Jens-Martin Eriksen and Frederik Stjernfelt analyse the symptoms of culturalism, the ideology which is warping people's reaction to Islam in both political camps - on the Right, in the push for a 'guiding culture' and on the Left, in the defence of the headscarf: "This strident antiphon of particularisms, in which the reinforcement of the culturalism of the Left frightens more voters to move towards the culturalism of the Right and vice versa, ought not to persuade anyone into believing that culturalisms of the Left and the Right constitute the main antithesis in modern politics. On the contrary, the conflict is between Enlightenment and culturalism."

Die Welt 27.10.2010

German debates are dull as ditchwater, cultural scientist Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht complains in an interview. No surprises and too much dogmatism. "Take Angela Merkel's reaction to the Thilo Sarrazin affair (more here): his 'unwelcome opinions' were "not helpful". Fantastic! Only welcome opinions are to be expressed in debate. If you articulate an unsolicited opinion, you will lose your job. This is exactly the point: the 'welcome opinion' syndrome."

Jungle World 28.10.2010

Ivo Bozic talks to SPD politician Michael Bauer, who defends the newly formed secular working party against its pious social democratic opponents. He is not denying that Christian-Judaeo values exist, he says, but "it would interest me to know exactly what is meant by 'Christian-Judaeo values'. If these supposedly include such things as human dignity and human rights, then it should be noted that the Vatican, as representative of the Catholic church, still refuses to recognise the European Charta of Fundamental Rights. So it seems the aforementioned values are not necessarily Catholic values."

Die Zeit 28.10.2010

"Capitalism makes great art possible," writer and businessman Ernst-Wilhelm Händler tells Ijoma Mangold. And then he goes on to complain about the lack of decision-making skills in society, self-replicating control systems such as the enterprise resource planning system in the book industry and the flatness of contemporary literature: "As far as prose in concerned, we are seeing almost no innovative formal experimentation. But this is not the biggest problem I have with German contemporary literature. As a reader I find two elementary motivating forces completely absent: the pursuit of power and the pursuit of money. Power words and numbers fill the business section of the newspapers but not the novels. I find this surprising and regrettable. Everyone has problems with money and power issues, but this is entirely ignored by literature."

Süddeutsche Zeitung 28.10.2010

Eastern European historian Martin Schulze Wessel is deeply critical in his assessment of the freshly published "corner stones" (German pdf) for a planned permanent exhibition (more here) in Berlin on flight and expulsion. He was appalled that "Bromberg Bloody Sunday" has been highlighted to play a key role in the exhibition - the term refers to the shooting of minority Germans by Poles in the aftermath of the invasion of Poland in September 1939: "The war begins with German victims - this is the message sent by this particular part of the exhibition. You have to ask how the curators came up with Bromberg in the first place. 'Bromberg' is a part of the violent history of WWII but it has nothing to do with flight and expulsion. Are the curators perhaps more interested in historical revision? "

Die Welt 29.10.2010

Doron Rabinovici, author of the novel "Elsewhere" describes in a shocking article how the moderate Austrian parties have become lackeys of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) and are sending the children of asylum seekers back to Kosovo at gunpoint: "Immigration laws demands that babies born in Austria who do not leave their mothers' bellies with the correct passports, require a resident's permit - if not quite in the delivery room, then within their first six months.¬† The racist antagonism of populist politicians and the tabloid press has left an indelible mark on Austria. The ruling coalition of SPÖ and ÖVP are aiding and abetting the right-wing agitators." - let's talk european