From the Feuilletons


Monday 10 October, 2005

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10.10.2005

is very popular among Arab theatre directors, reports British-Kuwaiti dramatist and theatre director Sulayman Al-Bassam. "Shaikh al-Zubair, as the bard is deferentially known in Arabic – Zubair is a small town to the East of Basra – represents an ever-changing instrument for insurgency among radical Arab directors. The thematic and formal overlaps between Shakespeare's universe and today's Arab world are overwhelming. ... In both, the power of language, poetry and storytelling is shot through with magical, continually transforming powers. In the case of the Arab world, this power has sacred roots in the Holy Koran. Wars, conspiracies, hooded assassins, crimes, oppression, questions of kingdom and the state, of national and individual identity belong to day-to-day life in the Arab world."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 10.10.2005

Paul Ingendaay tries to describe the new Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, designed by Santiago Calatrava; it reminds him of an animal – but what kind? "At the front and back it looks like a fish, gracefully opening its mouth. The side offers a rhombus shaped opening with little trees and a landscape of balconies. But the thing also has something oyster-like about it, thanks to the gently-bent side pieces, whose shimmering outer skin, made up of millions of bits of white ceramic, glitters brilliantly in the water of the pond when the wind ceases to blow. Or is it a stranded whale?" Whatever it is, it's wearing a helmet.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 10.10.2005

Reinhold Vetter claims that Poland is not as nationalistic as it seems following the recent election. He sees the election results as primarily a reflection of political querulousness; after all, only 40% of the Poles bothered to vote. "The majority of citizens are satisfied with the entry into the EU. What's important for the people is the freedom to travel, the possibility to look for work in the West, the mobility of Polish enterprises and the prospect of the euro. Many young people have adopted a virtually European lifestyle, learn languages and have networks all over the continent. A right-leaning, self-sufficient Polish government will not hinder the development of this potential."

Faust II in the Deutsches Theater

Michael Thalheimer's "Faust II" (plot summary here) premiered on Friday in the Deutsches Theater, completing the cycle that he started last year. Katrin Bettina Müller, writing in the taz, was very impressed by what she read as its damning critique of modernity. By concentrating on the theme of the failure of progress, "the director makes Goethe better than he actually is." And the actors keep up to the director. "Nina Hoss as the beautiful Helena has one of the strongest performances of her theatre career, glimpsing behind the facade of the femme fatale for which she is so often cast. Like a shipwrecked person whose will to survive overcomes all the idolatry that she receives, she stands there: her head bowed, her lipstick smeared, the feet planted solidly on the ground. The language and fury that explodes from her like lava from a hot volcano, suffices for more than a lifetime."

Ulich Seidler of the Berliner Zeitung sees things differently. The action is pared down to 120 minutes and is so compressed that it "treads on the spot". Seidler considers the performance more of a summary than an interpretation. "It's the perspective of a dead cosmonaut. On the one hand, the spectator should look down on the world from way above, on the other hand from the end of his life. Thus, everything remains small and concise while at the same time, one knows what the final talley's going to be. With the look down and the look back, one sees the world and life as doubly void."

Der Tagesspiegel, 10.10.2005

The Tagespiegel has seen fit to report on signandsight's poetry translation contest, the complete results of which can be read here. Winner was Brian Murdoch, with his version of Ernst Jandl's poem "Ottos Mops":

"fritz's bitch itches
fritz: quit bitch quit
fritz's bitch quits it
fritz: nitwit

Saturday 8 October, 2005

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 08.10.2005

Kerstin Holm has had a look at Russian Pop Art presented in an extensive exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, some of which is being shown for the first time. The Soviet artists were reacting primarily to influences from the West, Holm remarks. "The tongue-in-cheek references to Western pop culture confirm Dostoevsky's saying that the genuine Russian cultural achievement lies mainly in the universal ability to appropriate other influences. In the 1970s, Mikhail Roshal painted a poster with a huge glass jar of Soviet borscht. The work with the name "Hi, Andy!" uses cheap photorealism to respond to trends in print graphics abroad. Leonid Sokov (paintings here) answered Warhol's "Absolut Vodka" poster by hacking a human-sized vodka bottle out of coarse-grained Russian wood with an axe."

Frankfurter Rundschau, 08.10.2005

Searching for Europe in contemporary literature, literary scholar Paul Michael Lützeler takes a broad view of the recent literary history of Europe: "In contemporary German-language literature, there are countless novels dealing with German history. Think of the books on the Nazi era, the Second World War, the Holocaust, the Postwar era of destruction, the economic miracle, the student movement and German unification. But there are no more works dealing with the basic problems of the whole continent, in Germany or in other European countries."

Die Welt, 08.10.2005

Korea is guest of honour at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. Hannes Stein has travelled to South Korea, and is astounded at the "Livingtopia" city of Paju, lying on the North Korean border, with its many publishing houses and fans of German poet Rainer Maria Rilke such as Hwang Chi Hoo: "At a talk with this friendly, squarely-built poet who is managing the South Korean presence at the Frankfurt Fair, it is clear where the money behind this utopian project of the book-city of Paju came from: the Koreans read! They read like crazy. Editions of novels with over a million copies are not rare, and even poetry books can reach the hundreds of thousands. Of course, more than anything else, the Koreans like to read Korean literature. But they also like books in translation, and here Germany figures high on the list. If you ask passers-by in Seoul about Goethe, Hermann Hesse, Günter Grass and Heinrich Heine, you don't get an uncomprehending stare, but an enthusiastic response. Hwang Chi Hoo says softly that he himself learned what poetry was when he read Rilke as a schoolboy." - let's talk european