From the Feuilletons


Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Harold Pinter, prevented by cancer from travelling to Stockholm to receive his Nobel Prize, delivered his acceptance speech from his hospital in London (here as text or video). Pinter argues that in politics, unlike in art, there is such thing as a single truth. And then he launches into an attack on the USA: "How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice."

Ijoma Mangold in the Suddeutsche Zeitung is very impressed. "We have to accept that excess can work as an aesthetic form. This is indeed the case with Pinter. One would not have thought it possible. This speech gestus doesn't conform with our postmodern scepticism and relativism at all. The speech seems to come out of another era. And at the same time, it's no costumed theatre performance."

Hubert Spiegel, writing in the FAZ, is less taken by Pinter's polemic. "He is unable to accept in real life what he has so often celebrated in his plays – that things are never black and white. The challenge is, as he wrote in 1958, to search for the truth. Today he is confident that he's found it."

And in Die Welt Eckhard Fuhr comments on Pinter's video speech: "The Osama-bin-Laden-like impression of the medium is entirely fitting for the contents of the message."

Meanwhile, former Nobel jury member Knut Ahnlund, who resigned from the Swedish academy a year after the prize for literature was awarded to Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek, makes a few confessions to Marium Lau in an interview in Die Welt. "When Jelinek was awarded the prize, I still hadn't read so much as a single line of her work." Apparently he is more familiar with Harold Pinter's work, but he wouldn't have awarded the prize to him either: "Pinter's dramatic work is a second-hand version of Beckett or Ionesco. It is vastly overestimated, and often credited with a depth that's not there at all. Those long, drawn-out pauses and the way it's all like some kind of attack or fit make it very difficult to get through, either by reading or listening to it."

Die Tageszeitung, 09.12.2005

Ulrike Münter reports from the Suojiacun artists' settlement in Beijing, which is currently being demolished. The city is badly in need of park space for the 2008 Olympics. "The developer had already collected the rent for the coming month on Sunday – in cash, as is the custom in China. So no one could believe their eyes when two bulldozers, a hundred police officers and an ambulance appeared at the gates of Suojiacun at 8:30 on Tuesday morning, and the call was given for everyone to vacate the premises. Any occupants of the first group of buildings to be demolished who happened to be on their way to work or taking their children to school found their possessions on the other side of the street when they got back."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 09.12.2005

After months of infighting, the Scala has once more had a premiere, the first after the departure of conductor Ricardo Muti, who had acted as musical director for the last 19 years. Eleonore Büning was at the performance of Mozart's "Idomeneo", staged by Luc Bondy and conducted by Daniel Harding: "The Scala orchestra was unrecognisable under Daniel Harding's flickering baton: their tone was sallow, their vibrato poor and the quality of their expression extremely variable over the course of the night. At times they were almost lacklustre, simply sketching out the music con sordino, before once more bursting forth in sharp, big brass fortes. It's no secret that the risky dynamic with which Harding tried to reproduce the rhythmic and harmonic perplexity of Mozart's music resulted in wobbly moments. The Scala orchestra is still inexperienced at historical performance praxis. But the jubilation with which Harding was received proved that he was right to have tried something differerent. 'Muti is a major loss,' Il Giornale had written that morning. By evening it was clear: no one had missed him at all." - let's talk european