From the Feuilletons


Monday 3 April, 2006

In defence of Neukölln

The district of Neukölln in south-central Berlin has attracted nation-wide attention since last Thursday, when authorities at the Rütli-Hauptschule turned to the school board for help in combating criminality in the classroom, in an atmosphere where even the most intrepid teachers fear to tread. As of Friday pupils must be searched for weapons before entering the school (news story in English). Today two papers play down the Neukölln's bad reputation and come to the defence of the beleaguered neighbourhood.

"Teachers calculate that 83.2 percent of the school's pupils come from families 'with a migration background', while students from Arab families make up the largest group", reported the FAZ on Friday. "The parents are of no help in establishing standards and rules. For the school staff, the purported task of smoothing the youths' way in life is Utopic: 'In most families our students are the only ones who get up in the morning. How are we supposed to explain to them that it's nevertheless important to come to school and graduate?'"

In the Berliner Zeitung, Jörg Sundermeier sees the whole discussion about Neukölln as an unmistakable sign of a new gentrification: "In Rixdorf and around the Körnerpark, you've got to look a long time before you find one of the bands of riffraff youths that supposedly rule the entire neighbourhood. The university lecturers and city employees who sit talking in the Körnerpark Cafe in the summer, or who lie around watching the bellies of charter jets flying into Tempelhof Airport, can be happy that more and more well-dressed, well-educated young people have now taken the place of the extended families."

Writing in the Frankfurter Rundschau, Verena Mayer also finds Neukölln is not getting a fair shake, and counts the district's good points: "Poverty levels are higher in Kreuzberg and Wedding districts. And Neukölln doesn't even take first place in the fat kids and rotten teeth categories. But what it does have is the Karstadt department store on Hermannplatz, with its legendary, hugely expensive and immensely popular food floor. The Carnival of Cultures parade, during which hundreds of thousands of people dance through Berlin's streets every year, is organised in Neukölln. And the Hotel Estrel is located there too, with the biggest turnover in Berlin."
See our feature "Gangs of Neukölln", on Detlev Buck's film "Tough Enough".

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 03.04.2006

As "Good Night and Good Luck" opens in German cinemas, Fritz Göttler takes a closer look at Hollywood liberal George Clooney. "He unites glamour and political consciousness, tuxedo elegance and intellect. He distinguishes himself in his remarkable combination of the perfect tan and intelligent statements. Clooney, the boy from Lexington, Texas, the heart of America, who spends four weeks in his villa on Lake Como and manages to balance a never excessive party mood with a genuine concern for the condition of the world and the future of the USA. Taking it easy – so easy that it's hard to know where the natural ends and the artificial begins – a truly post-modern Hollywood star."

Die Welt, 03.04.2006

Hans Christoph Buch discusses the scandal that was ignited in Denmark by the publication of the memoirs of Danish news reporter and film director Jorgen Leth. Years ago, Leth was reported to have had an affair with the 17 year old daughter of his black cook. The tabloid press branded him sexist, racist and colonialist, his broadcaster withdrew his contract and the Foreign Ministry published the accusations against Leth on its website. The wind shifted when the ex-girlfriend announced on television that she had spent five happy years with Leth and "they split up on good terms. She had no bad feelings. In fact, he financed her studies and her move to Santo Domingo, where she now lives with her family." Leth's collaborator Lars von Trier said of the whole affair: "The eerie thing about this phenomenon is the follow the herd mentality."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 03.04.2006

Paul Jandl is absolutely charmed by the 36th Rauriser Literaturtage in Austria. "In Rauris, year after year, literature proves that some things don't change. In this enclave of an emphatic understanding of literature, which reads literature as the work of an author and recognises the people behind the books, the readings and pubs fill with hundreds of listeners. Large groups of readers discuss, small groups of writers bake bread. This time the sun even shone on the Kalchkendlalm at Fröstlberg."

Saturday 1 April, 2006

Die Welt, 01.04.2006

Does Ukraine want into the EU? Is EU membership desirable at all? Perhaps Ukrainians should think about what they want, writes the author Andrey Kurkov in a long essay in the literature section. "Our major problem is that we are trying to enter Europe's cultural space without having a corresponding space of our own. And everyone is so used to this paradox that it seems perfectly normal. First class painters and writers, composers and conductors represent Ukrainian culture abroad, while the nation hardly acknowledges their presence. Often the 'certified in Europe' only receive recognition in Ukraine once they've come back home. And not always. It's good that for so long, cultural Europe took more kindly to Ukraine than political Europe.... Young Ukrainian writers have long become the main commentators of events in Ukraine, and they've shown that Europe has more faith in the representatives of Ukrainian culture than in Ukrainian politicians."

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 01.04.2006

Michael Frank explains Italians' love for Silvio Berlusconi: "The little big man Berlusconi takes advantage of a fantasy widespread among his countrymen: He bends the state to his will, instead of complying with its rules. The little Silvio has put in practice the pubertal fantasies of overpowering large, unfair forces. He imposed laws on the state that benefit himself the most, and that make the state helpless in face of his desires. Berlusconi's way of passing laws blatantly in favour of his own interest is seen abroad as amoral. But it satisfies the childish power cravings of his countrymen. The realisation that Berlusconi is also cheating them is only starting to dawn on Italians now, behind their communal feelings of triumph." - let's talk european