From the Feuilletons


Poet Gottfried Benn died fifty years ago

German poet, essayist and physician Gottfried Benn died on July 7, 1956. Benn, the "first poet of the media age" (Berliner Zeitung), is widely considered the foremost German poet of literary modernity. He rose to fame in 1912 with his "morgue poems", nine texts on the decay of human bodies. Here a link to some of Benn's poems in German with audio files.

In the Frankfurter Rundschau, Anja Juhre-Wright talks with Natias Neutert about the difficulties of translating Benn into English. Neutert draws astonishing parallels between Benn and Shakespeare: "Both conjure up 'potential words,' as linguists call them, words that could always have been made according to our grammatical rules, but that had never been formulated until then. Once they've been created, nothing stops them from becoming an integral part first of the poem, then of the language. In this respect, Benn was enormously creative when he formed neologisms like 'Seltsamsaft' (curiousjuice), or said 'Mißvertraun' (misdistrust) for the sake of poetic metre."

Thomas Combrink talks to writer and filmmaker Alexander Kluge in the Süddeutsche Zeitung about his views on Benn. Asked what he makes of Benn's strong support for the Nazis in the mid 1930s, Kluge answers: "I don't dare judge a man like Gottfried Benn according to categories of political virtue. That would make me into some kind of judge over him. That doesn't mean I'm a relativist. Some of his statements I simply don't approve of, but I wouldn't reject Benn altogether because he went so terrifically wrong in 1933. Otherwise I'd have to give a bonus to the dogmatist Thomas Mann, whom I admire, for giving a politically correct radio speech at just the right time. But what Mann did right politically doesn't make him any better an author. And Benn's grotesque mistakes don't make him any worse a poet – as long as he didn't kill anyone. I can't judge an author I take seriously on his biography. The person who writes from inside a poet is someone entirely different, not just the character mask filled out by a biography, even though that too can have genuine character traits. But authenticity in writing is expressed differently."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 07.07.2006

A year after the London bombings, the rift between British Muslims and non-Muslims seems to have widened, reports Georges Waser. "Regarding the relationship between the Islamic and the western world, Muslims in Britain are the most pessimistic, with 62 percent saying it is predominantly bad. In Germany and France this figure is only a little lower. In terror-afflicted Spain however, the figures are startling: only 23 percent of the Muslims living there share the negative view of their fellow believers in other European and Muslim countries. More alarming are the results of a study commissioned by the London Times on the 1.6 million British Muslims, which revealed that 13 percent grant martyr status to the suicide bombers of July 7, and 7 percent believe that terror attacks on civilians are justifiable under certain circumstances."

After the Mexican elections last Sunday, novelist Angeles Mastretta calls on her fellow countrymen to take a more active role in shaping the future of their country. "We should look at it from the inside, from below, from our mistrust of the constitutional state, but also from our sometimes blind belief that we are the best – that there is nothing even possibly comparable to Mexico, in whose earth we want to be buried, even though we have robbed it of its trees, made it infertile, and even though there is no social peace which could protect us in an agreement that is not based on subjugation and wordlessness, on madness and arbitrariness."

Die Tageszeitung, 07.07.2006

Tim Stuettgen cites the example of gay gangsta rapper Deadlee to illustrate that homosexuality is not just repressed but also openly flaunted in HipHop these days. Deadlee takes obvious pleasure in outing his some of his "homophobe" mainstream colleagues. "Redman follows Method Man, then comes Puff Daddy and of course 50 Cent's Posse, G Unit, which he tenderly dubs Gay Unit. His favourite story is the one about him giving head to some sexy guy in a park who apparently was the spitting image of LL Cool J." - let's talk european