From the Feuilletons


Die Zeit, 13.07.2006

In a lovely text, author Cees Nooteboom follows the footsteps of Rembrandt through the city of Leiden, thinking of Rembrandt's self-portrait of 1658 and what it means to paint such a thing. "I know what a self-portrait is as well as anyone reading this. But, as silly as this may sound, I was never fully aware of its momentousness. A painter paints himself, but how does he do that? The very notion is almost eerie. He has to look at himself the whole time, until a doppelgänger of paint has appeared on the canvas, which is not just him but something else as well – namely, what he thinks of himself. The person looking at himself and at me is an old man dressed like an oriental king. Everything in this picture is warm, in dark brown and golden tones, but the eyes and mouth contradict this warmth. These are the eyes and the mouth of an old man who has seen the world and knows what he can no longer expect from it."

In light of the soccer scandal currently disgracing Italy (more), Petra Reski brings together all the evidence that could support Giuseppe Prezzolini's thesis that Italy has, at best, poetic justice. "Parmalat scandal (more) and a disgraceful governor of the national bank, a dull prince, sex-obsessed and greedy, a lipless former rail employee as the king of Italian soccer, a spider's web of corruption, a shamelessness and venality and as a treat, we've also become world champions. Poveri noi! say the Italians, poor us! Everything forgotten and forgiven. And Justice Minister Mastella has pleaded for gentler measures due to the World Cup victory! An amnesty! Cossiga suggested that those responsible for the soccer scandal tell the judges they should kiss their ass. And that's our former state president!"

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 13.07.2006

Russia's bubbling oil wells and the attendant financial clout are reawakening dormant superpower aspirations in the country, warns Sonja Margolina. "Already in Stalin's times, geography was complemented by geology – the possession of immeasurable mineral treasures – in the superpower ideology. Today Putin can hook into that. After all the post-Soviet humiliations, the political class in Russia is getting a kick out of being an oil superpower, and is displaying self-assured gruffness. Because an institutional rapprochement with the EU is undesirable, the newfangled oligarchs in the Kremlin administration hope, as journalist Andrei Piontkowski put it, to buy their way into the European energy supply network and secure Europe's dependence."

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 13.07.2006

Bombay-based writer Kiran Nagarkar (whose most recent novel "God's Little Soldier" deals with forms of extremism) has watched the CNN images of the devastating terror attacks in his city and writes, "I spent eight years studying extremism, and today I believe you can never obtain clarity or understanding with linear, black and white thinking, but only with ambiguity, doubt and careful interrogation... But what is all this knowledge worth to me now, in view of the insane scenes shown on television? The horror of these seven attacks has downright emasculated my oh-so-precious insights."

"812 places are recognised as world heritage sites. Why so many? Why so few?" asks Johan Schloemann and tries to make sense of the Unesco World Heritage commission, currently meeting in Vilnius. Unesco has threatened to remove the Elbe Valley from the list of world heritage sites – a first in its 34 year history - if a highway bridge is built over it, as is currently planned (more here). "While the global policies of the UN lie in shambles, while the worst threats to cultural states are in fact, war, environmental destruction and overpopulation, the cultural word community continues to historicise the world on a side stage – and all local culture bureaucrats have to play along. And now, as a matter of interest, the 'oral and immaterial cultural heritage of mankind' is also being put under protection. Vedic singing, Sicilian puppet theatre and Malagasy wood carving are already on the list. Allemanic carnival, joke-telling of the lower Rheinland and the wood carvers in the Erzgebirge are eagerly waiting to be immortalised."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 13.07.2006

Heinrich Wefing has visited the new Confucius Institute in Berlin, and appraises China's new international cultural policy, which was the subject of a colloquium in Berlin on Tuesday. "The institute is apparently exceedingly well funded, however the underlying political motives are difficult to determine. In the forefront is the endeavour to improve people's knowledge of Chinese around the world. Within ten years the number of non-Chinese who speak the language is to be tripled, from thirty to one hundred million. Of course Chinese values and ways of thinking are also to be communicated along with the language."

Perlentaucher, 13.07.2006

Our German sister site Perlentaucher is running a day-by-day link list featuring reactions to football player Zinedine Zidane's now almost immortal head-butt. Find out what people across Europe are saying about why Zidane lost his nerve and butted out his career with an attack on Italian defender Marco Materazzi. As an added extra there's also a head-butt computer game, but watch out, everyone gets what they deserve! - let's talk european