sign&sight's weekly roundup

Readers of this blog know that I am a regular reader of sign&sight the weekly overview of cultural feuilletons (as they say in German) in the daily & weekly German newspapers. It seems to me that the width and depth of the canvased cultural pages is way beyond what we have here in the US daily Press (with a few notable exceptions — a few bi-weeklies). Unhappily sign&sight doesn’t seem to be able (financial reasons?) to do complete translations of one or the other of the articles anymore, but they still do a weekly overview that appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here is this week’s as well as a key to the German newspapers.

Die Tageszeitung 01.11.2008

Daniel Bax met with three prominent Turkish writers: Perihan Magden, Elif Shafak and the “flamboyant, gay star author Murathan Mungan, whom Bax describes as follows: “Today, at the age of 53, he is one of the country’s most popular authors. He writes lyrics for pop songs and is a pop star of sorts himself. He loves the sort of flowery metaphors which sound rather kitsch in German: ‘Childhood is like a sky stretching overhead.’ And he emphasises that he draws inspiration from the cultural diversity of the fallen Ottoman empire. But now he lives in Istanbul, from where, he says, he looks out into the world and he is a fanatic fan of Rammstein, the Toten Hosen and Depeche mode. Sharia Islam is nothing for him, except that he wouldn’t mind having four husbands, he quips.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 04.11.2008

Aldo Keel reports on how the Finns are having to revise the image of themselves as single-handedly fending off the Soviet invaders during WWII, with only technical assistance from Nazi Germany. “Oula Silvennoinen has caused a sensation with his discovery of a previously unknown ‘Task Force Finland‘, which carried out mass executions of Jewish and communist POWs in northern Karelia. This special force was born of the Gestapo cooperation with the Finish security police Valpo, and the friendly ties between the Valpo’s second in command, Aaltonen, and the head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Müller. There is no way of determining the number of executions.”

Der Tagesspiegel 05.11.2008

Defamatory campaign“, “rumour” – Gregor Dozauer finds the wording, used by eleven prominent writers in their defence of Milan Kundera, imprecise on two accounts. After all, this ‘rumour’ materialised as a written police report which led to Miroslav Dvoracek being imprisoned as a western agent and serving 14 years of hard labour in a uranium mine. At most, you can throw doubt on the value of this source. And you can only talk about “defamation” if, beyond the legitimate presumption of innocence, you have clear knowledge of facts.” But the writers do not have this. And something else: “There is such thing as objective truth.”

From the radio 05.11.2008

Jiri Grusa, a Czech poet, dissident, post-1989 diplomat and politician, and now president of the international writers association PEN, was in Prague to see for himself the controversial police document with Milan Kundera’s name on it. He told Deutschland Radio that he now has no doubts that “the document is real. There’s no denying it. Only it is not Milan Kundera’s document, it it no denunciation, it’s a police annunciation. And if Kundera says, I didn’t do it, then I have to believe him.” But Grusa would not talk about a “defamatory campaign“. “No, I wouldn’t say that. It is a meeting of unfortunate circumstances, because the document is real. But so are the ten years of communist propaganda in the country, which Kundera’s work from this time represents.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 05.11.2008

Spanish historian and writer Antonio Orejudo describes how Spain is still haunted by its Francoist past. The magistrate Baltasar Garzon, who had General Pinochet arrested in London, has now accused Francisco Franco and 34 other persons of crimes against humanity and ordered the opening of 19 mass graves, including the one in which the poet Federico Garcia Lorca is thought to be buried. Orejudo endorses the ruling: “No country can build its history on a falsification of the past. Not because it is immoral, but because – immoral or not – it is impossible. Sooner or later the past will out, and the victims will bring their murderers to account. Eternal ignominy and long-standing ill-repute are no basis for the future. Or should those who once defended the rule of law and republican order go down in history as ‘the reds’? They must regain their honour as well as their belongings. They deserve recognition for their dedication and courage. The descendants of the victims who were buried in haste have the right to demand that the graves be opened.”

Frankfurter Rundschau 06.11.2008

German-Iranian writer and orientalist Navid Kermani comments on Obama’s victory: “What captivated the world is not that this is simply an election victory by a candidate from a minority background; it is the passion with which this candidate identifies with his country and yet at the same time, in his difference, embodies it. In the USA, Obama’s candidacy was ‘improbable’, as said himself. In any other country it would have been impossible. Europe, with his homogenising delusion, from which it is only laboriously freeing itself sixty years after its huge wars of collectivisation, will need another sixty years to generate careers like this. But perhaps not, perhaps this election will teach Europe a bit quicker that identification can succeed where it is not a question of identity.”

Die Zeit 06.11.2008
“I hope that the neoliberal agenda will no longer be taken at face value, but will put up for negotiation. The entire programme of uncontrolled subjugation of everyday life to the imperatives of the market must be put to trial,” says philosopher Jürgen Habermas in a lengthy conversation with Thomas Assheuer. Habermas watched the impact of the financial crisis with his own eyes, as a guest lecturer in the USA. “The screens flickered with the Hopperesque melancholy of an endless loop of abandoned houses in Florida and elsewhere – with “Foreclosure” signs on the front lawns. Then came the buses full of prospective buyers from Europe and Latin America followed by estate agents who gave guided tours of bedrooms ransacked in fits of anger and desperation. After my return I was surprised at the difference between US jumpiness and the business-as-usual equanimity here in Germany.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06.11.2008

Andreas Kilb celebrates Ari Folman’s autobiographical animated documentary “Waltz With Bashir” as a “cinematic milestone”. “This story could not be told as a normal documentary with archive images and interviews in front of bookshelves. Its theme is the parallel reality of subjective memory, the gap between personal experience and the scenes from the film archive. No camera has ever showed the Lebanon war like Folman and his friends do. When the machine gun operator dances his death waltz, the cameraman of a nearby TV team is huddled in a corner. At a crucial moment, the equipment fails. What it blanks out is supplemented by the imagination of the witnesses.”

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