Friday, May 31, 2013

Latest Headlines from Germany

A selection of today's headlines:

1. "Wir Deutschen gelten als hartherzig" ("We Germans are seen as hard-hearted")

Says Martin Schulz, the President of the EU Parliament. Citing southern European countries' dissatisfaction with the draconian spending cuts Germany insists on to keep the €uro show on the road, he claims they think of Germans as "hardhearted, insensitive, self-righteous and condescending."

When it comes to national stereotypes, Schulz lags way behind Silvio Berlusconi who, when Prime Minister of Italy, (in)famously informed him:

2. "Heidi Klum - eine Perfektionistin wird 40" ("Heidi Klum - a perfectionist turns 40")

Ambitious Heidi's fathomlessly popular model competition show reached its final yesterday evening. The show was disturbed when topless protesters invaded the stage and confronted the supermodel with slogans saying Heidi's Horror Picture Show:

Curious how the bared breast has been reclaimed as feminism's most potent weapon...

3. "Junge Männer Trinken Zu Viel" ("Young Men Drink Too Much")

Who knew?

(All headlines taken from this morning's edition of the Rheinische Post)

translating keyserling's waves

Eduard von Keyserling, portrait by Lovis Corinth, circa 1900

Eduard von Keyserling's masterpiece of literary Impressionism, Waves (Wellen), first published in 1911, has never been properly translated into English.

This is a great shame: the book's a great read. It's about a young, beautiful countess, Doralice Köhne-Jasky, who leaves her ageing count for a poor painter.

The novel portrays the relationship of the couple, now shunned by society, in the setting of an isolated resort on the Bay of Puck in the Baltic Sea. The gorgeous Doralice attracts much male attention as her love for the painter is slowly compromised in the mundane relaity of everyday life.

The plot's glancing concern with the cuckolding of an ineffectual aristocrat by his spirited bride foreshadows Lady's Chatterley's Lover (published in 1928) although Keyserling's style is far more impartial, subtler and more ironic than Lawrence's.

The novel is now being translated into English by Freddie Oomkens (coincidentally a descendant of the Köhn von Jaski's and a distant kinsman of Keyserling's) who reports on his work on oomkenscom.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wagner Opera Censored for "Public Health"

Venus and Tannhäuser in a romantic clinch which sickened Düsseldorf opera-goers.

The Deutsche Oper am Rhein's controversial Nazi-era production of Tannhäuser was cancelled after its premiere in Düsseldorf on 4th May.

It has now been reduced to a concert performance.

In the director's staging, Venus, as an SS guard, first strips, shaves, then shoots a Jewish family of three, forcing Tannhäuser to join in the killing. In another scene, a glass crucifix containing naked victims is lowered as gas engulfs their writhing bodies, a graphic simulation of Nazi gas chambers.

The audience reacted with booing, walkouts and worse.

In the words of the Rheinoper's press office, the performance affected many in the public:
... both psychologically and physically with such evident stress that they had to seek medical treatment.
 (...sowohl psychisch als auch physisch zu einer offenbar so starken Belastung geführt haben, dass diese Besucher sich im Anschluss in ärztliche Behandlung begeben mussten.)

The Rheinoper press officer remarks:
After weighing up all the arguments we have concluded that we cannot justify such an extreme reaction to our artistic work.
 (Nach Abwägen aller Argumente sind wir zu dem Schluss gekommen, dass wir eine solch extreme Wirkung unserer künstlerischen Arbeit nicht verantworten können.)

The director, Burkhard Kosminski, said he was "shocked and speechless" at the decision to censor his staging of Wagner's masterpiece.

The Rheinoper's artistic director, Christoph Meyer, countered with reference to the responsibility to protect public health, adding: "In light of this responsibility, the opera management reject any accusation of censorship."

What a ninny Meyer is. Of course it is censorship. Censorship is always imposed in the interests of protecting some form of "public health" - and this kerfuffle in the 'Dorf is a text-book example of it in action.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"Nazi Bride" on Trial in Munich

Beate Zschaepe, 38, is standing on trial in Munich for her alleged role in the murders of nine immigrants and a German policewoman between 2000 - 2007. She is also accused of two bombings and fifteen bank robberies.

The case has spawned some unsavoury nicknames in the German press - "die Nazi Braut" (the Nazi Bride) for the accused, "die Döner Mörder" (the Kebab Killings) for her alleged crimes.

The expression "Nazi bride" was coined because Zschaepe was the only female in the National Socialist Underground cell accused of the killings. Her two closest male accomplices committed suicide in November 2011, having been arrested for a failed bank robbery. After searching their burned-out truck, the police found a Ceska Browning handgun which had been used in all the killings, as well as a video showing the victims' bodies as a Pink Panther figure totted up the numbers.

This uncovered the trail to the murders and to Ms Zchaepe, who tried to burn down the apartment in the block where they had all lived (she is also being charged for attempted murder for that).

The expression "Die Döner Mörder" was coined because seven of the victims were Turkish, and one Greek, and some of them ran Kebab takeaway shops in their adopted country. This coinage has led to anti-racist protests.

More controversy arose when the initial assignment of press seats to the trial didn't allocate a single place to Turkish media. This has since been corrected, but coverage in Turkey, where Chancellor Merkel has already been the butt of Nazi-linked smears, remains highly sensitive to any anti-Turkish aspects of the case.

The big questions are:

 - whether this trial will bring justice to the victims' families


 - whether German justice can correct the impression that the investigation closed its eyes for far too long to the possibility that neo-Nazis were behind it, a blindness compounded by incompetent co-operation between the different police forces involved.

The trial is expected to take up to two years. Alongside Zschaepe, four other accomplices are facing charges.