european voices: signandsight

12May09

Below the fold: the rise of ultra-nationalism in Hungary and the Slovak Republic, the poverty of German unity, and other depressing things.

Nepszabadsag 02.05.2009 (Hungary)

After a neo-Nazi demonstration in Budapest on April 18, people are becoming increasingly vociferous about introducing a ban on Holocaust denial. The poet and literary academic Akos Szilagyi has no objections to the proposal because, he says, denying Auschwitz is not expressing an opinion, as the progress of culture is measured by the distance between this culture and the “terrible potential beneath the surface” (Safranski) – and denying Auschwitz represents a move towards this potential. “As such the denial of historical fact equates with the denial of humanity, of the world, of Europe, of Christianity and of freedom that Auschwitz represented. As such, humanity, European culture and democratic rights and liberties have no enemy more irreconcilable than the Auschwitz denier […] In this one very case (!) the law would not be prohibiting the expression of some appalling, outrageous and incredible ‘freak opinion‘, it would be defending the existential foundations of our post-Auschwitz world.” [source]

Die Zeit 07.05.2009

How low can a country fall, Christian Schmidt-Häuer asks, stilll in shock after his visit to Hungary, which he found not just financially but also politically and morally bankrupt. No one is resisting the far Right which is hounding Roma and Jews alike, the philosopher Gaspar Miklos Tamas, for instance: “Budapest’s radical cohorts regard him as one of the ‘foreign hearted‘ who are ‘sullying’ the racial corpus. His photo has been posted on the homepage ‘Kuruz Info’ website, framed by a grave cross. The site lists Jews and other ‘enemies’: their names, addresses, telephone numbers, weekend houses, aquaintainces.” [source]

Nepszabadsag 25.04.2009 (Hungary)

With an eye on the rising numbers of Slovakian politicians who play the anti-Hungarian card and use it to fan fear – as in the recent presidential elections, Slovakian literary academic, Rudof Chmel, protests against the growing nationalist ideology in his country. “If politicians can foment fear and lead the population astray, incite panic, impose their own fears and complexes onto others and then package it as a nation-defining idea – this more that just rumour mongering. Spreading anguish about another country’s nationalism, is, on the one hand, evidence of low self-esteem at civic, national and state level. On the other hand it does little to recommend politicians who claim to be capable of leading the nation out of crisis – and not only the financial crisis. Why should these people be paid for summoning the spirit of the Cold War and excluding people from society, when they should be working to create an atmosphere of neighbourliness, cooperation and understanding?” [source]

Open competition for a Germany Unity memorial in Berlin

All hell broke lose at the opening of an exhibition in Berlin, which showcased the entries of a competition to design a German Unity memorial, when it emerged that the jury had rejected all 532 proposals. In die Welt on 06.05.2009, Sven Kellerhoff writes that a quarter of the entires were complete trash and the rest were unusable. “Like the obvious parody in the form of a cluster of blue and white smurfs standing on a stone platform; or the idea to build a “Cafe Deutschland” opposite the City Palace (when it is rebuilt) which offers free cake on German Unity Day.”

Writing in the Tagesspiegel two days later, however, the author Thomas Brussig laid the blame with the jury, not the artists. The specifications for what the memorial should symbolise were too cumbersome: “The German pursuit of freedom and unity since the battle of Teutoburg forest, not forgetting all the European components, in contemporary yet timeless expression – this was basically what they were after.” [source]

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 18.04.2009

Freshly octogenarian, literary critic, essayist, author and professor, George Steiner, talks in an interview about the new anti-Semitism, the value of rote learning and the art of understanding: “When you enter someone’s house you wash your hands. You try to approach a text cleanly. There is an ethics to understanding – you don’t try to reshape a text while reading it. And above all: You should not forget the billions of kilometres that lie between the best critics, teachers, readers, publishers and the person that created the work. It is one of the evils of modern that Messrs Tutor and Critic take themselves so seriously. A great teacher or critic is just a postman, delivering the letter to the right address.” [source]

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