What’s New

February 9, 2024 in 2024 Archives, Et Cetera, What's New

Fatma Aydemir explains that in Germany her name provokes assumptions

Fatma Aydemir explains that, in Germany, her "name provokes assumptions that don't necessarily play out in my favor. Fatma is not very likely to get a reservation for an outside…
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February 2, 2024 in Books & Ideas, What's New

A new novel by Jo Salas

A new novel by Jo Salas—Mrs. Lowe-Porter, about Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter, shines a light on the accomplished woman who introduced Thomas Mann to English readers.   (The New York Times, 1/30/24)
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January 30, 2024 in 2023 Archives, Art & Design, What's New

German colonial governor’s residence in Togo

The Palais de Lomé was constructed as the German colonial governor's residence in Togo in 1905. Now it's the anchor of a 26-acre art and culture park. (ARTnews, 12/28/23)
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January 30, 2024 in 2024 Archives, Art & Design, What's New

Germany and France have established a fund

Germany and France have established a €2.1 million, three-year fund to research the provenance of African heritage objects in their national museums—potentially preparing the ground for these objects' return.  (The…
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January 28, 2024 in 2024 Archives, Et Cetera, What's New

Tens of thousands of protestors and Chancellor Olaf Scholz are sounding an alarm

Tens of thousands of protestors and Chancellor Olaf Scholz are sounding an alarm: The far-right AfD is currently polling at 22 percent nationwide, and at more than 30 percent in…
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January 28, 2024 in 2024 Archives, History, What's New

Some Holocaust memorials are rethinking their exhibitions

Some Holocaust memorials are rethinking their exhibitions in the era of the selfie: "A redesign at the Zekelman Holocaust Center near Detroit provides less opportunity to pose in front of…
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Arts

The Palais de Lomé was constructed as the German colonial governor’s residence in Togo in 1905. Now it’s the anchor of a 26-acre art and culture park. (ARTnews, 12/28/23)

Germany and France have established a €2.1 million, three-year fund to research the provenance of African heritage objects in their national museums—potentially preparing the ground for these objects’ return.  (The Guardian, 1/19/24)

The year 2024 marks Caspar David Friedrich’s 250th birthday, so get ready for a slew of special exhibitions. The first retrospective, at the Hamburger Kunsthalle, has an appealing contemporary twist.  (The Art Newspaper, 1/3/24; artnet, 1/8/24)

“This is art from the crucible of modern barbarism, the sickening aftermath of an idiotic war that left behind festering misery, broken bodies, shattered souls and political chaos.” “Max Beckmann: The Formative Years” is showing at NYC’s Neue Galerie through January 15.  (Hyperallergic, 10/19/23; The Washington Post, 12/15/23)

“Inside the former Wismut mining company in Germany are thousands of artworks, painted while the company secretly mined uranium for Soviet atomic bombs.”  (The Guardian, 9/21/23)

Berlin’s iconic Kino International, “a jewel of East German modernism,” turns 60 years old on November 15.  (Exberliner, 11/15/23)

Stucco in the past: Here’s a brief history of Berlin’s building façades, from the Gründerzeit to the present.  (Exberliner, 5/15/23)

Rafaël Newman considers the tumultuous lifespan of painter Max Liebermann (1847–1935) and an intriguing new exhibit at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, “Roads Not Taken,” on key caesuras in German history between 1989 and 1848.  (3 Quarks Daily, 1/30/23)

Beautiful! “German photographer Jan Prengel looks beyond still life—instead capturing flowers and plant stems in motion, over an exposure time of 2–3 seconds.”  (Aesthetica, 1/19/23)

Sebastian Smee contemplates Two Men Contemplating the Moon, one of Caspar David Friedrich’s best-known masterpieces.  (The Washington Post, 1/4/23)

The Komische Oper staged Hans Werner Henze’s Raft of the Medusa on a giant swimming pool stage in a disused hangar of Berlin’s Tempelhof airport—not coincidentally, adjacent to refugee housing since 2015.  (The New York Times, 9/14/23; Financial Times, 9/18/23)

The German Historical Museum in Berlin is honoring the 86-year-old singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann with a special exhibition, now through January 14, 2024.  (The New York Times, 7/7/23; The Guardian, 7/10/23)

Props to James Austin Smith, who presented “an unpredictably playful program of oboe music from the former East Germany” at a groovy performance space in Brooklyn.  (The New Yorker, 11/13/23)

“The art of music,” writes Jeremy Eichler, “possesses a unique and often underappreciated power to burn through history’s cold storage.” Time’s Echo: The Second World War, the Holocaust, and the Music of Remembrance reflects on the work of Schoenberg, Strauss, Britten, and Shostakovich as musical memorials.  (The New York Times, 9/2/23; Financial Times, 9/5/23; Here & Now, 10/13/23; Literary Review, 11/2023)

There’s a new recording of a Paul Dessau opera that was absent from stages for far too long: “Involving more than 30 solo singing roles, a nine-part chorus and a huge orchestra, as well as dancers and actors, Lanzelot was one of the most ambitious operas ever mounted in the GDR.”  (The Guardian, 1/12/23)

 

 

The Komische Oper staged Hans Werner Henze’s Raft of the Medusa on a giant swimming pool stage in a disused hangar of Berlin’s Tempelhof airport—not coincidentally, adjacent to refugee housing since 2015.  (The New York Times, 9/14/23; Financial Times, 9/18/23)

“The souffleur has all but vanished, except in Germany, where they sit in the front row—or even take to the stage.”  (The Guardian, 9/26/23)

 

Jennifer Homans attended Tanztheater Wuppertal’s performance of “Água,” but all she could see were ghosts: “If these young dancers have something to say, they will need their own form, not Pina Bausch’s. Her Germany is not their Germany, and dance, like history, is nontransferrable.” (The New Yorker, 3/27/23)

Linie 1 gets a new restaging and keeps that ’80s feeling alive. “The entire three-hour show plays out on west Berlin’s U1 underground line, which used to run from glitzy Wittenbergplatz to grotty Schlesisches Tor in the years before the Berlin Wall fell.”  (The Guardian, 4/16/23)

There’s a new recording of a Paul Dessau opera that was absent from stages for far too long: “Involving more than 30 solo singing roles, a nine-part chorus and a huge orchestra, as well as dancers and actors, Lanzelot was one of the most ambitious operas ever mounted in the GDR.”  (The Guardian, 1/12/23)

The cross-gender casting in a new production of The Threepenny Opera at the Vienna Volksoper isn’t just a gimmick, but a thoughtful experiment with Brechtian Verfremdung in a piece many theatergoers know all too well.  (The New York Times, 12/23/22)

 

 

Masterpiece or Holokitsch? The Zone of Interest, directed by Jonathan Glazer, never brings its viewers over the wall to Auschwitz. “It’s a horror film that keeps it horrors rigorously hidden from view.”  (Los Angeles Times, 12/14/23; The New Yorker, 12/14/23; The Washington Post, 1/16/24; The New Statesman, 1/26/24)

In The Teachers’ Lounge, Germany’s entry in the 2024 Oscar race, director Ilker Çatak subverts the “magical teacher” genre, crafting an intense thriller and social parable set in a middle school.  (The New York Times, 12/24/23; The Washington Post, 1/8/24)

“Wim Wenders’ latest documentary Anselm offers a mesmerizing, cinematic catalogue of German painter-sculptor Anselm Kiefer’s deeply tactile, maximalist oeuvre.” Plus, it was shot in 3D and 6K-resolution.  (The Guardian, 5/17/23; The Hollywood Reporter, 5/18/23; The Washington Post, 1/1/24)

“Even artistic geniuses or supposed artistic geniuses are not above the law”: Reports of intimidation and verbal aggression, centering around the bad behavior of star actor and director Til Schweiger, have initiated a cultural reckoning in the German film industry. (The Guardian, 5/7/23)

Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front won four Oscars, seven Baftas, and not much love from German critics.  (The Guardian, 1/27/23; Slate, 2/1/23; The New Statesman, 2/22/23)

The British comedy sketch “Dinner for One,” Germany’s inexplicably beloved New Year Eve’s viewing ritual, is about to about get a multipart television prequel, set 51 years before the original. Five men will “vie for the attention of the unmarried and emancipated Sophie,” and the series will be called—what else—“Dinner for Five.”  (The Guardian, 12/30/22)

 

 

 

History

Masterpiece or Holokitsch? The Zone of Interest, directed by Jonathan Glazer, never brings its viewers over the wall to Auschwitz. “It’s a horror film that keeps it horrors rigorously hidden from view.”  (Los Angeles Times, 12/14/23; The New Yorker, 12/14/23; The Washington Post, 1/16/24; The New Statesman, 1/26/24)

Some Holocaust memorials are rethinking their exhibitions in the era of the selfie: “A redesign at the Zekelman Holocaust Center near Detroit provides less opportunity to pose in front of Nazi images as it attempts to refocus attention on the victims, not the perpetrators.”  (The New York Times, 1/26/24)

Masha Gessen “walked from the haunting video of Kibbutz Be’eri to the clanking iron faces” of the artist Menashe Kadishman’s installation “Fallen Leaves” in Berlin’s Jewish Museum, and, Gessen writes, “I thought of the thousands of residents of Gaza killed in retaliation for the lives of Jews killed by Hamas. Then I thought that, if I were to state this publicly in Germany, I might get in trouble.”  (The New Yorker, 12/9/23; The Washington Post, 12/14/23; Literary Hub, 12/15/23; The New Statesman, 12/18/23)

The German Historical Museum in Berlin is honoring the 86-year-old singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann with a special exhibition, now through January 14, 2024.  (The New York Times, 7/7/23; The Guardian, 7/10/23)

“The erosion of democratic norms can be fatal, even its effects are delayed.” Two new books (1923 and Germany 1923) examine a crisis-filled year in the brief but tumultuous history of the Weimar Republic.  (Times Literary Supplement, 7/21/23; Financial Times, 9/20/23)

It’s unclear how the debates about museums and restitution will progress—but in the meantime, the Pergamon Museum is closing for a 14-year renovation.  (The New York Times, 10/18/23; The Economist, 10/26/23)

“At a time when Germany is contributing military hardware worth billions of euros to Ukraine so the latter can protect itself from invading Russian forces, the Berlin-Karlshorst Museum’s management structure is—to put it mildly—awkward.”  (The New York Times, 6/26/23)

The authors in February 1933: The Winter of Literature (by Uwe Wittstock, translated by Daniel Bowles) “are all too human, blameless in their initial assumption that violence, lies, and hate cannot sustain a regime, and helpless when it turns out they can.” (The New York Review, 11/2/23)

A hospital in Erlangen is the only surviving building in Germany where patients with mental illness were systematically murdered in the Nazi era. It is now slated for demolition, over the protests of those who seek to preserve it as a site of remembrance.  (The Spectator, 4/23/23)

In Germany today, more than 4,000 public monuments commemorate the victory of the Soviet Union in World War II. Their ongoing protection is driven by “a mixture of bureaucratic drift, aversion to change and a rock-solid commitment to honoring the victims of Nazi aggression that trumps any shifts in global affairs.”  (The New York Times, 4/28/23)

“To reexamine the connections among the Third Reich, the genocide of the Herero and Nama, and other colonial crimes is to throw a more critical light on a broader arc of German history, including the Wilhelmine period. It means understanding that colonialism had long-term consequences not only for the colonized but also for the colonizers.”  (The New York Review, 3/9/23)

Rafaël Newman considers the tumultuous lifespan of painter Max Liebermann (1847–1935) and an intriguing new exhibit at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, “Roads Not Taken,” on key caesuras in German history between 1989 and 1848.  (3 Quarks Daily, 1/30/23)

What does it mean for a society to master its past, and what is the role of individual citizens? Despite the existence of an extensive archive for the files of the East German secret police, a recent study shows that “the majority of people on whom the Stasi kept files have not opened them.”  (The Guardian, 11/28/22)

 

 

 

Books & Ideas

A new novel by Jo Salas—Mrs. Lowe-Porter, about Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter, shines a light on the accomplished woman who introduced Thomas Mann to English readers.   (The New York Times, 1/30/24)

Krabat and the Sorcerer’s Mill, the classic children’s novel written by Otfried Preussler and translated by Anthea Bell, is now available in paperback.  (The Wall Street Journal, 1/5/24)

Why read the Heinrich Böll story “Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen” all by itself when you could enjoy Sharon Dodua Otoo’s Gesammeltes Schweigen instead?  (Love German Books, 11/23/23)

The authors in February 1933: The Winter of Literature (by Uwe Wittstock, translated by Daniel Bowles) “are all too human, blameless in their initial assumption that violence, lies, and hate cannot sustain a regime, and helpless when it turns out they can.” (The New York Review, 11/2/23)

Clemens Meyer’s “stark yet tender rendering” of post-reunification eastern Germany has earned him literary laurels. His 2006 debut novel, Als wir träumten, was translated this year by Katy Derbyshire, as While We Were Dreaming. (New Statesman, 11/16/23)

“Clinging to the undercarriage of her sentences, like fugitives, are intimations of Germany’s politics, history and cultural memory.” Jenny Erpenbeck’s latest novel, Kairos, has been translated into English by Michael Hofmann.  (The New York Times, 5/29/23; The New Republic, 6/21/23; Los Angeles Review of Books, 7/6/23; World Literature Today, 11/2023)

Critical praise for Endless Flight: The Life of Joseph Roth: “Keiron Pim’s elegant, detailed and judicious biography is the first comprehensive English-language introduction to an author whose astonishing literary talent consistently overrode the careless failures, debacles and staggering afflictions of his life.” (Times Literary Supplement, 10/7/22; Los Angeles Review of Books, 12/24/22)

“As you translate a book, you don’t just get a feel for it, the book inhabits you.” Tim Mohr explains the unexpected joys of translating and being translated—with possibly the best origin story for a literary translator ever.  (Lithub, 5/15/23)

 

 

Et Cetera

Fatma Aydemir explains that, in Germany, her “name provokes assumptions that don’t necessarily play out in my favor. Fatma is not very likely to get a reservation for an outside table at a fancy restaurant. Fatma’s email regarding the apartment rental will not even get an answer if she doesn’t happen to be rich. . . . Fatma’s used couch might look just as awesome and well-kept as Anja’s—but it will probably be worth half the price.”  (The Guardian, 1/12/24)

Tens of thousands of protestors and Chancellor Olaf Scholz are sounding an alarm: The far-right AfD is currently polling at 22 percent nationwide, and at more than 30 percent in some eastern states. It “actively courts militants, trades in antisemitic tropes, and toys with the proposition of Germany exiting NATO and the European Union.”  (The New York Times, 1/20/24; Foreign Policy, 1/26/24; Bloomberg, 1/27/24)

“At times, as someone of African heritage”—writes Musa Okwonga, who moved to Berlin in 2014—”it is hard to avoid a very specific despair: the knowledge that, as wonderful as life in Europe can be, its joys were not intended for us.” Okwonga detects a frightening increase in racist sentiment over the past several months.  (Zeit Online, 10/13/23)

Masha Gessen “walked from the haunting video of Kibbutz Be’eri to the clanking iron faces” of the artist Menashe Kadishman’s installation “Fallen Leaves” in Berlin’s Jewish Museum, and, Gessen writes, “I thought of the thousands of residents of Gaza killed in retaliation for the lives of Jews killed by Hamas. Then I thought that, if I were to state this publicly in Germany, I might get in trouble.”  (The New Yorker, 12/9/23; The Washington Post, 12/14/23; Literary Hub, 12/15/23; The New Statesman, 12/18/23)

A “steady drumbeat” of canceled cultural events threatens Germany’s “reputation as a haven for free expression and risks isolating international artists whose views on Israel don’t line up with Germany’s unqualified support.”  (The New York Review of Books, 10/19/23; The New York Times, 12/7/23)

Berlin’s best indoor swimming pools “are veritable cathedrals of late 19th- and early 20th-century design.”  (BBC, 11/17/23)

 

Bratwurst on the grill, energy in the air: A U.S. sportswriter has an unforgettable experience at a FC Union game at the Stadion an der alten Försterei in Berlin-Köpenick.  (The Virginian-Pilot, 11/23/23)

“People are coming because they’re looking for an island of peace.” Berlin’s Israeli-Palestinian restaurant Kanaan reopened its doors six days after the Hamas attacks on Israel.  (The Guardian, 11/8/23)

Eight years ago, Ryyan Alshebl “was part of the historic influx of refugees who crossed the Mediterranean Sea by dinghy and trekked the continent on foot . . . Now he is the new mayor of Ostelsheim, a village of 2,700 people and tidily kept streets nestled in the rolling hills near the Black Forest in southwestern Germany.”  (The New York Times, 5/28/23)

“On days I don’t spend fretting over the soul of both German and my native tongue,” (Wahlberliner) Alexander Wells writes, “I can find great pleasure in Denglish—in seeing, that is, my own language made camp. . . . It can even be re-enchanting.”  (The European Review of Books, 4/19/23)

“For a region of 8 million people that is widely mocked for being boring, Lower Saxony has over the past three decades generated power networks that play a central role in German politics.”  (Foreign Policy, 1/29/23)

No longer the “roadblock at the heart of Europe”: After much hand-wringing and delay, Germany has finally agreed to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.  (The New Statesman, 1/25/23)

About me

 

I’m a German-English translator with years of professional experience as a writer, teacher, and historian. To learn more about my work, please visit translatorplease.com.

I started kulturplease.com in 2009, when I was in between careers and craving a little more Kultur in my daily life. My life—and the world at large—has changed a lot since then. But I’m just as enthusiastic about following the latest developments in the German arts and culture, and celebrating the talented people who write about them.

I aspire to keep this site as up-to-date as possible, but sometimes life intervenes. If it looks like I haven’t updated things in awhile, stay tuned! I’ll be back. You can also look for me on Bluesky.

Elizabeth Janik