What’s New

“The Great American Novel that came from Germany”: Here’s a lovely introduction to Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl, newly translated by Damion Searls.  (The Baffler, 5/2019)

A rare performance of The Tsar Wants His Photograph Taken, a 1927 operetta by Kurt Weill and Georg Kaiser, took place in London.  (The Guardian, 4/27/19; The Times of Israel, 5/19/19)

“When it comes to cutting-edge drama, more is more” at Theatertreffen Berlin.  (The New York Times, 5/16/19; Hyperallergic, 5/18/19)

A special exhibition at Berlin’s German Historical Museum “is not just about how democracy unraveled in the decade that followed the first Weimar elections in 1919. It is also about whether something like that may again be happening across Europe in 2019.”  (The Guardian, 5/16/19)

One down, two to go—the first of Germany’s new Bauhaus museums opens in Weimar.  (artnet, 4/8/19; The Guardian, 4/17/19)

Headphones on! Here’s a handy introduction to the leitmotifs of Wagner’s Ring cycle.  (The New York Times, 4/23/19)

Arts

The exhibition “Emil Nolde. A German Legend: The Artist During the Nazi Regime,” now showing at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, reveals that “while his art was persecuted, the artist himself was not.”  (The New York Times, 4/10/19)

What’s not to love about Bauhausmädels: A Tribute to Pioneering Women Artists, a new Taschen book by Patrick Rössler?!  (Afar, 4/18/19; Creative Boom, 4/30/19)

The historic Clayallee building that briefly housed the Nazi-era Luftwaffe—and then, until 1994, headquarters for the U.S. occupation forces—is now home to Fluentum, a showcase for contemporary video art.  (The Art Newspaper, 5/2/19)

“Poor no more, but still sexy? Berlin seeks its art world niche.”  (The New York Times, 4/29/19)

“By both rejecting style when it could be reduced to fashion, and embracing an aesthetic that was too easily reduced by followers and commentators to exactly that, the Bauhaus ensured that its legacy would be universally embraced and almost as widely misunderstood.”  (The New York Times, 4/30/19)

In a new biography, Fiona MacCarthy transforms Walter Gropius “from a dull institutionalist…into a stylistic rebel who lived and loved in an exuberant community of artist outcasts that would be scattered across the world after Weimar Germany became the Third Reich.”  (The New Republic, 4/2/19; The Guardian, 4/25/19)

The culture ministers from all 16 German states have agreed on a set of guidelines for the restitution of colonial-era artifacts.  (artnet, 3/14/19; The New York Times, 3/15/19)

“Dozens of men, and a handful of women, glare mirthlessly from the walls of New York’s Neue Galerie, their urgent eyes and pensive frowns demanding that we pause and return their gaze.”  (Financial Times, 3/7/19)

Four descendants and students of the Bauhaus artists remember the individuals behind the movement.  (Financial Times, 4/5/19)

“The Whole World a Bauhaus,” at the Elmhurst Art Museum through April 20, is a “solid deep-dive primer even if it doesn’t take on the big question: How should we view the Bauhaus today?”  (Chicago Tribune, 3/8/19; CityLab, 3/13/19)

Forget the boxy architecture—the real legacy of the Bauhaus, writes Edwin Heathcote, is its “magical weirdness . . . the gothic fashion, the extreme pretentiousness, the learning of craft, the exuberant hope, the tolerance for the different, the dark and the downright strange.”  (Financial Times, 3/1/19; CityLab, 3/13/19)

“Forging Hitler’s art is a time-honoured tradition.”  (The Art Newspaper, 2/26/19; The New York Times, 3/6/19; Prospect, 4/2/19)

Ali Fitzgerald’s graphic memoir, Drawn to Berlin: Comic Workshops in Refugee Shelters and Other Stories from a New Europe depicts “a city and the refugees who’ve tried to adopt it as their own, as well as the medium of comics as a tool for self-knowledge.”  (The Atlantic, 11/7/18; Los Angeles Review of Books, 2/9/19)

Controversy over looted artifacts, and how best to remember and atone for the crimes of the colonial era, continues to haunt planning for the Humboldt Forum, which opens within the rebuilt Berlin Palace later this year.  (Deutsche Welle, 1/30/19)

“What do escalators in Medellin, Arabic lettering in Amman, story-telling furniture in London, urban farming in Detroit and a co-living complex in Tokyo have to do with the Bauhaus?” Bauhaus World, a three-part documentary from Deutsche Welle, will show you this and much more.  (Open Culture, 2/19/19)

The Gropius Bau is free at last: “This is an important architectural monument for Berlin and I didn’t feel it’s right to restrict it to people who could buy tickets.”  (artnet, 2/14/19)

Alex Ross considers the quality, and the moral quandary, of the Berlin Philharmonic’s new 22-CD box set of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s radio recordings from 1939–1945.  (The New Yorker, 5/2/19)

“4 new operas in 4 months? Only in Berlin.”  (The New York Times, 4/24/19)

What makes the scene between Wotan and Brünnhilde in Act II of Die Walküre the heart of the Ring Cycle, and also “one of the most profound depictions of a father-daughter relationship in all the arts”? Anthony Tommasini breaks it down.  (The New York Times, 3/19/19)

Nearly two centuries after Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel composed her Easter Sonata, she’s finally getting her due.  (OUPblog, 3/28/19)

In memoriam: Michael Gielen (1927-2019). He was a champion of 20th-century art music and one of the most distinguished conductors of the postwar era.  (Classical Iconoclast, 3/8/19; The New York Times, 3/13/19)

Anne McElvoy looks back at the tumultuous career of musician Wolf Biermann, who “showed how a stubborn quest for artistic and political freedom could finally triumph over a system built on destroying such aspirations.”  (Standpoint, 2/2019)

“Berlin, which prides itself as staying ahead of the cultural curve, is championing electronic music produced further afield.”  (The Economist, 2/8/19)

 

 

Headphones on! Here’s a handy introduction to the leitmotifs of Wagner’s Ring cycle.  (The New York Times, 4/23/19)

“This is a play about the care that people, and nations, owe to the weakest among them.” The off-Broadway production All Our Children takes on the euthanizing of the disabled in Nazi Germany.  (The Broadway Blog, 4/14/19; The New York Times, 4/17/19)

Maggie Smith returns to the London stage as Joseph Goebbels’s secretary Brunhilde Pomsel in a one-woman show based on the 2016 film documentary A German Life.  (The Guardian, 4/12/19; Financial Times, 4/15/19)

“4 new operas in 4 months? Only in Berlin.”  (The New York Times, 4/24/19)

What makes the scene between Wotan and Brünnhilde in Act II of Die Walküre the heart of the Ring Cycle, and also “one of the most profound depictions of a father-daughter relationship in all the arts”? Anthony Tommasini breaks it down.  (The New York Times, 3/19/19)

Wow! Three remarkable one-man shows in the German-speaking theater world—based on the career of conductor Karl Böhm, and also the novels Submission (Houellebecq) and The Tin Drum (Grass).  (The New York Times, 2/22/19)

“The game of presenting a new production of ‘Die Zauberflöte’ is deadly serious, indeed — especially in Germany…”  (The New York Times, 2/15/19)

In memoriam: Bruno Ganz (1941-2019): Beloved and gifted actor, best known for playing the angel Damiel in Wings of Desire (1987) and a raging Hitler in Downfall (2004). He held the prestigious Iffland Ring. (The Guardian, 2/16/19; The New York Times, 2/16/19)

 

 

Wolfgang Fischer’s Styx, starring Susanne Wolff, “begins as a high-seas adventure in isolationism” and “ends as a confronting portrait of the thin towline connecting us all as humans—but not connecting us all equally.”  (The Washington Post, 3/13/19; Little White Lies, 4/23/19)

At last we have Berlin Bouncer, a documentary about the “regular people that stand between clubbers and a weekend of debauchery.”  (The Guardian, 4/16/19)

Christian Petzold’s adaptation of Anna Seghers’s 1944 novel Transit is “unstuck in history. . . unfolding like a remake of ‘Casablanca’ as written by Franz Kafka.”  (Indiewire, 2/17/18; The New York Times, 2/28/19)

Here’s the long 1972 interview with director Fritz Lang you didn’t know you were missing.  (MUBI Notebook, 12/4/18)

The Invisibles is “two movies spliced into one” — a set of interviews with four German Jews who survived in hiding in Nazi Berlin, and a scripted drama that reimagines their stories.  (The New York Times, 1/24/19; NPR, 1/29/19)

Film critics and Ai Weiwei agree: there’s not a lot to love about Berlin, I Love You.  (The Hollywood Reporter, 2/7/19; The New York Times, 2/7/19; RogerEbert.com, 2/8/19; The New York Times, 2/19/19)

In memoriam: Bruno Ganz (1941-2019): Beloved and gifted actor, best known for playing the angel Damiel in Wings of Desire (1987) and a raging Hitler in Downfall (2004). He held the prestigious Iffland Ring. (The Guardian, 2/16/19; The New York Times, 2/16/19)

Industrial designer Dieter Rams introduces his ten timeless principles of good design (from the 2018 documentary Rams).  (Open Culture, 2/11/19)

The documentary short A Night at the Garden depicts the 1939 German American Bund rally in Madison Square Garden. It’s nominated for an Oscar—but it can’t be advertised on Fox News.  (The Washington Post, 2/11/19; Slate, 2/14/19)

 

 

 

History

“Like the historian Tacitus, Trevor-Roper chronicled the death of a tyranny; and, like the satirist Juvenal, he skewered his victims by making them ludicrous.”  (Spectator, 3/29/19)

In memoriam: Hannelore Elsner (1942–2019), celebrated actress “who moved easily between art house cinema and mainstream television without losing her edge.”  (The Hollywood Reporter, 4/23/19; The New York Times, 5/10/19)

“Seventy years in, the success of a united Germany is a story so big that it can be hard to see except at a distance.”  (The Atlantic, 5/8/19)

Tony Rehagen explains how rural German-Americans “somehow forgot what it meant to be immigrants.”  (The Boston Globe, 4/12/19)

The culture ministers from all 16 German states have agreed on a set of guidelines for the restitution of colonial-era artifacts.  (artnet, 3/14/19; The New York Times, 3/15/19)

East Germany was “one of the first countries to allow gay men into its military, an achievement that the United States took twenty-three years to match.” Samuel Clowes Huneke takes a closer look at the pro-gay reforms of the GDR in its final years.  (Boston Review, 4/18/19)

In The Fourth Reich: The Specter of Nazism from World War II to the Present, Gavriel Rosenfeld has written a compelling history of something that never happened.  (New Statesman, 3/13/19; Los Angeles Review of Books, 4/1/19)

The state apartments of the Residenzschloss in Dresden, reconstructed in all their Baroque splendor, will open to visitors in September.  (The New York Times, 3/14/19)

“Why didn’t the correspondents in the thirties see Hitler? Because they thought he was a German Mussolini,” says Daniel Schneidermann, author of Berlin 1933.  (The New Yorker, 3/14/19)

In Time and Power, Christopher Clark examines how Prussian and German leaders “learnt to bend the past to suit the present” in four different centuries.  (New Statesman, 2/13/19; Standpoint, 3/2019)

“Ernst Jünger’s Second World War was less dramatic than his first; it could hardly be otherwise.” Find out more from his journals as an officer in occupied Paris, newly translated by Thomas and Abby Hansen.  (The Washington Post, 1/16/19; New Statesman, 2/20/19)

“Together, the Stolpersteine now constitute the largest decentralized monument in the world.”  (The Guardian, 2/18/19)

Invoking emergency powers in the Weimar Republican constitution began well before March 1933. “The willingness of parliament to cede authority to the executive eased the path for the transition from authoritarian to totalitarian dictatorship and to lawlessness.”  (The Washington Post, 2/19/19)

The “little-known tragedy of forced adoptions in East Germany” is receiving new attention.  (Spiegel Online – International, 2/7/19)

Stuttgart’s Linden Museum is returning a whip and a Bible that belonged to Nama leader Hendrik Witbooi to the government of Namibia.  (artnet, 2/15/19)

Controversy over looted artifacts, and how best to remember and atone for the crimes of the colonial era, continues to haunt planning for the Humboldt Forum, which opens within the rebuilt Berlin Palace later this year.  (Deutsche Welle, 1/30/19)

In 1938, Lise Meitner—a Jewish woman living in Swedish exile—was not credited in a landmark paper on nuclear fission that was published by her Berlin colleagues, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann. The omission cost her the Nobel Prize.  (The Conversation, 2/7/19)

The documentary short A Night at the Garden depicts the 1939 German American Bund rally in Madison Square Garden. It’s nominated for an Oscar—but it can’t be advertised on Fox News.  (The Washington Post, 2/11/19; Slate, 2/14/19)

 

 

 

Books & Ideas

What’s not to love about Bauhausmädels: A Tribute to Pioneering Women Artists, a new Taschen book by Patrick Rössler?!  (Afar, 4/18/19; Creative Boom, 4/30/19)

Martin Buber “had preached the importance of saying ‘You,’ but the Holocaust represented the ultimate triumph of the ‘It’,’ reducing human beings to mere things.”  (The New Yorker, 4/29/19)

Now you, too, can hike vicariously with Nietzsche and philosophy professor John Kaag.  (The Atlantic, 10/2018; The Guardian, 4/10/19)

In The Fourth Reich: The Specter of Nazism from World War II to the Present, Gavriel Rosenfeld has written a compelling history of something that never happened.  (New Statesman, 3/13/19; Los Angeles Review of Books, 4/1/19)

Now you can read Metropolis, Philip Kerr’s last Bernie Gunther story: “Wonderfully plotted, with elegant prose, witty dialogue, homages to German Expressionism and a strong emotional charge, this is a bittersweet ending to a superb series.”  (The Guardian, 4/4/19; The Washington Post, 4/9/19)

Christian Petzold’s adaptation of Anna Seghers’s 1944 novel Transit is “unstuck in history. . . unfolding like a remake of ‘Casablanca’ as written by Franz Kafka.”  (Indiewire, 2/17/18; The New York Times, 2/28/19)

“The story is fictional, and the ink is true.” Benedict Wells’s fourth novel, Vom Ende der Einsamkeit, has been translated into English by Charlotte Collins (The End of Loneliness).  (The New York Times, 1/24/19; The Guardian, 3/20/19)

Kurt Vonnegut grappled with his traumatic memories of the firebombing of Dresden for more than two decades before publishing Slaughterhouse-Five in 1969.  (The New York Times, 3/21/19)

In Time and Power, Christopher Clark examines how Prussian and German leaders “learnt to bend the past to suit the present” in four different centuries.  (New Statesman, 2/13/19; Standpoint, 3/2019)

Just in time for anguished end-stage Brexit negotiations, Robert Menasse’s “unexpectedly delightful book about Brussels” (translated by Jamie Bulloch as The Capital) has at last made it to English bookstores.  (The Economist, 2/16/19; The Arts Desk, 3/10/19)

Wolfgang J. Fuchs shares a few words on the art of comic book translation—he’s been working in the field since 1965.  (Deutsche Welle, 3/13/19)

“Ernst Jünger’s Second World War was less dramatic than his first; it could hardly be otherwise.” Find out more from his journals as an officer in occupied Paris, newly translated by Thomas and Abby Hansen.  (The Washington Post, 1/16/19; New Statesman, 2/20/19)

“‘Faust’ was the original viral content, and it’s still relevant today.” Olivia Giovetti looks back at retellings of the 400-year-old story, from Christopher Marlowe to The Americans.  (Electric Literature, 2/19/19)

“When a refugee flees to another country and claims asylum, she is, in effect, petitioning the state to listen to her story . . .  Where the state has failed to meet its moral obligation to listen, writers like Jenny Erpenbeck have stepped in.”  (Longreads, 2/2019)

Ali Fitzgerald’s graphic memoir, Drawn to Berlin: Comic Workshops in Refugee Shelters and Other Stories from a New Europe depicts “a city and the refugees who’ve tried to adopt it as their own, as well as the medium of comics as a tool for self-knowledge.”  (The Atlantic, 11/7/18; Los Angeles Review of Books, 2/9/19)

We can read Christa Wolf’s journals, writes Becca Rothfeld, “not as the sum of her worst lapses and most public mistakes, not as a political symbol or a work of history, but as a testament to her haltingly singular self.”  (The Nation, 2/22/19)

 

 

Et Cetera

Giles Macdonogh attempts to show us that German humor is underrated.  (Standpoint, 4/30/19)

Hello, Dackelmuseum! “The world’s first and only museum in honour of the dachshund” is the new pride of Passau.  (1843, 5/15/19)

“When Karsten Hilse, an eastern lawmaker for the anti-immigrant, anti-wolf Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, talks about wolves, it sounds a lot as if he is talking about immigrants. And sometimes he is.”  (The New York Times, 4/23/19)

“One by one, the fixed stars that have guided German foreign policy for generations have started to dim.”  (Financial Times, 4/23/19)

In other words: current political trends are just as troubling in Germany as nearly everywhere else.  (The Washington Post, 4/12/19; The New York Times, 4/15/19)

Sadly, it’s the end of the road for Handelsblatt Today. But you can still appreciate Andreas Kluth’s observations on the “deep-seated differences between German and Anglo-Saxon storytelling.”  (Handelsblatt Today, 2/27/19)

“When a refugee flees to another country and claims asylum, she is, in effect, petitioning the state to listen to her story . . .  Where the state has failed to meet its moral obligation to listen, writers like Jenny Erpenbeck have stepped in.”  (Longreads, 2/2019)

It’s Grünkohl season in northern Germany, where kale is a beloved — if not exactly vegetarian — culinary specialty.  (The New York Times, 2/26/19)

“On one side, there are flamethrowers who denounce what they consider to be a self-abnegating élite as an existential threat to the German nation. On the other side, there is an establishment that dismisses concerns about crime or institutional failures out of hand. Neither position comes close to capturing the complexities on the ground.”  (The New Yorker, 1/28/19)

“It was hardly the first time that Berlin had been blindsided, disappointed, or just plain confused by the messages coming out of Washington since Trump took office two years ago.”  (The Atlantic, 2/14/19; The New York Times, 2/15/19)

Beyond der, die, and das—changing attitudes toward gender are transforming the German language.  (The Local, 2/12/19)

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 Twitter.

Elizabeth Janik