What’s New

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)

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)

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)

Arts

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

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)

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

Let the Bauhaus commemorations begin! Architect Charles Jencks gets this party started, asking about the movement’s legacy 100 years on.  (Financial Times, 1/4/19)

Blue particles in fossilized dental plaque, unearthed on the grounds of a Dalheim convent, suggest that women, too, were producers of illuminated manuscripts.  (The Atlantic, 1/9/19; The Conversation, 1/11/19)

“In retrospect, the Bauhaus invested a particular concept, ‘design,’ with such a quantity of meaning that it overwhelmed the word.”  (The New York Times, 2/4/19)

“‘Less is more,’ Mies van der Rohe, he of the towering, steel-ribbed black-glass boxes, once famously proclaimed, though no one seems to have told Harvard Art Museums.”  (The Boston Globe, 2/10/19; The Washington Post, 2/20/19)

“Sticking exactly to every fact and chronology tends to weaken something,” says director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck ‘Citizen Kane’ would be a lesser film if it were called ‘Citizen Hearst.” Never Look Away (Werk ohne Autor), about an artist with a more than passing resemblance to Gerhard Richter, has just been nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film.  (The New Yorker, 1/21/19)

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)

Baritone Christian Gerhaher and pianist Gerold Huber “have become bywords for sensitivity, cerebral depth and seeming perfection in a lieder repertory that they have made their own.” (The New York Times, 11/23/18)

 

 

“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)

A new staging of The Sound of Music (in Salzburg!) is blessedly free of the schlock that has accumulated on the musical like edelweiss over the past 60 years.”  (The New York Times, 1/10/19)

From the Thirty Years’ War to recent efforts to promote interreligious understanding—the Oberammergau Passion Play continues to reinvent itself.  (Standpoint, 12/18 and 1/19)

Berlin Regietheater goes to the movies—and Visconti, Bergman, and Polanski are what’s showing.  (The New York Times, 12/14/18)

 

 

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)

Director Franz Osten filmed the 1929 spectacle Shiraz: A Romance of India in and around Jaipur, with an all-Indian cast.  (The New York Times, 1/16/19)

“Sticking exactly to every fact and chronology tends to weaken something,” says director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck ‘Citizen Kane’ would be a lesser film if it were called ‘Citizen Hearst.” Never Look Away (Werk ohne Autor), about an artist with a more than passing resemblance to Gerhard Richter, has just been nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film.  (The New Yorker, 1/21/19)

 

 

 

History

“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)

“It’s been 100 years since the Marxist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg was brutally murdered in Germany.” She was one of many women who played an active role in the turbulent events following the end of WWI.  (The Conversation, 1/14/19; The Guardian, 1/15/19)

“For here on either side of the wall are God’s children,” Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. told Berliners in 1964, “and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact.”  (Time, 1/18/19)

In Munich 1919: Diary of a Revolution (translated by Jessica Spengler), Viktor Klemperer “reports on the revolution first as an eyewitness and later as a memoirist who already knows how things will unfold.”  (The Nation, 1/10/19)

Blue particles in fossilized dental plaque, unearthed on the grounds of a Dalheim convent, suggest that women, too, were producers of illuminated manuscripts.  (The Atlantic, 1/9/19; The Conversation, 1/11/19)

“Archivists are working to digitize thousands of old audio recordings of the Nuremberg trials, which will then be released to the public, likely in 2020.”  (PRI, 2/4/19)

Teds, Heavies, New Romantics, and more—here’s a circa-1985 Stasi guide used to identify the “types of negative decadent youth cultures in the German Democratic Republic.”  (Open Culture, 2/7/19)

 

 

 

Books & Ideas

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)

“‘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)

Decades after Isherwood said goodbye to Berlin, the city’s expat lit is still going strong—read up on some of the newest voices in a durable genre.  (Electric Literature, 1/3/19)

In Munich 1919: Diary of a Revolution (translated by Jessica Spengler), Viktor Klemperer “reports on the revolution first as an eyewitness and later as a memoirist who already knows how things will unfold.”  (The Nation, 1/10/19)

In memoriam: Mirjam Pressler (1940–2019), award-winning children’s author, literary translator, advocate for Christian-Jewish understanding.  (Deutsche Welle, 1/16/19)

“Can you be realistic and radical at the same time?” Max Weber’s “Politics as a Vocation” still has important lessons for us, 100 years on.  (The Economist, 1/26/19)

In memoriam: Anthea Bell (1936–2018), literary translator extraordinaire. She brought the words of W.G. Sebald, Stefan Zweig, Otfried Preussler—and the Asterix and Obelix comics!—to life in English translation.  (The Guardian, 10/18/18; The New York Times, 10/19/18; Translationista, 10/21/18; Financial Times, 10/26/18)

“History is everywhere, as is mankind’s bad behavior, in Walter Kempowski’s Homeland (Mark und Bein), newly translated by Charlotte Collins.  (The Guardian, 12/20/18; Financial Times, 1/4/19; Granta, 2/5/19)

 

 

Et Cetera

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)

“It’s no problem at all for a man to wear a dark blue suit a hundred days in a row,” Angela Merkel tells Die Zeit, “but if I wear the same blazer four times within two weeks, the letters start pouring in.”  (Zeit Online, 1/28/19; The New York Times, 1/30/19)

“In a tenderly written missive to Britons, more than two dozen leading figures in Germany—including Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the favorite to become the country’s next chancellor—described their admiration for many things British, including its tea and beer, and their sorrow over the impending divorce.”  (The New York Times, 1/18/19)

Happy New Year, Germany—George Will is in your corner: “as has been truly said, today’s Germany is the best Germany the world has seen since it became Germany in 1871.”  (The Washington Post, 1/4/19)

“F.C. St. Pauli is an avowed anti-fascist soccer team based in Hamburg that plays in Germany’s second division and hasn’t won the title in more than 40 years, though it runs a kindergarten inside the stadium, which displays signs proclaiming ‘no person is illegal.'”  (The New York Times, 2/7/19)

There’s a new Spiegel affair in 2018. Reporter Claas Relotius fabricated multiple stories over several years, including a misleading portrait of Fergus Falls, Minnesota.  (Medium, 12/19/18; Spiegel International, 12/20/18; Spiegel International, 12/23/18; The Atlantic, 1/3/19; The New Yorker, 1/30/19)

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