Book look: Tehran, Bangkok and German skills

Ulrich Ladurner has written a new book. The experienced journalist, who has written reports and analyses about several war-stricken regions and countries governed by repressive regimes – spoke to inhabitants of Tehran, the capital of Iran, for “Küss die Hand, die du nicht brechen kannst”. His stories underline how diversified the country’s culture and its people are, and that there is much more to it all than what lies on the surface. In “Küss die Hand, die du nicht brechen kannst” – the Küss die Hand, die du nicht brechen kannst - www.residenzverlag.atbook’s title can be translated as “Kiss the hand which you cannot break” – Ladurner portrays workers, shoppers, freedom-seeking youths and fundamental followers of Iran’s political and religious leaders. Ladurner – who was born in Meran, South Tyrol, Italy, but lives in the German city of Hamburg – wrote about life in Kabul, Afghanistan, in “Eine Nacht in Kabul. Unterwegs in eine fremde Vergangenheit”. The book was released around two and a half years ago.

Küss die Hand, die du nicht brechen kannst. Geschichten aus Teheran.
By Ulrich Ladurner
Published by Residenz Verlag (

“Bangkok Noir” is Roger Willemsen’s commercially most successful book. Released in 2009, it developed into a long seller which is in great demand all year, not just ahead of Christmas. In “Bangkok Noir”, the German essayist creates a superb, intimate portrait of the capital of Thailand. Willemsen decided to get up in the evening to walk through the streets of the city of more than eight million inhabitants all night. The author, who received the Grimme Award in 1993, spoke with prostitutes, migrant workers and marketers. The German press expressed unanimous acclaim upon the release of “Bangkok Noir”. Critics praised the book as “precise” and “overwhelming”. In a recent interview with Die Zeit, a German weekly, Willemsen revealed that he was “around 17 years old” when he visited a brothel for the first time. “To ogle – that was my only reason for going there. I was absolutely unable to do anything else,” he explained. The interview took place at the “Ritze”, a night club in Hamburg in Hamburg’s infamous Reeperbahn quarter. Willemsen said: “I have spent lots of wonderful evenings (at the ‘Ritze’). Wolf Wondratschek, a poet, was the lover of Domenica, a famous prostitute of the area. He used to hang around here a lot.”

Bangkok Noir
By Roger Willemsen
Published by Fischer Taschenbuch (

German skills are getting more and more important, not only in Austria. As an increasing number of companies seek new staff among foreigners, firm chiefs and department bosses expect them to have fluent German. This development – and general immigration developments – have created a rise in demand for German lessons. “Deutschfix. Rechtschreibung, Zeichensetzung und Grammatik”, a study book released by Klett, is an excellent tool for learners. The concept of the publication’s authors – Hennes Heuckmann, Manfred Maier and Uli Mezger – to build up various links between grammar, spelling and other aspects of learning the language, is convincing. This approach ensures that German is practiced by the students in a sensible and sustainable way. On 80 pages, “Deutschfix. Rechtschreibung, Zeichensetzung und Grammatik” contains gap-filling exercises, information boxes and texts which are similar to what learners might come across in real life. A CD-ROM with additional 150 exercises is another essential feature of the book.

Deutschfix. Rechtschreibung, Zeichensetzung und Grammatik
By Hennes Heuckmann, Manfred Maier and Uli Mezger
Published by Klett (

Dürer draws the crowds

A wonderful exhibition of pieces of art created during the Albertinareign of Maximilian I is now on at the Albertina (

The exhibit on display at the Viennese museum features numerous drawings by Albrecht Dürer, arguably the most important painter of that period. Portraits of the emperor and other influential monarchs are part of “Kaiser Maximilian I. und die Kunst der Dürer-Zeit” (Emperor Maximilian I and the Age of Dürer). However, the exhibition also includes etchings and sculptures by Dürer and other artists as well as hunting guides and fishing rulebooks written by the King himself.

Apart from the exhibit about how the Holy Roman Emperor took advantage of the skills of artists, the Albertina also presents “De Profundis”, a special exhibition of new works by Erwin Wurm, one of Austria’s most influential and commercially successful contemporary artists. For “De Profundis”, Wurm took pictures of several fellow artists in the nude before painting over the snapshots – a procedure which might spark mixed reactions among beholders.

Spera on snappers

The director of Vienna’s Jewish Museum ( has explained why the institution’s current special exhibition is special to her.
Vienna’s Shooting Girls -
Danielle Spera, who took the helm at the museum in 2010, said about “Vienna’s Shooting Girls. Jewish Women Photographers from Vienna”: “These photographs have a certain impact but there is much more to it. They tell the stories of their creators’ lives. Few people knew that a large number of Jewish women worked as photographers in Vienna before 1938.”

Asked by Schau, an Austrian magazine, whether museums are still relevant these days as mobile communication and interaction becomes more and more important to people of all age groups, the former “Zeit im Bild” anchorwoman said: “Visitor numbers of museums in Austria and abroad speak for themselves. Long queues in front of museums are a common sight. Art and culture are immensely popular ways of how people spend their leisure time.”

“Vienna’s Shooting Girls” is not the only acclaimed special exhibit in the city at the moment. The Wien Museum looks back on the Werkbund housing estate exhibition of 1932 while the Leopold Museum focuses on Japanese calligraphy. Works by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo are on display at the Bank Austria (BA) Kunstforum, a gallery located near the Burgtheater.

Book look: Portugal, Munich and cartoons

Getting to know a Portuguese, falling in love with him and leaving one’s own home Kann denn Fado fade sein? - to live in his – this is the starting point for Christina Zacker’s new book. The German journalist describes how she, slowly but surely, got used to routines of daily life in the southern country which has recently been in the news mostly because of its financial troubles. Zacker writes about traditions such as bullfighting, people’s eating habits and men’s passion for football. “Kann denn Fado fade sein” features an uncountable number of amusing anecdotes, but also offers a comprehensive overview about everything linked with living in Portugal.

Kann denn Fado fade sein?
By Christina Zacker
Published by Heyne (

A journey back in time is made possible by a recently released picture book. “Leben in München” contains hundreds of black and white photographs taken by Michael Fackelmann in Munich in the early 1960s. His pictures demonstrate the significant contrast between the city’s conservative establishment and the rebellious movements of that time. scenes showing youths dressed up as Beatles lookalikes lurking at city centre squares while elderly people put on a grim face hint at the eruption of violence on the streets of Europe’s cities a few years later. Fackelmann, who was born in Berlin, also took pictures of market stallholders, kids dressed up for carnival – and boozing crowds in Munich’s famous beer halls.

Leben in München
By Michael Fackelmann
Published by Terra Magica (

As the days are getting significantly colder, a new book packed with cartoons by one of Germany’s most popular artists of this genre appears on the scene. “Urlaub” by Uli Stein is a great collection of hilarious cartoons about all aspects of holidaymaking. A couple in need of sun ends up at the South Pole while, on other pages, families argue about various issues at the beach. Vacationers’ communication troubles with indigenes are also told in “Urlaub”. Uli Stein’s books have been translated into several languages including Chinese and Korean. Stein previously released cartoons about topics such as gardening, education and cooking.

By Uli Stein
Published by Lappan (

Hartmann unimpressed by ‘Austrian rattlesnake’

Matthias Hartmann has pledged he will never stop working in the creative sector – regardless of the extent of financial support by the authorities.

The Burgtheater boss told Austrian newspaper Der Standard: “I will always create theatre, no matter how high funds are.”

The former head of the Schauspielhaus Zurich – who directs “Onkel Wanja” (Uncle Vanya) at the Akademietheater this season – also spoke about Austria’s reputation as a danger zone for the various directors of the theatre he has headed since 2009. Hartmann said: “I haven’t slipped yet but I have been warned. However, I also have to point out that it never got as bad as some claimed it would. (…) As soon as the Austrian rattlesnake strikes, I will let you know.”

“Onkel Wanja” is one of the most celebrated productions of the Akademietheater, which is associated with the Burgtheater (visit for ticket information), this season. Gert Voss and Michael Maertens star in the play written by Anton Chekhov. The Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper described the production as a “brisk comedy”.
Christiane von Poelnitz (pictured left) and Catrin Striebeck in 'Elektra' - picture copyright: Georg Soulek / Burgtheater -
Another play which is sold out on a regular basis is “Elektra”. Michael Thalheimer directs the new Burgtheater production starring Christiane von Poelnitz as Elektra and Falk Rockstroh as Ägisth. Thalheimer’s efforts have been praised by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a German newspaper, as “immense and powerful” while Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung lauded the play’s great emotionality.

“Die Wand”, a one-woman play created by Dorothee Hartinger based on the novel of the same name by Marlen Haushofer is also on at the Burgtheater, while the Akademietheater is drawing the crowds with Simon Stephens’ “Wastwater”.

January jackpot for rock fans

An extraordinarily interesting month for live music will kick off the new year.Enter Shikari

The splendid series of gigs starts with a performance by Ludwigsburg-born singer Philipp Poisel. The German artist, who recently released a live album called “Projekt Seerosenteich”, will play a concert at Vienna’s Museumsquartier on 8 January. Only a few days later (16 January), Berlin-based rockers Jennifer Rostock will hit the stage in the capital. The band fronted by Jennifer Weist are due to perform at the Arena in Landstraße district.

Enter Shikari, a critically acclaimed band from England, will perform at the same venue one day later. Enter Shikari have gained recognition for brilliantly merging elements of electronic music with heavy rock. Formed nine years ago, Enter Shikari were named Best Live Band twice at the annual Kerrang! Awards.

On 18 January, metal fans will gather in the Tyrolean city of Innsbruck as Marrok are due to perform there on that day. The concert of the band from Steyr, Upper Austria, will take place at the Weekender club. Marrok are around since 1998. Their first record, an EP called “Extreme”, was released four years later.

Bright Eyes front man Conor Oberst will perform in Vienna (Stadtsaal) on 21 January before a concert by Maximilian Hecker takes place at the W.U.K., a venue situated near the Viennese Volksoper, the following day. The Beth Edges and From Dawn To Fall will come to Innsbruck on 25 January to perform at the Weekender club on 25 January. Four days later, the United States’ rising stars of electronic rock, Awolnation, fire up Graz (p.p.c.). Awolnation’s debut album, “Megalithic Symphony”, was released last year.

Book look: Greece, Jerusalem and Austria

Greece has caused barely any positive news in years. The debt-stricken country, Hellas sei Dank! - www.siedler-verlag.dewhich has been rocked by a large number of violent demonstrations against the controversial austerity measures by decision-makers, has had to take the role of a scapegoat for the dismal condition of the Eurozone’s economy. Now – as tabloid newspapers across the continent attack the “lazy Greeks” – a historian has compiled a convincing pro-Greece statement in the form of a 368-page book. In “Hellas sei Dank!”, Karl-Wilhelm Weeber underlines that science and philosophy are “Greek inventions”. Weeber stresses that democracy was created in the southern country too. Furthermore, the Witten-born historian writes about the history of theatre and poetry but also about Socrates and other great Greek thinkers.

Hellas sei Dank! Was Europa den Griechen schuldet. Eine historische Abrechnung
By Karl-Wilhelm Weeber
Published by Siedler (

Historic, sociological and cultural aspects concerning the capital of Israel are investigated in “Jerusalem. Die Geschichte einer Heiligen Stadt”. In more than 30 chapters, historians and reporters of German magazine Der Spiegel take a closer look at Jerusalem’s 4,000-year history. However, current developments are an essential part of this new Goldmann publishing house release too. This book “contains lots of new and surprising information,” a reviewer for NDR, a German broadcaster, said.

Jerusalem. Die Geschichte einer Heiligen Stadt
By Annette Großbongardt and Dietmar Pieper
Published by Goldmann (

Well-known contemporary witnesses have been interviewed for a new book to share their experiences in post-war Austria. Skiing legend Karl Schranz, journalist Paul Lendvai, former Football Federation (ÖFB) President Beppo Mauhart and many more look back on some of the most defining moments of the country since 1945. It is no surprise that several political decisions are analysed in “Generation Österreich”. However, the book published by ORF journalist Gerhard Jelinek and Birgit Mosser-Schuöcker also contains reflections on memorable events in culture such as Udo Jürgens’ Eurovision Song Contest triumph of 1967 and the rise of “Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco to the peak of the US charts. “History has to be retold again and again to each new generation,” Jelinek told Viennese newspaper Kurier.

Generation Österreich. Prägende Momente der Zweiten Republik
By Gerhard Jelinek and Birgit Mosser-Schuöcker
Published by edition a (

Artistic excellence averts a dull Xmas

Theatre and art enthusiasts will not be bored during the upcoming festive period thanks to the splendid opportunities offered by Austria’s stages and galleries.

“Moorland”, a new production which premiered on 1 December at Vienna’s Theater an der Gumpendorfer Straße (TAG, will be performed on 20 and 21 December before the theatre’s busy actors take a few well-deserved off-days. “Moorland” has been written by Gernot Plass who is also in charge as director. Julian Loidl, Gottfried Neuner and many others perform in the play.

Gunkl, one of Austria’s most celebrated Kabarett artists, will hit the stage at the Kabarett Niedermair ( on 22 December. In his new programme “Die großen Kränkungen der Menschheit – auch schon nicht leicht”, the Salzburger Stier laureate once more manages to create connections between the most complex scientific processes and comparably trivial daily life occurrences. Up-and-coming comedian Paul Pizzeria performs at the Kabarett Niedermair on 23 December.

Situated in the heart of Linz, the Lentos Museum ( is Upper Austria’s most important cultural institution. Holidaymakers spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the city are well-advised not to miss its “Der nackte Mann” (The Naked Man) exhibit. Artistic works by renowned artists like Maria Lassnig, Oskar Kokoschka and Keith Haring are on display. Overall, the exhibition features over 300 objects loaned from museums all over the globe.

“Even if I had whole Hollywood at hand, this concentration of power would still be unmatched,” Matthias Hartmann said about the cast of “Onkel Wanja” (Uncle Vanya) by Anton Chekhov. A glance at the list of actors starring in the play – which will be performed at the Akademietheater in Vienna on 21 and 26 December – confirms the Burgtheater head’s claim. German actor Gert Voss, “Stallerhof” star Sarah Viktoria Frick, Burgtheater icon Elisabeth Orth, audience darling Michael Maertens and Nicholas Ofczarek (“Braunschlag”) are part of the production.
Nicholas Ofczarek in 'Onkel Wanja' - picture copyright: Reinhard Werner / Burgtheater
Maertens also plays the leading role in Heinrich von Kleist’s “Der zerbrochne Krug” (The Broken Jug) which will be performed at the Akademietheater on New Year’s Eve. Already on 30 December, a stage version of Marlen Haushofer’s acclaimed novel “Die Wand” (The Wall) will be on at the Burgtheater (

Comedian Andreas Vitasek will draw the crowds at the city’s Konzerthaus ( on 28 December and 31 December. Gernot Kulis, Bernhard Ludwig, Karlheinz Hackl and Heinz Marecek will also perform at the venue – which offers a wide range of classical music and jazz concerts throughout the year – on the same stage on New Year’s Eve.

German rockers Die Toten Hosen will perform to a sold-out crowd in Graz on 21 December before The Sorrow, an Austrian metal band founded in 2005, fire up Linz one day later. Another eagerly awaited occasion is the concert by German singer Philipp Poisel in Salzburg on 7 January while Vienna’s Belvedere gallery ( gallery in succeeds with exhibits dedicated to Gustav Klimt and Emil Jakob Schindler.