Sunday, March 07, 2010
And I thought the Germans were sleeping
I'm surprised: someone went out and did something.
When a while back Maxim Biller's novel Esra was forbidden by the highest German court - the constitutional court - my heart sunk. It was a serious blow against freedom of speech. The novel is a thinly veiled autobiographic love story between Biller and his ex-girlfriend, an unnamed Turkish actress, and there is some graphic sex involved and most likely (Biller is that kind of guy) the girl didn't come away looking that good.
The girl and her mother (who was also in the book) sued for violation of personality rights.
There was certainly some merit in the suit, and Biller was willing to tone it down a bit, but by absolutely forbidding publication, the court set a precedent that is deadly for journalism and literature: Writers are becoming more and more afraid of simply portraying the world they see around them. That may or may not protect the individual (it's still legal to gossip about someone, it's just not legal to write about how life in Germany works if any character you portray has any similarity to any real person) but it certainly limits German writers' ability to describe their world.
There was a lot of excitement and dismay when the court made the decision, but that was it. No one stepped up to the plate and really protested, and I thought, Hey you guys, are you asleep?
Ah, but finally someone is doing something. Two now plays have just hit the stages in Berlin: "Adam and Esra" and "The Case Esra." (Article in Spiegel here) They put the forbidden book on stage - where it is easy to walk around the forbidden scenes while clearly referring to them - and they discuss the case itself.
Good work, people.