REVIEW by Chris Keil

NWR Issue 100

Baader-Meinhof and the Novel, Narrative of the Nation/Fantasies of the Revolution, 1970-2010

by Julian Preece

When Ulrike Meinhof scrambled out of the library window of the Institute for Social Research in West Berlin in May 1970, leaving behind a haze of gun- smoke and a severely wounded guard, she crossed a threshold from her past – as a journalist, a theoretician, a citizen, a mother – to her future as a terrorist, an outlaw, a martyr. The event set off resonances that have been echoing in the modern political imagination ever since. Julian Preece, in this powerful and lucid study, examines the subsequent history of the myth, with particular reference to German literature. He ranges across forty years of the German novel, from major literary figures like Heinrich Böll and Günther Grass, to crime-fiction potboilers. His subtitle is significant. Professor Preece suggests that the Baader-Meinhof Group or Red Army Faction (RAF), dealt largely in symbolic meanings – myths, conspiracy theories – rather than ideological content; they were a white screen on which others could ‘project ideas, scenarios and fantasies.’

The book examines around fifty German and a smaller number of international novels, as well as feature films and documentaries, and benefits from the sharpness of academic focus this methodology allows; but Professor Preece is also highly alert to the wider context of socio-cultural history and mythology in which his study is set...

Prof Julian Preece and Chris Keil will be in conversation with NWR editor Gwen Davies at Hay Festival, 2 June.

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previous review: All the Souls, Stories of the Living and the Dead
next review: Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape



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