Synopses & Reviews
No other figure embodies revolutionary politics, radical chic, and the promises and failures of the New Left quite like Ulrike Meinhof (1934-76). In the 1960s, she was known in Europe as a journalist and public intellectual, leading an exciting life in Hamburg’s high society with her publisher husband and twin daughters. Ten years later, Meinhof gave up her bourgeois existence to form, with Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin, the Red Army Faction (RAF). Also called the Baader-Meinhof Gang, the group was notorious for its politically motivated acts of violence, including bombings, kidnappings, bank robberies, and shootouts with police.
What impels someone to abandon middle-class privilege for the sake of revolution? Meinhof, who spent the 1960s writing a column for the popular leftist magazine konkret, began to see the world in increasingly stark terms: the United States was emerging as an unstoppable superpower and Germany appeared to be run by former Nazis. Never before translated into English, Meinhof’s 1960s columns published in konkret show a woman in transition, reflecting upon the major political events and social currents of her time. An essay by Karin Bauer contextualizes Meinhof’s writings and mesmerizing life story within the political developments of the German Left. Bauer also explores Meinhof’s afterlife and asks why Meinhof’s ghost still haunts us today.
A relentless critic of her mother and of the Left, author and journalist Bettina Röhl, one of Meinhof’s daughters, contributes an afterword that aims to tear down Meinhof’s iconic status. Noting the increasingly desperate tone of Meinhof’s writing, Nobel Prize Laureate Elfriede Jelinek reflects in her foreword on Germany’s missed opportunity to learn from Meinhof’s writings.
Ulrike Meinhof (1934 -1976) was one of the most influential thinkers of the German Left in the 1960s, known primarily through her columns in the magazine, konkret. She became an internationally known fugitive when she aided in the prison escape of Andreas Baader and formed the Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang. She was imprisoned in 1972 and found, four years later, hanged in her cell.
Karin Bauer is associate professor and chair of the Department of German Studies at McGill University.
Writings by the prominent journalist-turned-terrorist, Gemany's icon of revolutionary violence in the 1970s.
No other figure embodies revolutionary politics and radical chic quite like Ulrike Meinhof, who formed, with Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin, the Red Army Faction (RAF), also known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, notorious for its bombings and kidnappings of the wealthy in the 1970s. But in the years leading up to her leap into the fray, Meinhof was known throughout Europe as a respected journalist, who informed and entertained her loyal readers with monthly magazine columns.
What impels someone to abandon middle-class privilege for the sake of revolution? In the 1960s, Meinhof began to see the world in increasingly stark terms: the United States was emerging as an unstoppable superpower, massacring a tiny country overseas despite increasingly popular dissent at home; and Germany appeared to be run by former Nazis. Never before translated into English, Meinhof's writings show a woman increasingly engaged in the major political events and social currents of her time. In her introduction, Karin Bauer tells Meinhof's mesmerizing life story and her political coming-of-age; Nobel Prize-winning author Elfriede Jelinek provides a thoughtful reflection on Meinhof's tragic failure to be heard; and Meinhof s daughter—a relentless critic of her mother and of the Left—contributes an afterword that shows how Meinhof's ghost still haunts us today.
About the Author
One of the most influential journalists of the German left in the 1960s. Becoming increasingly politicized, she left her family and aided in the escape of Andreas Baader, incarcerated for setting off a bomb in a department store. They founded the Red Army Faction and advocated revolutionary change by any means. She was found dead in her prison cell 1976. Karin Bauer, who will provide a 30,000 word introduction to Meinhof, is associate professor and chair of the Department of German Studies at McGill University. Elfriede Jelinek, the leading Austrian writer of her generation, has been awarded the Heinrich Boll Prize for her contribution to German literature. The film by Michael Haneke of The Piano Teacher won the three main prizes at Cannes in 2001. In 2004, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Bettina Röhl, who has written a 2000 word afterword, is an executor of the Meinhof Estate, and one of Meinhof's daughters.