Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology

  Marcel Reich Ranicki, The Author of Himself

I have no idea why the simple German title Mein Leben (My Life) was translated as The Author of Himself, but it isn't the first weird translation of a book title I've come across.

Marcel Reich Ranicki* who celebrated his 85th birthday in June is the best known and also most controversial literary critic in Germany, mostly because of his personality and media presence, but also because of the sharp and witty crits he's been delivering for several decenniums now.

But books he trashes sell like warm bread rolls despite. I think it has to do with the fact that people either like or hate him, and thus many want to see for themselves if a book is bad. His media presence, frowned upon in the beginning, has brought books to greater awareness, though. Whenever the Das Literarische Quartett (a book discussion with Reich Ranicki and several other critics) was due, stores had the books on display, libraries ordered several copies. Of course, Reich Ranicki has made enemies among authors. Sentences like, "the best that can happen to this book is that it vanishes into obscurity tomorrow," isn't something an author will want to hear.

With The Author of Himself, Reich Ranicki a few years ago presented his autobiography. As he has proven in countless reviews and essays, he can write well himself. The book is written in a clear, unpretentious language which is a greater bonus considering the subject matter of the first part.

Marcel Reich Ranicki is Jewish, and during the Hitler time, he was a Polish citizen. He was deported to the Ghetto of Warshaw, managed to escape and lived several years hiding in the cellar of Polish peasants whom he entertained with the retelling of books he had read. He tells about this cruel time without being ever larmoyant or accusatory. It is the best Holocaust witness story I've read.

After the war, he lived first in Poland, then East Germany, fell out with the communists and fled to West Germany where his rise as the Voice of Literature began. The chapters taking place in both parts of Germany may prove a bit tricky for US readers because he mentions so many people little known on the other side of the pond: authors mostly, but also politicians, journalists and others.

If you are interested in German post war literature, this book is a must, and if you want to learn something about Hitler Germany from a Jewish POV, it still might worth the money (or checking out a library) to read an inside view free from hatred and bias.

* pronounced: Mahr-seal Rey ch (Scottish ch) Rah nee tz kee

The picture is copied from this website.
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The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK and other places, with essays on Roman and Mediaeval history illustrated with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes. You may also find the odd essay about geology or Mediaeval literature.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)