Baader Meinhof and the Novel – a review

I have now finished reading the review copy of Professor Julian Preece’s book, Baader Meinhof and the Novel, in which my novel (Love, Gudrun Ensslin) is referenced three times. Before posting my review here on my blog (replicating the review I have already posted on UK Amazon) I would like to thank both Professor Preece and publisher Palgrave Macmillan for the review copy of the book – and add that this generosity in no way compromised my objectivity in reviewing the Professor’s work.

As I have now read every word of the Professor’s (factual) book – and spent four years researching Baader Meinhof from a wide variety of sources before I began writing my own (fictional) narrative – I thereby feel reasonably qualified to comment with credibility on both the topic of Baader Meinhof and Julian Preece’s book.

Here is what I posted on Amazon (whilst also giving the book a five star rating):

Professor Preece’s book is a scholarly work exploring the dynamic influence of Baader Meinhof/Red Army Faction on literature (and the cinema) for the past four decades. The tone throughout is both authoritative and insightful, producing a highly readable account with the narrative panache of a literary thriller. In many ways this book exceeds its own remit, functioning as an effective history of Baader Meinhof as well as an impressive literary critique.

Preece draws a clear dividing line between German writers (from the 1968 generation to today) and international writers (of whom I am one of those referenced) to show the development of the ‘Baader Meinhof novel’ from the often bleak work of the ‘years of lead’ to a post-unification present in which Baader Meinhof has become a much co-opted (and frequently stretched) metaphor/motif for individual authors.

Identifying well-worn tropes and long established myths, Preece wields his erudite analysis with the precision of a scalpel to illuminate the birth of a growing body of imaginative work that may itself be considered a ‘faction’ (pun intended!); a distinctive hybrid of fact and fiction in which themes and issues suggested by the mere concept of ‘Baader Meinhof’ take centre stage.

Indispensable to students of modern German history and culture as well as those with an interest in contemporary European literature.

I also couldn’t resist one more (and I promise final!!) minor gripe about being mistakenly called Richard (sorry Julian!…or should I say Jason?!) and I added a hopeful plea for a more explicit analysis of my own work if a revised (or second) edition of Preece’s book should ever be produced. This hope is not so much due to a desire for greater free publicity for my novel as it is due to the high esteem in which I hold the Professor’s literary criticism skills as a result of reading his book. I added:

Of course, while I am pleased my own novel, Love, Gudrun Ensslin, is referenced three times in Preece’s work it remains a small personal disappointment that it does not benefit from a fuller explication in the text. I believe my own novel’s core message of common humanity, universal tolerance and non-violence is (currently) unique among the growing corpus of ‘Baader Meinhof literature’ and thus warrants deeper consideration. However, it seems clear there will be a need for a second edition from Preece as the ‘Baader Meinhof  genre’ continues to expand and my book will perhaps then be put under the Professor’s microscope in some greater detail. Meantime, the present edition of Preece’s study is so good I can even forgive being called Richard (rather than Simon) in the index!

I can happily recommend this book to all interested parties – students, historians, university departments and even the casual reader wishing to learn more about a frequently controversial but perennially fascinating topic.

NB Click on the image below to be taken to the UK Amazon page for Professor Preece’s book:

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