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Reich-Ranicki, Marcel


REICH-RANICKI, MARCEL (1920– ), German journalist and literary critic. Born in Wloclawek, Poland, the son of a merchant, Reich-Ranicki moved with his family to Berlin in 1929, where he was able to finish high school in 1938 but – as a Polish Jew – was not permitted to study at the university afterwards. Soon he was arrested and deported to Poland, where he lived in Warsaw, from 1940 in the ghetto working as translator for the *Judenrat. In 1943 he and his wife hid in the underground, while most of his family was murdered by the Nazis. After liberation by the Soviet army, he joined the Communist Party of Poland, working as consul for the Foreign Ministry and also for the secret service of Poland in London from 1947 to 1949. Resigning from these posts, he returned to Warsaw, where he was excluded from the party and arrested because of "ideological alienation." This termination of Reich-Ranicki's diplomatic career was also the beginning of his career as a critic. Working as a publisher and journalist, he mediated between German literature and the Polish reader. He translated Kafka's Das Schloss and published a history of German literature from 1871 to 1954 (1955) and a book on Anna Seghers (1957). In 1958, he did not return from a trip to West Germany, remaining in Frankfurt/Main and from 1959 to 1973 in Hamburg, where he worked – supported by his friends Heinrich Boell and Siegfried Lenz – as a critic for several newspapers, such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, and Die Zeit. As a participant in "Gruppe 47" he soon became the most famous and influential as well as the most controversial critic in West Germany. In 1973, he took over the editorship of the literary section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, retaining the position until 1988, also editing from 1974 the Frankfurter Anthologie. His most influential activity as a critic, however, was to host the television program Das literarische Quartett (1988–2001), which was followed by Reich-RanickiSolo. Beside his many books on major German writers (e.g., Thomas Mann, Heinrich Heine, Heinrich Boell, Thomas Bernhard), he also wrote about the auxiliary streams of the German literary canon, e.g., in his essays Die UngeliebtenSieben Emigranten (1968) and Ueber Ruhestoerer. Juden in der deutschen Literatur (1973, 19892), where he represents Jewish writers as "outcasts" and "provocateurs," i.e., as critical voices. In 1999 he published his autobiography Mein Leben (The Author of Himself), which is not only a powerful account of his life as a Jewish intellectual during and after World War ii but is also representative of Jewish history in 20th-century Europe as well as the intellectual and literary history of Germany, particularly after 1945.


W. Jens (ed.), Literatur und Kritik; aus Anlass des 60. Geburtstages von Marcel Reich-Ranicki (1980); J. Jessen (ed.), Ueber Marcel Reich-Ranicki (1985); V. Hage and M. Schreiber, Marcel Reich-Ranicki: Ein biographisches Portraet (1997); H. Spiegel (ed.), Welch ein Leben. Marcel Reich-Ranickis Erinnerungen (2000); P. Demetz: in: German Literature, Jewish Critiques (2002), 289–302.

[Andreas Kilcher (2nd ed.)]

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