Germany Mourns Death of Its Most Famous Critic at 93
COLOGNE, Germany – Germany is
mourning the death of its most famous
literary critic, Marcel Reich-Ranicki , who
died this week, aged 93.
A Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust
and settled in Germany after the war,
Reich-Ranicki became one of the
country's most outspoken and
influential critics. He was known by his
fans as well as his detractors as the
“Pope of Literature."
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As host of the TV book program Literary
Quartet from 1998 to 2001, Reich-
Ranicki became a celebrity figure. His
scathing, curmudgeonly style and
distinctive accent were much parodied
by late-night comics and stand-ups.
He remained true to form in 2008,
when he received an honorary German
Television Prize, the local equivalent of
an Emmy, for his cultural contributions,
and used his acceptance speech to
lash out at the idiocy of TV in general
and award shows in particular.
"I cannot accept this prize," Reich-
Ranicki told the a shocked audience of
TV industry professionals. "I didn't know
what to expect here, and I think it is
awful that I had to sit through this for
so many hours."
His own life, in which he escaped the
Warsaw Ghetto and fought in the Polish
resistance, was itself the stuff of a great
novel, and Reich-Ranicki's 1999
autobiography My Life became a
German bestseller. It was adapted into a
successful TV movie in 2009, featuring
star Matthias Schweighofer as Reich-
German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid
tribute to him following his death from
prostate cancer: "We lose in him a
peerless friend of literature, but also of
freedom and democracy. I will miss this
passionate and brilliant man."