Literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki was always a friend of clear words. In the “Literary Quartet”, however, he lashed out at his colleague Sigrid Löffler so violently that there was a scandal.

If viewers want to see hearty quarrels today, they will find what they are looking for on RTL and Sat.1: in shows such as the jungle camp, the “Summer House of the Stars” or “Celebrities under Palm Trees” the scraps fly until one cries.

Things used to be much more civilized in the “literary quartet”. In the ZDF program, one’s own point of view was represented with a lot of passion – but as a rule, the limits of civilized discourse were observed.

The “Literary Quartet” talks about Murakami

Once it went beyond that – with consequences. On June 30, 2000, the panel debated Haruki Murakami’s “Dangerous Lovers.” A book that Hellmuth Karasek visibly liked and in which he believed he had discovered a “Chandlerian nostalgia”.

The Austrian critic Sigrid Löffler saw things fundamentally differently: “I would issue a referral for this book for this show,” said the then 58-year-old. That is not literature, but at best literary fast food. The story has no language, but is “speechless, artless stammering”.

In the face of this caustic criticism, Marcel Reich-Ranicki felt compelled to intervene, for whom the book was “of unusual tenderness”. “You’re missing that,” he said in the direction of his opponent. “I haven’t read a love scene like this in years.”

Löffler teases against Reich-Ranicki

Löffler now became aggressive and said sentences that may have provoked what was to come. “I really don’t want to object at all to what you delight in,” she said to laughter from the Hanover audience. “It’s probably also a question of age,” she snapped at the much older star critic.

So it went back and forth, but at some point Reich-Ranicki gave up: “You have no sense for it. It has no purpose at all,” he said. Twice a year, a romance novel appears in the show, and she then says indignantly that it doesn’t belong here at all, says Reich-Ranicki, who now got personal: “You think love is something offensive and indecent. But world literature deals with it with this topic.”

Karasek tries to mediate

Hellmuth Karasek tried to bring the dispute back to the literary level by pointing out that Murakami was already being treated as a possible Nobel Prize winner in the USA. “If you say at the same time that the book doesn’t belong in the quartet, then I think: At some point we have to agree on our categories.”

But by then it was already too late. Löffler says, visibly offended, that she wants to talk about “literary categories”. “And not with personal insinuations. That’s absolutely unfair and that’s not possible either.”

The scandal had an aftermath: Four weeks after the show, Sigrid Löffler announced her withdrawal from the “Literary Quartet”, she was replaced by Iris Radisch. The behavior of her opponent was the “pure lesson in misogyny”, she justified the step in the “Spiegel” at the time.

Reich-Ranicki also followed suit: “I’m happy that she’s no longer in the quartet,” he remarked in November 2000 at a public appearance. Four years later he sounded different: he was ready to settle the differences with Löffler, he said on the program “Menschen bei Maischberger”. He said things that obviously offended Löffler – he was not aware of that.

But there was no reconciliation. Since Reich-Ranicki does not withdraw his allegations, but only constantly adds new ones and has never apologized for the content, there is no basis for reconciliation, said Löffler in an interview in 2004 and stated: “After four years, the topic no longer interests me at all .”