Red Rosa by Kate Evans: getting to know Rosa Luxemburg

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I’m very much a left-wing thinker politically and very much a feminist, therefore I’ve come across Rosa Luxemburg several times before, especially as she was also very instrumental in the German socialist movement and the politics of the early Weimar Republic. I remember watching the German film Rosa Luxemburg (you can buy it with English subtitles) as a student and being utterly mesmerised by this incredibly intelligent, passionate, resilient woman.  And so of course, I had to pick up the graphic biography Red Rosa as soon as I heard about it.mzi-uxvbwefoA little background info: Rosa was assassinated along with Karl Liebknecht in the early stages of the Weimar Republic, in 1919, having left the Social Democratic Party to found the separate German Communist Party in order to stay true to their beliefs. This assassination by the conservative right is quite often the only mention she gets in history books. The young Weimar Republic and the consequences of the First World War opened up a period of exploration and opportunities; a time when the Social Democrats had their first taste of political power, a time when Germany was trying to find its feet and its identity after losing the First World War, a time of intense poverty and social unrest. Rosa was an intrinsic part of it all and was passionately determined to use this time of change to create a better, classless society that would survive, thrive and do so without the need for further war.

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Red Rosa tells her story from birth to death and manages to pack an incredible number of events, political ideas, social comment and personal information about Rosa into just one book. Simply said, I thought it was brilliant.  I found there to be a carefully thought out balance between Rosa’s personal and political lives, so that I really got to know her character as well as the ideology she fought for. The black and white illustrations are beautiful and really engaging; they tell their own story beyond the accompanying words. I appreciated how political concepts were explained in reader friendly terms i.e. using accessible images, language and examples; I certainly learned a lot. I do have to add that this book is definitely a pro Rosa, pro left-wing publication. At times, this meant there was a certain lack of balance in perspective but then again, this isn’t the aim of the book:

Kate Evans writer and illustrator, is so clearly passionate about her subject; she brings an incredible, inspiring woman to life for a new audience.

P.S. For my German readers, Rosa also plays her part in the novel ‘Als wir unsterblich waren’ by Charlotte Roth (this loosely translates as ‘Back when we thought we’d live forever’. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be an English translation.  This is a dual time line novel; Berlin in November 1989 as the Berlin Wall falls and Berlin just before the First World War. Two periods of immense change told from the angle of two very different young women, whose stories become intertwined. A sweeping, well researched, page turning read.

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