University of Oxford
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Interview with Maren Sell

Version 2 2021-03-11, 09:45
Version 1 2021-02-09, 14:00
posted on 2021-03-11, 09:45 authored by Robert GildeaRobert Gildea
Sell, Maren
Maoism / Gauche / Prolétarienne / Feminism /Sozialistische Deutsche Studentenbund/ Gauche Prolétarienne/Secours Rouge

Born 1 Feb 1945, Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein, in grandparents’ house. Father’s Protestant family were Hamburg entrepreneurs, he was an engineer, built airports during the war, based at Breslau. Became refugees in 1944, brought up in French Zone at Zweibrücken near Mannheim from 1953. when she was eight after the war. Political background not talked about when a child. Discovered that mother did not hide German deserters or Jews during the war.

Gymnasium of Zweibrücken, had good French teacher, passed Abitur 1964. Won competition to do TV at Saarbrücken 1964-65. At University of Saarbrücken 1965, then Freiburg 1967, writing doctorate on Roland Barthes and living in a commune. Teaching in the Black Forest.

Political Apprenticeship
Suffered burden of silence about Nazi past. First demonstration was at Zweibrücken 1966 against ex-Nazi Chancellor Kissenger: ‘Kissenger ist `ein Faschist’.

Involved in Sozialistische Deutsche Studentenbund (SDS) at Freiburg and Frankfurt. Visit of French ’68 radicals at Frankfurt, summer 68. Encouraged to come to Paris.
Arrived in Paris Oct 1968 to find out what was happening and to continue studies – at Sorbonne, then Vincennes (Deleuze, Foucault, Lacan), Barthes lectures at École Pratique.

Post 1968
‘I became a Maoist’. Lived in commune in rue Moufftard 1969-70, joined Gauche Prolétarienne and democratic Secours Rouge branch of 5th arrondissement. Supported struggles of immigrants of rue Mouffetard, of railwaymen of Gare d’Austerlitz, publishing accounts in J’accuse. , Contributed bulletins on students and workers’ struggles to Agence de Presse Liberation (APL). Acted as ‘passeuse’ to Germany, went to Berlin and Frankfurt, organised visits of intellectuals, interviewed Sartre for Der Spiegel. Admired French workers who had been in the Resistance and persuaded by peaceful Lip strike 1973, did special number of Libération. Promoted ‘women’s page’ of Libération but row over 1974 Portuguese revolution 1974, not seen as proletarian revolution by the paper, and left 1975.
Back to University of Vincennes, working with Hélène Cixous on women’s writing (1975-78),

Mourir d’absence (1979). Set up own publishing house 1986.


Around 1968: Activism, Networks, Trajectories

Arts and Humanities Research Council

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Date of interview


Place of interview


Name of activist

Maren Sell

Activist date of birth


Activist Gender

  • Female

Activist nationality

German / French

Name of interviewer

Robert Gildea

Name of transcriber

Alice Moscaritolo

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