BOOK REVIEW / Green whiter than white: 'The Life and Death of Petra Kelly' - Sara Parkin: Pandora, 15.99
Sunday 09 October 1994
She begins with her disquiet at the joint memorial service, when equal tribute was paid to Bastian and Kelly as dauntless warriors for the environment, when it was becoming increasingly clear, to the special horror of the pacifist Greens, that Kelly had been murdered by her lover. It was not, it appears, a suicide pact (Parkin refers to 'forensic evidence that Petra was asleep when she died' - it would be interesting to know what exactly that is). The most convincing indication that Petra did not collude in her own death, apart from the eager, forward-thinking letters which poured out of her tiny flat in the last days, is that this incorrigible activist would have preceded her suicide with a flood of self-justifying faxes.
Parkin's tribute to a dead friend is low on psychological probing and meticulous on incident and fact. It's 'What Petra Did', until Petra was horribly 'Done Unto'. With an almost superstitious shudder, Parkin passes over the threshold of the house of horror and comes up with her own theory as to how this 'very sweet, elderly man' (as a Buddhist scholar described Bastian a couple of days before the killings; the Dalai Lama didn't spot anything seriously bent out of shape in Bastian's psyche either), blew the brains out of the woman he apparently adored. The Petra described here, apart from a few intriguing hints, has very little inner life; consequently, it remains a frustratingly opaque account. We learn about the speeches and the pamphleteering but not what really made her tick.
She liked flings with older men, perhaps because her father had deserted her. She left the Catholic Church but constructed a strange personal cult around her sister Grace, who died aged 10 in 1970 after coping heroically with a cancer that ate out her right eye. Later in life she began to suffer from the psychological disorder angst, which turned her, as the photographs testify, from a golden-haired gamine to a gaunt, hollow-eyed wraith, and led to her increasing dependence on Bastian, an enigmatic ex-general, like Kelly an MP for Die Grunen and an anti-nuclear activist. Parkin's hints at his dodginess - possibly a Nazi past and links with the Stasi - are left suggestively shadowy.
The account of Kelly's childhood and her college career is one of the most upbeat and enjoyable parts of the book, although Kelly was plagued then and throughout her life by acute renal pains which culminated in an operation to remove part of her kidney. The account of Green activism gets rather technical, and the amazing thing in these apolitical times is how much like ancient history it all seems - all those demos and petitions, and even, heaven help us, the collection of sloganed T-shirts which now forms part of the Petra Kelly Archive. This is a solid, worthy tribute which clings obstinately to the light, even if the dark demons of jealousy, murder and bad faith haven't been entirely exorcised.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Forget 'The Dress': Here are five of the biggest news stories you might have missed
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Saudi Muslim cleric claims the Earth is 'stationary' and the sun rotates around it
Skrillex and Diplo's 24-hour DJ set shut down by police after 18 hours
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Justin Kelly interview: On James Franco playing a gay man who renounces his homosexuality
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'