May 15, 2000 12:00 PM

No stranger to controversy since the publication of 1971’s The Female Eunuch, her bestselling polemic about women made sexless in a male-dominated world, maverick feminist Germaine Greer has always known how to roll with the punches. Now, days after a terrifying attack by an obsessed fan, she can laugh at the fact that her friends, a group of professors expecting her for dinner, didn’t come looking for her until she was nearly three hours late. “That’s the thing I find extraordinary,” says Greer, 61. “Bloody academics, honestly.”

But stalkers are no laughing matter. Greer, who lives alone in an isolated farmhouse in Essex, 50 miles northeast of London, says she’d had a problem “for some time” with Karen Burke, 19, a first-year University of Bath student described by an aunt as “a lovely, harmless girl” who became “mixed up” after reading Greer’s books. Greer, unwilling to go into specifics, was concerned enough to contact the university’s security force. “I knew,” she says, “that [her obsession] would eventually result in great harm to the young woman.”

And potentially to Greer. Burke, who turned up at the author’s home Easter weekend and was removed by police, returned the following Monday, tied Greer up and set about smashing up the household with a fire poker until Greer’s friends arrived and called the police. Burke, since released from a psychiatric clinic, now awaits a May 4 court appearance following what Greer calls “my most sensational Easter ever.”

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