Classic Author Focus: Christa Wolf

Christa Wolf

Christa Wolf was a literary critic, novelist, and essayist who was born into a pro-Nazi family in an area of Germany that now belongs to Poland, Gorzów Wielkopolski. After World War II, being German, they crossed into Germany, and ended up living in East Germany. After university, while working as an editor for two publishing companies, she came to know anti-fascists and Communists, many of whom were escaping from concentration camps. Probably as a result of this, in 1949 she joined the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and eventually became an influential writer for both East and West Germany. She was one of the best-known writers in East Germany.

Although she worked as an informant for the Stasi from 1959-1961, the Stasi criticized her for “reticence,” and eventually lost interest in her. In her book Was bleibt (What Remains), she criticized the tactics of the Stasi and implicated herself. She was watched for years and was openly critical of the government of the German Democratic Republic although loyal to socialist values. When the two Germanies reunified, she was against it.

Her most famous work is Kassandra, in which she reinterprets the Trojan War in terms of a struggle for economic power and a shift from matriarchal to patriarchal society. After her novel Nachdenken über Christa T. (The Quest for Christa T.), which depicts an ordinary woman questioning her socialist beliefs while she dies from leukemia, she was strongly attacked by the German Writers’ Congress, and her book was banned in East Germany.

Although she received several literary prizes during her lifetime and received praise from both Eastern and Western critics, since the reunification of Germany, much of her work is considered controversial. However, defenders cite her creation of a uniquely Eastern German voice.

Dates: 1929-2011

Most popular work: Kassandra, Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud (City of Angels or The Overcoat of Dr. Freud), Nachdenken über Christa T., Till Eulenspiegel

Other works: Ein Tag im Jahr: 1960–2000, Kein Ort. Nirgends (No Place On Earth), Was bleibt, and many others

 

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