Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Christa Wolf (vawlf) is one of the most prominent novelists of the former East Germany. Born in the eastern part of Germany in what would later become Gorzów Wielkopolski, Poland, she joined the German Socialist Party at the age of twenty and was a student of German literature at the Universities of Jena and Leipzig from 1949 to 1953. Wolf married in 1951; she gave birth to a daughter in the following year and to a second daughter in 1956. She worked as a literary critic until 1959, then began living as an independent writer in East Berlin in 1962. She received numerous prestigious literary honors in both German nations. Wolf resigned from the Socialist Party in 1989 and later spoke out against reunification with West Germany. After the publication of What Remains in 1990, she was attacked by West German critics for loyalty to the Socialist party despite earlier East German attacks on her work.
Wolf’s writings are a creative and refreshing turn from the East German literature of the 1950’s, which was by and large dominated by the style of socialist realism, a programmatic literature dictated by the political and social goals of socialist society. Literary works were expected to provide positive models of behavior for the socialist individual—self-sacrifice for the group’s goals, for example—and any problematic themes, such as alienation within socialist society, were to be avoided. Wolf’s works began to examine difficult and even...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Christa Wolf was born Christa Margarete Ihlenfeld, the daughter of a grocer, March 18, 1929, in Landsberg an der Warthe, Germany, now Gorzów, Poland. Her middle-class background and her uneventful youth are remarkable only insofar as they might be seen as typical for many Germans of her generation: those old enough to have been influenced by the twelve years of Nazi rule, but too young at the end of the war to have participated actively in it. Wolf’s autobiographical novel Patterns of Childhood deals largely with these twelve years and explores the connections that exist between the committed Socialist of the 1970’s and the sixteen-year-old girl who confided to her diary that she would die if the Führer should. The flight of Wolf’s family westward from her birthplace is documented in Patterns of Childhood as well as in several of her other prose pieces. Allusions to her own years of studying German literature in Jena and Leipzig (1949-1953) may be recognized in The Quest for Christa T.
She joined the Socialist Unity Party (SED) in 1949, the year that East Germany was founded as a separate state with that party at its head. In 1951, she married Gerhard Wolf, a fellow Germanist and historian, and in the next years had two daughters, Annette (born in 1952) and Katrin (born in 1956). Her work as a reviewer and editor continued throughout these years. In 1959, she followed the suggestion of the SED leadership that writers go...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Christa Wolf (vawlf) was born on March 18, 1929, in Landsberg on the Warthe (now the Polish town of Gorzów Wielkopolski), the daughter of Hertha Jaekel Ihlenfeld and grocer Otto Ihlenfeld. Wolf and her family fled the approaching Russian troops in 1945 and migrated west to Mecklenburg. After World War II, Wolf was among the first to write about her personal involvement in the war without creating false, antifascist heroes.
She studied German literature in Jena and Leipzig from 1949 to 1953. Wolf later worked as a reader and editor for journals and publishing houses and served on the executive committee of the Writers’ Union of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). She married writer, scholar, and publisher Gerhard Wolf in 1951, and the couple’s daughters, Annette and Katrin, were born in 1952 and 1956, respectively.
Wolf worked for a time in a factory as a means of involving workers in literary activity, and she also was a member of a working writers’ group. She participated in several International Writers’ Conferences on Peace in the 1980’s, traveled extensively, served as a writer-in-residence at several American universities, and was a fellow at the Getty Institute in Los Angeles.
A dedicated socialist active in both the political and literary world of the GDR, Wolf protested the ills of East Germany while maintaining a firm belief in socialism itself. When East Germany’s political system was disintegrating in...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Christa Wolf has always been willing to criticize political and social corruption in the capitalist West and the communist East. A supporter of the rights of the individual in a socialist context, she also champions the needs of society as a whole (and particularly its most vulnerable members) in a capitalist context. Her stylistic complexity and her political courage and conviction make her work a compelling record of the shifting historical currents of the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.
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Wolf was born Christa Ihlenfeld on March 18, 1929, in the village of Landsberg an der Warthe (now the Polish city of Gorzow Wielkopolski). After attending school in Landsberg, Wolf fled with her family, which consisted of her parents, who were grocers, and younger brother, to Mecklenberg in 1945, when Russia’s Red Army invaded her homeland during the final months of World War II. Having been born too late to be implicated in the horrors of Hitler’s regime, Wolf has remained in Germany her entire life, and was a resident and supporter of East Germany’s Socialist regime until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. When she was studying German literature at universities in Jena and Leipzig, Wolf met and married fellow student and writer Gerhard Wolf. Their two daughters were born in 1952 and 1956.
Wolf published her first major work in 1961. Her reputation continued to grow both in Germany and outside of it when her next two books were translated into English. She won numerous prizes, was allowed extensive foreign travel (a rarity for East German citizens at that time, especially intellectuals), and saw many of her books translated into other languages and made into films.
Though her work had always been somewhat autobiographical and had relied on historical materials, the publication of The Search for Christa T. in English in 1971 (originally published in Germany in 1968) began a more controversial phase of her career. Though a...
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