No Place on Earth presents the fictitious gathering of several of Germany’s leading Romantic writers and intellectuals at a country estate in June, 1804. Employing a technique of shifting narrative voices, the novel focuses on two writers from the Romantic period, Karoline von Günderrode and Heinrich von Kleist. While Kleist’s work would later become famous, Günderrode’s poetry would remain largely neglected until Christa Wolf published a collection of Günderrode’s writing, Die Schatten eines Traumes (1979), with an introductory essay that sheds light on both Günderrode’s and Wolf’s work. Wolf was working on the collection while writing this novel.
Both Kleist and Günderrode felt their talents went unrecognized and unappreciated in their own times, and both committed suicide shortly after this fictional meeting (Günderrode in 1806, Kleist in 1811). Wolf’s novel was also shaped by her frustration at the exile of dissident writer and singer Wolf Biermann from the GDR in 1976 and by her attraction to early German Romantic literature, despite the official GDR condemnation of it as dangerously subjective and irrational. All these factors coalesced in Wolf’s depiction of two early Romantic writers whose sensitive and intense emotions and idealistic beliefs put them at odds with their increasingly rational and materialist surroundings.
In their interior monologues and eventually their intense dialogue,...
(The entire section is 517 words.)