Critical Context

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Christa Wolf is an East German writer who grew up in Hitler’s Germany. This accounts for much of her distrust of heroes. Both the insecurity and the sense of guilt of Wolf and her parent’s generation have left their marks on her writings. The early naivete and uncritical acceptance of the young Cassandra which changed, in time, to disillusionment and horror may reflect the slowly developing perception of the author when she was a member of the Hitler Youth. Her autobiographical novel, Kindheitsmuster (1976; A Model Childhood, 1980; reissued as Patterns of Childhood, 1984), is filled with observations about how her contemporaries selectively forget or distort the recent past, unwilling or unable to face the reality of its cruelties. In that convoluted account, the child’s mother is likened to Cassandra; she was punished by the Gestapo for saying that even a blind man could see that Germany would lose this war.

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