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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 281

Wolf's Cassandra shows the influence of Wolf's childhood upbringing in Nazi Germany and her subsequent rejection and abhorrence of fascist ideology. Cassandra can be read as a veiled account of a state turned fascist, and Cassandra herself as a person of humane decency who (like Wolf herself) utterly rejects the "heroic" patriarchy of a warrior society.

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Wolf spent much of her adult life fearing a return of Nazism. She stayed in East Germany when much of her family fled West (when that was still possible in the 1950s) because she felt a strong socialist East Germany was the only bulwark against the return of Nazism. She opposed German reunification, feeling it was too dangerous to risk given Germany's violent past.

As with Nazi Germany, Cassandra's state of Troy uses war to break down the joint male- and female-run state and establish an aggressive patriarchy that diminishes women's rights. As does Nazi Germany, Troy lies about the reasons for the war: it becomes clear to Cassandra that Helen, the ostensible cause of the fighting, is not even in Troy. Also like Nazi Germany, Troy suffers a terrible defeat.

Having seen the devastation a war can bring, Wolf was strongly anti-war in her personal life, as described in her autobiographical novel, Patterns of Childhood. She was annoyed at many Germans she knew for not facing their complicity with Germany's holocaust and war crimes, instead complaining "why do they always blame us?" Cassandra, in contrast, is famous as the figure in classical literature who knew the truth but to whom know no one would listen: Wolf often felt that way in her own life as she spoke out fearlessly against patriarchy, war, and injustice.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1796

“My overall concern is the sinister effects of alienation, in aesthetics, in art, as well as elsewhere.” Thus does Christa Wolf, whose previous writings have often been in the mode of memoirs and lightly disguised autobiographical fiction, begin a series of reflections on the genesis and composition of her most recent fiction translated into English, Cassandra. The English subtitle, “A Novel and Four Essays,” obscures slightly both the nature of these reflections and the stature of the fiction, which in German appeared in 1983 as Kassandra und Voraussetzungen einer Erzählung, and which translates as “Cassandra and the presuppositions (or conditions, as the more literal internal subtitling of the English version has it) of a narrative.” Cassandra is a tale, a story, nothing more—certainly not a fiction with the ambition suggested by the honorific “novel”—and the nonfictional prose pieces which accompany it are only “essays” in the scarcely current etymological sense of the term. They are, rather, a series of documents related to the novel’s genesis and writing: an account of the author’s travels, a diary, and a letter to a friend. The relationship between these nonfictional documents and the fictional narrative poses the key formal and thematic problem of the book.

First, there is the question of the text’s voices. The major difference between the fictionalized first-person narrator of the tale and the subsequent musings of the author consists in the utter helplessness and hopelessness of the former, balanced against the slim margin of optimism which Christa Wolf continues to project for herself and her world. Cassandra’s resignation to her impending fate, which she has foreseen along with all the disasters that were to befall her native city, is signaled in her placing the following sentences in the past:I still believed [early in the war between the Trojans and Achaeans] that a little will to truth, a little courage, could erase the whole misunderstanding. To call what was true, true and...

(The entire section contains 3767 words.)

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