Christa Wolf Wolf, Christa (Vol. 14)

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Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Wolf, Christa 1929–

Wolf is an East German novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Realistic and often autobiographical, her work reflects the political pressures and turbulence she has witnessed in her country. Because of its inherent criticism and analysis, some of her fiction has suffered censorship from the East German government. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85-88.)

Jack D. Zipes

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The theme of alienation in contemporary East German novels is most pronounced in Christa Wolf's The Quest for Christa T. Here, a young woman, as narrator, tries to piece together the life of her friend Christa T., who died of leukemia at the age of thirty-five. (p. 13)

In outline form, the story seems trivial. There is nothing outstanding or remarkable about Christa T. But, that is exactly the point. Christa Wolf writes about an average woman in East Germany, and she wants to understand why this woman is "drained" of her exuberance for life. In this respect, a disease, leukemia, is used metaphorically, as Solzhenitsyn uses it in Cancer Ward: Christa T. is suffering from a social sickness, which emanates from pathological conditions in her society. The narrator of the story feels compelled to analyze this sickness because she, too, may become "infected," and hence, seeks a cure.

As in Kant's Die Aula, there is a dialectical relationship established between the narrator and her material. The past life and development of Christa T. are critically examined in the present so that the future may be changed. Using notes and diaries bequeathed her by Christa T., the narrator reconstructs the picture of a woman who had great hopes about contributing as a teacher to socialist development in the German Democratic Republic. However, these hopes were dampened by the hypocrisy and rigidity of petty bureaucrats. As a woman, she felt manipulated, and the result is that Christa T. withdrew into herself, reluctantly, in order to escape being reified by the social system. However, Christa T. never gives up hope for the socialist revolution, as one of her last dreams reveals. She is only overcome by the "disease," and the cure for this disease is partially suggested in the telling of Christa's story…. (pp. 13-14)

[It] becomes clear that the narrator has written about Christa's growing alienation in order to question the conditions which led to her withdrawal and death. This life of an average young woman in East Germany must be made known now, because the narrator, as a woman and citizen of the German Democratic Republic, shares the alienation of Christa T. and conveys it continually in her narrative. In this respect the narrative is more of a struggle than a quest, a struggle against the insidious disease which cuts man off from both himself and the rest of mankind. (p. 14)

Jack D. Zipes, "Growing Pains in the Contemporary German Novel-East and West," in MOSAIC: A Journal for the Comparative Study of Literature and Ideas (copyright © 1972 by the University of Manitoba Press; acknowledgment of previous publication is herewith made), Vol. 5, No. 3 (Spring, 1972), pp. 1-17.∗

Ernestine Schlant

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Moskauer Novelle] is constructed around the pattern: German woman falls in love with Russian man, yet both renounce this love. In this first publication, Christa Wolf has already found the theme that will occupy her exclusively: human, personal relations in juxtaposition to the demands of a socialist society. Der geteilte Himmel repeats this theme, this time applied to the two Germanies. The novel centers on the separation of Rita, who remains in the East, from her boy friend Manfred, who leaves for the West. After a break-down, Rita relives in the hospital her time with Manfred, their discussions, their decisions. Convalescence indicates not just a physical recovery but a spiritual process, an affirmation of life in the GDR. Christa Wolf tries to show how such a decision is not motivated by considerations of imperialism and capitalism versus communism, but that it is first and foremost a profoundly human...

(The entire section is 2,594 words.)