The Quest for Christa T.

by Christa Wolf

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Critical Context

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Although Christa Wolf had received from the German Democratic Republic both the Heinrich Mann Prize and the Nationalpreis for her previous novel, Der geteilte Himmel (1963; Divided Heaven, 1965), The Quest for Christa T. was banned from publication by East German censors for two years. When it was published, it appeared in a limited edition to be sold only to those professionally involved in literary matters. East German critics attacked its pessimism and individualistic psychological orientation. It was, however, received with universal critical acclaim in the West.

The Quest for Christa T. anticipates themes developed in Wolf’s later novels. Kindheitsmuster (1976; A Model Childhood, 1980; reissued as Patterns of Childhood, 1984) is an autobiographical novel in which Wolf seeks to come to terms with her Nazi childhood. She attempts to re-create herself by present reflection on her past history. Through an imagined encounter between the nineteenth century poet Karoline von Gunderrode and the dramatist Heinrich von Kleist in Kein Ort: Nirgends (1979; No Place on Earth, 1982), she explores the alienation of the artist, particularly the female artist, from a society that grants her no identity. Voraussetzungen einer Erzahlung: “Kassandra” and Kassandra (1983; Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays, 1984) retells the Greek myth of the Trojan prophetess as a feminist parable about the recovery of humane values in a world besieged by corruption and war.

Always concerned with the possibilities of self-realization in a historical context, Wolf transcends the question of life in a Communist society in The Quest for Christa T. The context is present in the novel, but the issues of Christa T.’s life are of universal concern. This novel, with its discursive prose style, highly subjective stance, and wide thematic concerns, gained for Wolf her international reputation.

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Critical Evaluation