The Quest for Christa T.

by Christa Wolf

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The narrator embarks on a quest to learn as much as she can about her old friend Christa T., who has died from Leukemia. Even more, she wants to perpetuate her memory.

Yet she still needs to be protected against oblivion. This is where the evasions begin. It’s not against oblivion that she must be protected, but against being forgotten. For she, naturally, forgets. She has forgotten herself, us, heaven and earth, rain and snow.

While attending university, Christa was seeking her future path and identity. She changed schools, could not settle on a career choice, and began to write incessantly. The question of how to fit into a conventional schema troubled her.

She didn’t trust these names, oh no. She didn’t trust herself. She was doubtful, amid our toxic swirl of new namegiving; what she doubted was the reality of names, though she had to deal with them; she certainly felt that naming is seldom accurate, name and thing coincide only for a short time. She shrank from stamping any name on herself, the brand mark which decides which herd you belong to and which stable you should occupy.

She also ponders Christa’s reasons for becoming a teacher. She thinks that, more than to reach the children, what she wanted may have been a refuge or an emotional connection that was lacking elsewhere.

Yes, perhaps what she was looking for among the children was shelter. Their light precarious breath, their small hands holding one's own. And the fact that only important things are important to them. Love, for example, she can't help still believing in it, somewhat. When doubts came—love, what is it? can it help to shift a single speck of dust?

At the end, the narrator realizes that her quest was misguided.

Let's put all the evasions behind us.

No: the compulsion to make her stand and be recognized. Useless to pretend it's for her sake. Once and for all, she doesn't need us. So we should be certain of one thing: that it's for our sake. Because it seems we need her.

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