An East German writer, awaiting a call from the hospital where her brother is undergoing brain surgery, instead receives news of a massive nuclear accident at Chernobyl, one thousand miles away. In the space of a single day, in a potent, lyrical stream of thought, the narrator confronts both mortality and life and above all, the import of each moment lived-open, as Wolf reveals, to infinite analysis.
Christa Wolf Seagull Books, 2019 Library of Congress PT2685.O36A9513 2014 | Dewey Decimal 833.914
Christa Wolf was arguably the best-known and most influential writer in the former East Germany. Having grown up during the Nazi regime, she and her family were forced to flee their home like many others, nearly starving to death in the process. Her earliest novels were controversial because they contained veiled criticisms of the Communist regime which landed her on government watch lists. Her past continued to permeate her work and her life, as she said, “You can only fight sorrow when you look it in the eye.”
August is Christa Wolf’s last piece of fiction, written in a single sitting as an anniversary gift to her husband. In it, she revisits her stay at a tuberculosis hospital in the winter of 1946, a real life event that was the inspiration for the closing scenes of her 1976 novel Patterns of Childhood. This time, however, her fictional perspective is very different. The story unfolds through the eyes of August, a young patient who has lost both his parents to the war. He adores an older girl, Lilo, a rebellious teenager who controls the wards. Sixty years later, August reflects on his life and the things that she taught him.
Written in taut, affectionate prose, August offers a new entry into Christa Wolf’s work and, incidentally, her first and only male protagonist. More than a literary artifact, this new novel is a perfectly constructed story of a quiet life well lived. For both August and Christa Wolf, the past never dies.
Spanning the past three decades, these essays focus on the roles of the writer and literature today. In the first half of this series of witty, probing essays on reading and writing, Wolf examines the individual's, in particular the writer's, relationship to society. The final sections, "On War and Peace and Politics" and "The End of the German Democratic Republic," demonstrate the ways in which Wolf's political thinking has evolved and cast light on the political situation in East Germany prior to reunification.
"An important publication, ably served by the editing of Alexander Stephan; the knowledgeable translation by Jan Van Heurck; and Grace Paley's sisterly introduction, which . . . claims at least the later Christa Wolf for a pacifist feminism."—Peter Demetz, New York Times
Christa Wolf tried for years to find a way to write about her childhood in Nazi Germany. In her 1976 book Patterns of Childhood, she explained why it was so difficult: “Gradually, over a period of months, the dilemma has emerged: to remain speechless or to live in the third person, these seem to be the options. One is impossible, the other sinister.” During 1971 and 1972 she made thirty-three attempts to start the novel, abandoning each manuscript only pages in.
Eulogy for the Living, written over the course of four weeks, is the longest of those fragments. In its pages, Wolf recalls with crystalline precision the everyday details of her life as a middle-class grocer’s daughter, and the struggles within the family—struggles common to most families, but exacerbated by the rise of Nazism. And as Nazism fell, the Wolfs fled west, trying to stay ahead of the rampaging Red Army. Though Wolf abandoned this account, it stands, in fragmentary form, as a testament to her skill as a thinker, storyteller, and memorializer of humanity’s greatest struggles.
During a 1960 interview, East German writer Christa Wolf was asked a curious question: would she describe in detail what she did on September 27th? Fascinated by considering the significance of a single day over many years, Wolf began keeping a detailed diary of September 27th, a practice which she carried on for more than fifty years until her death in 2011. The first volume of these notes covered 1960 through 2000 was published to great acclaim more than a decade ago. Now translator Katy Derbyshire is bringing the September 27th collection up to date with One Day a Year—a collection of Wolf’s notes from the last decade of her life.
The book is both a personal record and a unique document of our times. With her characteristic precision and transparency, Wolf examines the interplay of the private, subjective, and major contemporary historical events. She writes about Germany after 9/11, about her work on her last great book City of Angels, and also about her exhausting confrontation with old age. One Day a Year is a compelling and personal glimpse into the life of one of the world’s greatest writers.
Parting from Phantoms is a window into the soul of the most prominent writer of the German Democratic Republic and its most famous export, Christa Wolf. The essays, diary entries, and letters in this book document four agonizing years in Wolf's personal history and paint a vivid portrait of the cultural and political situation in the former German Democratic Republic. This collection stands as an important testimony to the personal and cultural costs of German reunification.
"The works in this book constitute an essential document of the history of reunified Germany, and this alone recommends it to scholars and those interested in current European events."— Publishers Weekly
"Christa Wolf was arguably the most influential writer of a nation that no longer exists. . . . Parting from Phantoms traces the fever chart of her anguish. . . . In some ways, the rawness of the present volume is its greatest contribution, and its bona fides—testifying to the human cost of deception and self-deception."—Todd Gitlin, Nation
"A thrilling display of ideological soul-searching."—Ilan Stavans, Newsday, Favorite Books of 1997
Photography has transformed the way we picture ourselves. Although photographs seem to "prove" our existence at a given point in time, they also demonstrate the impossibility of framing our multiple and fragmented selves. As Linda Haverty Rugg convincingly shows, photography's double take on self-image mirrors the concerns of autobiographers, who see the self as simultaneously divided (in observing/being) and unified by the autobiographical act.
Rugg tracks photography's impact on the formation of self-image through the study of four literary autobiographers concerned with the transformative power of photography. Obsessed with self-image, Mark Twain and August Strindberg both attempted (unsuccessfully) to integrate photographs into their autobiographies. While Twain encouraged photographers, he was wary of fakery and kept a fierce watch on the distribution of his photographic image. Strindberg, believing that photographs had occult power, preferred to photograph himself.
Because of their experiences under National Socialism, Walter Benjamin and Christa Wolf feared the dangerously objectifying power of photographs and omitted them from their autobiographical writings. Yet Benjamin used them in his photographic conception of history, which had its testing ground in his often-ignored Berliner Kindheit um 1900. And Christa Wolf's narrator in Patterns of Childhood attempts to reclaim her childhood from the Nazis by reconstructing mental images of lost family photographs.
Confronted with multiple and conflicting images of themselves, all four of these writers are torn between the knowledge that texts, photographs, and indeed selves are haunted by undecidability and the desire for the returned glance of a single self.
What Remains collects Christa Wolf's short fiction, from early work in the sixties to the widely debated title story, first published in Germany in 1990. Addressing a wide range of topics, from sexual politics to the nature of memory, these powerful and often very personal stories offer a fascinating introduction to Wolf's work. What Remains and Other Stories . . . is clear and farsighted. The eight heartfelt stories in the book show why she has been respected as a serious author since her 1968 novel, The Quest for Christa T. . . . Wolf uses her own experiences and observations to create universal themes about the controls upon human freedom.—Herbert Mitgang, New York Times
Christa Wolf has set herself nothing less than the task of exploring what it is to be a conscious human being alive in a moment of history.—Mary Gordon, New York Times Book Review
The simultaneous publication of these two volumes offers readers here a generous sampling of the short fiction, speeches and essays that Wolf has produced over the last three decades.—Mark Harman, Boston Globe