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March 2002 - Nr. 3


The Editor
Guten Morgen...
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K-W and Beyond
Austrian Gala Ball
Operatic Education
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Kanadische Botschaft
Es grüßt...
Dick reports...
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Ham Se det jehört?
Christa Wolf's Novel
Gerhard Richter
Box Office Boom
Dresden erinnert...
Early Music Academy
Lateinamerika Besuch
Enron's Long Shadow
New Grass Novella
Match Made in Heaven
25 Students Cross Bridge
Ifo Index Up
Wein-Jahrgang 2001

Christa Wolf’s New Novel Depicts Decay of Body and State

  TWIG - Christa Wolf, 72, is widely considered the most prominent living author of the former German Democratic Republic. In East Germany, she was championed and reviled for her indictments of state ideology. In international academic circles, her works are seen as rich fodder for the study of cultural politics and Western feminism as refracted through the experience of a woman living under a notoriously rigid regime. In reunified Germany, after Wolf’s collaboration with the Stasi (state intelligence office) in the early 1960s came to light, readers and critics were compelled to re-evaluate her writings and ideological censure.

Wolf’s latest novel, Leibhaftig (Incarnate), her first book in six years, has just been published in Germany. Already it is generating the same storms of attention Nachdenken ueber Christa T. and Der Geteilte Himmel did when they were published decades earlier. This week, some 800 fans, among them Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse, thronged to a reading in the Berlin neighbourhood where Wolf lives. The crowd was distinctly older, but a surprising number of young people also turned out to hear a voice of their parents’ generation. Many had queued up hours in advance for a seat to hear Wolf bring passages from her challenging work to life.

Leibhaftig is the first-person account of a nameless woman’s stay in a decrepit East German hospital during the waning months of the GDR. Wolf has said the story is based on a personal experience, when she lay gravely ill in a Schwerin clinic in 1988. In the novel, as doctors puzzle over the narrator’s failed immune system, she puzzles over failed history. The physicians try to make sense of her symptoms, she attempts to diagnose the terminal disease that she believes afflicts the state. "I have been poisoned," she writes of herself and country, "The incubation period of decades is over, now healing breaks out as serious illness." Pain and fever push her from vivid delusion to flat lucidity, but in her moments of controlled consciousness, she pages through memory — individual and collective — searching for meaning. She recalls the opportunists, loyal to National Socialism or Soviet Marxism as it suited. She thinks of the courageous who recognized the threat of totalitarian communism and risked all to escape over the Berlin Wall. She remembers the confused who ended their bewilderment in suicide.

Critic Joerg Magenau wrote of this work, "Life under socialism is now just a distant, alien dream, from which [Wolf] is once again awakening." While some critics have noted that Wolf’s oscillation between dream and reality makes it difficult for readers to grab hold of plot lines, others praise her narrative, which eludes dissection just as history evades categorization.

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