Christa Wolfe was a German Author born in 1929. She died in December of 2011. She was born in what is now Poland, but lived most of her life in East Germany. She joined the German Socialist Party in 1949, but then left the party in 1989. She wrote about German Reunification in her first novel Divided Heaven in 1963.
Back in 1998 I stumbled upon her work when I read The Quest for Christa T. I’ve since read her novels Cassandra and Medea that center on Greek Mythology. Her books have given me a good introduction to both German Writers and Feminist Writers. They are worth reading in order to broaden one’s horizons, but are also immensely enjoyable as well.
Wolfe writes in a modern style with a focus on the subject/object dualism. She writes more realistic novels than philosophical, but that is not to say her works have philosophical underpinnings. The experiences of her characters are definitely gendered, as she specifically writes from a woman’s point of view. Wolf feels that there is a sister-ness among women writers. Logos or Logic is a socially redemptive power in books as well.
Poetics and Aesthetic Structure are important in her novels. There are four parts: Form of a Texture, Structure itself, Story and Question. The gaps in narration are there and arrange consciously.
The Quest for Christa T is about coming into one’s self. Christa suffers from Sehnsucht, which I identified with quickly. For Christa the future is bleak, but there is hope. Facts are merely traces left by events. The only way for the character and the writer to discover herself and to cope with things is to write. There is a hunger for reality in the novel. Christa digs herself out of fantasies and dreams in order to realize who she truly is.
Kassandra is the re-telling of the Battle of Troy. It is told as a war for economic power and a shift from a matriarchal to a patriarchal society. Kassandra’s experience during the Trojan War parallels Christa Wolf’s personal experience as a citizen of East Germany: during the Cold War, a police state much likes Eumelos’ Troy. Wolf, too, was familiar with censorship; in fact, Kassandra was censored when it was initially published.
Medea is among the most notorious women in the canon of Greek tragedy: a woman scorned who sacrifices her own children to her jealous rage. In her novel, Christa Wolf explodes this myth, revealing a fiercely independent woman ensnared in a brutal political battle. Medea is told from the point of view of Medea herself and attempts to understand why she did what she did. Instead of condemning her, Wolfe approaches her character with a feminist approach and makes Medea a tragic figure rather than a villain.