Christa Wolf

Christa Wolf (née Ihlenfeld; 18 March 1929 – 1 December 2011) was a German literary critic, novelist, and essayist.[1][2] She was one of the best-known writers to emerge from the former East Germany.[3][4]

Christa Wolf
Wolf in 1963
Wolf in 1963
BornChrista Ihlenfeld
18 March 1929
Landsberg an der Warthe, Germany
Died1 December 2011 (aged 82)
Berlin, Germany
SpouseGerhard Wolf (b. 1928)
Christa Wolf 2007
Wolf in Berlin, March 2007


Wolf was born the daughter of Otto and Herta Ihlenfeld, in Landsberg an der Warthe, then in the Province of Brandenburg;[3] the city is now Gorzów Wielkopolski, Poland. After World War II, her family, being Germans, were expelled from their home on what had become Polish territory. They crossed the new Oder-Neisse border in 1945 and settled in Mecklenburg, in what would become the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany. She studied literature at the University of Jena and the University of Leipzig. After her graduation, she worked for the German Writers' Union and became an editor for a publishing company. While working as an editor for publishing companies Verlag Neues Leben and Mitteldeutscher Verlag and as a literary critic for the journal Neue deutsche Literatur, Wolf was provided contact with antifascists and Communists, many of whom had either returned from exile or from imprisonment in concentration camps. Her writings discuss political, economic, and scientific power, making her an influential spokesperson in East and West Germany during post-World War II for the empowerment of individuals to be active within the industrialized and patriarchal society.[5]

She joined the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) in 1949 and left it in June 1989, six months before the Communist regime collapsed. She was a candidate member of the Central Committee of the SED from 1963 to 1967. Stasi records found in 1993 showed that she worked as an informant (Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter) during the years 1959–61.[4] The Stasi officers criticized what they called her "reticence", and they lost interest in her cooperation. She was herself then closely watched for nearly 30 years. During the Cold War, Wolf was openly critical of the leadership of the GDR, but she maintained a loyalty to the values of socialism and opposed German reunification.[1]

Wolf's breakthrough as a writer came in 1963 with the publication of Der geteilte Himmel (Divided Heaven, They Divided the Sky).[2] Her subsequent works included Nachdenken über Christa T. (The Quest for Christa T.) (1968), Kindheitsmuster (Patterns of Childhood) (1976), Kein Ort. Nirgends (1979), Kassandra (Cassandra) (1983), Störfall (Accident) (1987), Medea (1996), Auf dem Weg nach Tabou (On the Way to Taboo) (1994), and Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud (2010) (City of Angels or The Overcoat of Dr. Freud). Christa T was a work that—while briefly touching on a disconnection from one's family's ancestral home—was concerned with a woman's experiencing overwhelming societal pressure to conform.

Kassandra is perhaps Wolf's most important book, re-interpreting the battle of Troy as a war for economic power and a shift from a matriarchal to a patriarchal society. Was bleibt (What Remains), described her life under Stasi surveillance, was written in 1979, but not published until 1990. Auf dem Weg nach Tabou (1995; translated as Parting from Phantoms) gathered essays, speeches, and letters written during the four years following the reunification of Germany. Leibhaftig (2002) describes a woman struggling with life and death in 1980s East-German hospital, while awaiting medicine from the West. Central themes in her work are German fascism, humanity, feminism, and self-discovery. In many of her works, Wolf uses illness as a metaphor. In a speech addressed to the Deutsche Krebsgesellschaft (German Cancer Society) she says, "How we choose to speak or not to speak about illnesses such as cancer mirrors our misgivings about society." In "Nachdenken über Christa T." (The Quest for Christa T). the protagonist dies of leukemia. This work demonstrates the dangers and consequences that happen to an individual when they internalize society's contradictions. In Accident, the narrator's brother is undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor a few days after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster had occurred.[6] In 2004 she edited and published her correspondence with her UK-based near namesake Charlotte Wolff over the years 1983–1986 (Wolf, Christa and Wolff, Charlotte (2004) Ja, unsere Kreise berühren sich: Briefe, Luchterhand Munich).

Wolf died 1 December 2011 in Berlin, where she had lived with her husband, Gerhard Wolf.[7] She was buried on 13 December 2011 in Berlin's Dorotheenstadt cemetery.[8] In 2018, the city of Berlin designated her grave as an Ehrengrab.[9]


Wolf's works have sometimes been seen as controversial since German reunification. Upon publication of Was bleibt, West German critics such as Frank Schirrmacher argued that Wolf failed to criticize the authoritarianism of the East German Communist regime, whilst others called her works "moralistic". Defenders have recognized Wolf's role in establishing a distinctly East German literary voice.[10] Fausto Cercignani's study of Wolf's earlier novels and essays on her later works have helped promote awareness of her narrative gifts, irrespective of her political and personal ups and downs. The emphasis placed by Cercignani on Christa Wolf's heroism has opened the way to subsequent studies in this direction.[11]

Wolf received the Heinrich Mann Prize in 1963, the Georg Büchner Prize in 1980, and the Schiller Memorial Prize in 1983, the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis in 1987, as well as other national and international awards. After the German reunification, Wolf received further awards: in 1999 she was awarded the Elisabeth Langgässer Prize and the Nelly Sachs Literature Prize, and Wolf became the first recipient of the Deutscher Bücherpreis (German Book Prize) in 2002 for her lifetime achievement. In 2010, Wolf was awarded the Großer Literaturpreis der Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Künste.


  1. ^ a b A writer who spanned Germany's East-West divide dies in Berlin (obituary), Barbara Garde, Deutsche Welle, 1 December 2011
  2. ^ a b Acclaimed Author Christa Wolf Dies at 82 (obituary), Der Spiegel, 1 December 2011.
  3. ^ a b Christa Wolf obituary, Kate Webb, The Guardian, 1 December 2011
  4. ^ a b Christa Wolf obituary, The Telegraph, 2 December 2011.
  5. ^ Frederiksen, Elke P.; Ametsbichler, Elizabeth G. (1998). Women Writers in German-Speaking Countries: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Greenwood Press. pp. 485, 486.
  6. ^ Costabile-Heming, Carol Anne (1 September 2010). "Illness as Metaphor: Christa Wolf, the GDR, and Beyond". Symposium. 64: 203. doi:10.1080/00397709.2010.502485.
  7. ^ "Schriftstellerin Christa Wolf ist tot". Der Tagesspiegel. 1 December 2011.
  8. ^ Braun, Volker (15 December 2011). "Ein Schutzengelgeschwader". Die Zeit. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
  9. ^ "Ehrengräber für Klaus Schütz und Christa Wolf". Süddeutsche Zeitung. dpa. 14 August 2018. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  10. ^ Augustine, Dolores L. (2004). "The Impact of Two Reunification-Era Debates on the East German Sense of Identity". German Studies Review. German Studies Association. 27 (3): 569–571. JSTOR 4140983..
  11. ^ Fausto Cercignani, Existenz und Heldentum bei Christa Wolf. "Der geteilte Himmel" und "Kassandra" (Existence and Heroism in Christa Wolf. "Divided Heaven" and "Cassandra"), Würzburg, Königshausen & Neumann, 1988. For subsequent essays see

External links

1929 in Germany

Events in the year 1929 in Germany.

Alain Lance

Alain Lance (born in Bonsecours, 18 December 1939) is a French writer and translator.He has been acknowledged for his translations of German authors into French: Volker Braun, Franz Fühmann, Ingo Schulze and Christa Wolf. He lives in Paris.

Antigone oder die Stadt

Antigone oder die Stadt (Antigone or the Town) is an opera in two acts, written in collaboration by composer Georg Katzer and librettist Gerhard Müller. They based it on Antigone, the play by Sophocles. Conceived in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1988, it premiered at the Komische Oper Berlin on 19 November 1991, staged by Harry Kupfer and conducted by Jörg-Peter Weigle.

Cassandra (novel)

Cassandra (German: Kassandra) is a 1983 novel by the East German author Christa Wolf. It has since been translated into a number of languages. Swiss composer Michael Jarrell has adapted the novel for speaker and instrumental ensemble, and his piece has been performed frequently.

Christopher Frey

Christopher Frey (German: [fʁaɪ]; born 1959, Bonn, West Germany) is a German writer. He grew up in a political and international environment as his father worked for the US embassy. He received a music education at the school of music of the Regensburger Domspatzen. His early interest in the fine arts was also triggered by his family background of four generations of historians. His grandfather, a lawyer and undersecretary, published beside of many works about music theory and undiscovered works of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina also the translation of the poetry of Michelangelo which his great-grandfather Carl Frey (1857–1917) once had started.

Frey's first publications date back to the seventies. ‘Soon or Sooner’, published in 1976, was a volume of poetry on three different life styles of people in the past, today and the future. In a letter to Christopher Frey, the East German author Christa Wolf stated ‘not yet matured’ about the young author. A theatre piece ‘The death of Empedokles in the hardening shop’ followed in 1978. Both titles are today only available through antiquarian book shops.

Christopher Frey's latest books contain a broad view upon commercial ethics and innovation. He is a change agent for a knowledge economy and Catallaxy. Books available in English are ‘Inventing Future’ (2007), an essay on Social Change and the essay ‘Just too Lazy to Lie’ which is meant as an answer to Harry G. Frankfurt’s bestseller ‘On Bullshit’. Two short publications titled 'Lottocracy' and 'Financial Crisis' followed in 2009. In 2010 the novel 'The Market is a Conversation' is probably the most fascinating 'oevre' of Frey in recent years. His complete opus is documented on The German National Library.Christopher Frey lives as author and business angel in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Der geteilte Himmel

Der geteilte Himmel, known in English as either Divided Heaven or They Divided the Sky, is a 1963 novel by the East German writer Christa Wolf. The author describes society and problems in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the early 1960s, in a "quest for personal integrity within a flawed system". The book won the Heinrich Mann Prize, and has been translated into many languages.

Divided Heaven (film)

Divided Heaven (German: Der geteilte Himmel) is an East German drama film directed by Konrad Wolf. It was released in 1964.

Heinrich Heine Prize

Heinrich Heine Prize refers to three different awards named in honour of the 19th-century German poet Christian Johann Heinrich Heine:

Heinrich Heine prize of Düsseldorf

Heinrich Heine prize of the Ministry for Culture of the former GDR, which was assigned until 1990

Heinrich Heine Prize of the "Heinrich-Heine-Gesellschaft" in Hamburg


Kassandra may refer to:

Cassandra, in Greek mythology

114 Kassandra, an asteroid

Cassandra (novel), a book written by the East German author Christa Wolf (published 1983)

Cassandreia, an ancient city and adjoining isthmus in Chalcidice, Greece

Kassandra, Chalkidiki, a municipality on the above isthmus

Kassandra (TV series), a Venezuelan telenovela about a gypsy maiden marrying into a rich family

Katy Derbyshire

Katy Derbyshire is a British-born, Berlin-based translator and writer. Among the authors she has translated are: Clemens Meyer, Christa Wolf, Inka Parei, Helene Hegemann, Simon Urban, Rusalka Reh, Yangzom Brauen, Tilman Rammstedt, Francis Nenik, and Dorothee Elmiger. Her translation of Bricks and Mortar by Clemens Meyer was long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize and won the 2018 Straelener Prize for Translation. Derbyshire has also served on the jury of Germany's Internationaler Literaturpreis and the International Dublin Literary Award.In addition, Derbyshire was instrumental in establishing the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, awarded annually since 2017. She has also been a vocal supporter of the Women in Translation movement and the creation of Women in Translation Month.

Kein Ort. Nirgends

Kein Ort. Nirgends is a 1979 novel by East German author Christa Wolf. It tells the fictional meeting of the German poets Heinrich von Kleist and Karoline von Günderrode in a salon in Winkel in the Rheingau. In real life, both protagonists had independently committed suicide; Günderrode in 1806 in Winkel, Kleist in 1811 in Berlin.

Kleist and Günderrode escape the empty talk of a tea party by taking a longer walk. Here the two encounter each other in a long conversation, and feel the proximity of their respective personal and poetic problems. Their deep exchange is interrupted abruptly when Kleist is called as his coach is leaving.

Literature of East Germany

East German literature is the literature produced in East Germany from the time of the Soviet occupation in 1945 until the end of the communist government in 1990. The literature of this period was heavily influenced by the concepts of socialist realism and controlled by the communist government. As a result, the literature of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was for decades dismissed as nothing more than "Boy meet Tractor literature", but its study is now considered a legitimate field. Because of its language, the literature is more accessible to western scholars and is considered to be one of the most reliable, if not the most reliable, sources about East Germany.

Luchterhand Literaturverlag

The Luchterhand Literaturverlag is a German publisher of contemporary literature based in Munich. It was founded in 1924 and was acquired by Random House in 2001. Luchterhand is considered one of the most prestigious publishers in Germany. Publications include literature from Günter Grass and Christa Wolf and many others.

National Prize of the German Democratic Republic

The National Prize of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) (German: Nationalpreis der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik) was an award of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) given out in three different classes for scientific, artistic, and other meritorious achievement. With scientific achievements, it was often given to entire research groups rather than individual scientists.

Nelly Sachs Prize

The Nelly Sachs Prize (German:Nelly Sachs Preis) is a literary prize given every two years by the German city of Dortmund. Named after the Jewish poet Nelly Sachs, the prize includes a cash award of €15,000. It honours authors for outstanding literary contributions to the promotion of understanding between peoples.Because there were not enough funds to honour an awardee in 2009, the prize was awarded in 2010. This was the first time that a year was skipped in the biennial schedule.

Patterns of Childhood

Patterns of Childhood, originally published as Kindheitsmuster in German, is a book written by Christa Wolf and published in 1976. Christa Wolf was a prominent East German novellist known for works such as Der geteilte Himmel (Divided Heaven) and Kassandra. Although Patterns of Childhood is not an autobiography, it has parallels with Wolf's own childhood in Nazi Germany. It is set in multiple time periods and locations, with the primary narratives revolving around the second-person narrator's childhood in Nazi Germany, her return to her hometown as an adult, and her reflections while writing. Patterns explores themes of memory, Nazism, and guilt. Thus it provides insight into the upbringings of those who lived under totalitarian regimes, and problems that arise from such a childhood.

The novel's main settings relate to major historical events during and following World War II. The sections recounting the earlier parts of the narrator's childhood are set in Landsberg an der Warthe (referred to as “L”), now Gorzów Wielkopolski in Poland. During the course of the book her family was forced to leave due to the invading Soviet army. After the war, Landsberg became Polish territory as a part of the post World War II Potsdam Conference. The postwar settlement also established the German Democratic Republic, the socialist state where Wolf lived for much of her life.

Telling Tales (anthology)

Telling Tales is a 2004 anthology of works celebrating life, edited and organized by Nadine Gordimer as a fundraiser for South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign, which lobbies for government funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and care.

It includes 21 short stories by award-winning writers, including five Nobel laureates. Authors include:

Chinua Achebe

Woody Allen

Margaret Atwood

Nadine Gordimer

Günter Grass

Hanif Kureishi

Claudio Magris

Gabriel García Márquez

Arthur Miller

Es'kia Mphahlele

Njabulo Ndebele

Kenzaburō Ōe

Amos Oz

Salman Rushdie

José Saramago

Ingo Schulze

Susan Sontag

Paul Theroux

Michel Tournier

John Updike

Christa Wolf

The Quest for Christa T.

The Quest for Christa T. (Nachdenken über Christa T.) is a 1968 novel by German writer Christa Wolf that follows two childhood friends from the second World War into the 1960s in East Germany. Stylistically it demonstrates a subjectivist experimentation in prose characteristic of GDR literature of the 1960s. According to the 2013 exhibition "David Bowie Is," the novel was one of David Bowie's 100 favourite books.

What Remains (novella)

What Remains (German: Was Bleibt) is a novella written by Christa Wolf. It was written in 1979 but was not published until 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell.

Related articles
Related categories
Medieval literature
Early modern
18th century
19th century
20th century
Nobel laureates
literary awards
Awards received by Christa Wolf

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.