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Wolf, Christa

Entry updated 27 June 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1929-2011) German author, most of whose creative life was spent in East Germany, where her career was difficult but ultimately – though perhaps not until her last decade – recognized in moat-defensive reunited Germany as triumphant. "Selbstversuch" ["Self-Experiment"] (February 1973 Sinn und Form), filmed for Television as Selbstversuch (1990) directed by Peter Bird, is a radical exercise in Transgender SF, a Feminist grappling with the complexities involved, with an invocation of Cyborg rhetoric (see subsequent work by Donna J Haraway; see also Women SF Writers).

Most of Wolf's novels are nonfantastic, and very few make any significant use of familiar sf patterns; but an austere interaction of narrative strategies identified with Fantastika in general can be detected in a novel like Kein Ort. Nirgends (1979; trans Jan van Huerck as No Place on Earth 1982), which confabulates a meeting between Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) and Karoline von Günderrode (1780-1806), both of whom committed suicide in real life. Kassandra: Vier Vorlesungen eine Erzählung (coll 1983; trans Jan van Huerck as Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays 1988) recounts and at times deeply modifies the familiar narrative of the Fall of Troy through the eyes of a person whose invariably accurate predictions (see Precognition) are never believed. As usual with Wolf, there is an abiding doubleness – a recurrent echoing of the fate of dwelling in and half-advocating the goals of Communist East Germany – that gives the tale, and her work as a whole, its sometimes unremitting ardor; a Feminist presentation of the loss of matriarchy also enriches the text. Similar strategies are apparent in Medea: Stimmen ["Medea: Voices"] (1996; trans John Cullen as Medea: A Modern Retelling 1998). [JC]

Christa Wolf

born Landsberg an der Warthe, Brandenburg, Germany [now Gorzów Wielkopolski, Poland], 18 March 1929

died Berlin: 1 December 2011

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