Christa Wolf was one of the most important contemporary German writers. She was born on March 18, 1929 in Landsberg/Warthe (now Poland) and, from 1949 until 1953, studied German literature at the universities in Jena and Leipzig. Starting in 1956, she was an editor-in-chief at the Neues Leben publishing company in Berlin; from 1958 to 1959, she was an editor of the journal Neue Deutsche Literatur.
Her first published prose work was Moskauer Novelle, a critical examination of fascism that today is considered one of the most important works in the history of East German literature. Her international breakthrough came with her highly successful novel, Der geteilte Himmel, about the love between a student and a chemist which cannot survive the conditions of divided Germany. As of 1962, Wolf could devote herself to her writing full-time. Her numerous books were translated into more than 30 languages.
Wolf’s attitude towards East Germany remained ambivalent until the fall of the East German regime in 1989. She defended the country and system in which she lived, but she also publicly criticized it. Her 1968 novel, Nachdenken über Christa T., dealt with the conflict between the individual’s personal development and socialist society; it was hotly debated in the GDR and even banned for a time. Wolf’s claim to the moral high ground was undermined in 1993, however, when she revealed she had been a Stasi informant from 1959 to 1962; thereafter, she herself was closely monitored for the next 30 years, because of her deviations from the official line.
Christa Wolf visited the United States several times, both before and after German unification: in 1974, she was a writer-in-residence at Oberlin College (Ohio); in 1983, a guest professor at Ohio State University in Columbus; in 1991, she became an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and in 1992-93, she was awarded a stipend at the Getty Center in Santa Monica, California.
Christa Wolf died on December 1, 2011.
Bibliography & More:
2010 Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud (City of the Angel or the Overcoat of Dr. Freud)
2005 Mit anderem Blick (From Another Point of View )
2003 Ein Tag im Jahr. 1960-2000 (One Day a Year. 1960-2000 )
1996 Medeas Stimmen (Medea’s Voices )
1990 Was bleibt (What Remains, and Other Stories)
1989 Sommerstück ( Summer Play )
1983 Kassandra (Cassandra. A Novel and Four Essays )
1979 Kein Ort. Nirgends (No Place on Earth )
1976 Kindheitsmuster ( Patterns of Childhood )
1968 Nachdenken über Christa T. (The Quest for Christa T.)
1963 Der geteilte Himmel (Divided Heaven )
1961 Moskauer Novelle (Moscow Novella)