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In the Doghouse

Michael Hofmann

27 May 1993
What Remains, and Other Stories 
by Christa Wolf, translated by Heike Schwarzbauer and Rick Takvorian.
Virago, 295 pp., £8.99, April 1993, 1 85381 417 2
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The Writer’s Dimension: Selected Essays 
by Christa Wolf, edited by Alexander Stephan, translated by Jan van Heurck.
Virago, 336 pp., £17.99, April 1993, 1 85381 312 5
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... of November 1989 I translated two pieces from an anthology of East German writing for the magazine Granta, which in the end didn’t use either of them. (These things happen.) One of them was by ChristaWolf, an extract, I think, from her book Sommerstück. It was just two pages long, nothing more than a preamble and image, but of a Shakespearean power and amplitude. A group of adults and children ...

Public Life

Pat Rogers

1 April 1982
A Model Childhood 
by Christa Wolf, translated by Ursule Molinaro and Hedwig Rappolt.
Virago, 407 pp., £8.95, April 1982, 0 86068 253 6
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The Safety Net 
by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.
Secker, 314 pp., £7.50, March 1982, 9780436054549
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The Country of her Dreams 
by Janice Elliott.
Hodder, 186 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 340 27830 7
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The Soul’s Gymansium and Other Stories 
by Harold Acton.
Hamish Hamilton, 165 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 241 10740 7
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... The original title of ChristaWolf’s novel, Kindheitsmuster, could mean something like ‘a pattern of childhood’, but her translators have rightly gone for a more idiomatic expression. In turning the noun into an attributive ...

Travelling

Elaine Jordan

21 April 1983
The Viaduct 
by David Wheldon.
Bodley Head, 176 pp., £5.95, March 1983, 0 370 30519 1
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Rates of Exchange 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 310 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 436 06505 3
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Milena 
by Maggie Ross.
Collins, 280 pp., £8.95, April 1983, 0 00 222602 2
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No Place on Earth 
by Christa Wolf, translated by Jan van Heurck.
Virago, 110 pp., £6.95, March 1983, 9780860683636
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Look at me 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 192 pp., £7.50, March 1983, 0 224 02055 2
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Not Not While the Giro and Other Stories 
by James Kelman.
Polygon, 207 pp., £3.95, March 1983, 9780904919653
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... is a penance for not being lucky in love but also a way of being livelier than life. Words also preserve memory ‘which would have vanished utterly had he not enclosed it in a fortress of words’ (ChristaWolf). Writing is facing the truth, which cannot be unknown but only forgotten: it is ‘the enemy of forgetfulness, of thoughtlessness. For the writer there is no oblivion. Only endless memory ...

That Stupid Pelt

Helen King: Wolf’s retelling of Medea

12 November 1998
Medea: A Modern Retelling 
by Christa Wolf, translated by John Cullen.
Virago, 256 pp., £16.99, April 1998, 1 86049 480 3
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... drawn by dragons, to Athens, where she has been given asylum. In Euripides, the action takes place on her last day in Corinth; it culminates in the infanticide and her flight. For the German novelist ChristaWolf, the Greeks are ‘our strange guests who are like ourselves’, but their philosophical dualism is also to blame for getting us into the fine mess which is 20th-century Europe. Wolf’s ...

Rendings

Edward Timms

19 April 1990
Thomas Mann and his Family 
by Marcel Reich-Ranicki, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Collins, 230 pp., £20, August 1989, 9780002158374
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... argument simplifies a more complex problem. His generalisations about Jewish trouble-makers would apply almost equally well to a Catholic like Heinrich Böll, a Marxist like Brecht or a feminist like ChristaWolf. Moreover, at the very time when he was emphasising the significance of Jewish trouble-makers, his own stance was becoming increasingly conformist. Dissent, in short, should not be confused with ...

Then You Are Them

Fredric Jameson: Atwood

10 September 2009
The Year of the Flood 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 434 pp., £18.99, September 2009, 978 0 7475 8516 9
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... led ever downward. Is this religion not itself ideology? And is this book not the expression of an ideological doctrine? In a post-feminist age, whose great writers (Ursula Le Guin, Toni Morrison, ChristaWolf) are not women writers but just writers, Atwood does not easily fit some category labelled feminist: The Robber Bride, whose male figures are mostly not even violent but simply inept (the ...

Patron Saints

Jean McNicol

12 May 1994
Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich 
by Alison Owings.
Rutgers, 494 pp., £24.95, October 1993, 0 8135 1992 6
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Solidarity and Treason: Resistance and Exile, 1933-1940 
by Lisa Fittko, translated by Roslyn Theobald.
Northwestern, 160 pp., £29.95, December 1993, 0 8101 1129 2
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... Jews, as Rita Kuhn underlines, learned early that they had to be ‘practically invisible’ to survive, but most people outside the Nazi Party also spent the war trying not to be noticed and, as ChristaWolf wrote in the semi-autobiographical A Model Childhood, ‘a person who wants to pass unnoticed soon stops noticing anything.’ Hilde Naumann’s invulnerability didn’t last: she survived the ...

Diary

Marina Warner: Medea

3 December 2015
... blasphemy with which Euripides ends, and shows her protagonist withdrawing from the scene, abandoning the children, undone. Cusk is by no means alone in refusing Euripides’ unrepentant ending. When ChristaWolf in her novel Medea (reviewed in the LRB by Helen King, 12 November 1998) portrays her as the blameless victim of a smear perpetrated by Corinthians intent on covering up their own cult of child ...

Prussian Blues

Fredric Jameson

17 October 1996
Ein weites Feld 
by Günter Grass.
Steidl, 784 pp., DM 49.80, August 1995, 3 88243 366 3
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... double lives? It is certain that we have here, if not a celebration of the Stasis mode of existence, then at the very least a tone very different from that of Cold War literature, of 1984 or even of ChristaWolf, who (in Was bleibt?) still tries to register the historical and psychic peculiarities of an existence under surveillance, producing as it does endless reveries which all too often ended with ...

Boomerang

Sylvia Lawson

18 February 1988
Australians: A Historical Library 
Fairfax, Syme and Weldon, AUS $695Show More
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... beneath the dense sky of moratorium agreements: the best we can hope for Europe ... But there is no escape route in sight. You feel you are standing at bay. Australia is not a way out.ChristaWolf, CassandraThe city of Sydney has one decent road to the airport because of the Queen’s visit in 1963; the royal nostrils were not to be assaulted by the stink from the tanneries along the slum ...

Mothers

Jacqueline Rose

18 June 2014
The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women 
by Elisabeth Badinter, translated by Adriana Hunter.
Picador, 224 pp., £10.99, June 2013, 978 1 250 03209 6
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Are You My Mother? 
by Alison Bechdel.
Jonathan Cape, 304 pp., £16.99, May 2012, 978 0 224 09352 1
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A Child of One’s Own: Parental Stories 
by Rachel Bowlby.
Oxford, 256 pp., £20, June 2013, 978 0 19 960794 5
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Mothering and Motherhood in Ancient Greece and Rome 
by Lauren Hackworth Petersen and Patricia Salzman-Mitchell.
Texas, 274 pp., £16.99, April 2013, 978 0 292 75434 8
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Sinners? Scroungers? Saints? Unmarried Motherhood in 20th-Century England 
by Pat Thane and Tanya Evans.
Oxford, 240 pp., £24.99, August 2013, 978 0 19 968198 3
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I Don’t Know Why She Bothers: Guilt-Free Motherhood for Thoroughly Modern Womanhood 
by Daisy Waugh.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £12.99, July 2013, 978 0 297 86876 7
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... which starts with its own story of a mother who murdered the two youngest of her eight children in a Chicago suburb in 1974, Rich chose to include it in the 1995 reprint of her book. But it is ChristaWolf’s 1996 retelling which is, for me, the true feminist text. In this version, Medea doesn’t kill her children, or Glauce, or her brother Absyrtus whom, in another strand of the legend, she ...

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