Leading German author Christa Wolf would have been 90 | Books | DW | 18.03.2019
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Leading German author Christa Wolf would have been 90

Former GDR author Christa Wolf remains one of Germany's most famous authors. Her death in 2011 prompted condolences from around the world. Her birthday on March 18 is a day to recall her legacy.

Among the most important works by Christa Wolf are the novels and stories The Quest for Christa T., Patterns of Childhood, Cassandra and They Divided the Sky. Her books focus mainly on women who disavow being exposed to a patriarchal society.

Rita Seidel is one such figure. She's a student teacher in her early 20s, who decides out of her inner conviction not to leave East Germany before the Berlin Wall is built. Her partner Manfred, who is 10 years older, sets off for the West. The love story is at the center of the novel They Divided the Sky. It is unmistakable that the author, herself a committed socialist, sympathizes with Rita's solidarity with the German Democratic Republic.

Fleeing the Red Army

Wolf was 33 when They Divided the Sky was published. It was 1963 and the work catapulted her to the forefront of GDR literature. In 1965, however, her career in the East was put to the test when she spoke out at an Socialist Unity Party (SED) Plenum against the censorship and consolidation of literature that had been introduced.

Her fame in the West, on the other hand, steadily grew, not least due to her novel Kindheitsmuster (Patterns of Childhood), published in 1976.

The book depicts the Jordan family's escape from the Red Army to the West and is highly autobiographical. Wolf was born on March 18, 1929 —  in Landsberg an der Warthe, in what is now Gorzow Wielkopolski, Poland. Her family, after fleeing Soviet troops, settled in Mecklenburg.

Just out of high school, Wolf became an SED party member. She initially worked as a researcher and lecturer, before devoting herself to writing books as of 1962.

Watch video 01:32

'They Divided the Sky' by Christa Wolf

Fame far beyond the GDR

She received the National Prize of the German Democratic Republic and the Georg Büchner Prize of the Federal Republic of Germany. She was a member of the Academy of Arts in East and West Germany and was considered the sole German-German author long before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

After the fall of the Wall, she campaigned for the preservation of a democratically evolved GDR. She responded to the accusation of being a Stasi informant and spying on her fellow writers with the publication of her complete Stasi file in 1993.

In 2002, the author was awarded the German Book Prize for her life's work. Christa Wolf died on December 1, 2011 at the age of 82 after a long and serious illness.

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