Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Medea by Christa Wolf 1998


A citizen of East Germany and a committed socialist, Mrs. Wolf managed to keep a critical distance from the communist regime. Her best-known novels included “Der geteilte Himmel” (“Divided Heaven,” 1963), addressing the divisions of Germany, and “Kassandra” (“Cassandra,” 1983), which depicted the Trojan War.

She won awards in East Germany and West Germany for her work, including the Thomas Mann Prize in 2010. The jury praised her life’s work for “critically questioning the hopes and errors of her time, and portraying them with deep moral seriousness and narrative power.”

Christa Ihlenfeld was born March 18, 1929, in Landsberg an der Warthe, a part of Germany that is now in Poland. She moved to East Germany in 1945 and joined the Socialist Unity Party in 1949. She studied German literature in Jena and Leipzig and became a publisher and editor.

In 1951, she married Gerhard Wolf, an essayist. They had two children. She died in 2011- from Goodreads 

I wish to thank Kathleen Jones, author of by far the best biography of Katherine Mansfield, The Story Teller, for suggesting I read Christa Wolf as part of my participation in German Literature Month III.  I checked on Amazon and Wolf seems to have only two books translated into English available as Kindle editions.  I am interested in the retelling of old myths, long ago I read Euripides' Medea, and I have seen more than one movie version of the legend so Wolf's Medea seemed like a clear choice.  In the addition I read Margaret Atwood has a very interesting introduction where she details the numerous operas and literary works based on the Medea.  

I hope you know the basic legend of Medea allegedly killing her children and the quest of Jason.  Wolf brilliant redoes the story, told through multiple points of view ranging from Medea and Jason to royal astrologers, in a way that turns it into a commentary on the nature of power and corruption that is universal.  She takes us deeply into the mind of Jason and Medea.  She humanizes Medea without hiding her darkness.  Medea is set in Greece circa 450 B. C. People beliefs and actions may seem controlled by superstition and appear barbarously violent to us but all you have to do, as you are pretty much forced to in the cultural context from which Medea comes to the rule of the Nazis in Europe to fund a time that made the world of Medea and Jason seem tame and quite rational.  

I greatly enjoyed this book.  It is very relevant, much as Margaret Atwood's Penelope  is, to a feminist rereading of Greek myths.  I plan to reread Medea by Euripides quite soon.  I have a public domain Oxford Press translation.  I hope one day to read Cassandra, Wolf's retelling of another Greek legend set in the Trojan war.

I am really glad I decided to once again participate in 
German Literature Month November 2013.  I thank Caroline and Lizzy for hosting this great reading event.

So far I have read and posted on these works, all but Kafka are new to me writers. 
The Tin Drum-by Gunther Grass
"The Judgement" by Franz Kafka
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque -very powerful war novel 
"A Letter from an Unknown Woman" by Stefan Zweig. 
The Death of the Adversary by Hans Klein - a work of genius
"The Job Application" by Robert Walser 
Chess Game by Stefan Zweig-I will read much more of his work
"The Battle of Sempach" by Robert Walser
I have also listed to podcasts of "Basta" and "Frau Wilkes" by Robert Walser
The March of Radetsky by Joseph Roth I hope to read all his work

Memoirs of an Anti-Semite by Gregor von Rezzori amazing work of art.

"Flypaper" by Robert Musil

"Mendel the Bibliophile" by Stefan Zweig - I totally love this story.

"The Dead are Silent" by Arthur Schnitzler an entertaining work from 1907

"There Will Be Action" by Heinrich Boll a very good short story by Nobel Prize Winner

Transit by Anne Seghars 1942 very much worth reading

The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig - an elegy to a lost culture. 1942

Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald. 2001. 

The Emperor's Tomb By Joseph Roth 1938 

"Flower Days" by Robert Walser 1907 (no post) 

"Trousers" by Robert Walser -1909 (no post)

Mel u

1 comment:

Kathleen Jones said...

I'm so glad you liked Christa Wolf - she's such an important writer in Europe!