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Christa Wolf: Nachdenken über Christa T. (The Quest for Christa T)

Christa T has died of leukemia in 1963 and the author – Christa Wolf – feels that she has to write about her. The book was not very well received in East Germany and not just because of its subject matter. Wolf uses a modernist style, gradually creating the character of the eponymous heroine, by referring to her letters, diaries and other writings. Christa T was a writer, too, having written poems and fragments of stories and all of these gradually give us a picture of this woman, who clearly did not fit in with the East German way of doing things, though she was no rebel.

The narrator and Christa T first met in school and again in university. She has a fairly conventional life – lovers, job as a teacher, marriage, children, an affair with her husband’s friend and, finally, the leukemia that led to her death. But what distinguishes her – at least from her fellow East Germans – is not only did she not want to participate in the East German way of life but she did not even want to be seen to be doing so. It may be said that this approach makes the novel uniquely East German but it is, of course, the standard alienation found in many Western novels. The novel made a huge impact in the West as it showed the alienation of East Germans from their society but it should be read now as a novel about all of us.

Publishing history

First published 1968 by Mitteldeutscher Verlag
First published in English in 1970 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Translated by Christopher Middleton