The Fourth Dimension: Interviews with Christa Wolf
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The author should not disappear into her own work, says Christa Wolf, but should stand up and be counted. In this series of interviews and conversations spanning more than a decade, Christ Wolf does precisely that.
Here, one of the greatest contemporary novelists discusses the origins of an inspirations for her best known works. Often taking as her starting point events from the past, her novels, she explains, remain fictions of the present, whether her concern is to reassess the experiences of growing up in Nazi Germany, as in A Model Childhood, or to attempt to trace the roots of the contradictions in which our civilisation is now trapped, as in Cassandra.
These conversations, however, take her far beyond the purely literary. She talks openly about what it means to be both a writer and a woman in East Germany today, and concludes that literature is no longer territorially defined. We are not so much divided by boundaries between East and West as united in our common experience of highly organized patriarchal society, she says, which has brought us to ‘the verge of annihilation’.
It is the author’s voice, according to Christa Wolf, which provides ‘the fourth dimension’ of modern prose. In these pages her own voice emerges more loudly and clearly than ever.
to need criticising - and such thijigs inevitably come to the surface as writers and others observe and get to grips with the lives we lead - would have no historical status; such things would be regarded as merely chance phenomena, abnormal and untypical. Or, alternatively, one would spontaneously be tempted to regard every source of discord as ‘evidence' refuting the definition society had given of itself. Either way, we would be lacking a dialectic of contemporary develop ment, and the ideal
men themselves would soon badly need emancipating? I have deliberately tried this story out on the audience at many readings and watched for their reactions, especially their non-verbal reactions. Women laughing incredulously; young girls giggling as if you were telling them a dirty joke; men’s down-turned mouths and stiff shoulders. Then suddenly their expressions - both men’s and women’s - change, they get agitated, they make excited gestures as they try and formulate their own experiences. How
with those close to me. Wilfried Schoeller: You have had a particular view of writing as an oppor tunity, so to speak, to get in touch with yourself via your characters. There are not many instances in your ivork of the author identifying with her characters, but I sense that this is increasing. As too is the harshness of your attitude to yourself. The harshness is growing, I am aware of that. The demands 1 make on myself are growing too, as is the self-criticism. These difficulties all
conversation with Frauke Meyer-Gosau in 1982, W olf stresses her interest in the ‘outsiders’ who lived during the period broadly between the French Revolution and the Restoration in Germany. ‘Outsider’ status was assigned to both women and intellectuals (or more precisely, to producers of art). This she sees as part of a larger process of alienation and self-alienation in industrial society, set in train by advances in technology and natural sciences and reflected in the division between the
a ‘well-ordered world’ and a strict daily regime I can in theory produce steadily. For example, four hours in the morning and three to four in the afternoon. On good days, that is; in reality, they are rare. An average day tends to consist of a mass of different hold-ups and diversions, which arise from the fact that growing recog nition for a writer also increases the number of people who make requests of you., of a professional, personal, or social nature. So there is a lot of post, a lot of