Translated by Katy Derbyshire
5 x 8.5 inches, 56pp. February 2014
ISBN : 9780857421869
Rs 325.00 (HB)
Christa Wolf was arguably the best-known and most influential writer in the former East Germany. Having grown up during the Nazi regime, she and her family were forced to flee their home like many others, nearly starving to death in the process. Her earliest novels were controversial because they contained veiled criticisms of the Communist regime which landed her on government watch lists. Her past continued to permeate her work and her life, as she said, “You can only fight sorrow when you look it in the eye.”
August is Christa Wolf’s last piece of fiction, written in a single sitting as an anniversary gift to her husband. In it, she revisits her stay at a tuberculosis hospital in the winter of 1946, a real life event that was the inspiration for the closing scenes of her 1976 novel Patterns of Childhood. This time, however, her fictional perspective is very different. The story unfolds through the eyes of August, a young patient who has lost both his parents to the war. He adores an older girl, Lilo, a rebellious teenager who controls the wards. Sixty years later, August reflects on his life and the things that she taught him.
Written in taut, affectionate prose, August offers a new entry into Christa Wolf’s work and, incidentally, her first and only male protagonist. More than a literary artifact, this new novel is a perfectly constructed story of a quiet life well lived. For both August and Christa Wolf, the past never dies.
Christa Wolf was one of Germany's most celebrated post-war writers. She grew up during Nazi rule and spent most of her adulthood in communist East Germany, where she increasingly came to question ideologies through her writing. In 1989, she was an instrumental figure in the protests leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her work was always innovative and challenging in terms of style and politics, including the ground-breaking Cassandra, Patterns of Childhood and The Quest for Christa T. Her last novel, City of Angels, dealt with her stay in Los Angeles during the fallout from revelations that she had been an informal collaborator with the Stasi in younger years, and naturally been spied upon for a significantly longer period. She has been awarded many prizes, among them the Buchner Prize of the German Academy of Language and Poetry (1980), the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1985) and the Geschwister-Scholl-Prize of the city of Munich (1987). Christa Wolf died in Berlin in 2011.
Katy Derbyshire co-edits www.no-mans-land.org, an online magazine of contemporary German writing in English, and co-hosts a monthly translation lab in Berlin. She has translated books by Helene Hegemann, Clemens Meyer, Inka Parei (Shadow-Boxing Woman and What Darkness Was for Seagull Books), Simon Urban, Dorothee Elmiger (Invitation to the Bold of Heart for Seagull Books) and Sibylle Lewitscharoff (Apostoloff, forthcoming from Seagull Books).