Eulogy for the Living

Taking Flight

Christa Wolf

Translated by Katy Derbyshire



5 x 8.5 inches, 136pp. April 2018

ISBN : 9780857425546

Rs  499.00 (HB)
$21.50 (HB)
£16.99 (HB)

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Christa Wolf tried for years to find a way to write about her childhood in Nazi Germany. In her 1976 book Patterns of Childhood, she explained why it was so difficult: 'Gradually, over a period of months, the dilemma has emerged: to remain speechless or to live in the third person, these seem to be the options. One is impossible, the other sinister.' During 1971 and 1972 she made 33 attempts to start the novel, abandoning each manuscript only pages in.

Eulogy for the Living, written over the course of four weeks, is the longest of those fragments. In its pages, Wolf recalls with crystalline precision the everyday details of her life as a middle-class grocer’s daughter, and the struggles within the family—struggles common to most families, but exacerbated by the rise of Nazism. And as Nazism fell, the Wolfs fled west, trying to stay ahead of the rampaging Red Army. Though Wolf abandoned this account, it stands, in fragmentary form, as a testament to her skill as a thinker, storyteller and memorializer of humanity’s greatest struggles.

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, 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).

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