I really enjoyed this novel, renowned for being one of the best works of the East German writer Christa Wolf and for its portrayal of East. Der geteilte Himmel (They Divided the Sky) was East German writer Christa Wolf’s first major work, a slightly autobiographical Bildungsroman. Der geteilte Himmel was Wolf’s second book; its appearance in brought her In several respects, Christa Wolf had observed the cultural-political doctrine.

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I really enjoyed this novel, renowned for being one of the best works of the East German writer Christa Wolf and for its portrayal of East Germany in the period leading up to wolt I started this one, wanting to read Fhrista Wolf as a German woman writer first and foremost and to leave her political standing to one side.

I read the novel in German. The novel starts with the protagonist, Rita, recovering consciousness in a hospital bed after an accident. She is suffering from psychological trauma and depression and her recovery over several weeks provides the framework for the main narrative, told getilte flashback. Rita geetilte brought up in a village in East Germany and meets Manfred at the age of 19 at a local dance. He is older than her and has just completed his PhD in Chemistry.

They fall in love and begin an intense love affair. Rita is working in an insurance office, much to the chagrin of her schoolteacher, who thinks she is wasting her talents. She is offered the possibility of teacher training and takes it. She makes friends with both workers and those in managerial roles all men and grows to understand the dilemmas for people working within the Communist system as geteilt as the wide range of attitudes to work and the demands of the state.

Manfred is less eer in engaging with the concerns of the workers. As a talented chemist, he wishes to work in a situation where he can carry out research free from ideological yimmel and it becomes clear as the novel progresses that his project will not be funded in East Germany. Eventually he stays on in West Berlin after a conference this is just before August when the Wall went up, stopping movement from the East and asks Rita to join him.


She visits him in West Berlin and has to make the agonising decision, to stay with her lover or return to her hometown in the East. The novel is richly seamed, with East Germany and the early 60s as the backdrop to the hikmel. The descriptions of rural life evoke feelings of nostalgia for a past now gone, but also, as seen by Rita, now a young adult, nostalgia for the simplicity of chrisat own childhood.

The impact of living under Communism is explored, both within the factory and outside, from many perspectives. Freedom of speech and expression are circumscribed and characters are afraid to speak their minds in public, lest they lose their jobs or are vilified.

The fear created by this atmosphere is illustrated well in the story of Sigrid, whose parents flee to the West with her younger brothers and sisters, leaving her to cope not only with the loss of her family, but also with the fear the Party will take revenge on her by throwing her off her teacher training course.

The era of the early 60s with its winds of social change hovers in the background too. Family relationships are also typical of that era. Yet this was how men behaved towards women pre-feminism, patronising and infantilising them, deeming them incapable of playing an equal role in society as men. I read this novel as a coming of age novel too. But during the months of working in the factory and observing the daily lives of people around her she has pulled away from Him,el and started to develop her own ideas and frienships.

At the end of the novel she has made her own choice, closing the door softly on her sick friend Meternagel, whom she was visiting but also on her girlhood and this himmrl of her life.


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Christa Wolf has created a moving love story, but also a compelling portrayal of East Germany in the early 60s through detailed description of people and landscapes. Her characterisation demonstrates the complexity of human behaviour within the strictures of Communist society at that time, and her talent for storytelling makes the human impact so vividly moving.

For those who want to find out more about Christa Wolf, may I suggest this excellent full obituary by Kate Webb in the Guardian.

Brings back happy memories of university days. I look forward to reading what you make of Christa T. My real favourites by her were Kassandra and Medea, though.

I picked her and Brecht as my special focus authors, in part as a counter balance to my module on literature of the Reformation era… which, surprisingly, also included a couple of women writers! I wonder how it will stand the test of time. You are commenting using your WordPress.

Literary Encyclopedia | Der geteilte Himmel

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Owlf District linguist writes on books in English, German and Spanish, on literary events and on translation. September 29, at October 12, at 4: Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Email required Address never made public.

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