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The Quest for Christa T.
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Readalongs > The Quest for Christa T. by Christa Wolf (Dhanaraj, Jenny & LauraT.)

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Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Starting in December :)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Thanks for creating the thread, Jenny. Laura T had also wanted to join the readalong. I will just remind her too.

Gill | 5720 comments Sorry, won't be joining the read.

message 4: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13143 comments Mod
Hope to manage to buy the book - now that jenny showed me how I should be able to!!!
Not for a couple of weeks though. Hopefully for the beginning of the month ...

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments "This coming-to-oneself - what is it?" - Johannes R. Becher. Looks like it is the summery of the book.

message 6: by Jenny (last edited Dec 01, 2013 12:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Started this morning and realized: we've met Christa T. in Kindheitsmuster briefly, haven't we? It feels like the seamless continuation of where we've left off with Patterns of Childhood, just that this time the focus on a friend. I've slipped right back in to her language like into a favourite sweater.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments "I've slipped right back in to her language like into a favourite sweater." - a lovely expression as it chimes well in the winter month of December.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments What is the meaning of Krischan?

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Krischan is the Low German version (spoken in Northern Parts of Germany and parts of Holland)of the name 'Christian' (very common in Germany). Christa is the female version of Christian. That's where it comes from I suppose.

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I am in chapter five now, and like with Patterns of Childhood I am realizing that her language takes a lot of concentration.
I had many moments today where I briefly had to stop reading to understand or reflect on her language, she's searching with words using them very carefully yet deliberately, it seems with a lot of her novels it is the language that is the plot, rather than the plot being the plot, do you know what I mean? (I am not sure I do ;))

There's one line she's repeating in chapter 2 which is about the use of 'Dichten' (to write) in order to 'dicht zu machen' (to seal). It is the same word in German. To fictionalize, to write, in order to protect memory from the little cracks through which live escapes or reality seeps in. I wonder how this has been translated? I had never once realized that similarity in my language. Never thought of the root of 'Dichten'. I find it very impressive that - though language is her bread and work - she's never taking language for granted and is questioning words, the names we give things, all the time.

Also in chapter 2: the fact that she's imbodying the 'I' of Christa T. for a few pages is very telling. The idea to slip into someone's skin and by doing so not only gaining understanding of that other skin, but also your own. Slipping into someone's body, seeing through their eyes, like in chapter one, when Christa Wolf is almost forced to see what is so familiar to her through the eyes of the (later) beloved intrudor. The way she looks at her teacher and all of a sudden what seemed graceful and proud just a few moments ago all of a sudden looks cheap and sad.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments I had finished reading the first three chapters. And as you said and as I have learnt from the earlier experience of reading her other work, one takes little time to get into the language of Christa Wolf. As a German you must truly be enjoying the language of Wolf for 'language is the plot of her novels'. I envy you truly. For I had missed about the word 'Dichten' and had marked the passage with a question mark. After having read your comment and explanation it makes much better sense.
About the usage of "I" has come out well. Or at least I could understand it.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Many German words are used in the translation. One could easily sense the difficulty of the translator. And as you had said earlier, having read her A Model Childhood is another apt help. For, there are many references to the events narrated in that book (eg: Horst Binder killing his parents, the burning of the Communist flags, etc.).

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments I specially love her themes of the deceptiveness of memory and the subsequent history. This was present in the other book and it is again present in this book. Regarding these, Wolf's observations are superb.

For instance at the end of second chapter there are few observations which are very revealing.
"...because the dead are easily wounded, it's obvious. What a live person can tell, being alive, would finally kill a dead person: flippancy."

"The years that re-ascend are no longer the years they were. Light and shadow fall once more over our field of vision: but the field is ready."

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I had marked both of those passages as well Dhanaraj. It is interesting that the end of the second is so different to the original. The last sentence in my feeble attempt of translating would read: 'Light and shadow fall once more on our face, yet our face remains composed. Should that not surpise us'?

Having comparison to translations in different languages makes me wonder again about something I wonder about often: the question of whether language shapes identity, and whether certain things cannot be said in certain languages not because the words for it don't exist but because it wouldn't be understood. I guess staying true to a text sometimes means deviating from the acutal words being used, sometimes actually means re-writing something.
There's a book by Javier Marias called A Heart So White that speaks about that a lot, mainly because the protagonist is a translater. But it speaks in general about the difficulty to speak in order to be understood.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Javier Marias is one author I am waiting to pounce upon. But then I have other books waiting in my bookshelf and so I keep Marias waiting.
About Translation: That is one of my interesting themes as well. I had read some of the studies done on semiotics such as Roland Barthes, Sassure, etc. Translations is always a problem and what is translated is never the same. It can not be translated. As you have rightly said that there are words that do not have usage in another context. A culture of one part of the world coins certain words which are not entailed in another part of the world for the culture there is different. But then that is not an excuse for one to avoid the translations. One is to be aware of it as he/she read a translations.
Some one once rightly observed that: The writers create the literature. But the translators create the World literature. There is a theory in Translation studies which describes translation as the Re-creation. AT times, it is true and at times it can be false.
I was surprised to hear that Christa Wolf's translator in this regard has gone little away from the original. Let me see, how it continues. Thanks for pointing it out anyway.

message 16: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13143 comments Mod
No way I can pick up with you. I'll read it in a month or so and read afterwards what you've written!!!

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments If I could I would personally make you an audiobook version for you to listen to while packing and unpacking boxes!!! Just need to improve my Italian slightly ;)

message 18: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13143 comments Mod
Jenny wrote: "If I could I would personally make you an audiobook version for you to listen to while packing and unpacking boxes!!! Just need to improve my Italian slightly ;)"

Try in english!!! ;)

message 19: by Dhanaraj (last edited Dec 03, 2013 07:13AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments I read the fifth chapter and have almost underlined every line in that chapter. I will take time to resume the next chapter. Do you have anything to say about it?

By the way, it looks to me a scathing attack on the philosophy of Communism.

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Another mad day of working, just arrived home. I will be home a bit earlier tomorrow and comment. Sorry Dhanaraj!

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments That is alright. I read another chapter (6th) in the evening. Like the 5th chapter, this too was small but dense. And I did an extra reading on Walter Ulbricht to keep myself well informed to better appreciate C. Wolf's book. After this extra reading, my understanding of last two chapters is positively enlarged.

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I loved the Fifth chapter as well. A sentence in there made me very unsure of whether to laugh or cry, so I did both. When Gertrud Dölling says that the one thing she's accusing Christa T. of is that she, who could never stick to one thing, could never really finish one thing, had the audaciousness to start dying, and then to never stop.
To me the references to communism and GDR are very subtle and I think a reader who wouldn't know of Wolf's background might not even notice. The restriciveness, the need to conform oneself to the rules of the majority, could fit into many other places and political systems as well. They could also be read as a comment regarding human nature in general I imagine. The difficulty of remaining a singularity, the loneliness of this. The quest for your 'I'. The latter is most difficult I suppose in times when one should be a 'WE'. It seems that for a very long time in German history the country, or at least half of it, has seen the dictatorship of the WE. However I am not sure if the dictatorship of the 'I' the way that it is practiced today is the answer either. I was really touched by the last sentence in chapter 5 as well. There's a pride in that sentence but also a sadness, a sense of disillusionment.
Have you read chapter 10 or 12 yet? I am dying to hear your thoughts on those.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments I am caught up with some little assignments relating to studies. I have completed almost most of my work. And I will have from tomorrow more free time. I have completed 7th chapter. Most probably tonight I might finish with the tenth chapter.

About your ideas on I and WE are interesting. If that is one way of looking it there is also another way of looking at it. The man is always identified for WHAT HE/SHE DOES and not WHAT HE/SHE REALLY IS. And even that doing is already decided. You are just a cog in a wheel and it is not necessary whether you are noticed at all. But what is important is you do the role of cog and so the whole machine can function. Christa Wolf talks much through the words not written. Only a great writer can do that. And she does it exactly that.

Her own reason for taking Christa T as an example is interesting. She is just an ordinary and she becomes part of my story. This is my invention, Wolf claims. But then, one can read much more behind the seemingly ordinary life of Christa T. After all, she made me to search for Walter Ulbricht's biography. And now to me, Christa T is no more just an ordinary person. She is the symbol (a frightening) of a peculiar past.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Chapter 11: Have you read Theodor Storm? I have not read him. But then through a thesis done on him by Chrita T, the story of Christa T is very effectively told. The conclusion of the thesis that is found at the end of the chapter seems to sum up the life of Christa too. What do you think?

Chapter 10: A lovely quote: "One shouldn't get angry with the dead. But I was hurt, and I still am. It isn't right,what they say: that only the living can hurt one."

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I have Dhanaraj, I think every German kid reads The Rider on the White Horse in school. I should actually re-read it.

I thought Christa Wolf constructed a great scene in chapter 9. (sorry, I was mistaken yesterday, I meant chapter 9 not 10) The prophecy. Or the attempt to.

Great quote! And so true. I think sometimes the anger we feel for the ones that are dead is the most harming kind to ourselves.

I have actually finished the book yesterday and at the same time I haven't, as I keep going back over chapters, re-reading them, realizing the little nuances I might have missed the first time around. I am finding it hard to let go.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments I too loved the prophesy part.

Just now completed reading the 12th chapter and it is a real atom bomb of a chapter, if we consider it as a publication in a 'Totalitarian' society. C. Wolf was really bold enough to state the facts. The chapter ends with a medical student's affirmation thus: "...the essence of health is adaptation or conformity."

I think I will not be able to read the next chapters today. And this time, it is I who is lagging behind and you have already finished the book.

message 27: by Jenny (last edited Dec 06, 2013 01:45PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Dhanaraj wrote: "Just now completed reading the 12th chapter and it is a real atom bomb of a chapter, if we consider it as a publication in a 'Totalitarian' society"

It is isn't it? Though what struck me most was the sentence: 'He's is lucky to be living here. Elsewhere he would be...something else'
To me it was referring to sadism of the Holocaust, to the spirit that allowed it to happen. One of the defining principles of GDR was to seperate themselves from the history and the society of Hitler's Germany. Yet this is catapulting Christa T. right back into the mindset that was the welcoming soil for the artrocities that German's and therefore human beings have proven to be capable of. A few more years will pass before it will dawn on those believing in the socialist dream that they have replaced a certain kind of sadism with another. And to make room for the thought that someone like Stalin for example was just another version of Hitler.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments You have said rightly. I was thinking the same idea. To me, the society and the ruling principle of 'conformity' present in the society presented in this book was no different from the society presented in the earlier book (A Model Childhood). The societies change, but the ruling principle is the same and the survivors live because they consider conformity over responsibility (imaginary existence - moral life.) Christa Wolf emerges still greater in my eyes.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments A great quote from chapter 14: "All movements end in some result or other, you aren't young and green anymore, twenty six now, and you've been feeling one can be too indecisive, that indecision --or what should one call it? --can make you miss the right moment for love, for life, for everything for which there's no substitute."

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Another quote loaded with meanings: "I see now that unhappiness makes people alike, but happiness doesn't, it makes them individuals."

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Chapter 17: "The happy times of pristine thinking and open minds, always favorable for beginnings, belonged now to the past, and we knew it." - A great observation and at the same time one of the significant criticisms said in a wonderful way.

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Another quote that I highlighted as well. It is a really sad one too. How disillusionment slowly sets in. The last few chapters really reminded me of another book that I've read by her a while back. In the Flesh is the story of a woman fighting disease, and like many of Christa Wolfs books very autobiographical.
I still pick up the book almost every day and re-read a chapter at random.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Christa Wolf can do it just like that. There are few chapters in THE QUEST FOR CHRISTA T, which I have marked with few sub-titles, such as "Danger of Conformity", "Danger of Routine Existence", etc. Because that chapters can be read alone as separate treatises.

I have placed an order for Christa Wolf's CASSANDRA today.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments By the way, I have not yet completed the book. The last three chapters are left. Might finish tonight or tomorrow. I was caught up with many other commitments.

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments I finished the book this afternoon. I have written a review in which some of the discussions we had are said and few more observations are made. If you have time check my review out.
The link:

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I spend an hour today copying highlighted passages from the book into the little notebook I keep for quotes and poems and it felt like re-reading the book yet again, since I had highlighted so much! LOL. By the way: no arrival yet, but I think since it is coming close to Christmas they might be a bit more busy then usual deliviering post here and there.

message 37: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I'm here at last, 2 and a bit years later!

I've really enjoyed reading your comments, and in many ways it has felt as if I'm reading along with you both, Dhanaraj and Jenny. Thanks!

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Gill wrote: "I'm here at last, 2 and a bit years later!

I've really enjoyed reading your comments, and in many ways it has felt as if I'm reading along with you both, Dhanaraj and Jenny. Thanks!"

Nice to hear that, Gill.

message 39: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13143 comments Mod
Nice indeed

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