German author Christa Wolf dies at 82

BERLIN Thu Dec 1, 2011 9:06am EST

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Christa Wolf, one of Germany's most celebrated writers for her depictions of life in the former communist East, but who was later damaged by revelations she collaborated with its secret police, has died in Berlin aged 82, her publisher Suhrkamp said on Thursday.

Wolf, a committed Marxist in her early years, focused in her novels such as "Divided Heaven," "Cassandra" and "The Quest for Christ T." on life in the socialist state, exploring its ideals and the role of the individual.

She became increasingly critical of East Germany and joined the chorus of calls for reform in 1989 which eventually led to the fall of the Berlin wall. Wolf had hoped, however, that there could still be an independent future for the state in following a more humane form of socialism.

After German reunification Wolf was criticized for not having been more critical of East Germany's repression and for leaving the Communist Socialist Unity Party only in 1989.

Details also came to light that she had passed information to the Stasi secret police between 1959 and 1962, which damaged her reputation as she had earlier written about being under surveillance herself.

"Wolf was an enormously significant figure, regarded up until 1990 as someone who carefully and delicately expanded the boundaries of what could be said in East Germany," said Georgina Paul, an expert in East German literature at Oxford University.

"Her work is associated with the aesthetic of self-reflection ... but could also have quite a lyrical force," Paul added.

Born in 1929 in Landsberg an der Warthe, today in Poland, Wolf also explored the legacy of German fascism, having lived through Adolf Hitler's Third Reich and World War Two.

In 2010 she was awarded the Thomas-Mann prize for documenting "the struggles, hopes and mistakes of her age," with "deep moral earnestness and narrative power."

(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson)

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