The things I find most interesting in Christa Wolf's One Day a Year are her references to her reading and writing. There are other things too, of course, like small comments she makes about living in the GDR (though I get the sense that she was able to come and go much more freely than others--or maybe I have a misapprehension of what life was really like behind the Iron Curtain?), the bits about her family or most especially just about life and living and getting older. Once again I thought this week I would share the most interesting bits that I marked or dog eared the pages.
I hope this isn't all too random, since I am taking it out of context. Then again there's not a lot really that is fully explained. So much of what she writes about is random or particular to her daily life and concerns, and all this three decades ago.
1978: "I note in my diary a sentence that does not come from me: Today begins the first day of the rest of my life. To live as if it were the last day. What could I do? Do differently than usual What and how would I write?"
"Ingeborg A. asked me what I am working on now. I said, since I had the 'Günderrode shit' behind me now, I would write something 'for me' and then something else only for me--in order to find out if I could be honest. When you write for publication, you are not dishonest, of course, but something always gets shoved between your head and your hand, and it is very good to find out now and then if you can still get rid of that intermediate layer (it is, of course, only one of the reasons for 'writing for myself', but nonetheless one).
1979: "I try to call Annette. Briefly hear Franci's voice, but the connection is very bad, and when I try again I do not get a connection. Our telephone--chapter in itself. Sometimes I think:: Perhaps they are not listening in on us here. The letters mailed in the German Democratic Republic arrive quickly and appear not to have been opened. I almost do not want to believe it."
These next two quotes are in reference to a reading/discussion of her work that she was invited to take part in.
"Another librarian, perhaps forty years old, a very attractive woman, brown hair, slender, a striking face, tastefully dressed, said something deeply touching. While reading such books as mine, she feels that they, the readers, actually lack words when dealing with their deepest concerns, and that what they could not say is expressed here."
"I try to explain some of the problems of the role into which an author, who has to speak as the representative of other, silent people, can very easily be forced. We come to the desired concept of 'dialogue.' The knowledge remains that in our country literature must often serve as a replacement for other opportunities for self-realization that are withheld."
1980: "We then talked for a long time about the question that I brought up, of whether the literature of the German Democratic Republic had actually produced enduring accomplishments. We arrived at names like Bobrowski, Müller, Braun, Mickel, sarah, and perhaps Kunert; we spoke of pets and dramatists--but in prose narrative? Did this reality not offer enough for writers of prose? Has it forcedthem into provinciality? Does the disastrous tie to ideological restriction make itself visible in prose in an especially disastrous way? We sought names that were comparable to Böll, Grass, Arno Schmidt, even Lenz und Koeppen, Johnson, Andersch--found none except Seghers--the earlier Seghers--and then Bobrowski again. Fries, all right. Strittmatter in his respectable third Wundertäter: provincial nevertheless. He simply does not 'create' this country as he had once undertaken to do. The others, people who work journalistically, bring problems to light, but they, too, do not create a new literary landscape. But there's the problem. We have been overburdened with problems and conflicts all these years and have not had out minds and hands free."
An interesting discussion that--just who are the famous, respected and well-known East German writers? I know only Anna Seghers, Christa Wolf and Caroline recently wrote about Sarah Kirsch. I don't recognize most of the writers Christa Wolf writes about (and that is one of the challenges with this book), and I don't know the authors on the Wikipedia list (save a very few, again another through Caroline). Wolf mentions Bobrowski twice and a cursory look through Amazon tells me there is at least one book of poetry by Johannes Bobrowski available. Curiously the library where I work owns nothing by Bobrowski, but we own a book of criticism about his work. I may have to investigate some of these other writers further--if only to be familiar with names and books. Of course the other problem is whether these authors have been translated into English and if so, whether their books are still readily available.
I'm afraid my reading of One Day a Year got sidetracked this week--life has a way with interfering with my reading sometimes. Now my thoughts are turning to end of the year books and I have to consider what I have a real chance of finishing and which books will get carried over to the new year (though a fair amount of culling from my current reading pile is likely to occur, too, before the year is out. I suspect Christa Wolf may end up being carried over. Then again I do have a long weekend coming up. But you know how those best intentions go sometimes.
This is my last Sunday of Christa Wolf posts (unless I carry on into December), as I had hoped to get back to my short story reading (several collections have been calling to me, and when a book beckons, it can be hard to ignore it). The dilemmas of reading an infinite number of books in a very finite amount of time.