Selected Essays
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 Wolf's essays are interesting more for their circumstances than for what they have to say. As a preeminent, sanctioned East German writer before reunification, she was called on to accept state prizes galore, to award others, to pay birthday tributes to fellow members of the GDR's Writers' Union. The addresses obligated by these occasions have a welcome intimacy--the hallmark of Wolf's best fiction--but also a lot of fancy dancing to do. The earliest address here, from 1964, has Wolf playing simple Leninist parrot (``For art, the advantages of our society lie in the fact that by nature it is in tune with the objective laws of social development, with the objective interests of human beings''). She then has to move off that ``objective'' certainty to a 1987 plea for readmission to the Writer's Union of a number of banned, exiled writers as East Germany's ``advantages'' start to disappear like a mirage. To admirers of Wolf's fiction (most recently, What Remains), watching the ways in which an official writer must posture is a discomforting, even appalling spectacle. What ultimately seems to save Wolf here are a pair of appreciations of Max Frisch--the greatest German-speaking writer of his time, and a skeptical Swiss to boot. Wolf knows everything that makes Frisch major; and beneath her texts plays an honest agony, an inability to reconcile the utopian, then-calcified, myths of her own public life with the equally conscience-ridden doubts of the free man Frisch. These pieces exhibit a zeal for truth in Wolf that makes her trimming all the more grotesque. And doubtlessly self-painful, and thus touching.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-374-12302-0
Page count: 356pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993


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