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Christa Wolf

City of Angels or The Overcoat of Dr. Freud

(German title: Stadt der Engel)
ca. 400 pages
Clothbound
2010
Christa Wolf
Foto: Christa Wolf
© Susanne Schleyer

Christa Wolf, born in Landsberg/Warthe (Gorzów Wielkopolski) in 1929, passed away in Berlin in 2011. Her work has been awarded numerous awards, including the Georg Büchner-, Thomas-Mann- and Uwe-Johnson Literary Awards.

Christa Wolf’s works are translated into 40 languages and include:

Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud (2010)
Mit anderem Blick. Erzählungen (2005)
Ein Tag im Jahr. 1960-2000 (2003)
Leibhaftig. Erzählung (2002)
Was bleibt. Erzählung (1990)
Sommerstück (1989)
Störfall. Nachrichten eines Tages (1987)
Die Dimension des Autors. Essays und Aufsätze, Reden und Gespräche 1959-1985 (1986)
Kassandra. Erzählung (1983)
Kein Ort Nirgends (1979)
Kindheitsmuster (1976)
Nachdenken über Christa T. (1968)
Der geteilte Himmel. Erzählung (1963)

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English world rights (FSG), Spanish world rights (Alianza), Chinese simplex rights (People’s Literature Publishing House), Russia (AST), Arabic world rights (Al Kamel), France (Seuil), Italy (e/o), Netherlands (van Gennep), Denmark (Vandkunsten), Sweden (Norstedts), Norway (Gyldendal Norsk), Korea (Munhakdongne), Hungary (Kalligram), Bulgaria (Lettera), Romania (Univers), Lithuania (Mintis), Serbia (Albatros), Turkey (Kirmizi Kedi), Greece (Kastaniotis), Macedonia (Blesok), Albania (Santori), Azerbaijan (Alatoran), Israel (Hakibbutz Hameuchad)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Book Club (Der Club Bertelsmann)

Thomas Mann Literary Award 2010
Uwe Johnson Literary Award 2010

About

It amounts to a veritable literary event: Christa Wolf’s completion of the major new novel on which she worked for more than ten years. City of Angels or The Overcoat of Dr. Freud reflects the entire life of the Büchner Prize-winning writer, repeatedly in connection with crucial moments in post-war German history. Readers familiar with her work will discover in this latest novel new and fascinating facets of her writing; others will view City of Angels as an opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of one of the great contemporary authors writing in German.

The narrator is spending several months in Los Angeles in the early nineteen-nineties; a fellowship from the Getty Center allows her to stay at the idyllic Miss Victoria Hotel. Her research involves the correspondence of a woman known as L., letters the narrator found among the papers of a deceased friend. Her investigation is no easy task, since she knows no more than the woman’s initials and the fact that she emigrated to the USA from National Socialist Germany. The visiting scholar studies the American way of life, makes new acquaintances, immerses herself in the history of the city of angels, retraces the steps of artists and writers like Thomas Mann or Bertolt Brecht who belonged to the wartime colony of German exiles. In the course of her daily reading, of her dreams, of conversations especially with her neighbour, the ironically mocking Peter Gutman, the narrator moves closer to the substance of the matter which is tormenting her, an ordeal she survived and must render account of. For decades under the constant surveillance of the Staatssicherheit in the GDR, she first inspected her Stasi dossier a few months before travelling to the USA. She looked through forty-two volumes of files, ordered photocopies, found out the real names of those who had spied on her. And then her hand chanced upon a file labelled »informal collaboration«: an innocuous hand-written report about a colleague; protocols by two contact agents recording their »meetings« with her. In the midst of the media blizzard that breaks out in response to this discovery, one question is especially disquieting: How could I forget?

 

A fascinating tapestry densely woven from shifting narrative strands, temporal planes, and themes: brilliant, compelling, upsetting. Christa Wolf depicts a human life that stands its ground as one political system gives way to the next, always resuming the search for her own identity. She tells of the painful, but liberating, confrontation with her own past, and addresses a subject of universal relevance: the art of remembering, of confirming a personal identity that has undergone fracture and dislocation, and of asking: What makes us turn out as we do? With that question, Christa Wolf picks up the thread of her major success Kindheitsmuster, a novel recalling a childhood during the Third Reich and the subsequent transition to the authoritarian GDR; a book that touched upon national traumata. City of Angels – in a certain sense autobiographical, like all of her work, but, as she notes, »not strictly bound by the facts« – reflects the entire life of Christa Wolf, repeatedly in connection with crucial moments in German history.

Praise

»A mammoth and multifaceted memoir, deeply embedded in the century that was hers […] as the focus shifts, it shows up a mosaic with great artistry in its complex patterns and strong contrast in its structure. It is proof of the ordering mind’s triumph over the chaos of emotions. « Die Welt

»A radical confession by one of the former GDR’s most influential writers, a book about searching and leave-taking, about the struggles of the last century; a book that puts up a fight, a book of desperation […] She has not given up the quest for her version of the truth. This book is the Californian monument to that quest.« FAS

»Christa Wolf has never displayed such refreshing self-irony as in City of Angels. This long-awaited new novel […] is many things: a book of remembrance and farewell; a daring, breathtaking act of self-questioning, indeed a confessional autobiography, which took ten years to write. Never before has Christa Wolf written so unguardedly about herself.« Tagesspiegel

»City of Angels is Christa Wolf’s act of revelation, perhaps her legacy.« NDR2

»A complex web of experience and memory that combines autobiography with artful composition and linguistic brilliance […] Reading this multifaceted, courageous and spirited book may shock those who idolised Wolf more than they really read her books, who saw in her a moralist, feminist or environmental activist, a warning voice or an advocate for former East Germans, who made of her a GDR literary icon that she never wanted to be. Here the reader comes much closer to a Christa Wolf inspired by dreams and hopes, caught up in the conflicts of her times, neither immune to mistakes nor free of human weakness, an author who is rendering account to herself and to her readers.« Thüringische Landeszeitung

»This magnificent, meandering essay about memory and repression is full of worldly wisdom and reflection.« Die Presse

»These self-doubts, as well as the book’s dense and direct style, are what make Wolf’s latest work one of the most remarkable literary testimonials of our day.« Westfälischer Anzeiger

 

International press coverage


»Wolf se supera a sí misma y sigue metiendo el dedo en la llaga, obligándonos a mirar lo que preferiríamos no ver.« Pablo D'Ors, Cultural ABC, Spain

»Una obra en donde la realidad se fusiona de manera magistral con la ficción, y que al lector le vale casi por igual como obra de creación como de feliz anecdotario de gentes varias y de memorias.« Santiago Aizarna, El Diario Vasco, Spain

»El sentido de responsabilidad moral del que hace gala Christa Wolf en este su último libro es –como siempre, habría que añadir– extraordinario. La ciudad de Los Ángeles impresiona como ejercicio de honestidad, como muestra de rigor ético.« Cecilia Dreymüller, Babelia El País, Spain


»È un'autobiografia dell'anima, la rivelazione senza remore della parte più intima della Wolf, che racchiude l'essenza della sua vita fatta di sforzi costanti per migliorare quello che lei chiama 'il mio piccolo Paese', la Rdt, dei suoi dubbi, dei suoi sogni.« Paola Sorge, La Repubblica, Italy

»La città degli angeli è un'anamnesi per capire le contraddizioni del presente, una vivisezione della propria esistenza in un turbinio di tensioni e di fronte alla crisi in cui la scrittrice è sprofondata dopo la divulgazione dei dossier dei servizi segreti della RDT. […] E il libro prende il volo oltre le angustie personali e consegna al lettore un mondo ricco di sensazioni, immagini, protagonisti e luogh.i« Luigi Forte, La Stampa, Italy

»Wat is herinneren? Hoe verandert het degene die herinnert? En wat doet schrijven met de herinnering? De lezer leest mee over de schouder van de ‘ik‘ die in Amerika voorzichtige en precieze antwoorden op zulke vragen noteert« Trouw, Netherlands

»Fascinierend hoe iemand zichzelf zo grondig kan analyseren« De Groene Amsterdammer, Netherlands

»Date r kennelijk vele jaren moisten verstrijken tussen de gebeurtenissen toen en de voltooiing van de roman, heeft waarschijnlijk te maken met de complexe vorm van het boek met vele verschillende verhaalijnen die Wolf tot een bewonderenswaardig geheel heeft verweven. En met het thema: een meedogenloos zelfonderzoek. Daarvoor is moed nodig. Christa Wolf had die« de Volkskrant, Netherlands

»Det er forståeligt, at der er huller i hukommelsen, siger en psykoanalytiker, men Christa Wolf insisterer på at krænge Dr. Freuds overfrakke af sig og møde fortrængningen med åbne øjne.
Det er som altid overvældende og fantastisk at følge den store tyske forfatter ind i de store eksistentielle spørgsmål og lade sig løfte og tynge af hendes dyrtkøbte visdom.« Henriette Bacher Lind, Jyllands-Posten, Denmark

»Som læser skal man [...] lade sig overrumple og tage denne bog til sig, selv om det kræver, at man ser igennem fingre med irritation og utålmodighed, især i begyndelsen, over forfatterens demagogiske smutveje og dækken sig ind. For hun åbner også sprækker af resigneret anfægtelse, blidhed og selverkendelse, og hendes skeptiske, latent fjendtlige blik bør vi tåle. Vi har råd til det, og Christa Wolf er en forfatter og en skæbne, som man snyder sig selv ved kun at se på med bagklogskab.« Marie Tetzlaff, Politiken, Denmark

»Men hvorfor ikke tage Christa Wolf på ordet? Erindringer er jo ikke bare noget, man sidder og prøver at komme i tanke om, de indgår i en levende vekselvirkning med det, man oplever, sanser og drømmer. Sværere er det heller ikke.« Lars Bonnevie, Weekendavisen, Denmark

»Änglarnas stad är en bok om de stora sanningssystemen och vad de gör med oss. Hur svårt det är att som individ bryta sig loss. Och sedan lika svårt att förstå dem när de har upphört och ersatts av nya. Christa Wolf väljer fortsatt opposition. Hennes lojalitet är hos dem som instinktivt säger nej – även i änglarnas stad.« Expressen, Sweden

»Christa Wolf upptäcker ett tänkande, fysiskt jag situerat i sin samtid, inte olikt Doris Lessings projekt. Hos Wolf tillkommer en hemmastaddhet i klassikerna som bonus […] Trots att många nu slutar läsa måste jag ändå skriva att Wolf (och Lessing, förstås) är mästare i 1900-talets kanske viktigaste genre: kvinnoromanen. Som förstås inte handlar om ’bara’ kvinnor, vad det nu är, utan om människan i vår samtidshistoria.« Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

»Med sin täta prosa – mästerligt översatt av Aimée Delblanc – lyckas Wolf belysa den utopiska hoppfullheten om ett annat samhälle, bortom både DDR-kommunism och Väst-kapitalism, som sedan snabbt grusades.« Aftonbladet, Sweden

»Av de östtyska storheter som en gång hördes så tydligt i väst är Christa Wolf den som blivit mest ifrågasatt efter regimens fall, men också den som är mest levande. Hon är samtida, de andra är redan förvisade till det förflutna« Sveriges Radio, Sweden

Other publications

Nachruf auf Lebende. Die Flucht/Obituary for the Living (2014)

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English world rights (Seagull), Italy (Edizioni e/o)

Ein Tag im Jahr im neuen Jahrhundert/One Day a Year (2013)

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English world rights (Seagull), France (Seuil), Japan (Dogakusha)

August/August (2012)

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English world rights (Seagull), Brazilian Portuguese rights digital (Jaguatrica), France (Christian Bourgois), Italy (e/o), Estonia (Loomingu Raamatukogu), Slovenia (Modrijan)

Mit anderem Blick/Another view (2005)

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Spain (Circula De Lectores - published, rights reverted), Italy (Edizioni E/O - published, rights reverted), Greece (Kastaniotis)

Kindheitsmuster/Patterns of Childhood (1976)

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USA (FSG), UK (Virago), Spanish world rights (Galaxia Gutenberg), Chinese simplex rights (Chunfeng Literature), Russia (Prawda), Arabic world rights (Kanaan), France (Stock), Italy (e/o), Netherlands (Van Gennep), Sweden (Norstedts), Japan (Kobunsha), Poland (Czytelnik), Czech Republic (Odeon), Slovakia (Smena), Hungary (Magvetö), Romania (Univers), Estonia (Eesti Raamat), Serbia (Svetlost), Greece (University Studio Press)