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This article is taken from PN Review 54, Volume 13 Number 4, March - April 1987.

Christa Wolf's Resistance Mark Thompson
 
I


The Great Powers could annihilate each other more than a dozen times over. And so on. We laugh, slightly embarrassed. 'Normal feelings' are numbed by such statistics. Indignation, revolt, would be inappropriate. The aesthetic of resistance to it all has yet to be developed.
- Cassandra


Whether or not serious fiction writers can explicitly address a large public on the most important public themes and obtain a hearing, must depend in part on the degree to which people feel that government represents their interests and deserves their respect. Given the totalitarianism in the Warsaw Pact nations, it is clear that there are sound reasons why, as Timothy Garton-Ash recently put it, 'writers in Central and Eastern Europe are moral and political authorities in a way that no writer has been in England since Orwell and Bertrand Russell.' In West Germany too this sort of authority seems taken for granted, for film-makers as well as writers. Is there even one serious writer in the post-war period who has not investigated the state-fostered amnesia regarding Fascism and its ascent, and tried to break the silence with his/her own voice?

In East Germany, the dangers to recent history were compounded by the imposition of a Stalinist regime after the defeat of Fascism. The East German Christa Wolf's work is rich with the sense of the value and vulnerability of memory, memory as history in consciousness, the means by which history ...


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