Cassandra by Christa Wolf – review

The story of one woman's agony after the fall of Troy is retold by an author working in the shadow of the Stasi

Christa Wolf was one of the best-known writers of former East Germany, but her star perhaps shone less brightly when it emerged that she had been, briefly, a Stasi informer (though also informed against) who came out against reunification in 1989. Now Cassandra, an intense, difficult work of high seriousness first published in 1983, is being reissued by Daunt. Cassandra looks back over her life as she awaits death, having fallen prisoner to the Greeks at the fall of Troy. Wolf's searing identification with her protagonist is made explicit in the novel's opening passage where the reader witnesses the merging of the author's voice with Cassandra's. The book was written from within a repressive regime, and its allegorical function tends to suffocate its simple existence as fiction: as a visionary whose visions were doomed to be disregarded, Cassandra stands for the female writer who struggles to be heard. Further, her guilt at her part in Troy's crimes and betrayals stands for Wolf's lifelong sense of implication in Germany's errors and delusions.

Contributor

Jane Housham

The GuardianTramp

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