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190 words about The Quest for Christa T.
She who left and she who stayed
On the surface, The Quest for Christa T. is a wordy, occasionally aimless, navel-gazing memorial to the unnamed narrator’s titular friend, who has recently passed away from leukemia. It packs in a great deal of overly formal-sounding observations from an 18-year relationship that will feel familiar to anyone who’s read Elena Ferrante — but like everything else with East Germany, the surface is hardly a scratch. Knowing the context that Christa Wolf’s slim novel was banned for its depiction of a woman who couldn’t (read: wouldn’t) conform to social norms in the GDR’s formative years imbues every statement, every question, with unexpected weight. Christa T.’s gift of Sehnsucht, a craving to see, has the reader straining to follow suit. What lies behind this door, behind that dance, around those bends? We haven’t got it yet, but we shall; that was our formula. The future? The future is going to be Quite Different. And as if the rest of the book wasn’t subtly provocative enough, a lethal final line on which to linger: When, if not now? As Egon Krenz can tell you, that question’s answer always comes in good time.