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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: August 2014

Introduction

Summary

Amerika, du hast es besser

als unser Kontinent, der alte,

hast keine verfallenen Schlösser

und keine Basalte.

Dich stört nicht im Innern zu lebendiger Zeit

unnützes Erinnern und vergeblicher Streit

Benutzt die Gegenwart mit Glück!

Und wenn nun eure Kinder dichten

Bewahre sie ein gut Geschick

Vor Ritter-, Räuber und Gespenstergeschichten.

[America, you're better off

than our continent, the old one

you have no castle ruins

and no Basalt deposits

In your vital moments you are not deeply disturbed

By useless remembering and futile strife

So happily sieze the present!

And when your children write their own poems

May a glad fate help keep them away

From by-gone tales of knights, robbers and ghosts.]

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Den Vereinigten Staaten” (“To the United States”)

In Christa Wolf's final novel, Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud (City of Angels or The Overcoat of Dr. Freud, 2010), a very recognizable dissident writer from the former East Germany is invited as a guest artist of the so-called “Center” near Los Angeles. The narrator initially intends to use her year in America to further her writing, but instead she must watch helplessly from across the ocean as her reputation is destroyed by revelations about her connections to the former East German Stasi (short for Staatssicherheitsdienst, or State Security Service).