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9 - Autobiographical Writing in Three Generations of a GDR Family: Christa Wolf — Annette Simon — Jana Simon

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2023

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Summary

My Point Of Departure is as follows: a large number of autobiographical texts (as opposed to formally conceived autobiographies) has been produced by three women from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) who are related to one another as mother/daughter/granddaughter and who in terms of their years of birth (1929/1952/1972) represent three different generations from the forty-five years of the Soviet Occupation Zone/GDR. That must be rare. The oldest of the three, Christa Wolf, is a well-known writer; the one in the middle, Annette Simon, a committed activist in the citizens’ movement of 1989 and a psychotherapist, has published significant texts about her life in the GDR and thereafter; and the youngest, Jana Simon, a career journalist, has on many occasions dealt with subjects arising from her own life in the GDR and since the Wende. While the oldest, now aged eighty-two, emerged as early as 1953 as a literary critic and 1959 as a creative writer, all of her daughter’s texts have only appeared since unification. Those of her daughter, Christa Wolf’s granddaughter, naturally enough just began to be published in the late 1990s. What I initially imagined was that the different way each of these women was shaped by her generational and political experience would result in a distinctive socio-cultural habitus. That would in turn, I further imagined, be linked with quite separate worldviews and lifestyles, the significance of which might also be worth examining. My final assumption was that now, after the end of the GDR, the identity of eastern Germans would first and foremost be defined, as Daniel Argelès, following Paul Ricoeur, neatly puts it, through “stories,” and that “the historical and moral judgment bestowed upon them would depend on these narratives and their reception in the national, now reunified public sphere” — and that autobiographical narratives would play, and continue to play, a prominent role in this process.

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Twenty Years On
Competing Memories of the GDR in Postunification German Culture
, pp. 141 - 157
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2011

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