The Quest for Christa T. (1968)
by Christa Wolf
Translation by Christopher Middelton
Like The Joke by Milan Kundera, The Quest for Christa T. is a literary depiction of life under Communist rule, this time in East Germany (vs. the Czechoslovakian setting of The Joke.) The Quest for Christa T. has nothing overt to do with politics, but the title character suffers from what might be termed "existential despair" at the thought of living the crassly materialistic society of post-World War II East Germany. The very existence of this novel rebuts a dominant strand of Cold War Communist propaganda, that citizens in the East lived spiritually fulfilling lives without the help of religion. As we all know today, that claim was always a sham, but that wasn't the case in the late 1960's.
At a time when many Western intellectuals painted rosy pictures of life under Russian/Eastern European Communism, the actual authors writing in those areas gave a much more realistic portrayal of life. The Quest for Christa T. has some similarities to a Virginia Woolf novel. Everything is presented as if viewed through a gauzy membrane. The underlying dissatisfaction with circumstances that leads to the death of Christa T. is left unstated. Like many artists operating in an restricted creative environment, Wolf seeks solace in abstraction.