Christa Wolf: August
translated by Katy Derbyshire
August is Christa Wolf’s last piece of fiction, written in a single sitting as an anniversary gift to her husband. In it, she revisits her stay at a tuberculosis hospital in the winter of 1946/47, which makes up the closing scenes of her 1976 novel Patterns of Childhood. This time, however, the perspective is a very different one: that of August, a young patient who has lost both parents to the war. He adores the older girl Lilo, a rebellious teenager who holds things together on the wards. Sixty years later, August thinks back on his life and the things that she taught him.
Written in taut, affectionate prose, August offers a new entry into Christa Wolf’s work and, incidentally, her first and last male protagonist. Yet, it is more than a literary artifact – a perfectly constructed story of a quiet life well lived. For August as for Christa Wolf, the past was never dead.
German original published by Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin, under the title August in 2012.