This is my first post for the Classic Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge 2016.

Christa Wolf, one of East Germany’s most recognized authors, made her breakthrough with Divided Heaven (Der geteilte Himmel; Jaettu taivas) in 1963. It was filmed the next year by Konrad Wolf. It’s a love story with social criticism. Rita is a young and innocent girl living in the countryside, Manfred is a highly educated chemist. They fall in love at a dance and everything seems to be just perfect when Manfred takes Rita to the city and they set up house (sort of) at Manfred’s parents’ house. For a while it seems that the couple could live happily ever after in the privacy of their loft room. Before Rita starts her studies to be a teacher, she takes a summer job at a rail car factory. There she befriends some co-workers and gets a glimpse of the system. The system here meaning of course the socialist society and machinery.

Manfred also confronts the system and is disappointed when he’s efforts in chemistry are not recognized. So he decides to defect to West Berlin. Rita follows Manfred and is surprised how easy it is to cross the border. (The story takes place just before the Berlin Wall is built). But Rita will not stay, she describes it like “being worse than a foreign land because everybody speaks a language you understand”. For Manfred, West Berlin is a dream come true: “Don’t you agree the West is at our feet right now?”

So it is not the Berlin Wall that separates these two. It’s their ideals. Manfred finds East Germany stifling and still very much haunted by the trauma of war. In West Berlin he has a chance to work and pursue a career.For Rita, East Germany is all she knows. She sees the problems with socialist society but also sees the good things in her life and home. She has friends who are incorruptible (like her co-worker Mr. Meternagel), who really believe in doing the right thing and serving his country.

wolf

Divided Heaven was probably the first East German novel I’ve ever read. Even though, I’ve had Christa Wolf on my TBR list for ages. I don’t know if I’m that impressed. Wolf’s style is a bit plain. I do still think that it was worth reading just to get some insight into the life of East Germany in the sixties. The film was more to my liking, more stylized and still relevant.

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