Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thinking about Christa Wolf's Cassandra

Christa Wolf’s Cassandra is a spectacular book. First, I relate to the way she has obsessively written the narrative in the voice of Cassandra. The book is incantatory and that appeals to me. I want the book I have in my mind and my heart about women scientists and activists in the nuclear age to be similarly incantatory. For their lives and voices to obsess me in the way Cassandra obsessed Wolf. This is a rare commodity. Wolf was able to enter the Cassandra narrative and create and recreate the character of Cassandra in her own words (who is the referent of her? Cassandra? Wolf? I am not sure.) It is a brief and powerful narrative that tells and retells the story of Cassandra informed by the contemporary issues of feminism and war.

One of the things that I find fascinating about the English volume I have of it, is the combination of the novel (or really novella, perhaps) with an essay and letters. Wolf talks about the process of channeling Cassandra, in particular her research and travels. One of the incidents is when Wolf and her husband met two women from the United States while in Greece. They are, to me, clearly lesbians in search of the ancient Minoan culture and the matriarchy. Wolf must have known they were lesbians, though that isn’t explicit in the text. She too is intrigued by the Minoans and the women of the Minoan culture, so there is a connection there. I’m fascinated by Wolf, but also by these traveling women. I want to read their journey, what they found. I want to take my own trip to Greece, my own mental travels to know the Minoans, and I want to know what Wolf made of these lesbian traveling companions.

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