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They Divided the Sky: A Novel by Christa Wolf (Literary Translation) Paperback – 28 Feb 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of Ottawa Press (28 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0776607871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0776607870
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 13.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 238,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"An ardent young socialist convinced of culture's mission to educate, Wolf wrote her first novel in 1963. Originally called "Divided Heaven", it has now been reissued as "They Divided the Sky". The difference goes deeper than the title. Luise von Flotow's faithful new rendering replaces a text that had been badly twisted by a zealous editor who was determined to suppress all straying from the party line. ... The new version introduces in English for the first time the introspective, autobiographical voice that became Wolf's signature and strength. Its fragmented points of view and flashbacks were innovative. From the start her ambition was to honour the inner voice and "bridge the contradiction between party diktat and personal truthfulness", in the words of her biographer, Jorg Magenau. This made her a revered, almost saintly figure to her East German readers; at the same time, her consistently uncertain, questioning tone put her on a collision course with the socialist leadership." The Economist

About the Author

Luise von Flotow has published literary translations from German and French since the 1980s. Her interest in Christa Wolf and the re-translation of Der geteilte Himmel stems from her family background (origins in the northeast of Germany), extensive research and travel in East Germany (1986-1990), and the discovery and study of the existing translation (Divided Heaven 1965, Seven Seas Verlag, East Berlin.)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By pg on 4 April 2015
Format: Paperback
Fantastic translation which is described and explained in a prologue.

The novel is surgical in its attention to emotional and interpersonal detail. It has such a special historical context too, that reading it places you somewhere it is otherwise very difficult to imagine. This is what you want a good novel to do - to access a world that is otherwise closed to you. It is a book that moves between the personal and the political in a way that is rarely achieved. It didn't go down well with the powers that be because of its questioning and exploratory themes.

My response to finishing the book was to immediately start reading it again so that the various elements and events in it can be understood better.

A great book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Famous, but not necessarily enjoyable 22 May 2013
By Yaakov Ben Shalom - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a new translation of Christa Wolf's novel _Der geteilte Himmel_, originally published in 1963.

The book became famous for its overall story about a young couple in East Germany in the early 1960s. The man decided to flee to West Berlin, while his girlfriend decided to stay in East Germany and help build a better society. Also, part of the book's fame was the author's frankness about dissatisfaction with life in communist East Germany. People were unhappy, and the Communist Party was not perfect or without blame for the inefficiencies or absurdities in a planned society. In this way, _They Divided the Sky_ (Der geteilte Himmel) is like the film "Trace of Stones" ("Spur der Steine") from 1966. It was shocking for East Germans that one of their own had the courage to write what everyone knew but no one would say.

However, the writing and the basic story are not very good. Manfred is a 29-year-old chemistry graduate student. He is from a big city. He is reserved, cynical, and even arrogant. He is frustrated that bureaucrats can squash his chemistry research. Rita is a 19-year-old village girl. She is naive and just learning how things "really work" in the world around her. She is cautiously optimistic. 1) They couple doesn't really match up. Their relationship seems forced. Sometimes it just seems ridiculous and unrealistic. 2) The story is basically told from the woman's perspective, and her sappy, half-naive, half-earnest tone gets old. The digressions about her emotions as she learns to "see things clearly" for the the first time or as she truly sees her boyfriend are tedious. It was not that good of a read. That being said, the chapter where Rita goes to West Berlin is extremely interesting. It was fascinating to see how a provincial, naive East German would view life in West Berlin, i.e. a big city, a consumer-oriented city.

As for this particular edition, the translation seems fine. What is not fine is the editing or typesetting. The translator has included explanatory footnotes in various places, but the footnotes don't line up with the items they clarify. In other words, the reader will see a superscript "6" at the end of a sentence, but the actual footnote 6 might be a page or two later. I saw footnote 1, but I couldn't find the "1" in the text. So I don't know what it clarified. There are also a few stray typos, which is rather unusual to see in a novel.
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