City of Angels: or, The Overcoat of Dr. Freud / A Novel
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The stunning final novel from East Germany's most acclaimed writer
Three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the writer Christa Wolf was granted access to her newly declassified Stasi files. Known for her defiance and outspokenness, Wolf was not especially surprised to discover forty-two volumes of documents produced by the East German secret police. But what was surprising was a thin green folder whose contents told an unfamiliar―and disturbing―story: in the early 1960s, Wolf herself had been an informant for the Communist government. And yet, thirty years on, she had absolutely no recollection of it.
Wolf's extraordinary autobiographical final novel is an account of what it was like to reckon with such a shocking discovery. Based on the year she spent in Los Angeles after these explosive revelations, City of Angels is at once a powerful examination of memory and a surprisingly funny and touching exploration of L.A., a city strikingly different from any Wolf had ever visited.
Even as she reflects on the burdens of twentieth-century history, Wolf describes the pleasures of driving a Geo Metro down Wilshire Boulevard and watching episodes of Star Trek late at night. Rich with philosophical insights, personal revelations, and vivid descriptions of a diverse city and its citizens, City of Angels is a profoundly humane and disarmingly honest novel―and a powerful conclusion to a remarkable career in letters.
anyone came too close to a sanctified car. Or fire trucks. They raced past, howling, in their whole incredible childlike fire-truck beauty, always directly toward the fire and the cameras that were always there already to bring the bodies of the burned and maimed and the screams and tears of the bereaved to the TV screen in my apartment, they faithfully laid every single one of the daily murder victims in this monstrous city at my doorstep the way a naughty cat brings home every single mouse it
around the mesa and saw many of the cave ruins, and ended with the famous, many-chambered Sun Temple. There was a biting wind; it was sunny but unbelievably cold. We had not expected to spend so much time on our trip freezing. By the museum’s exit there was a large display window: What we owe to the Indians. It showed what the “white man” had adopted from the Indians, from medicines to plant products. We were glad to get back in the warm car. Sanna and Lowis took turns driving and I could lie
is sitting there in her wheelchair and looking at me. I think: September 11! and wake up screaming. The start of a new era, I hear a voice say. The last time I woke up screaming, I remember, was the night after my visit to the small, modest Holocaust Museum of Los Angeles. Two rooms. In one, photos on the walls of Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust. Family pictures. Documents of the annihilation of the European Jews. Photographs from survivors … The second room was empty except for a
first name. His was Richard. Not an Indian name, I said. His last name was Indian, he said, and he said it, something very complicated. He shook my hand; his was crippled. I asked him what he did for a living. He couldn’t work anymore, he said, pointing to his hand and to a long scar on his forearm: car accident. Very bad. Then came what I was apprehensively waiting for: Could you spare some change? Unfortunately I had run out of the house without a wallet, without money. I said so, regretfully.
it really is—much less the way it should be. That’s Marxism, I said. So? Malinka said. Ur-Marxism, if you want to put it that way. Not far at all from primitive Christianity. When I hear you two talk, Peter Gutman said, it makes me think that maybe Communism isn’t dead after all. Always these words, I said. Can’t we get by for even a little while without these words? No, Malinka said, words are so important. For example, “riots,” or at most “unrests”: those are set in stone now. It’s obvious