SUFFERING SEVERE abdominal pain, a woman is rushed to the emergency room of a decrepit urban hospital. Her soaring temperature, her deepening distress, her body's resistance to medicine all confound her doctors, who operate repeatedly.
Drifting in and out of consciousness, she suffers a delirium in which the boundaries between wakefulness, memory, and delusion blur and then totally dissolve. Departed friends and phantom strangers appear at her bedside, and as the nurses poke and prod, her sense of self, of being an "I" who acts rather than a "she" who is acted upon, begins to slip away. Remembered snatches of Goethe and of "upbuilding" communist propaganda provide ironic running commentary on her predicament, for the scene, half-real, half-hallucinated, is the former East Berlin; the time, just before the fall of the Wall.
Christa Wolf's brilliant short novel -- a bestseller in her native Germany -- delivers a clear-eyed diagnosis of a hopelessly damaged state. It is a supreme work of political and philosophical insight by one of Europe’s greatest living writers.