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Medea The political human being as a narcissistic monster who projects its crimes on the victim What a scary, scary tale And how bizarre that I thought it was milder than Euripides and Seneca the first time I read it, a long time ago It is brutally wild After her experience of the breakdown of East Germany, Christa Wolf wrote this novel retelling of the ancient myth of Medea in the early 1990s, after some years of depression and silence due to the shock of the loss of her country and the followin The political human being as a narcissistic monster who projects its crimes on the victim What a scary, scary tale And how bizarre that I thought it was milder than Euripides and Seneca the first time I read it, a long time ago It is brutally wild After her experience of the breakdown of East Germany, Christa Wolf wrote this novel retelling of the ancient myth of Medea in the early 1990s, after some years of depression and silence due to the shock of the loss of her country and the following witch hunt that hit her unexpectedly from an increasingly arrogant West German journalism and literary criticism.Medea seems to be her catharsis, her way of writing herself out of the pain of not having a place to call home any The old place Kolchis in the novel had crumbled and died in the brutal showdown of an all powerful male ego Her new home, Korinth, needs her to be a scapegoat to deflect from inherent problems in their own political power structures The wild woman, refusing to bow to ambitious and vain men, is hunted down and put on trial for not being part of the danse macabre of Realpolitik.What is truth Truth is what you can make people believe.The honest living and breathing people, the outsiders and foreigners, learn the hardest possible way that there is no lie too blunt to be believed if it benefits the believer to make it an infallible truth.Who killed Medea s children Does it matter as long as history is written by a homo politicus Medea, trying to live a real, seeing life, must accept her homelessness in a world of childishly egomaniac leaders supported by ruthlessly opportunistic and inhumanely indifferent advisers Gro e schreckliche Kinder, Medea Das nimmt zu, glaub mir Das greift um sich What a brilliantly twisted interpretation of the old patriarchal myth Christa Wolf offers here Her vision is crystal clear, disillusioned, honest and she will burn as a witch for her insolence pointing out the weakness of men as a woman and a refugee.This is Medea in her true colours Scarier than the ancient version because she is the victim of a fake news factory, not the killer holding a knife or a machine gun She is the truth that is denounced as fake news by a scared yet powerful political animal.Chapeau, Wolf Wild woman you are Medea is among the most notorious women in Greek tragedy a woman who sacrifices her own children to her jealous rage In this novel, Wolf explodes the myth, offering modern readers a portrayal of a fiercely independent woman ensnared in a political battle 3.7 5I was looking forward to this, reading about the one who had snakes for hair, until I realised the mistake I d made Still, at least that eliminated any chance of me turning to stone, and Wolf s story, although not my first choice Greek mythology temptress, was pretty good.I found this better than her other historical novel Cassandra , and not knowing the story of Medea beforehand I really didn t made itappealing to me than say to those who know Greek mythology like the back of the 3.7 5I was looking forward to this, reading about the one who had snakes for hair, until I realised the mistake I d made Still, at least that eliminated any chance of me turning to stone, and Wolf s story, although not my first choice Greek mythology temptress, was pretty good.I found this better than her other historical novel Cassandra , and not knowing the story of Medea beforehand I really didn t made itappealing to me than say to those who know Greek mythology like the back of their hands Here, Wolf reveals the sorceress and murderer of her children as a victim of male arrogance and sexual insecurity, with her homeland a darker counterpart to the kingdom of Corinth, a self aggrandizing state that brutally distorts truth to justify its imperialistic crimes.There is a chorus of voices here from the eponymous heroine and her weak willed adventurer husband Jason, to the other important players in the unfolding drama of Corinth s power struggle As much as I did like this, it s nothing compared to her masterpiece Patterns of Childhood Wolf s strength undoubtedly lies with writing about her homeland, during and after the war She was there, she lived it About a year ago I read and loved David Vann s take on the Medea myth, Bright Air Black It follows the original story very closely and offers few surprises in terms of plot for those already familiar with the tale, but it endeavors and succeeds in giving Medea a narrative voice, allowing her to tell her own story Christa Wolf s Medea, published 20 years earlier than Bright Air Black, is another feminist victory for this narrative, but interestingly, Wolf s and Vann s interpretations of Medea s About a year ago I read and loved David Vann s take on the Medea myth, Bright Air Black It follows the original story very closely and offers few surprises in terms of plot for those already familiar with the tale, but it endeavors and succeeds in giving Medea a narrative voice, allowing her to tell her own story Christa Wolf s Medea, published 20 years earlier than Bright Air Black, is another feminist victory for this narrative, but interestingly, Wolf s and Vann s interpretations of Medea s character couldn t bedifferent I love them both.Vann s is very straightforward Though he at times renders her character sympathetic in a way that s deeply unsettling, his Medea is every bit as violent and vindictive as you d expect Wolf approaches the narrative from a different vantage point altogether What if Corinth stood something to gain from Medea being painted as a monster This is the question Wolf explores in this politically driven retelling, narrated in a series of monologues by Medea, Jason, Glauce, and other individuals in the royal court at Corinth.The first thing that struck me as soon as I finished Medea s first chapter and started reading Jason s was how startlingly different their narrative voices were, which I think is such an incredible and impressive feat to accomplish in a book like this, which hinges on different characters perspectives telling the same story The other thing that struck me was the mastery and lyricism of Wolf s prose translated beautifully from the German by John Cullen It s possible they sense my unbelief, my lack of faith in anything It s possible they can t bear that When I ran over the field where the frenzied women had strewn your dismembered limbs, when I ran over that field, wailing in the deepening darkness, and gathered you up, poor, broken brother, piece by piece, bone by bone, that s when I stopped believing How could we be meant to come back to this earth in a new form Why should a dead man s limbs, scattered over a field, make that field fertile Why should the gods, who demand from us continual proofs of gratitude and submission, let us die in order to send us back to earth again Your death opened my eyes wide, Apsyrtus For the first time I found solace in the fact that I don t have to live forever And then I was able to let go of that belief born out of fear to beexact, it repelled me I mean, that s stunning.What I love so much about mythological retellings the reason I read the same stories over and over again written by different authors, is that each retelling offers something new, each author interacts with the original story in a different way That s clear in the stark contrast between Medea and Bright Air Black, how one can render Medea as a victim and the other as a villain, while both staying, in their own way, true to the original myth Wolf s retelling is also concerned with the greater political context of Corinth at the time of Medea and Jason s arrival it reflects on how a community is willing to turn a blind eye to its leaders faults, which is relevant not only in our current political climate, but also to Wolf s own life, when you consider that she grew up in the GDR This is what I mean when I talk about the universality of myth, and how it belongs to everyone, and how individuals from different cultures and different backgrounds can all draw different conclusions from the same story, and why Euripides and Seneca s versions of Medea remain so important thousands of years after they were written Wolf s Medea, beautifully written, thoughtful, and resonant, is the perfect reminder of this story s relevance At the end she said, They ve made what they need out of each of us Out of you, the Hero, and out of me, the Wicked Witch They ve driven us apart like that Medea to Jason.Before I had even read Euripides s retelling of Medea, Medea had already been representative to me of a destructive force propelled by vengeful rage And what Christa Wolf does with this modern retelling of an ancient tale, is present Medea in a different form compared to the versions given prior.After helping Jason to retr At the end she said, They ve made what they need out of each of us Out of you, the Hero, and out of me, the Wicked Witch They ve driven us apart like that Medea to Jason.Before I had even read Euripides s retelling of Medea, Medea had already been representative to me of a destructive force propelled by vengeful rage And what Christa Wolf does with this modern retelling of an ancient tale, is present Medea in a different form compared to the versions given prior.After helping Jason to retrieve the Golden Fleece and having fled her homeland Colchis, the couple settle in Corinth where having left one power struggle, Medea finds herself at the center of another This Medea is wiser,sensible and less amorously passionate than her predecessors As an outsider she is able to observe the faults of the Corinthians, she does not become subservient to the land she has been exiled to as custom demands of women, and once she discovers the heinous secret that is the source of Corinth s prosperity and magnificence, the powerful of Corinth plot and succeed in executing her fall.If I was to be improper and summarize this brilliant book, I would say that it concerns the workings of power, the abuses of power and the lengths people in power work to maintain their power Before she had fled, Medea and the other Colchian women were working to restore tradition that would shift power from King Ae tes, her father, who is corrupt to her sister Chalciope but the king is resolute in maintaining and clinging to power In Corinth, King Creon and his circle worked to ensure that he remains in power An already patriarchal society, works to maintain its power while subjecting evenforce to its subjects and using and nitpicking certain old traditions to revive.The theme of the scapegoat is everywhere in the tale Primarily used by the ones in power to hold onto power longer, as sacrificial offerings or as distractions and the objects of responsibility for disasters Medea quickly becomes a convenient scapegoat when tragedies occur, and finally we see that those in power not only have the absolute say in present and future matters, but in also how history is remembered.I ll finish this review that s become longer than I intended with the apt words Margaret Atwood gives in the introduction to this marvellous book Medea is no two dimensional allegory Like a tunnel full of mirrors, it both reflects and echoes The questions it asks the reader, through many voices and in many different ways, is what would you be willing to believe, to accept, to conceal, to do, to save your own skin, or simply to stay close to power Who would you be willing to sacrifice There is a part of me which is Medea There is a part of me which is Kassandra Each of these parts hurts terribly They force me to walk towards the abyss, step by step They force me to raise my voice when it would be best for me to stay quiet.Oooh, they are not always strong But they are there.There have been better reviews of the book that I will ever be able to write So just go and read It s frighteningly easy to turn the pages The text flows and you know where it goes, oh you kno There is a part of me which is Medea There is a part of me which is Kassandra Each of these parts hurts terribly They force me to walk towards the abyss, step by step They force me to raise my voice when it would be best for me to stay quiet.Oooh, they are not always strong But they are there.There have been better reviews of the book that I will ever be able to write So just go and read It s frighteningly easy to turn the pages The text flows and you know where it goes, oh you know, and still you have to read on.You hear Medea on the other side of the paper wall between the millennia And you walk with her and with the others, blessed and cursed into this existence And for a moment you are glad that you live today And then the illusion goes away and you know, that things are not better Different, perhaps, but human nature has not changed, not yet and not in our lifetime.And because it s Margaret Atwood who is quoted on the backside of my edition, praising Christa Wolf for the book a praisethan earned everything I missed it Atwood s Handmaid s Tale is here A perfect and sharp diamond knife Do we let ourselves go back to the ancients, or do they catch up with us No matter A great deal of fan fiction is written to the tune of reacting to earlier material bloated with populist credibility with What the fuck is this shit Sometimes it ll be the politer shade of Shakespeare smoothing out and filling in the gaps of his stolen histories with nary a trace of his authorial human self Other times an I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem will rise out of the words of a Maryse Cond and run Do we let ourselves go back to the ancients, or do they catch up with us No matter A great deal of fan fiction is written to the tune of reacting to earlier material bloated with populist credibility with What the fuck is this shit Sometimes it ll be the politer shade of Shakespeare smoothing out and filling in the gaps of his stolen histories with nary a trace of his authorial human self Other times an I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem will rise out of the words of a Maryse Cond and run roughshod over evidence and genre and reality in equal measure Milton preferred shitting on everything and trusting that his prose would save him, which it and his pasty skin and cisnormative dick did in the long run, canonically speaking, but that doesn t make his Paradise Lost anyfundamentally original The most emphatic, however, would have to be Wolf not Woolf, although I adore her works as well and her kind Ancient Greeks were chosen by Europeans as heralded ancestors forreasons than the vainglorious and nonsensical theory that is race , and to an Anglocentric reader such as I, this is easily explained by when, at a particular point in history, Englanders could sing The Queen is dead Long live the King Do you know what they re looking for, Medea she asked me They re looking for a woman who ll tell them that they re not guilty of anything that the gods, whom they worship by chance, compel them in their undertakings That the track of blood they leave behind is proper to their male nature as the gods have determined it There are a lot of people who believe the world is only five hundred years old They wave away the rampant normalization of the white male as the norm as a biological destiny, throw tantrums when you point out how said biology breaks down the white and the male and then some, then nod solemnly to themselves when you decide you re better off talking to people whose nightmares are of oppression and fear rather than immigrants and increased taxes Very few of that sort would pick up a book like this, but you can rest assured they were too busy being threatened by what it had to say to do the customary thing of clinging tightly to objectivity in the fact of castration and the other breeds of damage the maenads can wreak Look, the woman who tore men to pieces were just a facet of the times, and the way in which the narrative uncritically portrays this is just the author embodying the mindset of the character as all authors rightfully should If you re threatened by this past fiction mirroring certain aspects of your modern day reality sucks for you For the first time I found solace in the fact that I don t have to live forever It s not as triumphant as that, of course The point of tragedies isn t to solve them The only way that happens is when the tragedy no longer strikes a common chord, and what with the word common becoming ever increasinglycomplicated by the fact that common once meant top dog , tragedy is accordingly becoming increasinglycomplicated by a lack of both the refrigerators and the bodies of Others with which to fill them Medea has her share, but in Wolf s take, the boy may have been disemboweled in an incestuous way, but not in the way you think you know The daughter may have disappeared, but not for the power of any who end the narrative in exile The wife may have been driven to her doom, but there is a vast different between accursed and escape The children are gone, long live the children, but there isthan one species in the animal kingdom wherein the father eats their young.I didn t like this nearly as much as The Quest for Christa T., but when one is comparing absolute favorites tomortal works, one has to cut a bit of slack It was mainly due to the fact that, when it comes to historical fictioning, however mythological, fellow favorite Memoirs of Hadrian is the yardstick Multiple points of view made for a multifarious trip, but if a tragedy doesn t wrench the heart out of me, it means that the delivery showed its narratological seams too often to make for a truly effective downfall The value of this, ultimately, lies in my observations of how others react to it, for race as well as gender is a concern, codified as they are now the traits of woolly hair and brown skin I am grateful for Wolf for making this so explicit that even translation cannot be hid behind as last resort, for it will make dealing with the audience of a future miniseries adaptation that much easier No, I say You are not being faithful to the author s intent by following the customary route of blonde, blue, and white, white, white You just hate Incidentally, she then asked me, I don t know why, whether human sacrifice existed among us in the lands of the setting sun Of course not, I said indignantly, she tilted her head to one side and looked at me searchingly No she said Not even when the going is toughest I still answered no, and she said thoughtfully, Well Maybe that s really true. Quality Rating Three StarsEnjoyment Rating Three StarsI ve wanted to read Medea ever since I discovered Cassandra another ancient Greek myth retelling by Christa Wolf I can t tell you how much I fell in love with that book and so, to be fair, Medea was always going to have a hard time competing In the end, it didn t even touch Cassandra in terms of excellence, but I think there were several circumstantial things that contributed to that aside from the story.The first of which is that I m p Quality Rating Three StarsEnjoyment Rating Three StarsI ve wanted to read Medea ever since I discovered Cassandra another ancient Greek myth retelling by Christa Wolf I can t tell you how much I fell in love with that book and so, to be fair, Medea was always going to have a hard time competing In the end, it didn t even touch Cassandra in terms of excellence, but I think there were several circumstantial things that contributed to that aside from the story.The first of which is that I m pretty sure Medea must have had a different translator to Cassandra Christa Wolf was a German writer and scholar, and so her works are translated into English Medea felt so much harder to read for me it was dense, its word choice wasn t as vivid and succinct, and just generally hard to read The book is less than 200 pages and it took me the better part of a month to get through It might be that I m wrong and it s just an example of Wolf s earlier work or something like that, but considering it is a translated work I d imagine that s what I struggled with.Aside from that, Wolf s style did still shine through at times I love how she tells stories her books are less of a narrative story andfictionalised studies The non linear structure focuses on a human flaw in each character and slowly reveals how it combines with the other flaws of the characters into a spiral of tragedy Her novels very much follow the style of the ancient stage tragedies, even though they aren t direct retellings of any plays from antiquity It s not for everyone, but if you re fascinated by people like me it s some of the best stuff out there.I m a self proclaimed classics nerd, but I m not as familiar with the tale of Jason and Medea as I am with a lot of Greek myths And even though retellings shouldn t use the original versions as a crutch, not knowing the story well to start with did take away from my experience reading this novel I felt like a lot of the politics and cultural and personal relationships were revealed once they became apparent to the story, but actually being aware of them to start with might have helped in understanding what was actually happening I only say this because I know in Cassandra there were a lot of critiques and comments made in the subtext that I only noticed because I knew a lot about the Trojan War to begin with Perhaps it s something to look at if I ever reread this book, but it didn t strike me as the most accessible instance of a myth retelling.Medea definitely wasn t as vivid as Cassandra but was still visually alluring and provocative at times It has a lot to say about the ancient world and woman s place in it, as expected I feel like Christa Wolf should berecognised for her work as it really is an interesting look at the classical world and its stories Maybe go for Cassandra over this one, though I really don t feel like I have the words to do this justice, but it s undoubtedly one of the best books I ever read It s like a huge portrayal of the dynamics of human nature and society, the clash of different cultures, intrigues, oppression and power, and in the middle of it this headstrong, independent woman with her modern views and the way she questions everything and by that, threatens to bring the entire corrupt system down, which is the cause of her downfall in the end She s the str I really don t feel like I have the words to do this justice, but it s undoubtedly one of the best books I ever read It s like a huge portrayal of the dynamics of human nature and society, the clash of different cultures, intrigues, oppression and power, and in the middle of it this headstrong, independent woman with her modern views and the way she questions everything and by that, threatens to bring the entire corrupt system down, which is the cause of her downfall in the end She s the stranger, the one who doesn t fit in, the one who doesn t bow, the ideal scapegoat for people to blame for problems actually caused by the higher authorities It goes without saying that all of this is especially fascinating contrasted with the original myth of Medea, and how it s completely turned on its head here.I can t getinto detail because I would have to write an entire book myself The story is told through multiple perspectives, and every character even the ones with no POVs, hell if you think about it, even the anonymous masses is so intricate and psychologically complex that I feel I could read this book 10times and still discover new thoughts, new implications, new perspectives I definitely want to readof Christa Wolf s books now It s odd how, at times, my readings appear to converge or echo each other quite unconsciously From two entirely different directions I determined to reread my collection of Emma Goldman s writings and Christa Wolf s Medea And yet I found striking parallels between Goldman and Medea Both women flee their homelands Tsarist Russia and Colchis, respectively when young, disillusioned with their countries Both travel to an idealized land that promises a better life America, ancient Greece And It s odd how, at times, my readings appear to converge or echo each other quite unconsciously From two entirely different directions I determined to reread my collection of Emma Goldman s writings and Christa Wolf s Medea And yet I found striking parallels between Goldman and Medea Both women flee their homelands Tsarist Russia and Colchis, respectively when young, disillusioned with their countries Both travel to an idealized land that promises a better life America, ancient Greece And both hook up with men who prove unreliable Alexander Berkman, Jason But aside from these rather superficial correspondences, the vital parallel is that both women fight to live in a world where they can freely express their individuality and beyond that for a world where everyone can have the same opportunity It can be disheartening to see how little progress we ve made in the 72 years since Goldman died Indeed, I could suggest that we re rapidly becomingandlike the societies both women fought against, making this book and Emma Goldman all therelevant.For those unfamiliar with the story of Medea and that may be a larger figure than I d like to think considering the state of modern education , let me quote from Margaret Atwood s introduction as she gives a reasonably concise outline Aeson, king of Iolcus in Thessaly, had his throne usurped by this half brother Pelias Aeson s son Jason was saved, and sent away to be educated by the centaur Cheiron Grown to manhood, he arrived at the court of Pelias to claim his birthright, but Pelias said he would surrender the throne only on condition that Jason bring back the Golden Fleece from Colchis a demand which was thought to be the equivalent of a death sentence, as Colchis, situated at the extreme end of the Black Sea, was thought to be unreachable Jason had either to refuse the quest and give up all hope of the throne, or accept it and endanger his life He chose the latter course, and summoned fifty heroes from all over Greece to his aid These were the Argonauts named after their ship who after many perils and adventures arrived at last at Colchis There Jason demanded the Golden Fleece as his by inheritance.Ae tes, King of Colchis, setimpossible conditions Jason was ready to admit defeat when he was seen by Princess Medea, daughter of Ae tes, granddaughter of Helius the sun god, priestess of the Triple Goddess of the Underworld, and a powerful sorceress Overcome by her love for Jason, she used her occult knowledge to help him surmount the various obstacles and to obtain the Fleece, in return for which Jason swore by all the gods to remain true to her forever Together with the Argonauts, the two lovers set sail by night but once the alarm was raised, King Ae tes and the Colchians followed them.Some say Jason killed Medea s younger brother Apsyrtus others, that Medea herself murdered the boy, dismembered him, and scattered the pieces in the ocean After severalescapades the two, now lawfully man and wife, were welcomed at Corinth by its King, Creon.Jason, forgetting both his debt of gratitude and his vows to all the gods, forsook his loyalty to Medea Some say he was swayed by the insinuations of Creon others, that he was overcome by a new love others, that he was impelled by ambition but in any case he decided to repudiate Medea, and marry Creon s daughter Glauce, thus becoming the heir to Corinth Medea herself was to be banished from the city.Medea, torn by conflicting emotions concocted a horrible revenge Pretending to accept Jason s decision and to wish for peace between them, she sent a bridal gift to Glauce a beautiful but poisonous dress, which, when the rays of the sun hit it, burst into flame, whereupon Glauce in agony threw herself into a well Some say that the people of Corinth then stoned Medea s children to death others, that she herself killed them, either to save them from a worse fate or to pay Jason back for his treachery She then disappeared from Corinth, some say in a chariot drawn by dragons Jason abandoned by the gods whom he had foresworn, became a wandering vagabond and was at last crushed by the prow of his own rotting ship pp ix xi As Atwood alludes and as one can read in Robert Graves The Greek Myths, there are many variations to the story It was ancient when Homer composed The Iliad and its most ancient layers hearken back to a pre Greek era when the Goddess in her many guises was the supreme deity and womenthan the chattel of their male relations It s this most archaic stratum that Wolf mines to present her version of the myth While it can be read as a strictly feminist tract, it shouldn t be It s issues are far broader than a discussion of women s place in society It s a critique of modern, capitalist and, yes, male dominated culture, and on a personal and theimportant level it s an argument for the importance of retaining one s integrity as a person in the face of enormous pressure to conform and submit And that s why I ve revised my rating to four stars it spoke to mepowerfully now than it did 15 years ago when I was unfortunately a less discerning reader.Wolf picks up the tale toward the end of Medea s exile in Corinth She and Jason are estranged, and she has long since lost any illusions she may have had about the nature of her erstwhile lover s homeland It is as corrupt and oppressive as Colchis was becoming under her father s faltering grip The story is told in six voices Medea s, of course but also Jason s Glauce s Agameda s, a Colchian exile Akamas , Creon s first astronomer and Leukon s, the city s second astronomer.AGAMEDA Agameda, one of the Colchian exiles who have followed Medea and a former pupil, is an angry young woman Too weak to live up to the standards Medea sets for herself and others, Agameda embraces Corinth and accepts her role as a woman in it, though she ruthlessly manipulates the men around her to ruin Medea Everything revolves around herself, and there s no thought for others As she notes We spoke not a syllable about what this desired result might be We made a game of our plans, which grewandrefined, and played it in an unreal atmosphere, as though no one could be affected by our playing If one wishes to think freely and effectively at the same time, this is a very useful method It s a kind of thinking, over, that we in Colchis haven t yet recognized, and supposedly given only to men but I know I have a talent for it Only I practice it in secret p 64 And she combines a colossal ego p 59 with low self esteem p 58.If Agameda symbolizes anything in this myth, it s the person who submits to oppression, then manipulates the system to feather her own nest, deluding herself that she has power over her destiny and others.JASON If Agameda is the sly Quisling who betrays her own interests for short term fantasies of power, Jason is one who submits and then does his best to remain unnoticed He s the gullible idiot who believes the lies and self delusions He doesn t even pretend to manipulate events but whines incessantly about his powerlessness Both of his chapters begin with a variation of chapter nine s plaint I didn t want any of this to happen but what could I have done p 165 GLAUCE Glauce is burdened with a hideous secret view spoiler her sister s murder by her father hide spoiler , and it s made her a physical and mental wreck She suffers from seizures and headaches and nameless fears Under Medea s tutelage and care, she begins to overcome her frailties and become an individual But when Creon exiles Medea from the palace, Glauce again is surrounded by the sycophants who only see her as a dynastic asset What man, even if he s her father, would want to touch a girl s pallid unclean skin, her thin lank hair, her awkward limbs, even if she s his daughter, isn t it so, yes, the first thing I knew for certain was that I m ugly the woman whose name I don t want to say any can laugh at me as much as she wants, she can teach me tricks, how I should carry myself, how I should wash and wear my hair, naturally I was taken in by all that, and I would almost have believed her, would almost have felt like any other girl that s my weakness, believing those who flatter me, though it wasn t actually flattery, it was something else, something cleverer, it went deeper, it touched the most secret spot inside me, the deepest pain, which up until then I was able to display only to the god and will be able to display only to the god again from now on, forever and ever, that s my sentence, I dare not think about it, it makes me sick, she taught me that, it makes me sick when I keep recalling to my mind those images of myself as an unlucky person, as a poor soul, but why, she said, laughing as only she can laugh why, she said, do you want to suffocate your whole life under all this black cloth, she took off the black clothing I ve worn as long as I can think She sewed the clothes for me I ran through the halls with downcast eyes, one of the young cooks didn t recognize me and he whistled at me after I passed, unheard of, unheard of and wonderful, oh how wonderful, but her black magic was just that, she let me feel something that wasn t real, isn t real, all of a sudden my arms and legs became graceful, or anyway that s how it felt, but that was all deception, ridicule and proof of all this is that now, when they ve taken me away from her corrupting influence and given me back the dark colored clothes I belong in, that now my arms and my legs, too, have lost their deceitful gracefulness again and no apprentice cook, no matter how stupid, is even going to think about whistling at me S he was the one who tried to persuade me that I was free to think, I hate my father, and nothing would happen to him because of that thought, there was no need to feel guilty about it That s how her wicked influence on me began, today it seems incredible to me, outrageous, that I surrendered myself to it, that I reveled in my surrender to it, that was the wickedness in me, all at once it was free to present itself as my best side, my obsession with fancy dress, the pleasure I took in trivial diversions and in those childish games she made me play with Arinna pp 106 9 Glauce s voice is particularly difficult to listen to Wolf manages to pull off making her characters both mythic symbols and real people, and nowhere better than with this 13 year old girl whose life is destroyed by her father s ambitions.AKAMAS Akamas is the villain of the piece Unlike Agameda, he actually does wield power over the lives of others And he convinces himself that everything he does the lives he destroys is all for the good of Corinth Echoing Jason, we must do quite a few things that give us little pleasure p 90 and of course, the price one might be called upon to pay for this could be very painful p 95 But Wolf uses that echo of Jason s complaint to illustrate how, ultimately, Akamas is as powerless as the Argonaut.While he admires Medea, Akamas has no qualms in abetting the schemes of Agameda and her other enemies among the Colchians or fanning the fears of the Corinthians It removes a disruptive influence from the politics of Corinth.MEDEA Medea is the ideal The only truly adult person developed in the course of the novel We are introduced to Oistros, her lover, and Arethusa, a Cretan exile, who share her beliefs and live their lives as they wish but they re secondary characters Her charisma is palpable to everyone she meets as is apparent in this excerpt where Jason describes their first meeting Then again the woman, the one who came up to us in Ae tes s vine covered court, was the opposite of the horrible corpse fruit, or maybe it heightened the impression she made on us The way she stood there, stooped over, in that red and white tiered skirt and close fitting black top they all wear, and caught the water from the spout in her cupped hands and drank The way she straightened up and notice us, shook her hands dry, and approached us frankly, taking quick, strong steps, slender, but with a well developed figure, and showing off all the virtues of her appearance to such advantage.Of course it was odd, how she greeted us with her hands raised in the sign of peace, a sign proper only to the King or his envoys how she openly gave her name, Medea, daughter of King Ae tes and High Priestess of Hecate how she desired to know our names and our destination, as though it were her right to do so, and I, taken by surprise, revealed to this woman what was meant for the King s ears only pp 32 3 Her refusal to compromise her beliefs added to the fact that she knows Creon s secret make her a dangerous person in the eyes of the ruling elite And those same qualities make the Corinthian populace fearful and angry since, as Agameda remarks, they need their belief that they live in the most perfect land under the sun p 59 LEUKON I saved Leukon for last because his voice spoke loudest to me It s not a terribly complimentary comparison but when he opened his chapter with the following, I was nodding my head in sympathy I see plainly what will happen to her I shall have to stand by and watch the whole thing That is my lot, to have to stand by and watch everything, to see through everything, and to be able to do nothing, as though I had no hands Whoever uses his hands must dip them in blood, whether he wants to or not I do not want to have blood on my hands I want to stand up here on the roof terrace of my tower, observing the milling throngs below me in the narrow streets of Corinth by day and bathing my eyes in the darkness of the heavens above me by night, while one by one the constellations emerge like familiar friends.Medea says I am a man who fears pain I should like her to fear painthan she does pp 125 6 I liked this version of Medea a great deal It may have strayed far from its deepest origins in the Neolithic and its reiterations down through the centuries but I believe that when Medea says good is anything that promote s the development of all living things p 91 , she orproperly perhaps, Wolf is saying something we need to remember in this era when we too are succumbing to nameless, baseless fears cultivated by our rulers and endured because we re too much like Glauce or Jason or Leukon to imagine that things can be any different In the same vein, I would have to recommend A.S Byatt s Ragnarok, which touches on the same theme of our incapacity to thinks things can be any different than our betters tell us, and on the theme that society stifles the individual especially the woman Or V for Vendetta, which I reread over the weekend I would also recommend John Gardner s Jason and Medeia, a poetic retelling of the myth, which ranks up there with this version as one of my favorites


About the Author: Christa Wolf

Novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, journalist, and film dramatist Christa Wolf was a citizen of East Germany and a committed socialist, and managed to keep a critical distance from the communist regime Her best known novels included Der geteilte Himmel Divided Heaven, 1963 , addressing the divisions of Germany, and Kassandra Cassandra, 1983 , which depicted the Trojan War.She won awards in East Germany and West Germany for her work, including the Thomas Mann Prize in 2010 The jury praised her life s work for critically questioning the hopes and errors of her time, and portraying them with deep moral seriousness and narrative power Christa Ihlenfeld was born March 18, 1929, in Landsberg an der Warthe, a part of Germany that is now in Poland She moved to East Germany in 1945 and joined the Socialist Unity Party in 1949 She studied German literature in Jena and Leipzig and became a publisher and editor.In 1951, she married Gerhard Wolf, an essayist They had two children Christa Wolf died in December 2011 Bloomberg News


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