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City of Angels or The Overcoat of Dr. Freud Hardcover – February 5, 2013


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City of Angels or The Overcoat of Dr. Freud + They Divided the Sky: A Novel by Christa Wolf (Literary Translation)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374269351
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374269357
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,112,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Defying superlatives and superbly translated, Wolf’s extraordinary, autobiographical novel describes a year in Los Angeles where the narrator/novelist is a visiting scholar at a prestigious research center. Her project: to learn the identity of the author of numerous letters to her hero and mentor. The narrator is in voluntary exile, but as a citizen of what was East Germany, she has no country to return to; and with the disappearance of her country her past is vanishing too. Written in a ruminative style, mournful and rueful, though occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, Wolf’s complex tale conveys every shade of agonized reflection on forgetting and remembering. How could she have forgotten her brief cooperation with the Stasi (the East German intelligence service)? How to explain decisions that have lost their rationale, assuming they were rational in the first place? How to explain the past to those who did not live through it? In conversations with friends and other scholars, in a city once famous for its community of German exiles, she plumbs the depths of these and many other questions. In her final novel, Wolf—who before her death in 2011 received virtually every German-language literature award, including the Deutscher Bücherpreis (German Book Prize) for her lifetime achievement—outdid herself. --Michael Autrey

From Bookforum

Moral equivalences are this novel's subtext. East Germans, it seems, are special because they subscribe to the opinion "that the common good should take precedence over profit." Never in the course of the book does anyone seriously counter its heroine's views. When Wolf tells a friend in Zurich that she has no memory whatsoever of her Stasi role, he reminds her of what Freud taught us about the conscious mind's ability to repress events too painful to contemplate. As a novel, City of Angels should not, of course, be judged for its adherence to fact. But from a literary standpoint, the book displays a curious inconsistency, a disconnect between its lovingly particularized images of LA life and its more abstract political and ethical generalizations. Wolf is no visionary, no serious political thinker, and, in my view, only intermittently a strong writer. But she is certainly a survivor. - Marjorie Perloff

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By L. S. Evensen on February 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Wolf was apparently invited to attend a workshop in LA just when the GDR was dissolved. She has left us her impressions of Los Angeles, the US and the 'culture' we have now; the loss of faith she and her friends experienced post-GDR, and the way Westerners and the US reacted to the post-Wall and post-USSR era, as though the reunification were an unmitigated triumph, forgetting about the sense of loss and diminution this evoked in the GDR. This isn't a novel in the sense of inventiveness or dramatic arc, but a series of stories within stories about Wolf and some other emigres (Germans who came to LA in the '30s and '40s), other Europeans in LA. The book shows how people cope psychologically with the loss of their homeland, and incidentally, the loss of belief in a Marxist ideal or notion, not just when the GDR fell, but during the years Stalin destroyed those ideals.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Howard Vidaver on September 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
With a too casual scan the book can be easily dismissed as a random sorting of journal entries. An aging writer enjoying a change of pace and place has been writing a bit to justify an honor as a visiting artist.

Looking more closely, this narrative is artfully shaped, a true novel, which describes the late in life reckoning of the narrator with her past. Delightfully she is not captured by the past; this is not another rumination on Germany or Communism. It is primarily about encounters with friends and their adventures together. The past is faced and filtered and searched out through the quests and learning of the present. So many descriptions are bright, vivid and playful. The reader comes to care about a remarkable character who bears such a close resemblance to the author.

'City of Angels', start the book, stay with it. It's a quiet classic.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nanckauf on July 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I plowed my way through this book, hoping to glean something new about Christa Wolf. Surprising for me was what a poor writer she turns out to be here.

There's little focus. She wanders between irrelevant accounts of her LA stay and her attempt to probe feelings about her own DDR past and her attitudes on Reunification. We're pulled through her tribulations as she deals with accusations that she corroborated with the Stasi.

The saving feature is her telling of the friendship she manages to have with Peter Gutman, a German-Jewish emigre who's also part of the program in LA that hosts Christa Wolf. He's a good listener and doesn't judge her.

Sadly, I had to conclude that this woman, who drinks a fair bit and relies on sleeping pills, lacked the energy to tell us anything worthwhile.

The translation is often awkward. The literal German shows through all too frequently.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Laura S. Levitt on April 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For readers of Wolf, it is simply a must read. Painful and startling. A good way to say good bye.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After the first 100 pages of monotony, this book finally starts to move. A good editor and translator could have improved it immeasurably.
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