Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Medea Paperback – March 17, 1998
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
About the Author
Christa Wolf was a famed writer and literary critic of the former East Germany. She studied at the University of Jena and the University of Leipzig and worked as an editor until the 1963 publication of her first novel, Divided Heaven, which marked the beginning of her career as a writer. Her works, which reflect the ideological and political turmoil of living in a Nazi- and later communist-controlled Germany, include The Quest for Christa T., Medea, Patterns of Childhood, No Place on Earth, and the contentious novella What Remains. Despite a career fraught with controversy, she was the recipient of many prizes both before and after the war, including the Heinrich Mann Prize, Georg Büchner Prize, Elisabeth Langgässer Prize, and the first Deutscher Bücherpreis (German Book Prize). She died in 2011.
Top customer reviews
The story focuses on Jason and Medea's life in exile at Corinth, but it clearly shares an atmosphere similar to the oppression and turmoil of post WWII eastern Europe - people ruled by fear, suspicion, and a sense of helplessness. Great Art!
The first particularity of the novel is purely stylistic. She tells the story from various points of view and the contradictions between the versions are interesting. This is deeply post-modern and it reveals the political situation in Corinth, the plotting, the abuse of power, the conflict between a past of human sacrifice still remembered and a present of a political state of law, and Corinth still has a long way to go and is attracted if not fascinated by a regression. Change is hard. Progress is accidental. It is good to be reminded that this society was a slave society far from the culture we have derived from it.
The second originality of this novel is the existence of two crimes, two human sacrifices performed to protect the power of the two kings of Colchis and Corinth. In the first case a tradition is revived to bring the king's son on the throne in the place of his father after two seven year terms. But then the tradition leads to the ritual and traditional sacrifice of the son due to a manipulation of some old women by the king himself.
In the case of Corinth the king Creon had his elder daughter sacrificed to protect his own future. In both cases there had been some maneuvers by Medea on one side and by the Queen, Creon's wife, on the other side, to get the king out and replace him with the son of the king, Medea's brother, or by Creon's elder daughter. The reviving of the sacrificial tradition is the answer of the two kings to that danger.
Buried secrets of facts that blocked a rather democratic change in the name of tradition: both the attempts and the final turn of events are in the name of that tradition. We must keep in mind that in both cases the "democratic" society must have concerned some 10 to 20% of the population, maybe less. The others were slaves or free but deprived of political rights. What's more in both cases the ruling group was limited to a few people and was severely closed and dominated by even less people, no more than two or three.
The whole myth then becomes a sacrificial purification by burning out the canker of the disease, because this society is sick due to its crimes. The author adds an earthquake that causes a plague due to negligence and the refusal to take care of the dead bodies under the crumbled rubbles. She also adds a lunar eclipse. The first event is dramatic and explains the necessity for the king to defend himself against criticism. The second event amplifies the drama by making people want a human sacrifice to pacify the gods. One refugee in the temple of Artemis is thus sacrificed by a mob. Only one because Medea intervenes. And that is her mistake. She will pay dearly the consequences of that intervention of hers.
You add to that the presence of Colchians and Medea. They are hated and accused of witchcraft. They are the perfect scapegoats and this will run right to the end. Medea is accused of the murder of her brother and witchcraft. She is banished without her children. That makes Creon's younger daughter, who is promised to Jason in marriage, crazy because she was against the staying of the children because she considered them as dangerous and meaning she was seen as unable to produce a descendant with Jason. Her epilepsy could very well justify her vision. Crazy she commits suicide, immediately covered up as an assassination by Medea with magic.
Finally a mob manipulated by the first astrologer and adviser of Creon will stone the two children to death. Jason is left alone behind for an unspecified fate and Medea escapes into exile. As we all know the Golden Fleece is a symbol of power and success. Obviously. The regression is total since the crimes are no longer politically minded but pure superstitions. We have regressed to a magical vision of life and power. We have recreated Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini, and a few others. Christa Wolf is speaking of the fate of Germany since 1870.
Finally the novel centers on the difference between Colchians and Corinthians without specifying what it is. It is slightly superficial when we know that the Colchians are Caucasians of Turkic tradition and agglutinative language whereas the Corinthians are of Greek Indo-European tradition. This difference is never mentioned. That's probably a shortcoming in the novel that presents things in a slightly limited way. We must understand the Indo-European Greeks are the newcomers and invaders and their ideology, culture and social organization is seen by the Greeks themselves as superior to that of the Turkic Georgians or Colchians. We must keep in mind the indo-Europeans invaded and colonized Hatti Anatolia of Turkic tradition to establish the Hittite empire mentioned in the novel. Hence the Golden Fleece has quite a different and vaster if not cosmic dimension. This division still exists.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU