Readings — From the March 2013 issue

So Who Could I Tell the Story To

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By Christa Wolf, from City of Angels: Or, the Overcoat of Dr. Freud, published last month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Wolf, who spent most of her life in East Germany, was the author of many works of fiction and non-fiction, including Cassandra and The Quest for Christa T. She died in 2011. Translated from the German by Damion Searls.

 — the story that now needed to be told, even though it wasn’t a story at all? The principle of chance would have to decide for me: Who would sit next to me in the lounge for afternoon tea? It was Francesco. Alone. Not bad, as random choices go. I put the faxed newspaper article on the table in front of him, the one where my name appeared in the headline in the context of two letters of the alphabet that for months now had meant in the German media the highest degree of guilt, and I started talking, I talked the whole afternoon through, no one interrupted us, it got late, the sun set, unnoticed by us, and then I finally got to the end, and Francesco said: Shit.

Francesco had sat down by himself on that quiet, rainy Sunday, behind his newspaper, planning to complain again about the news from Italy. They’ve destroyed the country, he said. Our political class has destroyed the country, and we just sat and watched. That’s how it always goes, I said, and since he looked up, paid attention, and seemed interested, I could put the faxed article on the table in front of him, and since he folded his newspaper and looked inquisitively at me, I could talk. Some people found Francesco insensitive, he was inclined to angry outbursts, but he listened the right way, and I told him about the week, nine months before, that for me existed outside of time.

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