cover image What Remains and Other Stories

What Remains and Other Stories

Christa Wolf. Farrar Straus Giroux, $25 (295pp) ISBN 978-0-374-28888-4

Eminent German writer Wolf displays her versatility and sharp talent for social and political commentary in these eight short fictions. Echoes of Germany's Nazi past erupt unpredictably in the Kafkaesque world of the title story, the interior monologue of an East German writer playing a cat-and-mouse game with the secret police. The parable ``A Little Outing to H.'' describes Hero Town, where ordinary residents wear orange badges inscribed with the letter P (for Person), while townsfolk who wear no badges are Heroes, a superior breed. The witty fantasy ``Self-Experiment'' explores the division of emotional labor between the sexes as a female research scientist takes a drug that changes her into a man. ``The New Life and Opinions of a Tomcat,'' inspired by the E.T.A. Hoffmann tale, is both a satire on academic psychology and a dissertation on human follies. In ``Unter den Linden,'' a jolting meditation on a life unlived, a stroller converses with her ``dream censor,'' with an imaginary Golden Fish and with specters of old friends. The assured, nimble translation helps readers through the elaborate, digressive style of these complex tales. (Mar.)