Born 6 August 1926 in Berlin
died 30 September 2008 in Munich
15th anniversary of her death, September 30, 2023
At age sixty Christa Reinig took stock of her life and work in an interview with literature professor Marie Luise Gansberg: „But I am a lesbian writer just as much as I am a woman writer—that is a development.“ And: „The social context that I wanted to affect and that shaped me has also changed so much from decade to decade it’s as though I had shifted planets from time to time. And above all: my literary criteria changed.“ (1986)
The stations of her life are indeed similar to a planet-shift: Born during the Weimar Republik in east Berlin to the cleaning woman Wilhelmine Reinig, Reinig lived through the Nazi seizure of power and, when she was 19, the defeat of the National Socialist reign of terror. After the war she worked first as a „Trümmerfrau“ (woman who cleared rubble) and in a factory. In the GDR of the 1950’s she was able to make up her „Abitur“ (high school diploma) and study art history; she then worked as an assistent at the Märkisches Museum. After she received the Literary Prize of the City of Bremen in 1963 Reinig remained in the west and has lived in Munich since.
In her first stories from 1949-51 Christa Reinig treated a theme which she would not take up again until much later: women without men. Then, until 1975, men are at the center of her poems, stories and radio plays. Only with the women’s movement—and thanks to it—was it possible for Reinig to portray women, including lesbians. After an accident which left her seriously disabled Reinig composed the autobiographical novel Die himmlische und die irdische Geometrie (1975; The Heavenly and the Earthly Geometry). Here she discards male personae and develops a feminine narrative stance which allows her to master her material and to range over great spans of time and space. One topic, however, still remained excluded: love. This was because Reinig had not yet found a language for her lesbian experience/sensibility.
In her satirical novel Entmannung (1976; Un-manning/Emasculation) Reinig unmasks patriarchal ideology as it exists in the consciousness of women as well as men. Only after this does she thematize lesbian love, in the poem cycle Müßiggang ist aller Liebe Anfang (1979; Idleness is the Root of all Love). From the mid-1970’s to the mid-80’s, the time Reinig counts herself a part of of the women’s movement, she was at her most productive in literary terms. But the literary establishment marginalized her because of her feminist position; her texts were less often reviewed and hardly recognized with prizes.
After Reinig withdrew from the women’s movement at the end of the 80’s she published four more volumes of stories and received three literary prizes.
Trans. Joey Horsley
Author: Madeleine Marti
Literature & Sources
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