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Christa Wolfs “No place. Nowhere". The relationship between Karoline von Günderrode and Carl Friedrich von Savigny

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The historical relationship between Karoline von Günderrode and Savigny

3. The relationship between Günderrode and Savigny in Kein Ort. Nowhere

4. Bibliography

1. Introduction

In her 1979 short story Kein Ort. Nowhere is the author Christa Wolf staging a fictional meeting between the two German poets Karoline von Günderrode and Heinrich von Kleist. She determines the place, time and occasion of the meeting: They meet at a tea party run by the merchant Merten in June 1804 in Winkel am Rhein, where Karoline takes her own life two years later.[1] In order to create this “desired legend”, Christa Wolf processes authentic literary material as well as biographical and historical details.[2]

On the estate of the merchant Merten, Günderrode and Kleist meet well-known personalities from the early Romantic era, including Clemens and Bettina Brentano and the lawyer Carl Friedrich von Savigny.

In this elaboration, the relationship between Karoline von Günderrode and Carl Friedrich von Savigny is to be dealt with, as it appears in the story Kein Ort. Nowhere depicts. For this purpose, text passages in which both appear together or refer to each other are listed and explained.

Barbara Becker-Cantarino describes the historical Günderrode, Kleist and the others in Kein Ort. People who do not appear anywhere, as well as the place and the type of encounter, are merely “another, strange shell” that Christa Wolf fills with her own, modern interpretation.[3] However, to make it clear that Christa Wolf based the story on true events, the interpretation of the text is preceded by a brief description of the historical relationship between Günderrode and Savigny, as was done by Christa Wolf[4] or by .Nadja Gaumer[5] is judged.

2. The historical relationship between Karoline von Günderrode and Savigny

Karoline's longing for love is declared by almost all of her recipients to be the motto of her life. Christa Wolf lists three men who played a role in Günderrode's life: Savigny, Clemens Brentano and Friedrich Creuzer.[6] Clemens Brentano admires her for his literary achievements, but is not interested in a love affair with him.[7] The fate-determined friendship with Friedrich Creuzer began in Heidelberg in August 1804. After two years of swaying, secret meetings and a "glowing correspondence", Karoline finally receives the letter of separation and then kills herself with a dagger on the banks of the Rhine in Winkel.[8] Unfortunately, it is not possible to go into more detail about Brentano and Creuzer in this context.

Günderrode met Savigny at a friend's house in the early summer of 1799. She falls in love with the later famous professor of law and Prussian minister, which is clear from a letter to a friend:

At the first sight Savigne made a deep impression on me, I tried to hide it from myself and persuaded myself that it was merely participation in the gentle pain that his whole being expresses, but soon, very soon the increasing strength of my feeling taught me that it was Passion be what I felt ...[9]

In another letter, Günderrode asks her friend to write to her if she hears something from Savigny, because that is the only thing she can get from Savigny, “the shadow of a dream”.[10]

Before Savigny embarks on a study trip in mid-August, he thinks about marrying Karoline von Günderrode; In a letter dated July 1, 1799, he inquired about the family's financial situation. Savingy does not propose to her, however, possibly disappointed by the broken family relationships of the Günderrode.[11] But even after his trip in early 1800 he still seems interested in a relationship with her when he asks in another letter whether he should “believe the rumor that she must be flirtatious or prudish or a strong male spirit, or hers blue eyes in which there is a lot of soft femininity ”.[12]

In October 1800, Clemens Brentano tried to win Savigny over for his sister Bettina, without success. However, at a specially arranged meeting, Savigny accidentally met her sister Kunigunde, called Gunda, and became engaged to her in May 1803.[13]

Thereupon and up to the wedding of Savigny and Gunda Brentano in May 1804 follows a "humorous [r], ironic [r], harmless [r] correspondence [between Savigny and Günderrode] ... in a non-binding manner", "which only hurts does that love, ”says Christa Wolf.[14] Here, as elsewhere, the author clearly takes the side of Günderrode, although it can be objected that Karoline does not avoid the "banter", the "play with fire", but rather plays along. [15]

Finally, Savigny suggests a love triangle: he loves two women, but chooses to love one and wants to be on friendly terms with the other.[16] Karoline responds to this suggestion in a letter. She is very impressed and thanks profusely that Savigny and Gunda are still thinking about the "Günderrödchen" and not sending them away. I quote from your letter:

How sad Günderrödchen had to get there, how did it have to get along in the bad world, it would go out and look, and also stop here and there with the people, but he would not like it in their houses, it would be cramped for him and be apprehensive, because I always think you will love to be at home.[17]

From the self-confident woman when Christa Wolf ran Günderrode in Kein Ort. Nowhere represents, there is little to be seen here. Finally - because she feels superfluous - Karoline wants to part with Savigny and his fiancée and tries to concentrate her “soul and mind” on her “second passion”, work.[18] After the two of them married in May 1804, she retired to her study in the monastery. Nevertheless: Sometimes there is still a crackling in the letters between Karoline and the now married man.[19] After all, she endeavors to adhere to the rules he has established regarding her "triple union".

Nadja Gaumer is of the opinion that the picture that Christa Wolf draws of Karoline von Günderrode of the "adult, self-confident woman" who appears without blame and confronts the man Savigny, cannot be maintained. Marriage is too important to her as an alternative to the pen and as recognition of both her person and her literary work. The tone of submission prevails in her letters.[20] Ute Brandes also describes Günderrode's relationship with Savigny as "unhappy".[21] She characterizes it as follows:

The dangerous game that has been going on for years with her feelings as a third party in a bond of love consists of banter and flattery on the part of the man, who is now married to Gunda Brentano, and intense affection on her part, which she can only hide under agony.[22]

Furthermore, Brandes confirms Gaumer's views when she declares that the historical Günderrode does not find a similarly determined commitment to her art as in Kein Ort. Nowhere and that in the original wording of the letters the consideration of the loving woman towards the man prevails.[23]

3. The relationship between Günderrode and Savigny in Kein Ort. Nowhere

Savigny is first mentioned in the story when Karoline remembers a dream. In this dream, Savigny wounds her neck with a gun and then heals her again with a "disgusting [], steaming [] broth".[24] Already here the "unrequited love"[25] the Günderrode indicated in an inner monologue: “That's what I can get from him: the shadow of a dream. She forbade herself to cry and forgot the dream and the reason for her grief. "[26] Her subsequent suicide is also hinted at here by mentioning the dagger she is carrying and the fact that she knows how to use it.

When Savigny and his wife actually appear at the tea party, the protagonist of the story blushes.[27] We learn that his entry gives her "a minute of joyful self-forgetfulness, a faster heartbeat, involuntary movements that she cannot control", while otherwise she "knows how to control and suppress every impulse, every surge".[28] This unwanted behavior makes it clear how strongly Günderrode reacts to the newly married man.

However, Karoline von Günderrode is aware of the power that Savigny has over her, which should be made clear by the following internal monologue: “He has come. Knows I'm waiting and trusts I can hide it. He realizes that when I love I am faithful and selfless, and he takes advantage of it, and I have to love him all the more for it. He also included that. "[29] The quote is also evidence of Günderrode's love for Savigny. Although she knows that he is taking advantage of her loyalty and selflessness, she loves him and "all the more". Günderrode adds: "It goes on and on."[30]


[1] See Christa Wolf: No place. Nowhere. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 7th edition, 2001. (In the following cited as “KON” with indication of the page number.) P. 6.

[2] Cf. Ute Brandes: The quote as evidence. Christa Wolf “No place. Nowhere". In: Dies .: Quotation and montage in the more recent GDR prose. Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang, 1984. pp. 61 - 100. (In the following cited as “Brandes” with indication of the page number.) P. 61.

[3] Cf. Barbara Becker-Cantarino: Writers of Romanticism. Epoch - work - effect. Munich: Beck Verlag, 2000. pp. 199 - 278. (In the following cited as “Becker-Cantarino” with indication of the page number.) P. 273.

[4] Cf. Christa Wolf: The shadow of a dream. Karoline von Günderrode - a design. In: Dies .: No place. Nowhere. The shadow of a dream. Karoline von Günderrode - A draft. Oh well. But life starts today. A letter about Bettine. Munich: Luchterhand, 2000. Work in 12 volumes, vol. 6, pp. 107-175. (In the following cited as "Schatten einer Traum" with indication of the page number.)

[5] Nadja Gaumer: Christa Wolf's essay “The shadow of a dream. Karoline von Günderrode - a draft ”. An investigation into Christa Wolf's reception of Karoline von Günderrode and her contemporaries, the Romantics around 1800. (Master's thesis) Marburg: 1990. (In the following cited as "Gaumer" with indication of the page number.)

[6] See shadow of a dream. P. 129.

[7] See Becker-Cantarino. P. 203.

[8] See ibid. Pp. 203 and 204.

[9] See Gaumer. P.79. The letter is addressed to Karonline von Barkhaus on July 4, 1799.

[10] Cf. ibid. P. 80. In 1979 the quote “the shadow of a dream” provided the title of the compilation of poems, prose, letters and testimonies from contemporaries of Karoline von Günderrode, edited and commented on by Christa Wolf.

[11] See ibid.

[12] See shadow of a dream. P. 130. The letter is addressed to Leonard Creuzer.

[13] See Gaumer. P. 81.

[14] See shadow of a dream. P. 130.

[15] See Gaumer. Pp. 81 and 82. Nadja Gaumer also criticizes the “questionable processing of the sources” (p. 83) and Christa Wolf's “judgmental comments”, through which she tries to explain Günderrode's behavior psychologically, but has little understanding for Savigny . (P. 84)

[16] See ibid. P. 82. Savigny transfers this behavior pattern from a French fairy tale "Daphnis and Pandrose".

[17] See shadow of a dream. P. 161. Karoline von Günderrode writes the letter to Savigny on December 25th. 1803.

[18] See ibid. P. 136.

[19] See ibid. P. 139. She describes, for example, his presence as “magical” and lets him know that he is “too dangerous for the faint of heart”.

[20] See Gaumer. P. 84 and p. 92.

[21] See Brandes. P.74.

[22] ibid.

[23] See ibid. P. 75.

[24] CON. P. 9 and 10.

[25] Shadow of a dream. P. 127.

[26] See KON. P. 10.

[27] See ibid. P. 18.

[28] Ibid. P. 20.

[29] Ibid. P. 19 and 20.

[30] Ibid. P. 20.

End of the reading sample from 18 pages