In 1960, the Soviet newspaper Izvestia extended an invitation "to writers of the world" to "describe as exactly as possible one day of that year, specifically the 27th of September." The request was the revival of a similar idea by Maxim Gorky in 1935. Christa Wolf, a prominent German (formerly East German) writer and critic, doesn't explain what Gorky or the editors of Izvestia had in mind issuing the invitation, but the project appealed to her. She continued with this exercise for 43 years, "and cannot stop doing it."
The result is this huge volume, a combination of unmitigated trivia (what she ate for various meals, domestic details, chronicles of shopping expeditions, the weather, minutiae of personal and family health reports, social engagements, and more), social history, and a portrait of life for an elite intellectual and her family in one of the most repressive communist states—East Germany, which Wolf continues to refer to by its old name, the German Democratic Republic. East Germany had the highest ratio of political informers among all such states. Wolf provides revealing snapshots of life in this society, for example, that as of 1988, "30 percent to 40 percent of the patients who seek out their family physicians indicate emotional causes for their illness."
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