In Christa Wolf's 1983 Kassandra, the Trojan War is retold slightly differently. In her version, Paris fails to steal Helen, but the royal family pretends that Paris succeeded, a circumstance the Greeks are happy to play along with because it gives them a pretense to attack Troy for its gold. The pre-war has started; Kassandra witnesses the slow disappearance of matriarchal structures: the queen loses influence in politics and is banned from meetings because "Krieg ist keine Frauensache mehr" (War is no longer a woman-thing). Kassandra comes to understand that her father is weak and allowed his kingdom to slip from the relative freedom of a society at the intersection of matriarchy and patriarchy into a police state.
We are in the pre-war of the Eurocup 2008. Is it a patriarchal police state? Not at all, but countless suits-and-ties do crowd the mega sports broadcasts and remind us at least visually that this isn't Frauensache. I am on my way to Poland, currently on a layover in North London, and I've already read my fair share of headlines on upcoming international "battles" and the inevitable proclamations by every guy in a Camdentown bar that "Spain will win this year!" FYI, Before every major tournament people always say Spain will win and they don't.
Why am I off to Poland? One of Saturday night's two matches is Poland versus Germany and I don't want to miss the public viewings and the crowds for that one. I love being a neutral observer while fans watch great matches. More poignantly for this blog, I'll watch the game from the town of Gorzow Wielkopolski. That's the birthplace of Christa Wolf, my favorite author from communist East Germany. When she was born it was a bilingual town, known as Landsberg by German speakers. It will be great to visit her normally monotonous birthplace on such a celebratory night. As for the Eurocup representing a patriarchal war, the good news is that tournaments between international teams (nations as opposed to clubs) draw the most mixed gender crowds of any type of soccer audience.
On that note, Wolf's Kassandra isn't all humdrum pessimism, she does put forward a matriarchal/patriarchal compromise in Kassandra's genuine relationship with Aineias. He is her "elixir of life." Two individuals predestined for an intimate, reciprocal relationship of equals. Consequently, their love is not a relationship of domination. Read the novel to learn how they do.
Works Mentioned (chronological)
- Merseburger Zaubersprüche
- Armer Heinrich by Hartmann
- Das Nibelungenlied
- Parzival by Wolfram
- Meier Helmbrecht by Wernher
- Sendbrief by M. Luther
- Fräulein Sternheim by S. La Roche
- Die Räuber by F. Schiller
- Egmont by J. W. Goethe
- Wilhelm Meister by J. W. Goethe
- Wahlverwandtschaften by Goethe
- Peter Schlemihl by A. v. Chamisso
- Ottokar by F. Grillparzer
- Romeo und Julia by G. Keller
- Geburt der Tragödie by F. Nietzsche
- Irrungen Wirrungen by T. Fontane
- Anatol by A. Schnitzler
- Der Tod in Venedig by T. Mann
- Morgens mitternachts by G. Kaiser
- Berlin Alexanderplatz by A. Döblin
- Katz und Maus by G. Grass
- Katharina Blum by H. Böll
- Kassandra by C. Wolf
- Stille Zeile Sechs by M. Maron