On July 18th, 1988, a lady went out cycling around her favourite roads in Ibiza, on a swelteringly hot day.
She was found unconscious by her bike and taken to the Cannes Nisto Hospital with a brain haemorrhage; she died at 8 p.m. Cremated, her ashes were placed in her mother Margarete's grave in a small cemetery in the Grunewald Forest, at the edge of the Wannsee, Berlin,
A few friends played a song from Desertshore on a cassette recorder ...
You can get a metro train to Wannsee and there is a bus that goes from outside the train station. It's the old fashioned historical omnibus which runs hourly. When you get off the bus there is a sign pointing in the direction of the cemetery. In winter the bus only runs until 17:00 and the cemetery shuts early, too. As you get to the cemetery, her grave is a couple of rows in to the left.
Thus ended a living enigma in less than romantic circumstances.
Christa Päffgen was born on October 16th, 1938, in Cologne, in Nazi-controlled Germany. At the age of two she was taken to the little town of Spreewald on the outskirts of Berlin where she lived together with her mother and grandfather, a railway man, through the end of World War II. Her father died in a concentration camp.
Fleeing from the Russian occupation in 1946, mother and daughter wound up in the ruined American Sector of Berlin where Christa worked part-time as a seamstress. She was sent to school till she was 13 years old, then took a job selling lingerie. After a year, her mother found her work as a model with a Berlin fashion house.
At 15 she was sent to the Isle of Ibiza on assignment and met a photographer who gave her [a different name to use] after a recently departed boyfriend of his.
In 1958, she fell in love with Ibiza on a visit there. In 1960, she was enrolled at Lee Strassberg's Method School in New York, joining the same class as Marilyn Monroe.
She became a supermodel, then one day Fellini signed her for a part in La Dolce Vita the instant he saw her. In 1964/5, she had a child by Alain Delon.
Among her friends and partners were Andrew Loog Oldham, Brian Jones, Jimmy Page, Andy Warhol, whom she supposedly told, ‘I want to sing,’ the Velvet Underground, Jackson Browne, Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop.
The Velvet Underground threw her out when she wanted to be their lead singer but John Cale was so taken that he produced three of her albums; Bob Dylan also dedicated his song Visions of Johanna to her.
Chelsea Girl and Camera Obscura were two albums associated with Christa.
Her work was obscure, mystical and intense, with gothic overtones and sparse instrumentation, her voice deep and soulful, almost fey. Death appeared the companion to her narcotic life and she may have understood that her time was up, as her final works resembled a requiem, remembering old friends and others littered through her past.
I feel she ran out of reasons to live.
The notion that a person cut off from youth, from the real love of her life and from the things which gave her life some piquancy, which allowed it to make sense, the notion that this person simply dies, is an appealing one.
There are two battles I’m fighting at the same time right now.
One is that the girl I love is trying to get here to see me and some days ago, it appeared that it’s now a forlorn hope. I’ll have to go there although there are no means to. What were the odds that her former best friend, having returned from another country, is also trying to get in touch with me?
Both of them are characters in Insanity.
The second struggle is having to kill off a character in the second last chapter of the final book but I can’t let her go. A tragic girl, rescued from her past, I’m thinking of killing off my main characters instead. Somehow the tragic character needs to live on and others who’ve gone as far as they can should take her place on the last train.
When the writing’s done, then the mission is completed. Parents, friends and loves having all gone and with no infrastructure, the future is too opaque to continue.
It wasn’t an altogether unfulfilling experience.
There's a nice article here.