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1. The Box: Tales from the Darkroom
2. Peeling the Onion
3. Dog Years
4. The Tin Drum
5. The Tin Drum
6. Crabwalk
7. The Meeting at Telgte
8. My Century
9. The Rat
10. Constructing Authorship in the
11. The Plebians Rehearse The Uprising:
12. Too Far Afield
13. The Flounder (Helen & Kurt
14. Die Blechtrommel (German Edition)
15. Critical Essays on Gunter Grass
16. Gunter Grass's Danzig Quintet:
17. Heinrich Boll und Gunter Grass
18. Ein Weites Feld (German Edition)
19. Cat and Mouse
20. Idiolektale Figurencharakteristik

1. The Box: Tales from the Darkroom
by Gunter Grass
Hardcover: 208 Pages (2010-11-10)
list price: US$23.00 -- used & new: US$14.64
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0547245033
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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“Once upon a time there was a father who, because he had grown old, called together his sons and daughters—four, five, six, eight in number—and finally convinced them, after long hesitation, to do as he wished. Now they are sitting around a table and begin to talk . . .”

In an audacious literary experiment, Günter Grass writes in the voices of his eight children as they record memories of their childhoods, of growing up, of their father, who was always at work on a new book, always at the margins of their lives. Memories contradictory, critical, loving, accusatory—they piece together an intimate picture of this most public of men. To say nothing of Marie, Grass’s assistant, a family friend of many years, perhaps even a lover, whose snapshots taken with an old-fashioned Agfa box camera provide the author with ideas for his work. But her images offer much more. They reveal a truth beyond the ordinary detail of life, depict the future, tell what might have been, grant the wishes in visual form of those photographed. The children speculate on the nature of this magic: was the enchanted camera a source of inspiration for their father? Did it represent the power of art itself? Was it the eye of God?

Recalling J. M. Coetzee’s Summertime and Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, The Box is an inspired and daring work of fiction. In its candor, wit, and earthiness, it is Grass at his best.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (3)

3-0 out of 5 stars Life with Father
I have read five previous books by Gunter Grass.I mention this because I found myself wondering what a reader would think if this was the first Gunter Grass book they read.My guess is that it would likely be the last one as well."The Box" does not, in my opinion, have many redeeming qualities about it except as an insight to the author.Thus the question; Would you read an autobiographical book by a person you knew little or nothing about?Well, I guess I have a time or two and it was because the author had won the Nobel Prize for Literature but there was more to those books than "The Box" has to offer.

The book has an interesting format.Each chapter has a different adult child of the author talking about a different point in time of the family history.A lot of the reminiscences were focussed on photos taken by a family friend (with "the box").A fair amount of insight about Gunter Grass emerges but, although the kids are the narrators, Gunter is the author.He reveals some casual aspects of his life and character but he keeps his persona as that of a mildly eccentric, somewhat noble, well-meaning man who has some difficulty maintaining a relationship.There is a fair amount of Grass's casual sarcasm and subtle observations but the book generally seems to come up a bit short.That is, until the final chapter.I don't think I'm giving anything away here because I suspect I just missed the focus of the book.The book wasn't about Gunter, it was about a friend of the family (the one who took pictures with "the box").Somehow that made the book a bit more meaningful for me.I thought about reading through it again to get a better perspective of the book but then I realized, well, I'd read it once and that was enough.

3-0 out of 5 stars interesting but not compelling
Thinking of this as the second autobiographical treatment by a man who's written some of the century's most compelling literature, yes, this book is an interesting peek into that author's family and mind.But as a stand-alone novel, I thought the style was unnecessarily difficult and tedious for what ultimately became a rather unrewarding story.As autobiography, it adds another layer to Grass's story -- making us view him through the filter of his own bookish play, but as entertainment it falters.

I remember when I was housesitting, in my younger days, and the homeowners had 'The Tin Drum' on a shelf.I picked it up to flip through it, but I couldn't put it down. I didn't feel that here.No character is particularly likeable and the surrealist element was ... meh.I expected more from GG.

I'm sure that others will think it's brilliant and I'm just an ignoramus, but I still didn't enjoy it.I believe the author's fans will like this personal glimpse, though.

5-0 out of 5 stars Ausgezeichnet
This is the second part of Grass' autobiography. As the absence of the tsunami that characterized the response to Grass 1.0 already indicated (a former SSer does not a convincing lef wing radical make), things are less controversial here. Moreover, the approach here has shifted from first to third person accounts. Whatever one may think about the legitimacy of the literary voice of a former SSer, Herr Grass is a master of his craft. The work has rhythm, humor, and a Dickensian sense of giving every speaker their own individual voice. Meisterhaft!

... Read more

2. Peeling the Onion
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 448 Pages (2008-06-02)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$0.37
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156035340
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

In this extraordinary memoir, Nobel Prize–winning author Günter Grass remembers his early life, from his boyhood in a cramped two-room apartment in Danzig through the late 1950s, when The Tin Drum was published.

During the Second World War, Grass volunteered for the submarine corps at the age of fifteen but was rejected; two years later, in 1944, he was instead drafted into the Waffen-SS. Taken prisoner by American forces as he was recovering from shrapnel wounds, he spent the final weeks of the war in an American POW camp. After the war, Grass resolved to become an artist and moved with his first wife to Paris, where he began to write the novel that would make him famous.

Full of the bravado of youth, the rubble of postwar Germany, the thrill of wild love affairs, and the exhilaration of Paris in the early fifties, Peeling the Onion—which caused great controversy when it was published in Germany—reveals Grass at his most intimate.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (25)

5-0 out of 5 stars I Love Onions, Give Me More!
I first read Gunter Grass when he wrote My Century, and found him informative and entertaining, later read the Tin Drum, and he got me hook, so I will not miss this Peeling the Onion, despite the infamous accusations against him of having belonged to the nefarious SS. Now consider the many who along with Mr. Grass served in the SS, and who quietly avoided exposure to this day, Mr Grass could have easily kept his mouth shut (Or his Olivetti mute) and all that criticism would not exist, however valiantly, and honestly he confess his sin of youth. (and many others) Now show me a single individual who never have made a mistake in his youth, or has anything in his life to be sorrow for, and I will show you someone who is lying, or worst, a hypocrite! So with that out of the way Mr. Grass story tale is riveting, coming from such a Master it is not surprising, by all means read it, do not be deterred by the scandal mongers, now in my opinion Mr Grass concentrate and go in depth in few anecdotes, mostly he give us tidbits, of many people, and places, like Joseph Ratzinger, I understand that talking a bout people alive, and famous people even if deceased it is to invite trouble, since you can't be too explicit without offending issues of privacy, and sensibilities, but in all honesty this is the kind of book you wish to be longer, and that come to an end just when you are enjoying it the most. Mr. Grass had a privilege ringside view, by Geography, and time, in to Nazi Germany, Danzing, where the first shot of the War was fired, to the terrible defeat, the miseries, hopes, and struggles of a new beginning, in a new Germany. Mr. Grass a man of great experience, and talents show us how he become the writer he is now days.

3-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Memoir, Though Excellent and Moving in Describing Grass' Childhood and War Service
Grass is one of the great German writers of the 20th century, who won the Nobel Prize for literature.Although this memoir does not diminish my opinion of Grass' works, it is a disappointment.Grass obviously does not want to let the reader into his most personal space.Therefore he spends a lot of time with self conscious writing about what he remembers and does not remember and does not write a very convincing and detailed narrative about his progress toward becoming a writer after World War II.We learn a lot about his typewriter and about where he came up with certain characters, but not much about why he writes and how he feels about writing.Nor do we get a gripping and coherent narrative of Grass' life after the War.

Grass beats two metaphors into the ground:the notion of memory as peeling the onion and the preservation of certain memories like an insect in amber.He returns to the metaphor so many times that the reader is guaranteed to become sick of the device by the time he or she finishes the first third of the book.

Ironically enough, what redeems the work is what Grass has been most criticized for:his service in the Waffen SS at the end of the War and his decision to block that out of his biography for 60 years. This part of the book is written with feeling and is utterly authentic.Grass is eloquent in describing the Nazi world in which he grew up.Dissenters and eccentrics disappear suddenly, and everyone knows they are in a concentration camp but no one talks about it.Grass describes his lack of curiousity as child like -- repeating his metaphor from the "Tin Drum" of the German people of the Third Reich as in a child-like state of arrested development.Grass describes his complete, child-like, and irrational faith in the "ultimate victory" of the Nazi state and in Hitler's infallibility, even as he witnesses the complete collapse of the Eastern Front in early 1945.

Grass views himself as taking advantage of his own childhood to escape responsibility for what occurred around him.He feels guilt about not applying his natural rebelliousness to anything meaningful, such as the oppression that he witnessed first hand.He tells an extraordinary story of one draftee who refused to hold a gun -- "We don't do that", he said simply.This draftee was in all respects the very picture of Aryan competence and strength.But he was a conscientious objector who was ultimately carted off to some concentration camp after the drill instructors and the troops were unable to "convince" the objector of the error of his ways.

Grass contends that he knew nothing of the Holocaust until the Americans showed him the gruesome pictures during his captivity as a POW.Even then, Grass' initial reaction was one of disbelief.Yet, Grass knew that concentration camps existed and he knew the Jews were populating them.Grass' rendition of events is believable when one considers Grass' point that his childlike gullibility and faith caused him not to inquire further.This was a state of willful indifference -- of refusing to see the true nature of the regime.Thus, it is believable that many Germans simply did not know of the holocaust on the one hand, but were guilty of willful and criminal indifference on the other.

Grass' description of his comically ineffective service in the Waffen SS is credible.The Waffen SS had no involvement in the Holocaust and was used as troops in the field.Grass ia assigned to a woefully untrained unit and never fires a shot.Given the nature of those units at the time and Grass' brief service, I believe that Grass had no role in atrocities.Despite all this, Grass accepts his guilt for being part of and a supporter of the Third Reich.This part of the book is extremely well done and Grass' voice is sincere and moving.

The tale of his youth and brief war service makes this memoir worthwhile, despite the disappointment that will come with reading the rest of the book.

4-0 out of 5 stars A powerful, haunting memoir, if at times distant.
While it probably isn't a great idea to choose a memoir by a writer you haven't read to be the first, especially when it's obvious from the start he'll be referencing events in his books relatively often, that's what I did, and I very much enjoyed it. It was strange and almost unsettling to read about Grass's many regrets: Missed opportunities, a journal lost during the war, not being there for his dying mother, people he hasn't been able to find, and the like. Reading about the shame of some of his war and pre-war experiences is downright sad. This memoir was good enough to make me want to read The Tin Drum and some of his other novels, but was at times distant enough to keep me from loving it fully. Having not read his other works I can't say for sure, but this would probably be even more enjoyable to those who have read at least Grass's major novels.

2-0 out of 5 stars disappointing memoir
I was definitely expecting more from this book, as I have read several of Grass's fiction books and love them, but I was irritated by the vague questioning format, and bored towards the end. The book seemed to be lifeless apart from some of the wartime memories.

5-0 out of 5 stars Courageous
Gunter Grass bears his soul in this haunting autobiography of his first 33 years.The uproar caused by his confession of being in the SS during the war detracts from the greater significance that this is a quite extraordinary tale well-told.He sometimes whimsically strays into the third-person for hazier memories, evoking Vonnegut-like humour.But throughout this deep and penetrating look at himself, the intensity of feeling and the stark, pitiless commentary are truly and uniquely Grassian - and incredibly courageous. ... Read more

3. Dog Years
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 576 Pages (1989-10-16)
list price: US$38.95 -- used & new: US$18.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 015626112X
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
A novel set in three parts, beginning in the 1920s and ending in the 1950s, that follows the lives of two friends from the prewar years in Germany through an apocalyptic period and its startling aftermath. Translated by Ralph Manheim. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars If I could give it ten stars, I would--evokes its era like no other book ever will.
I am not going to attempt to describe Dog Years other than to say it is a stunning work by a brilliant writer at the top of his game.It should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the German psyche in the 20th century.Some may find the style challenging, but there's a method to Grass's madness, and if you give it time, Dog Years will reward you like no other book you've ever read.Personally, I was hooked right away, but even allowing for taste, Grass will win you over sooner or later.The Tin Drum is a masterpiece, but Dog Years is even better.

4-0 out of 5 stars Hate it and love it, love it and hate it
Grass uses wonderful, dense, invented words and peppers his novel with wonderful, dense, twisted imagery. Which is why I admire the work and why I was determined to finish the book although it was as intellectually heavy as a brick and occassionally tried my patience.This is not a book for an MTV-hyperactive attention span. More than a reflection of German mentality, it is a journey into the German mind, because so many times it follows a stream-of-consciousness approach. Sometimes it feels as if you're on a rollercoaster ride through the tunnels of a character's mind. Which is why I hated it too. I felt that many times the book became self-indulgent... that is, Grass wasn't writing for the reader but for himself or as a catharsis for his characters.

I only realized Dog Years was part of a trilogy after I bought it, and I enjoyed The Tin Drum much more because I read it after seeing the movie (it relieved the mind from loads of exertion). Although I am immensely relieved to have finally finished Dog Years, I still can't wait to read the other book of the trilogy, Cat and Mouse. Love to hate Grass.

5-0 out of 5 stars The amazing conclusion to the Danzig Trilogy
First: If you decide to tackle the Danzig Trilogy, Reddick's critical analysis is indispensable. I suggest tackling it the same way I did: read The Tin Drum, start Reddick's book at the same time you start Cat and Mouse(Reddick reads faster than Grass, and you'll get through a lot of Reddickwhile tackling Grass), and when you've caught up, read Reddick's section onDog Years and the actual novel concurrently.

Those of you who feelthe revelation of anything having to do with a book before you get to thatpart in the book is a spoiler should probably avoid this technique; Reddickrevelas the major "mystery" in Dog Years towards the end of hissection on Cat and Mouse. However, one cannot really consider Dog Years amystery, despite the various things that happen within it; while there aresome elements to it that keep the reader guessing, Dog Years is, more thananything, a savage satire on Germany during the WW2 years. And as such,finding out the main mystery-that's-not-a-mystery should not detract at allfrom one's appreciation of the book itself.

Dog Years can also standon its own, without being read as a part of the Danzig Trilogy, but thereader's appreciation of many facets of this novel-- most notably EdouardAmsel's character and the satire itself-- are more easily appreciated whenyou have The Tin Drum and Cat and Mouse under your belt as comparisons.Amsel, the main protagonist of Dog Years, stands as a direct comparison toboth Oskar and Mahlke, and his character is more easily understood whenthose two have already been assimilated by the reader.

The plot ofDog Years is a simple enough one; it charts, through the use of threenarrators, the frindship of Edouard Amsel and Walter Matern from gradeschool through their early thirties. Amsel, the intellectual one, is pickedon constantly by his classmates (including Matern) until one day, for noapparent reason, Matern befriends Amsel and chases away the others. It's atypical buddy-relationship in that Amsel is the brains and Matern is thebrawn, but we don't get the bonding we've come to expect from seeing toomany Hollywood buddy films. The relationship between Matern and Amsel isfar more complex than that, and Reddick has done a passable job ofinterpreting it, one which I won't attempt to recreate here (it would beludicrous to attempt something that complex in such a forum as a review).In an odd lapse, though-- especially given how much emphasis Reddick hasput on Grass' enmity and stire of the Roman Catholic Church in the previoustwo books-- Reddick seems to have overlooked one of the most obviousinterpretations of Amsel's character (and also that of the more minorprotagonist Jenny Brunies), as a christ figure. In the novel's centralscene, both Amsel and Brunies (who are both made out, in the first half ofthe novel, to be almost comically fat) undergo a transformation thattransforms Brunies into a ballet sensation and Amsel into another characterentirely, the omnipotent Goldmouth; while there is no physical crucifixionhere, the path taken by Amsel's character through the rest of the novelcertainly implies the path of christ after the resurrection, until hisassumption into, in this case, Berlin. For the next hundred or so pages,Goldmouth is never actually seen, only referred to in the good deeds hedoes for others, and he achieves an almost legendary status among the rankand file for his goodness, his power (in postwar germany, his power is inhis connections; who he knows), and the fact that no one really sees himmuch, but everyone is aware of his presence and his acts. However, Reddick,in his attempt to (successfully) parallel Amsel's character with that ofGrass himself, never examines this aspect of Amsel.

This lack alsoleads to Reddick drawing the conclusion that Dog Years is the weakest ofthe three books, while still proclaiming that as a whole they rank as thefinest piece of modern German literature extant today. I feel Reddick isgiving Dog Years short shrift here; while the book does, in fact, have itsfaults, they are faults shared by the other two novels as well, and I cameaway from Dog Years thinking that, to the contrary, it was the strongestand most absorbing of the three. While it was more difficult than the othertwo, it was also more rewarding and more absorbing; it's not often I'll putin three months on one novel, but at no time did I feel that it everstopped moving me along, and at no time did I ever feel that it was time toput the book down for good.

Keeping this seeming oversight ofReddick's in mind, I still have to recommend his book as a perfectaccompaniment to Grass' most famous three novels, and all four of themdeserve the attention of every serious student of literature.

5-0 out of 5 stars His masterpiece
As good as 'Tin Drum' but far more accessible and direct in its impact on the darkness and light in the German psyche. The only author from Germany to honestly address the issues of what led to WWII and its aftermath. Thereis a hilarious and brilliant passage towards the end of the second part ofthe book which takes a savage poke at Heidegger and German love forabstraction. A gem of a book. ... Read more

4. The Tin Drum
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 600 Pages (2010-04-08)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$9.82
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0547339100
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

The Tin Drum, one of the great novels of the twentieth century, was published in Ralph Manheim’s outstanding translation in 1959. It became a runaway bestseller and catapulted its young author to the forefront of world literature.
This fiftieth anniversary edition, translated by Breon
Mitchell, is more faithful to Grass’s style and rhythm, restores omissions, and reflects more fully the complexity of the original work.
After fifty years, The Tin Drum has, if anything, gained in power and relevance. All of Grass’s amazing evocations are still there, and still amazing: Oskar Matzerath, the indomitable drummer; his grandmother, Anna Koljaiczek; his mother, Agnes; Alfred Matzerath and Jan Bronski, his presumptive fathers. And Oskar’s midget friends—Bebra, the great circus master, and Roswitha Raguna, the famous somnambulist; Sister Scholastica and Sister Agatha, the Right Reverend Father Wiehnke, the Greffs, the Schefflers, Herr Fajngold, all Kashubians, Poles, Germans, and Jews—waiting to be discovered and rediscovered.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (6)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This book is quirky, funny, sad, and political. All things I enjoy in a book. At times you like the main character, at other times, you pity him or even look at him in disgust. But you are always enjoy being a voyeur in this little man's life.

5-0 out of 5 stars An pleasurable way to learn history
Gunther Grass is a very whimsical writer, almost on a par with Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez. In the Tin Drum, Grass sets up a bizarre premise of a child who stops growing at age three, owing to a bump on the head, and develops the fantastical ability to enchant people with his drumming, as well as the gift of shattering glass with his unique voice. Grass then puts him through a whole series of adventures - he joins a band of street thugs and then the circus and meanwhile is the naive participant in a whole series of sexual escapades. The whole story is linked back to his grandmother who hid his grandfather under her five skirts to hide him from the police after he set fire to a factory. Geneaology always predetermines one's destiny - at least in pre-war Poland.

All this takes place against the build-up to World War II, in which Danzig, the region where our hero is born, becomes German once again. There seems to be a sense of fatalism about this as well. Because this bit of territority has gone back and forth for hundreds of years between Germany and Poland, Oskar's entire family seems resigned to being German and speaking German, or being Polish and speaking Polish, depending on who happens to be in power. There is also the secondary theme around the innate cunning people who are in continual flux must develop to survive. These people are horse traders basically and can sell anything. They thrive via an underground, informal economy no matter which language they are required to speak or which army they answer to. They remind me a lot of the dirt poor characters Faulkner created to populate his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississipi.

3-0 out of 5 stars Writer: A product of his time and circumstances
That is what a writer is. The bigger ones also may pass a hint at the future. And they are the survivers, for they have to do the difficult job of explaining the matters. They could have done this or that and led a hypothetical life. But they have to defy the expectations of others. Else they will not be able to achieve what they have. And we will not have issues to talk about. What will shape the societies if the writers and artists were all alike, apart from a path-breaking scientific discovery or a natural catestrophy?
The book is good. Yet not perfect of course, for it brings to the fore the human problems. It is a book of a German person, which is the only competitive economy of Europe today. So there is something inherently different about the people the book talks about. For the people too much used to reading main-stream books published in English, whether by native speakers of the language or those who adopt it - all of them, hopefully, not hoping to beat the natives in English language use - The tin Drum will prove difficult to taste and digest, more so for the fact that it was translated from German. Bearing with it will reveal a great deal-apart from the secrets the authors has retained and selectively revealed in the due course. After all, he is always bigger than his creations.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not all that magical
This was one of the huge German novels of the 20th century, in a class with Alexanderplatz, or Zauberberg, or Radetzkymarsch, or Prozess. When it came out it was a sensation, mostly for its unusual openness about all kinds of things that were considered taboo or `in bad taste'. The 50s in Germany were a time of odd prudishness, especially when compared to the 20s. Of course the 12 years from 33 to 45 had shifted all values and perceptions.
Published in 1959, Blechtrommel covers roughly the period from the beginning until the middle of the century, with most of it set in the second quarter century.
Its big subject is Germany and its relations with Poland. For that purpose it is ideally located in Danzig/Gdansk, a Baltic Sea port that changed its nationality a few times: it has been German, it has been a `free city', and it has been and is Polish. This kind of shifts and changes always comes with trouble between the involved ethnic groups. And trouble there was plenty.

On a micro level, we have the story of Oskar, the tin drummer, as told by the man himself. Born in the 20s, he is an early developer, intellectually mature at birth, and quickly able to decide that his `father' is not his real father, and that he dislikeshis petit bourgeois milieu so strongly that he stops growing by an act of willpower at the age of 3. Oskar is a dwarf with an intellectual mind. His father is a Nazi and Oskar is a miniature `inner emigrant'. His real father, he thinks, is his mother's Polish cousin. He rejects the term resistance for the minor disturbances that he causes. His first skill is drumming, and he can upset any public music by imposing a waltz on a march etc. His second skill is: he can destroy glass by his voice, and he uses that for all kinds of mischief.

Grass has been called one of the fathers of `magical realism'. However, for all its imagination, I have to admit that I find the writing disappointingly dry. Grass is no magician with the German language. I am not sure, of course, how his translators handle him. I re-read the tin drum now with a sense of curiosity but little enchantment.

Grass has been politically active, supporting the Social Democrats since Willy Brandt's time in the 60s/70s, but more or less splitting off since the reunification. He argued against that. His status as a moral authority has been somewhat diminished after he outed himself rather late in his life as a former Waffen SS volunteer. Had he not kept that secret for decades, his image might not have been damaged by it. It has nothing to do with the quality of the book, of course.

4-0 out of 5 stars Brave New Translation
Following the generally accepted premise that great novels deserve to be re-translated every generation or so, Breon Mitchell has tackled the most important postwar German novel, and one which had already been translated by Ralph Manheim brilliantly into English not long after it appeared in German in 1959.

But now a half-century has passed, and Mitchell's skills are awesome, indeed.He has leapt courageously into the deep end of Guenter Grass' linguistic inventiveness, some of which looks at first as if it will defy translation at all.But Mitchell has succeeded beyond any bilingual reader's expectations.THE TIN DRUM is still far richer in its original German, but Mitchell has rendered its wealth anew, and those readers who have yet to discover this masterpiece in English will be rewarded.

Dr. Richard J. Rundell
Professor of German
New Mexico State University ... Read more

5. The Tin Drum
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 576 Pages (2005-05-05)
list price: US$12.40 -- used & new: US$18.74
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0099483505
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
The publication of "The Tin Drum" in 1959 launched Gunther Grass as an author of international repute. Bitter and impassioned, it delivers a scathing dissection of the years from 1925 to 1955 through the eyes of Oskar Matzerath, the dwarf whose manic beating on the toy of his retarded childhood fantastically counterpoints the accumulating horrors of Germany and Poland under the Nazis.Amazon.com Review
Meet Oskar Matzerath, "the eternal three-year-old drummer." On the morningof his third birthday, dressed in a striped pullover and patent leathershoes, and clutching his drumsticks and his new tin drum, young Oskar makesan irrevocable decision: "It was then that I declared, resolved, anddetermined that I would never under any circumstances be a politician, muchless a grocer; that I would stop right there, remain as I was--and so Idid; for many years I not only stayed the same size but clung to the sameattire." Here is a Peter Pan story with a vengeance. But instead ofNever-Never Land, Günter Grass gives us Danzig, a contested city on thePolish-German border; instead of Captain Hook and his pirates, we have theNazis. And in place of Peter himself is Oskar, a twisted pueraeternis with a scream that can shatter glass and a drum rather than ashadow. First published in 1959, The Tin Drum's depiction of theNazi era created a furor in Germany, for the world of Grass's making isrife with corrupt politicians and brutal grocers in brown shirts:

There was once a grocer who closed his store one day in November, becausesomething was doing in town; taking his son Oskar by the hand, he boarded aNumber 5 streetcar and rode to the Langasser Gate, because there as inZoppot and Langfuhr the synagogue was on fire. The synagogue had almostburned down and the firemen were looking on, taking care that the flamesshould not spread to other buildings. Outside the wrecked synagogue, men inuniform and others in civilian clothes piled up books, ritual objects, andstrange kinds of cloth. The mound was set on fire and the grocer tookadvantage of the opportunity to warm his fingers and his feelings over thepublic blaze.
As Oskar grows older (though not taller), portents of war transform intothe thing itself.Danzig is the first casualty when, in the summer of1939, residents turn against each other in a pitched battle between Polesand Germans. In the years that follow, Oskar goes from one picaresqueadventure to the next--he joins a troupe of traveling musicians; he becomesthe leader of a group of anarchists; he falls in love; he becomes arecording artist--until some time after the war, he is convicted of murderand confined to a mental hospital.

The Tin Drum uses savage comedy and a stiff dose of magical realismto capture not only the madness of war, but also the black cancer at theheart of humanity that allows such degradations to occur.Grass wields hishumor like a knife--yes, he'll make you laugh, but he'll make you bleed, aswell.There have been many novels written about World War II, but only ahandful can truly be called great; The Tin Drum, without a doubt, isone. --Alix Wilber ... Read more

Customer Reviews (97)

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest Novels of the 20th Century
The Tin Drum is one of my favorite novels and, I think, one of the great novels of the 20th Century.It is profound and mysterious, funny and disturbing, innovative and original.Grass created the epitome of the unreliable narrator, yet the story he tells reveals fundamental truths about human nature:about love and betrayal, ecstasy and fear.Moreover, the story is so intense, so moving, in a sense so miraculous, the reader wants to believe it, even knowing that it comes from a delusional man who describes physically impossible events.Oskar is one of the grand creations of modern literature:a mentally disturbed man whose story can't be trusted, but who clearly suffered through tragic events that would drive anyone mad, and who arrived at a more insightful understanding of life than most "sane" people will ever know.If ever a novel deserved 5 stars, this one does.

5-0 out of 5 stars Renewing a pleasant read from 30 years ago
I read this German clasic over 30 years ago and enjoyed it more the second time. I'm.in the process of re-reading classics that gave me pleasure years ago and find that a very rewarding experience. My last re-read was Catcher in the Rye which I had first read a good 50 years ago and found it as pleasurable now as it was then. I'm 85 years old and look forward to many wonderful re-reads.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Characters of Literature [39]
Few characters of any literature can compare to Oskar Matzerath- the perennially three-year boy/man whose decision to remain young is believed to be derived from contemptuous act toward his unsurety of parenthood (his father) but for other reasons as well. "I remained the three-year-old, the gnome, the Tom Thumb, the pigmy, the Lilliputian, the midget, whom no one could persuade to grow. I did so in order to be exempted from the big and little catechism and in order not, once grown to five-foot-eight adulthood, to be driven by this man [Matzerath] who face to face with his shaving mirror called himself my father, into a business, the grocery business, which as Matzerath saw it, would, when Oskar turned twenty-one, become his grownup world. To avoid playing the cash register I clung to my drum and from my third birthday on refused to grow by so much as a finger's breadth. I remained the precocious three-year-old, towered over by grownups but superior to all grownups, who refused to measure his shadow with theirs, who was complete both inside and outside, while they, to the very brink of the grave, were condemned to worry their heads about "development," who had only to confirm what they were compelled to gain by hard and often painful experience, and who had no need to change his shoe and trouser size year after year just to prove that something was growing."

Moving about the fallible mind of the ADD/Aspergers/Legally insane mind of Oskar who moves you in and out and around his never exhausted mind.At times the introspection is almost unparalleled - reminding me often of the long and great passages provided by Joyce in Ulysses.At other times, the rantings are as immature as Oskar's stature - great and beautifully contrasted to the higher and much more mature thoughts of Oskar. As Oskar gives us his opinion on most any topic that his hopping about mind conjures in hiccup fashion, we learn that his opinions, like most anyone's, are personal and strong - but not damning. He is a nice over-opinionated midget.

At other times, the author brings us to the land of literature for Germanic or other European youth.Not all is pretty. Like Brothers Grimm, we have passages dealing with the wretching mother who dies of a bulimic-like death of malnutrition.All caused by her seeing a long and grotesque eel pulled out of the head of a horse lifted from the ocean on a fishing line . . . yuk.I never ate eel before and think this passage may have ended that venture for life. Elsewhere a purported father is slaughtered before the imp by machine gun fire. Another time, Oskar sees nuns hurt. And more.If you like these childhood nightmarish scenes, I recommendThe Painted Bird.

Literary masters have proclaimed the story is allegory where political consciousness against the humbling defeat (if not devastation) provided by the Nazi regime, intermixed with the playful and not assuredly sane protagonist, one can simplify the strong statements as being less about Germany and more about larger issues" e.g. art vs war.No matter how one reads these paradoxes, they are good food for thought.And, although discussion of Hitler and the War exist in this novel, Oskar is a peripheral spectator.Like a three foot midget, he stands on the sideline largely unnoticed.

Many of the statements, and many of the visions of Oskar are seemingly impressionism's literary form. Animal heads with eels jumping out of the waters - does it not remind you of a Dali topic.Wretching to death, shot to death by postal worker (before going postal was a term of art) with bureaucratic efficiency, and more can only be deemed impressionism's realism.

The great story has impacted others.A short man who works with stone (at one time Oskar cuts grave stones) seems to have influence Irving's little man who grew up in stone cutting - The little Exonian eponymously creating A Prayer for Owen Meany.From Ulysses to Tin Drum to A Prayer for Owen Meany - a great assignment for anyone.

5-0 out of 5 stars Implicating & Imaginative. Groundbreaking Style.
I opened this page to find within it 3 different reviewers trying to characterize this work in reasonable, yet contradictory ways. My feeling is it's best not to characterize the book in terms of what it means, but rather to talk about how it communicates meaning. The 3 reviewers? They are all right in a way, but fall into the trap of reading this as a typical Modern novel, whereas I believe this novel was a move towards something a style that would not lend itself so easily to convergence & closure.

Someone went so far as to say this is a coming of age novel?!! Well, not quite, but then again, thoughts along those lines are the product of a good imagination trying to piece this together. I find myself focusing on the nature of poetic unfolding in this book and how it relates to truth. Meaning is fleeting. When I read through the book, I am filled with ideas like everyone else, but found early on that you struggle with meaning a little until you are willing to let go. The method of Grass is such that plot on an emotional level can be 'read' regardless, or more often with the aid of, impossibilities in the external course of events (what is normally thought of as plot).

My feeling about the moral values being applied with so much austerity to this book? When a person feels threatened or horrified by something, it's hit a nerve, which calls for introspection, the thing that for me is what keeps people from being completely immoral. The problem is, you've got a book surrounding the book and you can't get through it except with your emotions. So it seems to me that some people are not only not ready for it (completely understandable) but read as some bible of the war (vanity, I think). It's a lot to swallow and that's what keeps a lot of people from finishing this book. So what I'll say is: Oskar Matzerath is in fact an artist with words and one that is not always so intent on revealing the truth, or at least not in the typical manner. But he in fact has the gift of cutting to the core of things better than if were rattling off a bunch of gruesome accounts of Nazi horrors. Instead, the author barely has to mention the war. When the war is not visible externally, which is almost the entirety of 591 pages, the war is visible with brutal honesty in the words of Oskar Matzerath. The catch is that Oskar characterizes his own words as drumming, and under-emphasizes the power of his words, whereas Grass show how language is undeniably and always revelatory, especially creative language.

Also, some people seem to forget that the first person narrative is a means of personal expression (for the author) as are all other forms of creative writing. So, don't be put off when readers say: 'these are the sayings of an insane midget." These are figurations of a man worth listening to though I do not mean to suggest that Grass and Oskar should be equivocated. The people that feel the need to insult an imaginary narrator are obviously threatened. By what? Well, everyone's thoughts and emotions get twisted up. And this book doesn't let you escape an occasional hard look inside yourself. In fact, that's why many people fail to finish this book. It took me my third try, and shortly after my thirtieth birthday.

I will just have to ask you to trust me about where I am going with the below argument:

Why is insanity so often linked to unfathomable criminal activity in general? Take the scientist E. Fuller Torrey, who settled a suit for millions of dollars regarding the illegal possession of a brain. And, he writes a book about condemning the dead poet, Ezra Pound: The Roots of Treason, explaining that Ezra Pound was in fact sane and was indeed held in an institution to protect him from criminal charges. As far as mental illness, Torrey is of the opinion that domestic house cats carry a virus that is primarily responsible for the illnesses. What I see in his case is an extraordinary effort to draw clear boundaries where mental illness is and isn't. And to prove that where it is, the cause is biological (medical). Why? To be quite honest, I think there is an agenda (and not uncommon)to have the option of blaming certain unfathomable tragedies on biological malfunction or malformation while still retaining the rational grounds to hold individuals morally accountable. But for me it's as easy as this: A thought is a thought and it comes from the total person.

That said, this book is more than what I just stated. In fact, much more. For one thing it is very artful and very fun in places. But some of the mis-charizations seem to me just another attempt to redirect some unsightly human realities by pointing fingers and calling names. Which of course sounds like something you would get in trouble for doing in Kindergarten, but just happens to be what justified much of the atrocities of the war.

5-0 out of 5 stars Shark among sardines
This was one of the big German novels of the 20th century, in a class with Alexanderplatz, or Zauberberg, or Radetzkymarsch, or Prozess. When it came out it was a sensation, mostly for its unusual openness about all kinds of things that were considered taboo or `in bad taste'. The 50s in Germany were a time of odd prudishness, especially when compared to the 20s. Of course the 12 years from 33 to 45 had shifted all values and perceptions.
Published in 1959, Blechtrommel covers roughly the period from the beginning until the middle of the century, with most of it set in the second quarter century.
Its big subject is Germany and its relations with Poland. For that purpose it is ideally located in Danzig/Gdansk, a Baltic Sea port that changed its nationality a few times: it has been German, it has been a `free city', and it has been and is Polish. This kind of shifts and changes always comes with trouble between the involved ethnic groups. And trouble there was plenty.

On a micro level, we have the story of Oskar, the tin drummer, as told by the man himself. Born in the 20s, he is an early developer, intellectually mature at birth, and quickly able to decide that his `father' is not his real father, and that he dislikeshis petit bourgeois milieu so strongly that he stops growing by an act of willpower at the age of 3. Oskar is a dwarf with an intellectual mind. His father is a Nazi and Oskar is a miniature `inner emigrant'. His real father, he thinks, is his mother's Polish cousin. He rejects the term resistance for the minor disturbances that he causes. His first skill is drumming, and he can upset any public music by imposing a waltz on a march etc. His second skill is: he can destroy glass by his voice, and he uses that for all kinds of mischief.

Grass has been called one of the fathers of `magical realism'. However, for all its imagination, I have to admit that I find the writing disappointingly dry. Grass is no magician with the German language. I am not sure, of course, how his translators handle him. I re-read the tin drum now with a sense of curiosity but little enchantment.

Grass has been politically active, supporting the Social Democrats since Willy Brandt's time in the 60s/70s, but more or less splitting off since the reunification. He argued against that. His status as a moral authority has been somewhat diminished after he outed himself rather late in his life as a former Waffen SS volunteer. Had he not kept that secret for decades, his image might not have been damaged by it. It has nothing to do with the quality of the book, of course.

... Read more

6. Crabwalk
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 252 Pages (2004-04-05)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$2.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156029707
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Hailed by critics and readers alike as Günter Grass's best book since The Tin Drum, Crabwalk is an engrossing account of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff and a critical meditation on Germany's struggle with its wartime memories.

The Gustloff, a German cruise ship turned refugee carrier, was attacked by a Soviet submarine in January 1945. Some nine thousand people went down in the Baltic Sea, making it the deadliest maritime disaster of all time. Born to an unwed mother on a lifeboat the night of the attack, Paul Pokriefke is a middle-aged journalist trying to piece together the tragic events. For his teenage son, who dabbles in the dark, far-right corners of the Internet, the Gustloff embodies the denial of Germany's suffering. Crabwalk is at once a captivating tale of a tragedy at sea and a fearless examination of the ways different generations of Germans now view their past.

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Customer Reviews (30)

4-0 out of 5 stars An intelligent and philosophical examination of history
This is the first book by Grass that I have read.Overall, it was a great read, although it seemed to plod along at times in its ongoing examination of a specific historical event and its relatedness to the narrator's own issues around revisionism, guilt, familial dysfunction, the meaning of fatherhood, anti-semitism and moral imperatives.Nonetheless, the majority of the narrative moves forward very well while bringing in past memories of the narrator's mother or his son's perception of history for his own personal psychological and political ends.I must admit that I found the self-effacement of the narrator to be very discouraging and it bothered me even more to see him continue to effuse a forgiveness and compassion which I felt both his mother and his son did not deserve.Nonetheless, it is a very thoughtful and though-provoking writing on the various themes around guilt in post-war Germany and the need to face history--all of it--in order to become authentic human beings.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Attempt to Write an Unbiased Review
Günter Grass, Im Krebsgang (ISBN 3-88243-800-2), Book Review

A Slovenian reader, writing a review in English, for a German book is a strange combination indeed.The fact is that this reviewer was 14 years old when the WWII started, surviving the Italian- (from 1941 to 1943) and then the German occupation. That much time has passed from these »undesired« events, might contribute to an unbiased review. Anyhow - please, keep reading!

The core of the Grass narrative is the sinking of the German passenger liner Wilhelm Gustloff, which was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine. The ship, rearranged inside, repainted military gray outside, with added anti aircraft guns on the board, was sailing from the Baltic port Gotenhafen/Gdynia toward Kiel. The 208 m long vessel of 25,484 BRT was originally built for 1463 passengers and a crew of 417. However, on the fateful 30th of January, 1945, when the vessel went down, she was overloaded by a mixture of crew, heavily wounded, able-bodied soldiers, and girls drafted into the Marinenhelferinen. But, some 80 % of those embarked were the German civilians, running from the advanced Russian troops. The ragged Russians were returning to the Germans tit for tat in the form of looting, mass raping and killing. The knowledge of these atrocities, which spread like a prairie fire, had driven several million eastern German civilians into a panic run toward the West and just a few of them found their place on Gustloff.Her drowning was the world's greatest ship catastrophe, way overshadowing the sinking of the Titanic (1912, from collision with an iceberg) or the Lusitania (torpedoed in 1915 by a German submarine). Only some 500 from almost 10,000 people embarked on Gustloff were rescued, partly by the ship's own rescue boats, but mostly fished out of the ice-cold sea, where all those, less fortunate found their grave.

In order to put himself in the middle of the story, Grass has changed his true date of birth (which is 16th October 1927) to the day the ship was sunk. He has also put the place of his birth on the torpedo boat Loewe, where his highly pregnant (also fictious) mother, after being hoisted out of the rescue boat gave him birth. However, this fateful January 30th gives no reason to celebrate the birthday he claims. The culprit is German history. In his own words ..."The history, more exactly, the history which was touched by us is a clogged toilet. We flush and flush, but s... (Grass has written the full word) comes up."... The true reason for his dissatisfaction is that on the 30th of January 1933, Hitler and Nazis seized power in Germany and that this day was celebrated as Machtergreifung in Third Reich.

Originally the passenger liner was built in 1937 for the German organization Kraft durch Freude (Strength by Joy), the only German worker's organization allowed during the Nazi era. Wilhelm Gustloff was a TB patient in the famous Swiss Sanatorium in Davos. After he was cured, he did not return to his native Germany, but remained as a high rank NSDAP functionary in Davos, where he organized party meetings and took care to dutifully report the (correct or incorrect) behavior of the less lucky German patients in the Sanatorium. In 1936 a Jew, David Frankfurter, shot him dead. The killer was sentenced by a Swiss Court to 17 years of jail, the killed becomes a martyr; his ashes were enshrined in a mausoleum in Schwerin (after the war in the DDR), where he was born, and the ship was named after him.

In his novel the author skillfully mixes the facts concerning the vessel sunk, with the fiction, where his mother, who was somehow obsessed by the sinking of the ship, keeps retelling the story time and again, always describing some other horrible details. How the children, who jumped into the ice-cold sea improperly, were floating in their rescue vests, heads down, engulfed in ice, etc... Since the last year of the war was full of bombing, strafing, shelling, frequent court-martialing and firing squads, the life in Germany was running correspondingly faster. To tell who was the father of the child she delivered on that torpedo boat, would be almost as difficult as for someone who was wounded by a running circular-saw, to point to which tooth was the first to grab him.

For many years after the war the story of the sinking Gustloff was not any more discussed than the other horrible events, such as the allied bombing of Hamburg in 1943, or the Russian discovery of Auschwitz in 1945 or similar events. However, after computers became more easily accessible, the discussion pro et contra of killing Willhelm Gustlof and sinking the ship named after him, found a place in the chat-room on the www.blutzeuge.de. (Blutzeuge means martyr in German, as Wilhelm Gustloff was considered to be.) The chatting reflected fanatic Jewish-Nazi antagonism with »appellations« like Judensau (Jewish sow) or Nazischwein (Nazi swine) exchanged back and forth. Here the author reaches into the middle of the story with his masterful hand, at the same time describing at length the postwar circumstances in Germany, as well as the sinking of the ship. Later he found that his own (fictious) son was the main person involved in that internet chatting. The end of the story is tragic; however, discovering any more details would not be fair to the would-be reader.

5-0 out of 5 stars A sad, compelling novel
I was interested in reading "Crabwalk" after Gunter Grass' piece in the New Yorker last year about his own ties to the Third Reich.

This novel is about a little known event, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.Many years ago, I worked in a hospital during the summers for extra money.I was called in by a family to stay with a dying man who was a survivor of the Wilhelm Gustloff. It was quite a story.

What is particularly wonderful is how Grass weaves in the story of his neo-Nazi son's use of the internet to connect with others still enthralled, and repelled, by the Nazi regime.This novel is not another story about the Holocaust, but rather the suffering of the German peopleand their own "mixed" feelings about the past.

A wonderful read!

5-0 out of 5 stars teaching hatred
This is an amazing book and possibly better than some of his other ones. While this highly reflexive novel can be read on a number of levels, the most gripping story is that of a grandmother teaching her young grandson hatred toward Jews. This central vignette is all but eclipsed toward the end of the book by other 'reasons' for his hate crime and discourse, suggesting that it's hard for us to consider how easily hate can be taught within one's own family (we accept far more easily that hate is taught by "cults," "fundamentalists," and other unsavory groups). Highly recommend it.

5-0 out of 5 stars And so on and so forth
"Crabwalk" is a very interesting analysis of Germany and its' perspective on its' sins in WWII.It is told through the perspective of what was probably the most grevious act by the Allies against Nazi Germany; the sinking of the ship Wilhelm Gustloff.The estimated loss of life on this ship (essentially carrying civilians) approaches 10000.Yet instead of giving readers a sense of empathy for the victims, many or most will come away with a sense of disappointment.This, I believe, is part of the author's intention.

It is by no accident that Gunter Grass centered his story around a dysfunctional family.I sensed that he was speaking as much to his countrymen as to the world in general.The divorced spouses trying to raise a single child results in the child being more attached to his paternal grandmother instead.Is this a comment on the German youth in a divided country turning to the order of the past in order to gain a respect of their heritage?Maybe that's way too much analysis but it was what kept coming back to me.I suspect that the German skinheads of a decade or so past may have been an influence on Grass's perspective; how did a country ashamed of it's genocidal past beget a generation of racist anti-semites?

The story of the Wilhelm Gustloff is certainly a story that needed to be told and Grass took that story in all its' detail and created so much more.If you just want to know about the sinking of the ship, it's all here.However, if you want to read the complex thoughts of an eloquently literate man on the state of his country, it, too, is all here.(And all in just 234 pages). ... Read more

7. The Meeting at Telgte
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 156 Pages (1990-10-29)
list price: US$11.00 -- used & new: US$3.35
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156585758
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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A group of leading intellectuals from all parts of Germany gather in 1647 for the purpose of strengthening the last remaining bond within a divided nation-its language and literature-as the Thirty Years' War comes to an end. Afterword by Leonard Forster. Translated by Ralph Manheim. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Are You German Enough?
Or are you well informed about the history of the "Thirty Years War" in Germany? Do the following names mean anything at all to you: Jakob Boehme? Paul Fleming? Andreas Gryphius? Martin Opitz? and especially Paul Gerhardt? And then the really essential names: Heinrich Schuetz? Johann Jacob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen? Those are just a few of the cast of historical personages that Guenter Grass assembles in his imagination in the village of Telgte in 1647, and if the names and places are utterly meaningless to you, you'll never get past the first chapter of this well-packed little book.

Still, there are reasons why you might want to try. It's a "quick read" if you have a running start, and drop-dead funny if you have any idea what the stakes are. It's also a vivid lesson in European political and religious history, a lesson that will pound the significance of the 17th Century for 20th Century Germany in your Anglophone head forevermore. And it's a pointed reprimand to the self-importance of writers and scholars of any era.

Here's the scene: Simon Dach, a professor of poetry at Koenigsberg, has invited all the most notable Protestant writers of war-torn Germany to gather and discuss the state of the German language and the vision of German intellectuals for a "new Germany" after the impending peace. The poets find themselves helplessly stranded until they are 'rescued' by the extravagant figure of Gelnhausen (Grimmelshausen), unbeknowst to them the most notorious free-booter in Germany. Gelnhausen is the pivotal character in this narrative, and his interface with the assorted literary bigwigs provides most of the humor. They regard him as a rogue and a buffoon, while he is eager to absorb what lessons he can from them. The 'punch line' is that, among all these preening, posing mediocrities, Gelnhausen will become the author of the greatest German novel of the epoch, the picaresque classic "Simplicius Simplicissimus." Quite frankly, if you've never read Simplicius, you'd be better off to start with that, and read Guenter Grass and Bertolt Brecht later. The problem, sad to say, is that Simplicius has never gotten much attention in the English world, and translations go out of print quickly. There's a simplified abridgement of the story available, titled "Adventures of a Simpleton," which I've also reviewed; it's adequate to prepare you for Telgte.

As a foil to the resourceful rascal Gelnhausen, Grass introduces the other greatest creative genius of baroque Germany - composer Heinrich Schuetz - into the Telgte 'parliament of fowls' as an uninvited guest. All the assembled 'intellectuals' are secretly uncomfortable with the austere composer, well aware that his opinion of their word-smithing is far from laudatory. Schuetz, in real history, lamented the failure of German writers to provide texts comparable to the Italian poets like Petrarch and Tasso. His own choices for texts to be set in music came chiefly from the Italians and from the German translation of the Bible. (If you are unfamiliar with Schuetz's music, this review will have supreme impact on your future life; you simply shouldn't spend another week without hearing it. Luckily for your wallet, Brilliant Classics has issued a three-box multi-CD edition of Schuetz's most sublime compositions, performed by Cappella Augustana.) Schuetz's grave presence dominates the assembly rather like that of Obi-Wan Kenobi dominated scenes in Star Wars. There is no historical probability than Schuetz and Grimmelshausen ever met, but in Grass's fantasy, Schuetz sees deep into the character of the brilliant rogue, and assigns him the task of writing rather than raiding.

Schuetz also confronts his musical mirror image, the pietist hymn-writer Paul Gerhardt, whose 'simple' strophic songs are still sung by Lutherans and Calvinists around the world. This confrontation is possibly the deepestand most ambiguous theme of the book, amounting to a question about the value of any art in the lives of ordinary people. You'll have to take The Meeting of Telgte on for yourself in order to learn what Grass concludes.

If indeed you decide to read this spectacular parable, here's what you need to do: read the "Afterword" by Leonard Forster first. Then, as you start the book, for the first three or four chapters, keep your finger in the "Dramatis Personae" at the back of the book, and look up each new character as he is introduced. Then, by the time Gelnhausen takes charge, you'll be having enough fun to keep reading despite any unfamiliarity with the flock of odd birds.

5-0 out of 5 stars G. Grass goes 17th century
So in your opinion, today's writers and "intellectuals" are a bunch of self-absorbed irrelevant bigheads? Rewind, 350 years back - welcome to Grass' fictional recount of a meeting of German writers set at the town of Telgte during the "30 Year War". Convention circus, 17th century-style: In the midst of the unprecedented tragedy of the "Great European War" the intellectual elite of its time descends upon a little town with the intention to brainstorm about the sorry state of literature, fatherland and life in general. Instead of a noble battle of wits on the substance of the Big Questions at issue, the lofty intentions fade quickly into the background as perennial personal rivalries and pettyness inmidst this most eminent quorum take over - against the backdrop of a ghostly scenery of a whole continent in ruins, sunken in disease, squalor, starvation and suffering... (but, hey, first things first, we got personal scores to settle here.)Trademark Grass: acute acerbity (and a hefty dose of self-depreciating wit this time), with more levity than you may find in any of his other works. (but no trace of kiddy porn; - even by midwestern standards). German "Nabelschau" at its very best. Grass paints a timeless picture of his own trade, the trivial world of celebrity and vanity. ... Read more

8. My Century
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 288 Pages (2000-11-01)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$0.01
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156011417
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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In a work of great originality, Germany's most eminent writer examines the victories and terrors of the twentieth century, a period of astounding change for mankind. Great events and seemingly trivial occurrences, technical developments and scientific achievements, war and disasters, and new beginnings, all unfold to display our century in its glory and grimness. A rich and lively display of Grass's extraordinary imagination, the 100 interlinked stories in this volume-one for each year from 1900 to 1999-present a historical and social portrait for the millennium, a tale of our times in all its grandeur and all its horror.
Amazon.com Review
Perhaps it's fitting that the 1999 winner of the Nobel Prize forliterature, Günter Grass, should be the one to see the old millennium outin style. His My Century is comprised of 100 short chapters, one foreach year of the 20th century, each told by a different narrator. And ofcourse, since Grass is German, the century he refers to is German aswell--a fact that could prove a little daunting to readers not familiarwith the intricacies of that country's history. "1900," for example, throwsus smack in the middle of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion from a Germansoldier's point of view. "1903" jumps us into the head of a young studentwho, clad in a new boater, admires the first Zeppelin, buys a copy ofThomas Mann's latest book, Buddenbrooks, and attends the launchingof the world's largest ship, Imperator, among other historicalevents. "1904" is concerned with a miners' strike and "1906" is all aboutGerman-Moroccan foreign relations.

Yet as year succumbs to year and one narrative voice piles on top of thenext, My Century becomes more than the sum of its parts. And Grassalways manages to surprise. The chapters "1914" through "1918," forexample, rather than being narrated by the usual suspects--young soldiersin the trenches, worried mothers at home, embittered war widows orshell-shocked veterans--are relayed by a '60s-era young woman who brings twogreat German chroniclers of the war together. As the now-elderly ErichMaria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front) and Ernst Jünger(On the Marble Cliffs) meet and spar over the course of severalmeals, their reminiscences of the Great War present two radically differentviews. Jünger, for example, says: "I can state without compunction: As theyears went by, the flame of the prolonged battle produced an increasinglypure and valiant warrior caste..." Remarque's response is to laugh inJünger's face:

Come on, Jünger! You sound like a country squire. Cannon fodder quaking inoversized boots--that's what they were. Animals. All right, maybe they werebeyond fear, but death never left their minds. So what could they do? Playcards, curse, fantasize about spread-eagled women, and wage war--murder oncommand, that is. Which took some expertise. They discussed the advantagesof the shovel over the bayonet: the shovel not only let you thrust belowthe chin; it gave you a good solid blow, on the diagonal, say, between neckand shoulder, which then cut right down to the chest, while the bayonettended to get caught between the ribs and you had to go all the way up tothe stomach to pull it loose.
It may be Remarque and Jünger talking, but the prose is pure Grass. Theyears leading up to and including World War II are narrated by a variety ofvoices: a communist in a forced-labor camp in 1936; a schoolboy "playing"Spanish Civil War with his classmates in 1937. The events ofKristallnacht, November 9, 1938, become inextricably linked with theNovember 9, 1989, fall of the Berlin Wall, as a German schoolteacher getsin trouble with the Parent-Teacher Association for his "obsession with thepast." Indeed, it is the way Grass mixes past and present, the voices ofthe famous and the ordinary, that lends such power to My Century;and by the time he brings the reader up to the last weird and wonderfulchapter, his century has become ours as well. --Alix Wilber ... Read more

Customer Reviews (27)

5-0 out of 5 stars Perennial
What a wonderful tapestry of historical, fanciful and deeply human stories Herr Grass has assembled!The master's use of multiple literary devices (the last one is my favorite) delights and challenges the reader to savour the details of each human experience woven year by year.Though it helps to have a working knowledge of German culture, history and geography, the appeal of each first-person narration is so conversational that the gist is easily grasped.

3-0 out of 5 stars OK, but loses steam after 1950
I was looking forward to this, but have to say that I was mildly disappointed.Grass's use of short vignettes for each year is interesting--reminds me of Studs Terkel in a way--but one has to have a good grasp of German history to get all of the allusions.The WWI sequence was disappointing--Grass's imaginary discussion between Juenger and Remarque relies more on shallow characterizations of both authors, including using quotes from their works as part of the narrative.I was hoping for something a little more meaty, though he gets credit for trying.The years up to WWII are very good, but once the war is over, the book loses its immediacy.This is most likely the fault of the year-by-year format he uses, but even so, I found the rest of the work to be OK.OK book if you are a Grass fan.

4-0 out of 5 stars The German Experience
Gunter Grass has come up with a very clever and imaginative re-creation of Germany's past 100 years.He has divided the 20th century into 100 short chapters and assigns each chapter a year, from 1900 to 1999. Mr. Grass chooses a huge array of different individuals, all German, of course, who speak of various aspects of their lives and their country during the 20th century.They cover the whole gamut of personal and familial experiences, mixed in with historical events and notable personages.Mr. Grass even places himself and one or two other writers in several of his chapters.One gets a taste of what it was like to be living in Germany throughout.Each year presents a very personal statement of seemingly very real people.

The book starts with a mini-discussion of the Boxer Rebellion.We see the trials and tribulations of the German people during good and bad economic times, during war and peace, under the Kaiser's rule, under Adolf Hitler, and each making an attempt to exist in post-Hitler East and West Germany.The book speaks a lot of Hitler Youth, socialist youth, anarchists, and everyday experiences of typical and atypical people.These were just regular people, just like you and me, if you will.They experience triumphs (the fall of the Berlin Wall), tragedies (sons dying horribly in wars), and the simple joy of picnicking in the park, and recalling just relaxing with mama and papa and being in the company of your favorite sister or brother.I did not see them as those stereotypical "bad Germans."

I must admit that while reading the book, I would often complain to myself of its incoherence, its awful lack of plot structure, and how I found each chapter completely forgettable.However, by allowing myself to finish the book, and by seeing it as a whole, I have come to realize that Mr. Grass chose not to write your expected, typical novel. He has instead written a very special, personal work of rare sensitivity.

5-0 out of 5 stars Flat out brilliant
How does a cultured society slip into unspeakable brutality and then return to the civilized world? Grass tells how, in a series of brief portraits, each told from a different perspective. Nothing I've read gives such a viceral feeling of what it was like to live through this. I'll never forget Trummerfrauen. There are lessons here for the present situation in the United States. If we tolerate brutality in our name, our individual share in the crime makes us all guilty. Grass teaches us that dehumanization, destruction, and decay are not destiny. The individual citizen must struggle, even as the foul tide rises neck deep.

5-0 out of 5 stars Simple and stunning
Simply put, this was a great book. It effectively captured the spirit of the entire century, year by year, in a few hundred pages. The short stories for each year were easy to follow. The fact that it was told from a German perspective changes nothing, the 20th century had similar consequences and ramifications for all nations and the German tale can easily be applied to the American tale or the British tale or the...you get the picture... ... Read more

9. The Rat
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 371 Pages (1989-05-05)
list price: US$17.00 -- used & new: US$2.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 015675830X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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A female rat engages the narrator in a series of dialogues-convincingly demonstrating to him that the rats will inherit a devastated earth. Dreams alternate with reality in this story within a story within a story.Translated by Ralph Manheim. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

2-0 out of 5 stars a disjointed effort
There is almost too much going on in the story.Grass' creativity is astounding, with the she-rat and the space ship, but portions of the plot with Grimm fairytale characters are somewhat annoying.Oskar turns up, along with others.It's difficult to imagine someone staying with this book long enough to meet him if they hadn't already read Tin Drum.Here, Grass has taken the post-modernist position of the teller and chats away.The books in which he shined weren't chatty at all.The sections of the "plot" don't meld together as they do in, say, the Flounder.Some books bring tears when finished.One simply doesn't want it to end.I managed to finish the Rat, but just put it back on the shelf.It was nice to see Oskar and his grandmother, though, with all those skirts...

5-0 out of 5 stars One man of his time
I should have said; the old german culture at its best seen by the man who carried on despite the new riches of the miracle.
Culture and courage.
JA - Cascais

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great book
One of my favorite books along with Crime and Punishment, The Sea Wolf, and The Castle but not just a story for page-turning entertainment.It is a mistake to expect to fully understand the book it seems to me.Still, it is a fantastic book, off the beaten track, combining Sci Fi, psychology, history, art, fairy tales, religion, politics and much more.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of his best
_The Rat_ is my favorite novel by Gunter Grass.It is miserly and potent, with very little wasted space or filler.It is an almost continuous stream-of-conscience monologue; it is the nonstop ranting and raving of an angst-ridden person in the midst of a spiritual crisis, venting his frustration and confusion.Overall, this technique proves to be a very successful literary device.It reads almost like nonfiction philosophy, and because Grass does not get bogged down with an absurd plot and characterization, this novel provides an ideal vehicle for his undiluted spiritual-philosophical beliefs.Keep in mind, however, that there is very little in the way of action, charaterization, and concrete plot events in this novel.If you are looking for a more traditional novel, you may want to look elsewhere.Nevertheless, I still believe this is Grass' best work because it is personal and revealing with regards to his deepest sources of philosophical angst and spiritual misgivings.I recommend this book to anyone who really wants to know what is going on in the mind of Gunter Grass.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Book
One of the best books I have read in a long time.I agree that this book is very dense with symbolism, but I think that this is a virtue, not a fault.Grass orchestrates an amazing chaos through out the book, tying together themes as diverse as the death of fairy-tales, the destruction of the environment, human attitudes toward rats, and a host of other ideas, and somehow turns them into something remarkable.For all its different plot lines, I felt a unity running through this book that few authors could have achieved.

This book is certainly not for everyone, and I would not advise reading it until after you have read "The Tin Drum" and "The Flounder" both by Grass, but for me this book was a remarkable reading experience. ... Read more

10. Constructing Authorship in the Work of Günter Grass (Oxford Modern Languages and Literature Monographs)
by Rebecca Braun
Hardcover: 208 Pages (2008-08-15)
list price: US$110.00 -- used & new: US$30.59
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0199542708
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This book traces a longstanding concern with issues of authorship throughout the work of Günter Grass, Germany's best-known contemporary writer and public intellectual. Through detailed close-readings of all of his major literary works from 1970 onwards and careful analysis of his political writings from 1965 to 2005, it argues that Grass's tendency to insert clearly recognizable self-images into his literary texts represents a coherent and calculated reaction to his constant exposure in the media-led public sphere. It underlines the degree of play which has characterized Grass's relationship to this sphere and himself as part of it and explains how a concern with the very concept of authorship has conditioned the way his work as a whole has developed on both thematic and structural levels. The major achievement of this study is to develop a new interpretative paradigm for Grass's work. It explains for the first time how his playful tendency to manipulate his own authorial image conditions all levels of his texts and is equally manifest in literary and political realms. ... Read more

11. The Plebians Rehearse The Uprising: A German Tragedy
by Gunter; Manheim, Ralph [Translator] Grass
 Hardcover: Pages (1966)

Asin: B000OTF4B2
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Gunter Grass first full-length play; includes an introductory address by the author ... Read more

12. Too Far Afield
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 672 Pages (2001-10-05)
list price: US$17.00 -- used & new: US$0.01
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Asin: 0156014165
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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From the Nobel Prize-winning author of My Century and The Tin Drum, a novel of broad historical proportions set in Berlin during the years of German reunification.

Two old men roam through Berlin observing life in the former German Democratic Republic after the fall of the Wall in 1989. Theo Wuttke, a former East German functionary, is a keen observer and a gifted speaker. Ludwig Hoftaller is a mid-level spy whose loyalties shift with each new regime. Together, both men see what the future is bringing as they try to save what they can from the past and understand the meaning of being German.

A complex and challenging exploration of what Germany's reunification will mean-for Germans, for Europe, and for the world-Too Far Afield is a masterwork from one of Europe's greatest writers. Written with the wit, fantasy, literary erudition, and political acerbity for which Grass is celebrated, it is a deeply human story laced with pain and humor in equal measure.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars Re-examining and re-imagining the history of a 170-year-old
One of my favorite moments in Grass's difficult, often ponderous novel takes place early in the book, in a McDonald's restaurant around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Eager to avoid a seventieth-birthday celebration thrown by his young followers, Theo Wuttke and his sometimes cohort, sometimes archenemy (and former Stazi agent) Hoftaller decide to escape to Berlin's "approximately Scottish" fast-food joint instead. Invigorated by a cheeseburger and Chicken McNuggets and sensing an audience in the "young folk" hanging out in the dining area, Wuttke adopts the persona of his literary doppelganger Theodor Fontane and launches into a spiel about the feud between the historical "McDonalds and their mortal enemies, the Campbells" and ends up declaiming all 33 stanzas of Fontane's poem "Archibald Douglas," about "the feud between the Douglas brothers and King James."

"The employees and the regulars were struck dumb with amazement. Nothing like this had ever happened at McDonald's before." Even "a beer-bloated skinhead, stuffed into much rivet-studded leather," commends the performance as "heavy."

Episodes like this one spice up a novel in which Grass constantly (and, at first, jarringly) shifts back and forth between Wuttke's life from 1919 to 1989 and Fontane's career in the second half of the nineteenth century as Wuttke re-imagines it--sometimes blurring the two men until it's not entirely clear who is being described. (Hoftaller, too, is transformed into a menacing Bismarck-era police officer named Tallhover.) Similarly, Grass mirrors post-Soviet German unification with the national unification of 1871 to reiterate his long held belief in the circularity of history. And, finally, the plots, themes, prose, and style of Fontane's many works pervade the book; Wuttke not only resembles his literary idol, who was born exactly 100 years earlier, but also he knows so much about Fontane's life that he has come to imagine that he lived it himself. Fontane is "the Immortal One" whose ghost survives in Wuttke.

All this will be confusing to American readers, most of whom (like myself), if they've heard of Theodor Fontane at all, know only of "Effi Briest"--the only one of his works currently in print in the U.S. Before attempting this book, then, one should read a good, brief summary of Fontane's life and work--novels, poems, and historical works. For example, to understand fully the McDonald's episode described above, I had first to learn that Fontane spend many years in England, under the thrall of Sir Walter Scott's romances, and that he had written the poem Wuttke--and Grass--quotes at length. (Like many of Fontane's works, it apparently has never been translated into English.) Reading this book made me wonder how non-English readers manage to appreciate novels about our own authors, like "The Master" or"March."

Likewise, it helps to know that many German readers were turned off by Grass's stance on German unification (he opposed it, arguing that Eastern Germany would be soured and corrupted by Western greed and materialism). Since many East Germans shared these apprehensions, Grass's incorporation of these beliefs into Wuttke's cynical worldview seems germane to the fiction itself--and Grass's portrait is a bit more ambiguous and nuanced than one might expect. Amidst the 600 pages of Grass's (understandably) parochial fixation with Germany's literary heritage, there are any number of comical scenes, poignant events, and two memorable characters (both Wuttke and Germany itself)--all of which make the exertion largely worthwhile.

4-0 out of 5 stars Perpetuation of the Immortal
Not having read anything by the nineteenth-century German novelist Theodor Fontane has put me at a disadvantage in my reading of Gunter Grass's "Too Far Afield."Fontane's life and work, you see, are constant objects of reference in Grass's novel, to the extent that the protagonist, Theo "Fonty" Wuttke, is virtually a reincarnation of Fontane, who died in 1898 but whose memory is exalted by his protege.Fonty calls his predecessor the Immortal and, reliving his life in many respects, is either actively determined or passively fated to immortalize him.

"Too Far Afield" begins with a chronology of modern German history, which Grass implicatively traces back to 1685 when French Huguenots escaping religious persecution in their native country sought refuge in Prussia; Fontane, as his French-looking name indicates, was descended from Huguenots.Born in 1919, exactly a century after Fontane, Fonty leads a life that surrealistically parallels that of the Immortal.Like Fontane, Fonty is a man of letters with a keen interest in the march of war, a renowned poet and one of East Berlin's leading cultural figures since the second World War ended in a geopolitically divided Germany.

Grass's narrative takes place mostly in East Berlin in the early 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall.In much the same way that Fontane had chronicled the unification of Germany under Bismarck in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Fonty reflects on the reunification of Germany following the collapse of the Soviet umbrella under which East Germany had been nurtured and the clash of cultures that results when the stagnant communism of the East is awkwardly reconciled with the dynamic capitalism of the West.

Fonty, in addition to his literary endeavors, has worked as a courier in the East German Ministries Building, where he runs files up and down the floors in a rickety elevator affectionately called the "paternoster" (Our Father) -- perhaps after a prayer uttered by the hapless passenger for his safety.The dissolution of his government after the Wall has fallen temporarily displaces Fonty, but fortunately the Ministries Building is taken over by a trust company called Handover, where he accepts a job as a consultant in their affairs to help reconstruct East Germany.

The political situation provides a backdrop for Fonty's personal dramas.His daughter Martha, a teacher, having lost her faith in socialism, becomes a Catholic and marries a wealthy West German builder she had met at a resort by the Black Sea several years ago; in this episode we learn that West Germans, whose currency was much more solid than that of the East Germans, received preferential treatment.Fonty's closest friends are Hoftaller, alias Tallhover, a spy for the former East German government, and the cynical Professor Freundlich, pointedly referred to as a "leftover" Jew, an anti-Zionist who is sour over his daughters' decision to move to Israel but eventually accedes to the view that Europe can never again be a haven for the Jews.We also learn that Fonty has a granddaughter named Madeleine, the offspring of a daughter he had illegitimately with a French woman while serving ineffectually as a soldier in World War II, who comes to him in his old age.

"Too Far Afield" bears little resemblance to Grass's 1959 masterpiece "The Tin Drum" (one of the best novels of the last century); of course, "The Tin Drum" did not anticipate a reunified Germany but instead assumed a permanently splintered one symbolized by its deformed protagonist Oskar Matzerath, whose piquant personality Fonty lacks."Too Far Afield," facing the reality of what many Germans including Grass might have thought impossible, is less whimsical, as though it were wandering around in a daze contemplating the unexpected destruction of the physical barrier that had emerged emblematic of the great German divide of the twentieth century.

As for myself, I resolve to delve into "Effi Briest" as soon as possible.Dare I ignore the Immortal any longer?

5-0 out of 5 stars The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
Having been recently impressed by Mr. Grass's new book, Crabwalk, I also found myself happy to have finally read The Tin Drum since then.Encouraged by those experiences, I decided it was time to read Too Far Afield, which was roundly criticized when it came out.I wondered how the book had stood the test of time in its views about German reunification.I came away feeling that I had read a masterpiece.

Mr. Grass's point is simply that human nature and our histories play a powerful role in shaping our present and future lives.In Too Far Afield, he magnificently captures the enormous influences that culture, nation, religion and family practices play in reinforcing our human nature and histories.Of the three books, I felt like Too Far Afield was the only one that captured the human condition in its broadest sense, rather than just the German human condition.

Although I majored in European history in college, I don't think I ever quite got the point about how 19th century influences came together to have such a large impact on people who lived in East Germany prior to the reunification.Too Far Afield put the mosaic of those influences together for me for the first time.

The story is an unbelievably intricate one.After finishing the book, I couldn't see how the points could have been made as powerfully without all of the material.You will feel like the book dawdles in many places.Please realize that Mr. Grass is trying to set you up to draw the wrong conclusions as you react to the surface reality, so that his story can serve as a counterpunch to your gut reactions.In that subtle way, he strengthens his message that life is vastly different than what you believed when you started the book.

The book has many interesting characters, but all exist to tell the story of Theo Wuttke.Wuttke is every person in the story.He has been drawn to the rich cultural tradition of Germany's great writer, Fontane (referred to as "The Immortal"), and is inspired to want to experience the freedom and variety of the West.Historical accidents impinge on those yearnings.The East German bureaucracy keeps him in line, acting very much as its predecessor, the Nazi bureaucracy, and its predecessor, the Prussian bureaucracy did.The governmental constraints work because Wuttke has sinned, and does not want those sins exposed . . . or his children harmed.So he turns out to be a captive of his past and his nonexistent former nation, even as the dawn of freedom arrives with the reunification.Wuttke ultimately finds redemption as the indirect result of his attempts to do good in the past.

The story is told through extensive use of internal monologues and indirect references to the past.Be patient.Those indirect references are eventually brought together in an astonishingly cogent way.

Although the tone of much of the book is quite grey and seemingly hopeless, Mr. Grass does a marvelous job of employing satire and irony to comment upon seemingly unpromising situations.I found myself laughing aloud in many places in the book.I'm sure that anyone who knows Germany better than I do will find the book even funnier.No one can miss or fail to appreciate the humor involved in the marriage of Wuttke's daughter to a prosperous West German business man . . . an obvious metaphor for the reunification itself.Although the book is ostensibly about the reunification, please be sure to see the reunification as a metaphor for our need to reconnect with our true selves and the rest of humanity.

Please do be aware that this book is a challenging read.Be sure to read and refer to the brief chronology at the beginning of the book.It's a wonderful introduction into the historical elements that Mr. Grass chooses to weave together.I found it helpful to go through the book in 40-50 page chunks.Whenever I began to find my mind wandering away from the story, I would stop for the day.Also, Wuttke has two sides.One is a file courier operating in a large bureaucracy where he snatches moments of freedom on the ancient elevator (the "Paternoster").The other is as Fonty, the erudite cultural aficionado of Fontane.He is referred to in both ways in the story . . . but it's the same man acting in different ways with others.

As I finished the book, I began to question how my own culture and personal history influence me in choosing some paths (and ignoring others).I came away with a stronger sense of who I am, versus who others hope that I am.That's a great gift.Thank you, Mr. Grass!

5-0 out of 5 stars Tough Sledding, but Rewarding
The way to get the most out of this novel is to be both well-versed in German literature (especially the work of Fontana), as well as to be knowledgeable about the history of Germany, and of Berlin in particluar. For me, to read this book was to embark on a rigourous journey of two extremes:
On the one hand, I did not understand and thus could not appreciate the no doubt rich literary commentaries and allusions that surrounded Fontana; I am simply not conversant with his writing. All I could do in those parts of the novel was read what was written, and wish that I had read Effi Briest, etc. first.
On the other hand, I was at times mesmerized by the depth and breadth of Grass's probing and questioning of historical issues pertaining to Germany and Berlin. By my having spent the equivalent of almost a year in Germany, including time in Berlin in the 70's, 80's and 90's, I was able to grasp Grass's commentary on the transformation of Germany and Berlin into one country and city, respectively, from their previously divided conditions. Grass makes all sorts of subtle and clever references to certain streets, neighbourhoods and buildings ("the hall of tears") in Berlin, as well as to various historical incidents and figures (e.g. the "Goatee": Walter Ulbricht), referring to them by their locally-known idioms or nicknames; this rich aspect of the novel, which, gratifyingly, made me feel very close to the author and to the story, will likely be lost on readers without a firm grounding in 20th century German history. The historical commentary is usually highly concentrated, at times hypnotic in its relentlessness and directness; I often found myself mentally exhausted from having to concentrate as much as I needed to, to follow the threads of discussion and inquiry. Invariably, though, I wanted to do nothing more than keep reading, so compelling is Grass's writing style.
I did not want the book to end; I did not want to say goodbye to Wuttke|Fonty. I was sad that the exhilarating experience of reading this novel was over. I felt a certain wistfulness toward Germany, its people and its turbulent history. One can tell that Grass both loves his country, and is most wary of its history and circumstances.
One needs to invest a lot of emotional and intellectual energy to get through this novel, but so long as the reader is conversant with German literature, German history, or, ideally, both, it is well worth the effort.

5-0 out of 5 stars Grass's Reunification Novel
Here we are, another masterpiece from one of Germany's greatest contemporary novelists.

This work, which first appeared in Germany in 1995, is Grass's treatment of Germany's reunification.Among the novel's central themes is this:that through successive periods of history some things never change.They may be harder to spot, they may have a different name, they may be lurking in a cellar where no one wishes to find them, but they are there all the same.Grass here uses the medium of the novel to assert that the celebrations of 1989-1990 ignored the dark side of the German national identity.

He accomplishes this by invoking minutiae from throughout German history, all of which is related through the novel's two central characters:Wuttke, who believes himself to be the nineteenth-century writer Theodore Fontane; and Hoftaller, a former East German police agent who is Wuttke's "shadow".What emerges is a fascinating montage where elements from both past and present intermingle, which is what Grass wants us to believe anyway:that what is "past" isn't really in the past at all.

A variety of symbols reinforce this message.Much of the novel takes place in a quintessentially symbolic building in central Berlin:a building which originally housed the Third Reich's Aviation Ministry, then East Germany's "House of Ministries," and now (although not mentioned in the novel) the Federal Ministry of Finance.Within this building one finds the "Paternoster," an old elevator system which Wuttke attempts to save from being replaced by modern high speed elevators, and which carries a symbolic import of its own:it represents the rise and fall of various people within the building, the memory or in the novel the "Archives" of Germany.

At more than 650 pages this is a formidable undertaking but in the end well worth the effort.A reader not terrible familiar with German history or literature may find many of the references terribly confusing or elusive.But here is Grass at his finest--his wit, his insight, his courage to poke fun at everything the Germans have considered sacred:from the former chancellor and "hero" of reunification Helmut Kohl to contemporary author Christa Wolf. ... Read more

13. The Flounder (Helen & Kurt Wolff Book)
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 560 Pages (1989-05-05)
list price: US$27.00 -- used & new: US$7.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0156319357
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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It all begins in the Stone Age, when a talking fish is caught by a fisherman at the very spot where millennia later Grass's home town, Danzig, will arise. Like the fish, the fisherman is immortal, and down through the ages they move together. As Grass blends his ingredients into a powerful brew, he shows himself at the peak of his linguistic inventiveness. Translated by Ralph Manheim. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

4-0 out of 5 stars Self-Consciously Creative
"Doesn't it strike you as poor taste, defendant Flounder, to come here and crack literary jokes at the expense of the world's oppressed women?"

If you are intrigued by this line (page 219), you will love this book.If you don't feel intrigued, you will feel a different strong emotion.In brief, that's the best advice I can give to a prospective buyer.I have provided some further thoughts below.


Typically labelled "magic(al) realism", this book could be characterized much more specifically as a fusion of two magic-related genres: it is a fairytale reimagined as an origin myth.The fairytale is that of The Fisherman and His Wife, which is a story embedded in folk traditions from Slavic to Polish to Indian to Germanic.Grass is unsatisfied with the received wisdom of the conventional story, as related by the Brothers Grimm, which tells us of the disaster brought on by a pushover husband and his greedy wife when they happen upon an enchanted flatfish.

The Grimms' fairytale closely parallels a certain other story, also combination fairytale and origin myth.The story of the Fall of Adam and Eve, as told by (e.g.) Milton, tells us that the sorry state of humanity all boils down to females' ambition and males' failure to be in charge.Much of Grass's book is devoted to rewriting the received wisdom that history is a story of progress driven by masculinity.So we start in the paleolithic, where women are in charge, men are errand-boys, and everyone is apparently quite content.The historical era is related as a series of behind-the-scenes looks at how what we "know" of history might have had unrecorded dimensions -- that is, women might have had a greater role than we know.As speculative fiction, the major criterion for success for this aspect of the book is plausibility, and -- especially considering the outrageousness of some of the stories -- Grass makes his alternative histories impressively plausible and engrossingly human.

But, what can we make of plausible speculation?As Grass himself asks (290), "is it just something that might have happened?"Certainly we don't walk away from this book knowing that a particular woman had a particular unrecorded role in history.But after being impressed by how naturally we can imagine women "back" into history, and considering their overwhelming absence from the record, we do walk away with the *certainty* that some Awa or some Fat Gret somewhere must have existed.Ideas like this might seem boneheadedly simple today, 30 years after this book's publication, but that only testifies to Guenter's (and his peers') success.

Beyond arguing socio-historical points, Grass cuts even deeper, presenting this book as an endorsement of and experiment on a feminine literary aesthetic.Thus Grass has Fraeulein Bettina set among a discussion of her artistic friends thinking that each had a different but worthwhile contribution to make (348). "There was room enough for all their ideas.That's the way nature was in its beautiful disorder: spacious.All these thoughts could be set before the reader in their wild luxuiriance; little order was needed.The reader would know what to do with them."And that's a darn good description of this book.Geunter repeatedly hammers on the feminine virtue of "room," as a not-so-subtle response to phallic imagery.On the whole, the expansiveness of the book is an engrossing journey....I will admit though, the fluidity can seem at times superfluity, and the vast, plodding journey can occasionally drift between tiring to tiresome.

The major failing of the novel is, however, something greater: however much the writer is dissatisfied with the recieved wisdom of history, he is ultimately unimaginative about how the future might be.*The 20th-century women who discover the Flounder are simply reactionaries, women rejecting womanhood, and are mocked as such toward the end of the book.The only one of this group who is portrayed as a "hero" is a reactionary to the reactionaries, and is only a hero of the tragic type.The only alternative to male dominance the story offers is female dominance, which besides unconvincing is uninspiring in either its stone-age or its industrial-age incarnation.This book is a masterpiece of sorts, but I find it hard to feel comfortable with such a lack of imagination in a work of art!Perhaps I ask too much, when the book exudes (re-)imagination of so many past events.But the portions of the book that lack imagination are coupled to a pessimism that makes me feel like Grass's version of history leads precisely nowhere.*

Yet if the book's reactionary politics is a reason to disregard it for its failure to innovate, it is also a reason to pay attention to it for its success at faithful portrayal of how bad the received wisdom is.This book is not visionary, but it is luminary.When at the end the fisherman is reduced to an object of female utility, and agency along with the Flounder's counsel has passed entirely to women, Grass expresses the fantasy of an ex- German S.S. officer -- he hopes that his side of history has been utterly, finally defeated.In a way, this excuses the lack of projection into the future, since the fisherman's role of future-maker has ended, and the humility that properly accompanies postwar abdication requires that pronouncements about the future be left to others.

* Indeed, Grass wrote a subsequent novel picking up where 'The Flounder' leaves off, in which humanity throws itself off the cliff once and for all in nuclear war.

2-0 out of 5 stars Not worth the effort
You say: a profound examination of gender politics deftly woven into a farce of German society, with interesting use of food politics as a metaphor.

I say: an unnecessarily abstruse novel about one man's obsession with potatoes.

4-0 out of 5 stars a wonderful work
Truly an epic journey.The story combines many themes and just as many characters.One must read about half to get a grasp on the reins and after that, it's fun.Cooking and copulation play large roles.All the talk about soup and the endless mushrooms are fantastic.Throughout the text are poems and songs.At first, they don't seem to relate.But one comes to expect them after a time.This is a big change from the style of the Danzig trilogy, much more modern.Grass makes some interesting points about guilt and shame (defecation circles, sleeping with the abbess.)The last few scenes are tremendous.Supposedly, this was Grass' present to himself.The terrific ending must reveal an optimist side to him.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Exactly Sashimi Quality
Gunter Grass, I love you, but "The Flounder" just isn't a sashimi quality piece of fish. It's really more something out of the frozen food section.

"The Tin Drum", the author's first book, remains one of the most white hot brilliant novels written in the last 100 years. It's the kind of book that in every sentence shows the desperate need the author had to tell his tale.

By contrast, "The Flounder" is a tepid excercise that expresses no such fiery need. Sure, there are good ideas and interesting sections. However, the whole doesn't amount to much - in fact the book is more like a Mrs. Paul's fish stick than a gourmet pan of white fish - in effect, there seems to be far too much breading and not nearly enough good solid sea food in every bite.

Perhaps it's unfair to compare everything Gunter writes to his first meteoric success. Still, when you have the power to write something like "The Tin Drum", you can't expect to get off with writing less.

1-0 out of 5 stars Grass' weakest effort, by far
Gunter Grass, The Flounder (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977)

I just couldn't get through it. I can't really put my finger on why, but there it is. The Flounder contains all the things I revere about Grass-- a strong sense of history, scurrlious sense of humor, strong characters put into wonderfully unrealistic situations. But this novel, Grass' weightiest (literally), never seems to come together in all the little ways that made similarly large tomes like The Tin Drum and Dog Years such wonderful reads.

The Flounder is a massive creation myth, seen through the eyes of a continually-reincarnated man, his continually-reincarnated longtime companion (who is always a cook of some sort), and the Flounder himself, who serves as a kind of fairy-godfather figure. In modern times, a group of feminists discover that the Flounder has been the architect of the overthrow of matriarchal society and put him on trial; the narrator and the Flounder use the trial as a method to go back over history and show the development of patriarchy in Poland, and how it relates to the potato. Yes, I'm serious.

The novel feels as if Grass had lost his sense of dynamic while writing it. The earlier long novels each keep the reader's interest with a series of climactic events, each leading up to the larger climax upon which the novel turns; The Flounder, on the other hand, continues on at the same rlatively leisurely pace in its survey of history. And that, ultimately, is its downfall; there's just too much of it without anything really going on, on a larger scale.

Definitely a bad starting place for Grass; turn to the Danzig trilogy instead. (zero) ... Read more

14. Die Blechtrommel (German Edition)
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 784 Pages (1993-10)
list price: US$36.95 -- used & new: US$13.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 3423118210
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Günter Grass: Die Blechtrommel
I received this item in a very timely fashion at a reasonable price.It was in better condition than stated.I am very pleased with my transaction.Recommended seller.

5-0 out of 5 stars great for those with very strong German
If you are reading this review, then you are thinking of buying a copy of a challenging, controversial, shocking, surreal, sacriligeous, disturbing and excellent novel that put Germany back on the literary map when it was published in 1958 and won its author almost instant world fame and a Nobel Prize for literature in 2000.

A warning before I go on: Grass won fame because of his complex writing style and content, which even native German speakers find challenging.Unless you have very strong German reading skills, I would recommend looking for a translation.Also, if you are easily offended, especially concerning religion (Catholicism) or sex, this book is not for you.

For those with strong German looking for a great post-WWII German literary work, this is a must-read.

Oskar Matzerath, an artist of sorts, writes his memoirs while living in an insane asylum, creating a novel that defies all labels and categories, but has been called "obscene," "burlesque," "surreal," "pornographic," and "magical realist."Through the eyes of the protagonist and his home city of Danzig, Grass lets us observe the culture and history of the "Dritte Reich."The novel is divided into three "books," which correspond to divisions of German history: pre-WWII, WWII, and post-WWII.Oskar, the observer, is a "hellhoeriger" infant whose intellectual development is complete at birth and only needs time to show.When he turns three, he recieves a tin drum, which he uses to attack, criticise, teach, and express himself.On his third birthday, he also decides to stop his physical growth, and continues to live as a paradox: to the outward world, he remains a somewhat "slow" three-year-old, but in fact he is able, from his "childish" perspective, to see through the shallow, petty lives of the adults around him.

The book is written from an intentionally amoral perspective, leaving the reader to struggle with the implications of the events portrayed in remarkable prose.Through Oskar, Grass critiques, speaks of tragedy and violence with equally brutal honesty.He lets no-one off the hook.Die Blechtrommel suggests more than shows the link between the apathy, greed, immorality, and silence of ordinary "Kleinbuerger" and the rise of Nazi Germany.Even the narrator is shown with all his moral and physical defects, which are many and large.That he fails to win our sympathy or trust is not due to the author's lack of ability; Grass alienates us from Oskar intentionally, denies us an emotional identification with his narrator, startles and provokes us, and challenges us to think more deeply and critically than mere pathos would allow.

To sum it up: if you want something that will challenge your German language skills, your assumptions about the world, and your literary perception, read this book. ... Read more

15. Critical Essays on Gunter Grass (Critical Essays on World Literature)
by Patrick O'Neill
 Hardcover: 230 Pages (1987-01)
list price: US$45.00
Isbn: 0816188300
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16. Gunter Grass's Danzig Quintet: Explorations in the Memory and History of the Nazi Era from Die Blechtrommel to Im Krebsgang (English and German Edition)
by Katharina Hall
Paperback: 215 Pages (2007-09-05)
list price: US$73.95 -- used & new: US$73.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 3039109014
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17. Heinrich Boll und Gunter Grass in den USA: Tendenzen der Rezeption (European university studies. Series I, German language and literature) (German Edition)
by Walter Ziltener
 Unknown Binding: 108 Pages (1982)

Isbn: 3261050357
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18. Ein Weites Feld (German Edition)
by Gunter Grass
Paperback: 784 Pages (1999-09)
list price: US$34.95 -- used & new: US$19.81
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 3423124474
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19. Cat and Mouse
by Gunter Grass
 Mass Market Paperback: 127 Pages (1964)

Asin: B0011G0SAY
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20. Idiolektale Figurencharakteristik Als Ubersetzungsproblem: Am Beispiel Der Unkenrufe Von Gunter Grass (Danziger Beitrage Zur Germanistik) (German Edition)
by Anna Pieczynska-sulik
 Paperback: 169 Pages (2005-10-31)
list price: US$43.95 -- used & new: US$43.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 3631531915
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