Saturday, October 16, 2010

Günther Grass Is Always Greener On the Other Side

Every so often I come up with a title so compelling I feel the need to publish a post, even if it's about someone whose basic details are unknown to me*; well, it's not like I know nothing about Günther Grass - I know he wrote The Tin Drum, for which he won my most coveted literary prize, the Nobel - but other than that, as with a lot of the work that has appeared here, I'm learning about two steps ahead of you.

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1927 in the Free City of Danzig Grass experienced first hand the upheavals that beset Poland and Germany during his youth. His later admission that he'd actually served with the Waffen-SS in the dying days of World War II was met with criticism both from his allies on the left and his enemies on the right; Grass easily brushed aside these critics, claiming youthful stupidity and pointed to a lifetime of work spent at undoing any damage he might have done in the service of National Socialism**.

Grass' Danzig Trilogy is the most openly critical of the tyranny in whose thrall he was briefly held; consisting of The Tin Drum (1959), Cat and Mouse (1961), and Dog Years (1963), it chronicles the life of its protagonist Oskar Matzerath through his interactions with the people of Gdansk, and does so with a deft magic realism which was rare in Northern Europe at the time, when a kind of brutal naturalism was favoured.

Grass continues to write this day, and his list of publications is prodigious: novels, plays, poetry, essays, speeches, and criticism. Add to that a 2007 memoir Peeling the Onion, and Grass proves he's anything but green.

*Or even if, like this one, it doesn't necessarily fit.
**Also, there's no telling what effect such an admission would have had on his future success had it been revealed in the 50s, as opposed to 2006.

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