RIP Günter Grass

April 14, 2015 • 8:57 am

I didn’t know until I saw this morning’s New York Times that Günter Grass, one of my favorite authors, died yesterday at age 87. No cause was announced, and it appeared to be sudden. I’ve read exactly four of his books: The Tin Drum,  Dog Years, Cat and Mouse, and The Flounder, in that order, and knew when I’d finished the first one that some day he’d get the Nobel Prize for Literature. He did—in 1999, and it was amply deserved.

I have little to say about the effect his books had on me: I have a weakness for magical realism, and though his books comprised more realism than magic, those novels, underpinned by the dark side of Nazism and the inimical relationship between Germany and Poland, made an indelible impression on me. In my mind I can still see the image of Walter and his cousin Tulla sitting on a wrecked submarine in the Baltic, lazing in the sun while chewing seagull droppings, and of Oskar, in the Tin Drum, wrapped in a coconut doormat and having sex with a nun who thought, from feeling the doormat, that it was Satan. I’ll just say that the first three books listed above, which constitute “The Danzig Trilogy,” are essential reading if you like fiction. Grass was certainly one of the greatest novelists of our time.

Günter Grass, 1927-2015

21 thoughts on “RIP Günter Grass

  1. Ramen to that! I’ve not (yet) read “Cat & Mouse”, nor “Dog years” but several others. It wasn’t easy adjusting to his style at first. I vividly remember loving “Der Butt” (The Flounder) a lot. “The Meeting in Telgte” is an excellent but little known book about a fictional meeting of baroque poets towards the end of the 30 years’ war. I liked that a lot, too! Maybe because Grass’ books are very baroque deep down, so he was at home when he wrote that one.

  2. I agree with you that Grass is a great master, and the Danzig Trilogy superb.

    But do not underestimate the power of The Flounder (1977). It is his greatest work.

  3. Although I first read it nearly 30 years ago, Cat and Mouse remains my favourite short novel.
    At its core is a deep feeling of guilt and the knowledge that the narrator is avoiding a truth we are forced to guess at. In my view his best work (better than Tin drum) and worth coming back to again and again.

  4. How’m I supposed to make it through The Pile when it keeps getting added to faster than I can read them?

    Even restricting it to just-now-dead authors wouldn’t help much, it seems….


      1. Same here! I have a huge pile of books waiting to be read both in the real world and on my Kindle. Last night, I actually cancelled an Amazon order, because I knew I wouldn’t get around to the book for months. I get very frustrated when people make recommendations that sound enticing! I already don’t have the time to read everything I want to.

        1. wouldn’t get around to the book for months…

          Months??? Decades, my friend:-(

          I admire your strength of character in cancelling your order! No self-restraint with books – or chocolate – here.

      2. That’s why I stick to hard copies – the mess alone physically force-reminds me when the limit is reached. I mean, you can’t stack higher than the ceiling is, can you?

        1. No kidding…I actually made a commitment to myself that I wouldn’t read any fiction for 1 year. It’s been over a year, and I’m still reading my non-fiction books that keep piling up mostly due to WEIT.

          I have the “Tin Drum” but haven’t read it…I liked the movie, though I’m sure it sucks compared to the book. Perhaps Grass will be the author I pick up once I delve into fiction again. But I’m reading Pinkeh’s “How the Mind Works” now, and “Faith vs. Fact” will be here soon, so I think the Grass grows on the shelf a while longer.

  5. Günter Grass stirred a lot of unrest in 2006 because of his confession, that he was drafted in the Waffen-SS in 1944, and in 2012 while critizing the Israeli government in his short Poem “What must be said”. It were almost hysterical reactions IMHO by the media and various politicians, artists and other VIPs.

    In any case, he was one of the best novelists in the world in the 20th/21st century and deserved the nobel prize. And he was also a friend of Willy Brandt, another Nobel prize winner, whom I greatly admire.

    RIP, Günter Grass, and may the force with you 😃!

  6. Let’s not forget the CNN religion blog where they give space to writers from the Coral Springs Presbyterian Ministries Media that helped write the script for the Ben Stein and Ann Coulter hit _If it wasn’t for Darwin, Hitler wouldn’t have killed all those folks_.
    Sorry but my connection is acting up and I can only reach a few sites.

  7. I started The Tin Drum back in college, but put it aside. On the strength of this post, I’m going to fish it out from the back of the book shelves and have another go at it.

    What magical realism I’ve read has been mostly South American — Márquez mainly, some Borges. And one by Italy’s Italo Calvino.

    1. For some reason I’m not mad for S. American magical realism, García Marquez, et al, but liked it in Grass. Of course it was back around college age that I read Grass, too. I was pleased to read Katz und Maus in the original back then (it’s pretty short), but could never manage it now without looking up every third word.

  8. I only read The Tin Drum and absolutely loved it. Years later, I saw the movie. I must say I have never seen a movie so close to the book as that one. If you ever have a chance, do watch that movie (after having read the book, of course).

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