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Citizen Grass and the World’s End

Neal Ascherson, 17 October 1985

On Writing and Politics: 1967-1983 
by Günter Grass, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Secker, 157 pp., £12, September 1985, 0 436 18773 6
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Günter Grass 
by Ronald Hayman.
Methuen, 80 pp., £2.75, September 1985, 0 416 35490 4
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... In the early Sixties,’ said Grass – he was talking to an audience of Greek intellectuals in Athens, during the dictatorship of the Colonels – ‘I started doing day-to-day political work. The presumptuous élitist notion that writers are the conscience of the nation and should rise above the practical realities of politics has always gone against my grain ...

In Icy Baltic Waters

David Blackbourn: Gunter Grass, 27 June 2002

Im Krebsgang: Eine Novelle 
by Günter Grass.
Steidl, 216 pp., €18, February 2002, 3 88243 800 2
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... who has weighed in now, with expressions of regret that the subject was too long neglected, but Günter Grass, whose novella on the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff has become a bestseller in Germany. At first blush this is a surprise. Grass, after all, is the child from Danzig who has always understood why his ...

Take a pig’s head, add one spoonful of medium rage

Iain Bamforth: The poetry of Günter Grass, 28 October 1999

Selected Poems: 1956-93 
by Günter Grass, translated by Michael Hamburger.
Faber, 155 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 0 571 19518 0
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... Günter Grass stands so prominently in the line of fire of Germany’s still polarised and politicised cultural life, and has been sniped at so often since The Rat (1986) – A Wide Field (1995) was literally ripped up for the benefit of the press by that other Grand Old Man of German letters, the critic and TV personality Marcel Reich-Ranicki – that it comes almost as a surprise to find a barely noticed survivor: Grass the poet ...

Nationalities

John Sutherland, 6 May 1982

Headbirths, or The Germans are dying out 
by Günter Grass, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Secker, 136 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 436 18777 9
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The Skating Party 
by Marina Warner.
Weidenfeld, 180 pp., £6.95, April 1982, 0 297 78113 8
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Sour Sweet 
by Timothy Mo.
Deutsch, 252 pp., £7.95, April 1982, 0 233 97365 6
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At Freddie’s 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 182 pp., £6.50, March 1982, 0 00 222064 4
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... A new novel by Günter Grass invites comparisons of a national kind. If a British writer of fiction wished to engage with the big stories of the day – the kind of thing Brian Walden does at Sunday noon – how would he go about it? Could Murdoch, Burgess, Spark, Lessing, Drabble take on such issues as the politics of fertility; the rights and wrongs of membership of Nato; the nuclear energy programme; whether in the absence of Brandt, and given the too urgent candidature of Strauss, Schmidt ought to be voted for; the division of Germany? Decorum, or the sense of a diminished literary tradition, would probably inhibit the representative British novelist ...

Even Now

Neal Ascherson: The Silence of Günter Grass, 2 November 2006

Beim Häuten der Zwiebel 
by Günter Grass.
Steidl, 480 pp., €24, September 2006, 3 86521 330 8
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... war service in the Waffen SS. The two boys in the hole make a good story. But how true is it? Grass certainly shared a hole with a Bavarian Joseph; they gnawed together on a handful of caraway seeds which Grass had bartered for two cigarettes, and argued about dogma, faith and doubt. The future pope was definitely in ...

Stones

John Harvey, 6 August 1981

A Confederacy of Dunces 
by John Kennedy Toole.
Allen Lane, 338 pp., £7.95, May 1981, 9780713914221
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The Meeting at Telgte 
by Günter Grass, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Secker, 147 pp., £5.95, June 1981, 0 436 18778 7
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Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi 
by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy-Casares, translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.
Allen Lane, 160 pp., £5.95, May 1981, 0 7139 1421 1
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Penny Links 
by Ursula Holden.
Eyre Methuen, 156 pp., £5.50, May 1981, 0 413 47210 8
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... The freckled drawing on the cover of Günter Grass’s latest novel shows a hand just emerging from a rubble of old stones and holding a quill. The quill is lightly and sensitively poised, the hand could be meaning to draw or to write as Grass himself both writes and draws ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Dürer, 2 January 2003

... produce wonderfully energetic textures. The sheet is enlivened, as a field is when the wind bends grass all in one direction. In another kind of drawing the line seems to be shaped by the thing seen, to reach around surfaces rather than outline or decorate them, to be as heavy or light as the thing represented. Dürer was a draftsman of the first ...

Günter Grass’s Uniqueness

J.P. Stern, 5 February 1981

... formal and compositional problems. These problems are likely to be different for a writer like Günter Grass, who faces the same world at one remove, reporting on the way the dead buried their dead. This is our first premise. The other is that, quite irrespective of that era, the German novel at its most characteristic has not been renowned for its ...

Böllfrischgrasshandke

David Midgley: Martin Walser, 8 August 2002

Tod eines Kritikers 
by Martin Walser.
Suhrkamp, 219 pp., €19.90, June 2002, 3 518 41378 3
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... what they saw as typical anti-semitic motifs in the depiction of Ehrl-König, and authors such as Günter Grass explained why the novel was nevertheless not anti-semitic. Some speculated that Walser might have employed stock anti-semitic motifs without being aware he was doing so, while others scanned his work for evidence that would point to systemic ...

Count Waller’s Story

Gabriele Annan, 24 November 1994

Sad Strains of a Gay Waltz 
by Irene Dische.
Bloomsbury, 147 pp., £14.99, October 1994, 0 7475 0835 6
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... is a practical dissection of the heart and veinous system. On German reunification she takes the Günter Grass line: ‘Moral malnutrition had produced this calamity,’ says Benedikt. ‘The German reunion was a hunger oedema.’ Clever aphorisms abound, and Dische’s insights can take one aback by their unexpected sensitivity: as he watches Benedikt ...

When you’d started a world war

Blake Morrison: Walter Kempowski, 20 June 2019

Homeland 
by Walter Kempowski, translated by Charlotte Collins.
Granta, 240 pp., £14.99, November 2018, 978 1 78378 352 6
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... Aus grosser Zeit (Days of Greatness) in 1978 and Hundstage (Dog Days – not to be confused with Günter Grass’s Hundejahre, Dog Years) ten years later. There was also a collection of interviews, Did You Ever See Hitler?, one of the three ‘inquiry’ volumes accompanying his autobiographical novel sequence, Deutsche Chronik, though to buy it now ...

Time to Rob the Dead

Jeremy Adler: Simplicius Simplicissimus, 16 March 2017

The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus 
by Johann Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, translated by Mike Mitchell.
Dedalus, 433 pp., £13.99, April 2017, 978 1 903517 42 0
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... life and death … and immortal in the splendour of its sins’. Following Mann’s assessment, Günter Grass used Simplicissimus as the model for The Tin Drum. Even the cover drawing Grass did of the dwarf-like Oskar Matzerath beating his outsize toy recalls Grimmelshausen’s frontispiece. Today, thanks to ...

Booker Books

Frank Kermode, 22 November 1979

... are now written in America, North and South, or perhaps in Germany. The publishers tell us that Günter Grass, when he wrote The Flounder, conceived of it from the outset as a Major Novel; we can console ourselves that it turned out to be vast but boring and even absurd, all shouting and rusé showmanship. English admirers of The Crying of Lot 49 are ...

Supreme Kidnap

James Fox, 20 March 1980

Fortune’s Hostages 
by Caroline Moorehead.
Hamish Hamilton, 256 pp., £8.95, January 1980, 0 241 10320 7
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... parties and compiled a list of “radical” quotations from people like Heinrich Böll and Gunter Grass, whom they accused of encouraging the violence by standing out against authority.’ Ms Moorehead concludes that the ‘conditions of poverty, oppression and alienation that caused the terrorists to kidnap, assassinate and bomb have not improved; indeed ...

Leap to Unity

Keith Kyle, 22 March 1990

... elections, before any constitutional negotiation – did not appeal to every kind of German. Günter Grass complained that errors are already multiplying in our behaviour toward the German Democratic Republic ... There has been a revolution. Yet, in their very first moments of freedom ... before they have had time to begin to live their own history ...

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