The Drummer Falls Silent: Gunter Grass 1927 - 2015

on Wednesday, April 15, 2015
And so another of the great old guard leaves us.

Much like the death last year of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, that of Gunter Grass has me a little torn. First up... The Tin Drum. A true modern classic, no doubt, with the most deliciously malicious dwarf ever to grace the page. I remember studying it in German Literature and being thoroughly enchanted by Oskar's singularly demented worldview. Probably one of the best German reflections on the Nazi scourge I've encountered. Then there are the others: Cat and Mouse and Dog Years (the second and third instalments of the Danzig Trilogy), The Flounder, The Rat. Even Crabwalk, though I suspect that I am one of the few readers who actually liked Grass's attempt at reconciling "classic" and "modern" bigotry.

But then there was Gunter Grass the man. The liar. The curmudgeon. The moral fraud. Sure, he wasn't a misogynist prick like Marquez or a surly arsehole like Saramago but, well, he was a member of the Waffen SS. And that's about as bad as you can get. Perhaps had he come clean early on in the piece, say... you know.. before he won the Nobel Prize, it might have been understandable. Own the shame I say. Indeed, his excuse for involvement, that most young men were conscripted and fought in the war without ideological zeal, makes perfect sense. It's not like he was that Nazi loving scumbag Knut Hamsen. But the underhandedness of his silence has done his legacy untold, everlasting damage.

Still, I will always be thankful to him for Oskar, for making me understand (at least in a tiny sense) the mindset of a people who could so easily be led into moral bankruptcy. Vale, sir. Though I can't rightfully salute you. I'm sure you'd understand.


Josh Caporale said...

It is unfortunate that the world of literature has lost another Nobel caliber writer. Tomas Transtromer also passed away a few weeks ago and he was a remarkable poet. I will have to check out "The Tin Drum" and Grass' other works. He had that demon hiding in his past, but it's important that he let it out before he died, which in the greater realm matters most.

The Bookworm said...

Oh I hadn't heard about Transtromer. That's sad. Yes, I agree with your sentiment about Grass's chequered past. Also, I don't think it detracted from the importance of his work.

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