Academic journal article German Quarterly

Gunter Grass

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Gunter Grass

Article excerpt

Mayer-Iswandy, Claudia. Gunter Grass. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2002. 245pp. euro9.50 paperback.

Gunter Grass is the most recent of the dtv portrait series, "Biographien bedeutender Frauen und Manner aus Geschichte, Literatur, Philosophie, Kunst und Musik." Each volume, in affordable paperback format, has a similar structure: biographical narrative including critical commentary on the author 's works. In keeping with the series model, Gunter Grass is provided with a rich array of high-quality illustrations and other supplementary materials. It follows a conventional chronological structure dividing the author's life into ten chapters, with a "Zeittafel" and selected bibliography. Singularly useful are the plentiful hyperlink-type inserts (backgrounded in various colors) giving synopses of and excerpts from works and information about pertinent persons and events. What is particularly new about Mayer-Iswandy's Gunter Grass is the inclusion and integration of all aspects of Grass's creativity. Not only are his prose fiction, speeches, and essays dealt with, but also his poetry, graphic and painterly art, as well as his sculpture. For example, Grass's general turn in the latter 1990s from largely gray and sepia tones to a "discovery of color" in his watercolors is beautifully represented as part of "eines Alterswerkes, das nach Versohnung sucht" (208).

Mayer-Iswandy's portrait specifies the basic themes of Grass's oeuvre in their respective chronological contexts: critique of Nazis and "Wiederaufbaumentalitat" (79), "Verelendung der Dritten Welt" (131), nuclear "Bedrohung" (133), "Waldsterben" (185), "Wiedervereinigung" (186), the problem of "vom Nationalsozialismus dumm gehaltenen jungen" (190), "Vertriebenenproblematik" (193), "Rechtsradikalismus" and "das offizielle Ignorieren von Minderheiten" (195), the ongoing themes of "Danzig" (87) and "Schreiben nach Auschwitz" (85). As with the theme of the relationship of the sexes in Der Butt, she underscores how Grass has again and again captured "die gesellschaftliche Stimmung der Zeit" (132), concluding that the significant issues of recent years continue to be of concern to him (231).

A major theme of the biography is Grass's engagement-political, social and artistic. Especially compelling is the detailed reconstruction of Grass's relation to his art in every form and its connection to his emotional life. Generally speaking, Mayer-Iswandy provides evidence, not argument, as she presents her subject in the context of literary and historical movements of his times. …

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