Academic journal article German Quarterly

Review essay: Gunter Grass

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Review essay: Gunter Grass

Article excerpt

Brandes, Ute. Gunter Grass. Berlin: Colloquium, 1998.107 pp.

Ewert, Michael, and Renate von Mangoldt, Siegfried Mews, Julian Preece. "Der Schriftsteller als Burger. Gunter Grass zum Nobelpreis." Sprache im technischen Zeitalter 37 (December 1999): 402-54.

Moser, Sabine. Gunter Grass. Romane and Erzahlungen. Berlin: Schmidt, 2000. 215 pp.

Neuhaus, Volker. Schreiben gegen die verstreichende Zeit. Zu Leben and Werk von Gunter Grass. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1997. 239 pp.

Pelster, Theodor. Gunter Grass. Stuttgart: Reclam, 1999.133 pp. DM 6.00 paperback.

O'Neill, Patrick. Gunter Grass Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1999. xvii + 185 pp. $33.00 hardcover.

Preece, Julian. The Life and Work of Gunter Grass. Literature, History, Politics. New York: St. Martin's, 2001. xii + 222 pp. $65.00 hardcover

Schlant, Ernestine. "Gunter Grass." The Language of Silence. West German Literature and the Holocaust. New York: Routledge, 1999. 68-79, et passim. $20.99 paperback.

Stolz, Dieter. Gunter Grass zur Einfuhrung. Hamburg: Junius, 210 pp. DM 24.80 paperback.

In the press release announcing that Gunter Grass had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (30 September 1999), the Swedish Academy credited the author with having achieved-virtually single-handedly-the regeneration of German letters after World War II: "When Gunter Grass published The Tin Drum in 1959 it was as if German literature had been granted a new beginning after decades of linguistic and moral destruction." As much as the Nobel Prize constituted a major distinction in Grass's literary career, it merely confirmed his position as Germany's grand old man in the realm of letters. Literary historians and critics, for instance, tend to invoke his name as a convenient marker for establishing their chronological frame, as titles such as Peter J. Brenner's Neue deutsche Literaturgeschichte. Vom "Ackermann" zu Gunter Grass (1996) or Rolf-Bernhard Essig's Der offene Brief Geschichte and Funktion einer publizistischen Form von Isokrates bis Gunter Grass (2000) indicate. Grass's impact on writers like John Irving and Salman Rushdie is well known; Volker Hage's article in Der Spiegel, which was carried in a shortened version by the World Press Review (January 2000), appeared to suggest that Grass's influence extends far beyond his own generation when he categorized theyoung writers who emerged in the 1990s as "Grandchildren of Gunter Grass."

Yet Grass's status as a grandfather- both in actuality and in his capacity as Germany's representative literary figure-has not induced him to adopt a benign grandfatherly posture. On the contrary, in his Nobel Lecture (published in both English and German in PMLA 115.3 [2000]: 292-309), Grass expressed his combative spirit and determination to carry on in his customary vein, that is, to articulate in his writings the problems that he perceives besetting our world-notably those that spring from the enormous discrepancies in the living standards of developed and developing countries. Whereas Grass's global concerns that he expressed, for example, in his novels Der Butt (1977) and Die Rattin (1986), were perceived by some critics as presumptuous, such criticism paled in comparison to the fierce reaction that ensued after Grass returned to his main topic, the German question, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Apart from his political pronouncements, it was particularly the publication of his latest major novel Ein weites Feld (1995) that caused a degree of almost unprecedented furor. Star critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki panned the novel mercilessly in a condescending open letter published in Der Spiegel (21 August 1995). In questionable taste, the front cover of Der Spiegel showed, in a photographic layout, a grim-faced Reich-Ranicki tearing the novel apart. Grass's complex text generated approximately 10,000 press notices by January 1996 (Brandes, 5). Criticism was rather clearly divided between the eastern and western parts of Germany; often construed as an indictment of German unification in the West, Easterners were inclined to view Ein weites Feld as a representation of their history and their fate in the new Germany by an author who was sympathetic to their plight. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.