Günter Grass RIP

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John F
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Günter Grass RIP

Post by John F » Tue Apr 14, 2015 9:57 am

I read his novels "The Tin Drum" and "Cat and Mouse" soon after they were published - I was in my 20s then - and later "The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising," a deeply ironic play that shows Brecht rehearsing "Coriolanus" with the Berliner Ensemble while outside the theatre in the streets, the people are rising up against the East German Communist regime and being crushed by Russian tanks. Both made a deep impression on me that has lasted through the decades since.

This obituary is very long, too long to reproduce here complete, and it is heavily weighted toward the newsworthy aspects of Grass's life and career rather than the qualities of his work. For me it doesn't matter what he did before 1945, only what he wrote afterwards. Worth reading nonetheless - follow the link.

Günter Grass, Writer Who Pried Open Germany’s Past but Hid His Own, Dies at 87
APRIL 13, 2015

Günter Grass, the German novelist, social critic and Nobel Prize winner whom many called his country’s moral conscience but who stunned Europe when he revealed in 2006 that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS during World War II, died on Monday in the northern German city of Lübeck, which had been his home for decades. He was 87.

His longtime publisher, Gerhard Steidl, said that he had learned late Sunday that Mr. Grass had been hospitalized after falling seriously ill very quickly. The cause of death was not announced.

Mr. Steidl said he drank his final schnapps with Mr. Grass eight days ago while they were working together on his most recent book, which he described as a “literary experiment” fusing poetry with prose. It is scheduled to be published in the summer. “He was fully concentrated on his work until the last moment,” Mr. Steidl said.

Mr. Grass was hardly the only member of his generation who obscured the facts of his wartime life. But because he was a pre-eminent public intellectual who had pushed Germans to confront the ugly aspects of their history, his confession that he had falsified his own biography shocked readers and led some to view his life’s work in a different light.

Mr. Grass came under further scrutiny in 2012 after publishing a poem criticizing Israel for its hostile language toward Iran over its nuclear program. He expressed revulsion at the idea that Israel might be justified in attacking Iran over a perceived nuclear threat and said that such a prospect “endangers the already fragile world peace.” The poem created an international controversy and prompted a personal attack from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Grass later said that he had not meant to criticize the country, but only its government.

He was propelled to the forefront of postwar literature in 1959, with the publication of his wildly inventive masterpiece “The Tin Drum.” Critics hailed the audacious sweep of his literary imagination. A severed horse’s head swarming with hungry eels, a criminal hiding beneath a peasant woman’s layered skirts and a child who shatters windows with his high-pitched voice are among the memorable images that made “The Tin Drum” a worldwide triumph.

In awarding Mr. Grass the Nobel Prize in 1999, the Swedish Academy praised him for embracing “the enormous task of reviewing contemporary history by recalling the disavowed and the forgotten: the victims, losers and lies that people wanted to forget because they had once believed in them.” It called “The Tin Drum” “one of the enduring literary works of the 20th century.”

Mr. Grass was a playwright, essayist, short-story writer, poet, sculptor and printmaker as well as a novelist, but it was as a social critic that he gained the most notoriety, campaigning for disarmament and broad societal change. But ultimately, his uncompromising antimilitarism and his warnings that a unified Germany might once again threaten world peace led some of his countrymen to criticize him as a pedantic moralist who had lost touch with real life...

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/14/world ... at-87.html
John Francis

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