Rest in Peace: Gunter Grass- Tin Drum


We lost a great literary personality this week, the famous, Nobel Prize winning German author Gunter Grass(87). He is primarily well known for his novel, The Tin Drum. Literature and the society are intertwined with each other. Literature cannot exist without society, and society cannot cherish without literature as well. Both are important and they make civilization possible. Though the language changes from country to country, literature seems to be the same everywhere. As far as human emotions like fear, hope and love are expressed through words literature will reign.

            Literature, though it is not history it can give a deeper perspective on a particular period of time. It can explore the period in detail; it can bring out the pain and suffering of that particular period. It can even bring out the present consequences of past actions. Literature is a mighty force, and it is used by brilliant writers to enlighten the readers.

Gunter Grass merged literature and society quite well. Novel is the best literary form to merge history and story together. The narrator can connect the past and present and his own commentary to make it an interesting read. The narrative in Tin Drum also does the same thing. It is a grand work of war and human suffering. It will be vital to understand German culture to fully appreciate Tin Drum, and also a brief introduction on German Literature would be essential.

But there were many critics for Gunter Grass he shocked the world in 2006 when he admitted that he was involved in an elite Nazi troop called the SS. 

Grass was born in 1927 on the Baltic coast, in a suburb of the Free City of Danzig, now Gdansk, Poland. His parents were grocers. During World War II he served in the German Army as a tank gunner, and was wounded and captured by American forces in 1945. After his release, he worked in a chalk mine and then studied art in Düsseldorf and Berlin. He married his first wife, the Swiss ballet dancer Anna Schwarz, in 1954. From 1955 to 1967, he participated in the meetings of Group 47, an informal but influential association of German writers and critics, so called because it first met in September of 1947. Its members, including Heinrich Böll, Uwe Johnson, Ilse Aichinger, and Grass, were organized around their common mission to develop and use a literary language that stood in radical opposition to the complex and ornate prose style characteristic of Nazi-era propaganda. They last met in 1967.

Living on a small stipend from the publishing house Luchterhand, Grass and his family spent the years 1956 to 1959 in Paris, where he wrote The Tin Drum. In 1958 he won the annual prize of Group 47 for his readings from the work in progress. The novel shocked and astounded German critics and readers, confronting them for the first time with a harsh depiction of the German bourgeoisie during the Second World War. Grass’s 1979 volume, The Meeting at Telgte, is a fictitious account of a meeting of German poets in 1647 at the close of the Thirty Years’ War. The purpose of the fictional gathering, as well as the book’s cast of characters, parallels that of the post–World War II Group 47.

In Germany, Grass has long been as well known for his controversial politics as he is for his celebrated novels. He was Willy Brandt’s chief speechwriter for ten years and is a longtime supporter of the Social Democratic Party. Lately, he has been one of the few German intellectuals to protest publicly the swift course German reunification has taken. In 1990 alone, Grass published two volumes of lectures, speeches, and debates on the subject.

Grass’s poetry, though it receives less attention that his prose works, is generally well regarded. The tone of his poetry has shifted from exuberance and playfulness in his early work to a more restrained examination of moral and political issues. Critics most often praise his command of the language and his linguistic experiments. Grass has also written several plays which, although they are considered powerful, have met with modest success. Several of them have been linked with the Theater of the Absurd due to their startling imagery, black comedy, and bleak view of existence.(Source: Britannica) 

His books are always a pleasure to read. He was also called as the Germany’s moral conscience. Nevertheless we salute a literary personality. Rest in Peace Mr. Grass.   

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D. Ronald Hadrian
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