Gunter Grass Nobel Laureate Dies Aged 87

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Scepticalscribe, Apr 13, 2015.

  1. Scepticalscribe, Apr 13, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    Gunter Grass, Nobel Laureate, Dies Aged 87.


    The death has occurred of Gunter Grass, widely regarded as perhaps the outstanding writer to have come from postwar Germany. Other German writers who wrote in the decades after the war, such as Siegfried Lenz, and Heinrich Boll didn't have Grass's narrative range, or his striking and thought-provoking literary voice.

    Probably best known for his astonishing novel 'The Tin Drum', Gunter Grass's writing chronicled Germany's relationship with its past, - especially its wartime past, its relationship with itself, and, above all, its relationship with real, imagined and historical memory.

    This allowed the immediate past of Germany, - above all the years of The Third Reich - to be addressed and explored and interrogated at a tricky time when it was considered a lot more difficult to do so, as the events described and memories prodded were so much closer to a lived past. His writings were part of the process by which Germans began to interrogate their own past, and showed an especially subtle and nuanced take on varying degrees of complicity with monstrous regimes, along with an acute understanding of the mechanisms of denial and self-delusion, and historical amnesia, both public and private.

    Of course, Gunter Grass was very much aware of this; he wasn't just an excellent chronicler of his life and times - backlit and hugely influenced by the experience of 20th century history - he was also very much an 'engaged and public intellectual', using the platform his public role and his writings gave him to seek to influence public opinion, (and hence, possibly, public policy).

    Some came to see him - in his multiple roles - as Germany's conscience. Others argued, that the role of 'publicly outspoken and engaged intellectual' took an increasingly prominent role at the expense of the extraordinarily gifted writer, and that his best work occurred when he managed to fuse the two, with neither role prominent at the expense of the other.

    He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999 - forty years after the publication of 'The Tin Drum'.
     
  2. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    The movie on the tin drum (Die Blechtrommel) also comes highly recommended.
     
  3. Scepticalscribe, Apr 13, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015

    Scepticalscribe thread starter Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    Actually, I haven't seen the movie, but will keep an eye out for it.

    I have read most of his books.

    Actually, I have to say that I found the book he wrote about the sinking of the 'Strength Through Joy' ship, the 'Wilhelm Gustloff', in January 1945 - the book was actually called Crabwalk an absolutely fascinating story. This was published late in his career (2002) and seemed to provoke an uneasy reaction from some reviewers, (and readers) who were not comfortable with a German writing about a tragedy where Germans were also the victims.

    Of course, as a 'publicly engaged intellectual', with an increasingly irascible and curmudgeonly public persona - one which was deeply critical at times of the postwar Germany, which was, in Gunter Grass's eyes, a world of cosy consumerism, economic strength and all made possible by amnesia.

    Some commentators (Timothy Garton Ash comes to mind) thought he was too harsh in his condemnations of Germany and too ungenerous in recognising the considerable achievements that the postwar German state had to its name.

     
  4. Meister Suspended

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    Also a bit ironic considering that during the 3rd Reich he was a Nazi and part of the Waffen SS.

    I have never read Die Blechtrommel, but I've seen the movie a couple of times. Very well done.
     
  5. Scepticalscribe, Apr 13, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015

    Scepticalscribe thread starter Contributor

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    True, but he was a kid at the time, 16, or so. As with the young Josef Ratzinger, I don't really see how kids - who would have been on the receiving end of some of the most sophisticated propaganda (and brain-washing capabilities, along with the cult of the Fuhrer) at the disposal of one of the most highly developed autocracies the world has ever known, - would have been able to make an informed and independent judgement on this at the time, unless they had been in a position to have heard alternative heretical views, ever so discreetly, in their domestic environment. And this wasn't something that happened for most of them.

    Granted, that he only admitted to, and discussed this fact (that he had been in the SS) quite late in his life (which - given that he had excoriated German society for amnesia, and for addressing the past with half-truths, and partial truths) was somewhat ironic, and certainly, it gave rise to a lot of controversy when it became known. I suspect that it lost him some of the credibility and respect that he had built up.

    However, the concern and controversy was because of his tardiness in admitting to this - given his vocal stances on such issues when others were involved - rather than an idiotic 16 year old's attempt to show how true and valiant a patriot he was by joining the SS.
     
  6. Meister Suspended

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    I see that you've done your research. Very well explained! :)

    I completely agree that youngsters can not be held responsible for mistakes like that.
     
  7. aaronvan Suspended

    aaronvan

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    The Tin Drum was one of the worst books I ever read.
     
  8. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

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    #8
    How so?
     
  9. Happybunny macrumors 68000

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    RIP

    Gunter Grass was a person defined by his past and his countries past.

    During the 1960’s to the 1990’s he was the poster boy for the German atonement, Europe & the world lapped it up. But a new generation of German youth started to question why they should be eternally ashamed for events that happen 70 or more years ago.

    During the events leading up to the reunification of Germany in 1989–90, Grass argued for the continued separation of the two German states. He asserted that a unified Germany would be likely to resume its role as belligerent nation-state. This argument estranged many Germans, who came to see him as too much of a moralizing figure.

    In the end he stayed rooted in the past, as the world moved on. Germany has taken it’s rightful place in the family of nations.
     
  10. Scepticalscribe, Apr 14, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015

    Scepticalscribe thread starter Contributor

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    Well, it is always illuminating to see an opinion (even a strongly worded and expressed, or a deeply felt one) supported by something as elementary as argument…...

    Excellent post and, I think, one that has more than a little truth.

    The past haunted Grass to the extent that he felt no good could have come from a Germany that had once again become strong; and I agree that his curmudgeonly criticisms at the time of unification alienated many of his countrymen who felt that their acts of atonement and sense of shame did not need to define them indefinitely.
     
  11. aaronvan Suspended

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    It was a particularly bad example of magical realism. Oskar was annoying, the Biblical allegories were trite, and I didn't like the turgid prose. Of course it won the Nobel Prize; most Literature Nobels are awarded to dense, unreadable novels, especially when they're self-loathing. That said, I read it in English so perhaps something was lost in the translation. However, plenty of Germans roll their eyes when you mention Grass so perhaps not.
     
  12. Scepticalscribe, Apr 14, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015

    Scepticalscribe thread starter Contributor

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    #12
    There are a number of writers whose work is as important as a historical record, as it is a piece of literature.

    Writers who straddle this world tend to write works which, sort of, attempt to compel their own society to acknowledge, recognise and come to terms with the atrocities committed by their own societies, - invariably in the name of their own people.

    They write - or, have written - a work (or two) which has an extraordinary power because the time is right for such a work to appear. This means that some of their literary power and much of their reputation rests on what is perceived as a cantankerous - and quite courageous - form of moral courage for goading, and prodding their own country to face up to, and come to terms with, astonishing and almost indescribable crimes and atrocities. So, when their seminal works are published, there tends to be an intersection of perfect timing and controversial subject matter, all cloaked - barely - in the guise of fiction.

    Gunter Grass in the 1960s played this hugely important role in Germany, as did Alexander Solzhenitsyn in what was then the USSR. The fact that both became bad-tempered and disgruntled commentators in later life does not detract from the importance of the fact that they wrote what they had written at an earlier time.
     

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