August favourites #15: German novel

August 15, 2018

I’ve read a fair amount of German fiction – in translation, I must admit; although I can get by passably enough in the spoken language, I’m not up to reading novels – but it’s probably the very first German novel I ever read that is still my favourite: Gunter GrassThe Tin Drum. Partly it’s the setting, the vanished Free City of Danzig (now Gdansk in Poland, and a city I know quite well), and partly the writer’s lifelong quest to understand and come to terms with his, and his nation’s appalling behaviour during the Nazi era. Historians have tried with varying degrees of success, and exposed the facts, but writers of fiction are those who can attempt to take us inside the heads of those who lived then. It’s surely significant that Oskar, after his experiences, is the inmate of a mental institution… Grass takes us inside a warped and twisted world that nevertheless feels normal in the pages of the novel, and perhaps that is one of the keys to the insanity of those times. A stunningly powerful read from a writer who – for me – never stopped wrestling with his troubled conscience.

I’m doing something different for the holiday month of August, writing about some of my favourites: poems, plays, music, art and other things, a short piece on a different topic each day. The categories are random, as are the choices within them, meaning that’s my favourite that day, and is subject to change… And I will try and explain why each choice is special for me. As always, I look forward to your comments.

3 Responses to “August favourites #15: German novel”


  1. “a warped and twisted world” doesn’t seem far from much of what goes on in the world today, if we were looking back on it from afar, I wonder what commentators from the future would write and how they would explain it. It seems as we move further from direct experience, memories and fear of war, man’s thinking descends, and we hold little compassion for those whose lives have been ruined by the destruction fighting brings,big it didn’t happen in our country or to people who look like us. Worse, they will even be blamed for our our ills.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. litgaz Says:

    Like you, I often wonder what the future will make of us. It’s often travellers from another world exploring the ruins we have left behind… Human memory is sometimes mercifully, but often disastrously short.

    Like


  3. […] City of Danzig, another world which disappeared at the same time. Perhaps the saddest moment in The Tin Drum is the suicide of the Jewish toyshop owner as the Nazis tighten their grip on that city: there is […]

    Like


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