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Grass, Günter

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (Fl-Ha)

(German, 1927– )

Born in Danzig, Grass has published poetry, plays, and essays, and has been a popular and controversial public figure in Germany throughout the post-war period. The Tin Drum (1959) is Grass's masterpiece, the story of the dwarf, Oskar, whose refusal to grow is a response to the guilt of Germany after the Second World War. A dark and disturbing political fantasy, the book is a parable about individual and collective responsibility that retains its power to unsettle the reader. Dog Years (1963) is an account of German history starting in 1917, told from three distinct viewpoints, while Cat and Mouse (1961) describes an ‘oversized’ man who struggles to conform and is finally cut down to size by his neighbours. Grass's later work has retained this interest in German history and politics, but often in a more playful and satirical style. Diary of a Snail (1974) is a mordantly funny book that combines a history of the Jewish population of Danzig with an account of Grass's own campaigning on behalf of the German politician Willy Brandt. While serious in intent, the novel's creation of Grass himself as a comic character, struggling against all odds to do the right thing, keeps the book's politics on a firmly human footing. The Flounder (1978), a fantasy about a man called before a feminist tribunal to answer for his actions, is also a richly inventive and joyous book about the sensuous pleasures of food and sex, and is one of Grass's most celebratory works. Grass received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

Heinrich Böll, Albert Camus,


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